Another garden post.
About 5 months ago, while photographing insects in a overgrown section of my yard—"designated" to lure in the Himalayn winter visitor Indian Pitta among other things—I had a brief encounter with a smallish terrestrial mammal. I couldn’t get a good look at it due to thick vegetation. It ran slowly in the under growth, froze for a moment, and moved out of my radar as I strained my eyes to catch a glimpse of it. My gut feeling suggested that it was a mouse deer aka. chevrotain (Me-minna)—a mammal that would not only be new to my yard but also to my local area!
And then, a local man who helps us with our gardening chores, Premadasa, recently mentioned to me a couple of days ago that he saw a Chevrotain in this very section of my yard about a month ago!
He is familiar with this animal as is apparently found in his area, which happens to be thickly wooded. Oh! And my mother too described features of a small mammal with yellow stripes that she saw in one late afternoon!
This is extremely good news, and I will be on the look out for this very special mammal.
After analyzing the skulls and skins of this mammal found in India and Sri Lanka, Groves and Meijaard in 2005, ‘split’ the population of the Mouse Deer found in the wet zone in Sri Lanka into an endemic species. Thus, it is now regarded as Yellow-striped Chevrotain Moschiola kathygre (Groves and Meijaard, 2005). Click here to download that paper published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.
Below is a picture of an unfortunate Yellow-striped Chevrotain preyed a stray dog at the Sinharaja 'word heritage' rain forest. I reported this earlier in this post.
Coming back to my garden's record, this is an extremely exciting news as my area is residential one and is not woody as it used to be.
The most exciting mammalian find in my yard before this, was in mid 2007, when a pair of Golden Jackals turned up at broad-daylight! I showed it to my mother and a few gasping neighbours who at once confessed that they would have easily overlooked them as two stray dogs! I belived them.
Here is a record shot of a pair Golden Jackals seen at Bundala National Park on a bird watching tour that I led with 11 British birders in 2006. Click here to read its full trip report.
On the birding front, 2-days ago, I had a new bird getting added to my garden bird list in the form of Indian Pygmy Woodpecker (formerly, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker). This species is found in my local area at a spot that is 1.5 km away from my residence, but this was the first occasion I had it turning up in my yard. It betrayed its presence by its distinct call, and moments later, I had a good sighting of it.
With this, I now have 4 species of Woodpeckers in my garden list. The other three species are the Black-rumped Flameback (the commonest Woodpecker in most home gardens), Lesser Yellownape (occasional visitor to my garden), and Rufous Woodpecker! The latter is the most exciting one out of this list. It was recorded in 1991—during a fine morning when I was getting ready go to school! It hung around for few days in my yard, betreying its presence by its signtature call. I had no sightings of this species in my garden since then.
A Large Cuckooshrike, which is an occasional visitor to my garden, was also heard a few days ago.
Moving on to invertebrates, I spotted this Long-horned Grasshopper species for the first time.
Its identity was narrowed down by Dr. Priyantha Wijesinghe as follows.
Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Phaneropterinae: Mirolliini?
He commented “This is something of a mystery, but that is probably just my lack of familiarity with the species. By the way, it is illustrated on p. 103 of Henry's autobiography 'Pearls to Painting”
I took my copy of G.M.Henry’s autobiography, and turned to page no.103, and—lo and behold—there it was in the form of an excellent work of art by Henry!
This was found low-down in an ornamental plant in the shade of a (Malaysian) Rambutan tree Nephelium lappaceum. As the Zumala that I found in Sinharaja rain forest, this looked rather bizarre with the posterior end of its tegmina looking somewhat like a headdress of an Egyptian Queen!
I was chasing a dragonfly when I ran into this Spiny orb-weaver Gasteracantha geminata (Fabricius, 1798) female (also identified by Dr. DPW). It was dealing with a termite prey. I took only this shot of it as I try not to get distracted with other life forms when I am chasing a particular target.
Looking at the set of pictures that went into my Scrabble and Dragonfly tips post, I found this picture of a juvenile Elusive Adjutant that I had mysteriously overlooked!
It is quite sharply focused in both the eyes than the similar looking picture that I used for that post. I did very little post processing with this as everything was just right. It was shot at natural light, hand-held.
By the way, his kinkiness the Painted Waxtail that I posted in this post was, as I suspected, suffers from a birth defect caused at the immergence from exuvia. This was confirmed by my dragonfly mentor Matjaz Bedjanic. He went on to say that the said individual “….is suffering from a emergence defect and his abdomen is has not been damaged during copula. Normally such specimens [with birth defects] don't survive long”.
That is all for now.
Edit: Dr. Priyantha Wijesinghe has sought opinion from Dr. Sigfrid Ingrisch, an expert on Orthoptera to narrow down the identification of the Long-horned Grasshopper above. And the question mark means it is unidentified.
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