Monday, 17 November 2008


My garden about which you have heard a lot is just .42 acres. In case you are new to this blog, it is quite well wooded as well. Most of the trees in it have been planted by me since I was 13 -- from the time I got hooked on nature as a schoolboy. Now that I am 30-something some of those trees stand to remind me how much I have aged as a naturalist. My garden borders to 9 other neighbouring home gardens, some of which are also quite well-wooded. So, by no means it is an island surrounded by lifeless sea of development. The natural riches that I get in my yard are also thanks to my neighbours who keep their gardens greener. This has helped to maintain a large enough area to harbour a decent enough diversity of natural history in what is actually a sprawling residential area.

Some of my neighbours are related to me and I have unfettered access to their gardens 24/7. I have even planted a few trees in them from time to time for habitat enrichment. Some of them are economically important trees. And I happen to derive indirect benifits from having them in the vicinity. So, it is a win-win partnership, as I see it. I have to observe here that none of my dear neighbours are as keen on natural history as I am. In fact they remain wilfully ignorant of the nature around them and lead lives of aloof ordinary citizens.

With that being the state of affairs, my cousin bro, next door decided to a clear what he termed as a 'grassy jungle' in his backyard, which in my world of reality translated into a good dragonfly and butterfly patch. Perhaps, he didn't know that it was a happy hunting ground of mine. Perhaps, I didn't dwell the importance of his backyard patch has to many critters that call it a home. All of a sudden he seemed to have got this preposterous notion of a 'cleaner environment' and turned a NIMBY!. He is not alone in this erratic thinking and quite a few neighbours seem to have their gardens with minimal low vegetation.

Careful diplomacy with my cousin to spare those patches fell on deaf ears. In our close-knit Asian social relationships, we depend on each other -- especially the neighbours for various kindnesses that are not valued in monetary terms. Having had no positive response to save this patch, I had to resort to more persuasive means of negotiations such as by threatening them of 'islolation' and categorising them into 'axis of evil'!Finally, this worked somewhat and I managed to save a few squares of 'grassy jungles' just as Tom Lovejoy saved those rectilineal squares of 1, 10, 100, 1000 of Amazonian rain forests from being clear-felled in the late 70s when they were being cleared by the Brazilian government to create among other things, cattle ranches to meet the demands of meat-eaters 'Up North'. Tom, I learnt had used less threatening negotiation tactics.

Due to thick overhead vegetation, my garden until recently had very few patches getting direct sunlight at the ground level, which is an important requirement for a good butterfly and dragonfly patch. This is why I decided to create a permanent patch for dragonflies and butterflies in my yard - one that I'd have full control of. After all, I cannot go on to use my bargaining tactics with my neighbours all the time!

For this end, I opened up a sun-lit patch in my backyard by selectively logging a few trees recently. More information of this new patch and a dragonfly pond that I am creating in it as we speak will be dealt in post later on. Until then, here's my .02 of the stuff I found in my .42 in the last few days. Enjoy!

Common Hourglass Tree-frog Polypedates cruciger -- adult female. Endemic species.

Common Hourglass Tree-frog

Common Pierrot Castalius rosimon

Common Pierrot

Green Imperiel Pigeon Ducula aenea - feeding on fruits of Fish-tailed Palm Caryota urens. This is a record shot. I have far better shots of this, which is the largest wild pigeon in Sri Lanka. I have 6 Fish-tail Palms in my yard.

Green Imperial Pigeon

Hump-nosed Viper Hypnale hypnale -- found inside a pile of coconut husks while clearing the land for the pond. Venomous but not deadly to humans.

Hump-nosed Viper

Tiny Grass Blue Zizula hylax -- wing span of the adult is about 1.5 cm -- the first butterfly photographed in the new patch.

Tiny Grass Blue

Pied Parasol Neurothemis tullia tuillia -- female

Pied Parasol - female Oh! I had yet another new bird in my yard in the form of a Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus, which is also a new one to my local area. As in other recent new records, I heard it first. An Indian Pygmy Woodpecker and a Large Cuckooshrike were also seen well.


Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Amila - These are such lovely photographs as is usual now. I was wondering though, do you use a tripod or are these handheld? The sharpness is incredible.

flowergirl said...

Congratulations on your great negotiation and persuasion skills!

And these pictures are truly wonderful! and love the way that hourglass tree frog is smiling away!

I suppose you saw the"award" on my blog. Please do see -

Navinda said...

Would love to visit your garden one day :-)

Until then, please do keep the photos rolling in!

mboi said...

awesome pics amila. as for people wanting a 'cleaner environment', most Sri Lankan have this obsession with a practice they call 'udalu ganawa'. which means removing everything in the undergrowth till only the bare earth remains. people have absolutely no sense about soil conversation. this is really bad in the hilly areas.

Vickie said...

Amila, your garden sounds magical. And your description of your negotiations with your neighbor made me smile. When I hear NIMBY attitudes, I sometimes do a double-take, wondering what people are thinking. Our world is so much richer because of wildlife visitors and those that live in our yards. Your photos, as always, are inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the trip! Lovely!!

oldcrow61 said...

What wonderful creatures you have in your garden. You're photos knock me out...fantastic! Aren't people funny, if a patch of garden doesn't look neat it has to be cleared and made proper. Happy that you managed to save a bit of the cousins wild space. People often say to me that they don't see many bees and butterflies etc in their garden and are amazed at the amount I have all summer. I too have a nice piece of ground that I leave to grow wild along with growing plants specifically for bees, etc. It makes a difference, that's for sure.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks, RD.
I do not use tripods for my macro work. I find them difficult to use when dealing with smaller forms of life. Quite often the legs of the tripod touch the vegetation that the critters are resting on and disturb them. And they are difficult to use with moving critters that keep you on the toes. With tripods, I also find it difficult to obtain the kind of compositions that I want. To balance the camera and avoid camera shake, I use knee-pods, thigh-pods, elbow-pods and lean against posts/trees.

And just before pressing the shutter, I temporally suspend breathing!

Hi flowergirl,
Thanks you! Glad you liked the froggy-smile. Yes, I noticed the award. Thank you very much for considering me for that!

It is very nice of you!

Hi Navinda,
I’d be very happy to share my garden delights with you when you are in Sri Lanka next time.

We could also finish a few Lion beers.

Thanks, mboi.
Exactly! It is quite worrying to see how detached people are from nature nowadays.

I am glad you share my frustrations over this issue!

Hi Vickie,
Thanks! To be fair by my cousin, he was bitten by a Hump-nosed Viper when was a teenager -- when he went walking without a torch at night. So ever since he is a bit apprehensive about snakes. And I didn’t help the cause by showing him this cobra that I found in their garden during an owling session sometime ago as well! Stupid.

So yes, when you do a double-take, it makes good sense of their NIMBY attitudes! And this is why I am trying to get his 4-year old daughter hooked on nature.

It is easy to work with fresh minds!

Hi Kalu,
Thanks! I am pleased to know that you enjoyed the trip!

Thanks, OC! Yes, it is quite amazing what a lot of interesting things turn up to even a small home garden when the habitats are available. I am often amazed by the diversity that you report during your summer. I think all that natural vegetation and the stream that runs near your property have made your garden special.

I wish I had a stream beside my property like yours!

Christopher said...

Amila - I love checking your blog. The photos are always absolutely amazing. The Hump-nosed Viper photo might just be my favorite so far. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your fantastic photography!

Tabib said...

You are very lucky to have garden with all those natural resources.
That head-on picture of cute frog is awesome. I have the same hour-glass here.
Other pics are good too.

Sasani said...

It's so relaxing to read your blog, specially when I'm in the middle of work.
Loved the frog and the viper. the tiny grass blue is very sweet too!

spookydragonfly said...

Hello Amila...Love all your photos, I always do, though! I particularly enjoy the first. I enjoyed hearing about your negotiations!

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Your .42 acres sounds lovely, and I am glad you are working to turn it into an expanded sanctuary for the wonderful creatures you photograph. I would enjoy seeing all of them in their setting -- excepting the viper! Of that creature, I shall be content to see the photograph only.

Gallicissa said...

Thank you, Christopher!
I am pleased you enjoy my photography. Hump-nosed Viper is camouflaged well when it rests in decaying leaf litter. So quite often a lot of people fail to notice them! This is why I wear wellies when I am in certain sections in my yard!

Yes, Tabib – I consider myself quite lucky on that respect. It cannot be the same species of frog as ours is an endemic one.

Hi Sasani!
Good to hear that my blog is a relaxing read for you! With the habitat enrichments that I am doing hopefully I will have lots of good ones turning up.

Thanks, Spookydragonfly,
Yes, I see myself as a good negotiator at certain things...negotiating with adults is tough, though!

Hi Pat,
A lot of people would pass on the viper! An MP in Sri Lanka was bittern by a Hump-nosed Viper—would you believe?

joey said...

I'm visiting from Wishnik Woods (and the camera lesson) and could not leave without commenting on your stunning photos ... you certainly have a gifted eye!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Joey,
I am pleased to know you found me through the Wishnik Woods. Thanks a lot for you wonderful comment.

I hope you will be back!

S.C.E. said...

That frog picture is amazing......

Sunita said...

Wonderful photos!
Looks like we have the Common Pierrot in common. I just clicked one in my Mumbai (Bombay, for those who prefer it) garden the other day.
Looks like we have Vipers in common too. Mine is a Russell's Viper, though. You can keep him too if you like. He's very photogenic if you dare to go close enough. At other times, you wouldnt even know he's there!

Mel said...

Hola Amila :)
It is amazing how much beauty you find just but walking in your garden.
Sorry to hear about the neighbors, I hope you get the visit of lots of dragonflies in that new patch you are working on!
Great post as usual!

Gallicissa said...

Thanks Stu!
She was a good poser.
I have a few keepers from that take

Hi Sunita,
It's good to hear from a Mumbai Indian!. I too have Russel's here, which is one good reason why I wear wellies when I am out exploring. So, no thank you!

I've just added a link to you. Hope to come back to explore your blog.

Hola Mel,
Long time no see. The work in pond is progressing slowly as it has turned a bit rainy here. Little bit of water collected in it (before its completion) attracted 2species of dragonflies including a new one to my garden!

Duncan said...

Some general pictures of your garden would be good for us to see Amila. You are really close to nature there.

yen said...

my favourite: Common Hourglass Tree-frog

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