Friday, 22 May 2009

Ripleys, believe it or not

Barnes' Cat Snake
had a very good time in their 4-day natural history trip with me last month. We are talking about Dave and Rose Ripley from Wales and their girls, Celyn and Ceinwen, aged 13 and 12. Before the tour, Dave wrote to me “My wife and I enjoy birdwatching, the children not so much...”. And he added “...they would certainly enjoy elephants, snakes, lizards, insects, and birds in moderation.”
We agreed to combine the best of dry and wet lowlands by visiting the Udawalawe National Park and the Sinharaja "World Heritage" rain forest, with more emphasis on the latter.
Our dry zone leg gave plenty of the hoped for Asian Elephants. With Elephants found year-round, in their 100s at times, Udawalawe was a sure bet for seeing them. Additionally we saw Wild Boar, Wild Buffalo, Spotted Deer, Hanuman Langur, Jackal and Ruddy Mongoose. Land monitor, Flap-shelled Terrapin and Mugger Crocodile were some of the reptiles seen at the first leg.
With my 'oozing coolness' , I got the gals in my side and soon witnessed them actively getting involved in spotting birds, with enthusiastic support given by their parents. This resulted in us raking in nearly 100 species of birds on our day 01. These included Malabar Pied Hornbill, Lesser Adjutant, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Blue-faced Malkoha, Sirkeer Malkoha, Pied Cuckoo, Plum-headed Parakeet, Crested Treeswift, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Green Bee-eater, Barred Buttonquail (many), Indian Pitta and Indian Jungle Nightjar.
We also saw a large dragonfly named Elephant Emperor Anax indicus, which was my top highlight for day 01!
Our rain forest leg called for a different approach to get the girls involved – as it entailed exploring the forest on foot. I gave my Swarovski Binocs to Celyn, which she liked a lot.
Celyn with a Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 binoculars
And I taught young Ceinwen how to do macro-photography using a point and shoot digital camera, which kept her constantly lagging behind. Both girls were sharp-eyed and got involved actively spotting things, which made my job a lot easier. They proved very good companions to have on a rain forest walk. Ceinwen spotted this critter, which was barely 12 mm in length.
rain forest insect sp.
I was conveyed a joint communication by the girls that they’d love to see rain forest snakes. This request was met with enthusiastic support and we ended up seeing 9 snakes with 7 of them being found by yours truly. They belonged to 5 species out of which 3 were endemic. They were:
Green Pit Viper Trimeresurus trigonocephalus One lazing individual was found by me in the undergrowth by the roadside. Heard the girls going "awesome".
Green Pit Viper
Green Whip Snake Ahaetulla nasuta – 2 individuals gave amazing views.
Green Whip Snake - library picBoiga barnesii– A couple of this scarce endemic was found by me in a courtship behaviour. They are called 'cat snakes' due to their vertically elliptical pupils similar to those found in cats. This is a smaller relative of the infamous Brown Tree Snake Boiga irregularis, which caused avian carnage almost wiping out all the native birds of Guam, where RD is known to be working these days.
Barnes’ Cat Snake
Barnes' Cat Snake
Common Bronzeback Tree Snake Dendrelaphis tristis - The individual that Ceinwen spotted first of this snake eluded me but this one that I found posed well for everybody.
Common Bronzeback Tree Snake
Sri Lanka Keelbacked Water Snake Xenochropis asperrimus – 2 individuals at the usual spot. Endemic.
Our birding specials included 2 animated Chestnut-backed Owlets – the first of which was spotted by Dave at dawn. Chestnut-backed Owlet - library pic
With several decent mixed-species bird flocks, we saw almost all the specials expected to be seen at Sinharaja such as Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, Malabar Trogon, and Crimson-backed Flameback
We also saw a brooding male Sri Lanka Frogmouth in a nest built on a tree branch above a trail. Observing it in the scope we noticed a ready-to-fledge chick. The angle of light did not allow good photography. But you can click here, here and here to see my previous photographs of this species.
We saw plenty of beautiful butterflies, which included this Rounded 6-Lineblue Necaduba berenice ormistoni. Rounded Six-Lineblue
Dragonflies too were out in good numbers. My top highlight was this pair of Sri Lanka Sabretails Megalogomphus ceylonicus in wheel position. This was a dragonfly-lifer for me.
Sri Lanka Sabretail
Additionally we saw Amber-winged Glider, Rapacious Flangetail, Dawn Dropwing, Spine-tailed Skimmer, Asian Pintail and Marsh Skimmer.
We saw three species of Robber flies and the best-looking one of them is shown below. The body length of this excluding limbs was about 6 cm as you can judge from scale of the Clidemia hirta leaf on which it is resting. It looked formidable enough to tackle even a Sabretail!
Robber fly sp. We also saw plenty of amphibians. They'll have to wait for another post as this has already swollen a bit.


Kathiesbirds said...

Gallicisa, I have been away too long. There has been so much going on in my life, I have found it hard to find time to blog! I have missed reading about all of your adventures! How I hope that someday I can come and see your magnificent Island! I love that green whip snake. It is stunning. I have just finished reading "Life List" about Phoebe Snetsinger. I want to see a frog mouth! Love the owl photo! I hope you are well!

Azahari Reyes @ Jason a.k.a horukuru said...

Another nice trip you had my friend hehehe

Tabib said...

Now I believed it!.
You sure having fun guiding them . I love reading and enjoying this beautiful pics.

Gallicissa said...

Hi Kathie,
Great to hear from you!
It is my honest view that blogging should be done in moderation!

You are most welcome in Sri Lanka!
I will look after you well and show you plenty of goodies, if you travel with me!

This particular Green Whip Snake is from my 'library' images.

We are very glad that Phoebe Snetsinger visited in Sri Lanka in 1992.

I know several reliable sites for Frogmouth and it is a regular 'tick' on my tours. It is a sought-after bird.

The owl image is also from my 'library' images. This was shot at point-blank range.

I am very well and thanks for dropping by!

Hi Horukuru,
Yes it was a mega trip! We saw so many things in such short time. My clients got involved well - especially the two girls. That helped a lot.

Hi Tabib,
Thanks! Yes, we had great fun and this trip gave me lots of blogging fodder.

Chriss said...

Wow, these are spectacular shots. I bet that family will have memoried for a lifetime. I am saving up my pocket change in the hopes that I can one day take a tour with you. :)
Your blog truly is a window to another world for me. Have a wonderful week.

S.C.E. said...

Those snake shots are amazing.

Kirigalpoththa said...

Other than the Green Pit Viper the rest of the snakes are very innocent I guess? Green Pit Viper (Pala Polanga) too not deadly poisonous.

Gret photos by the way! I can imagine the patience someone needs to capture those images!!

spookydragonfly said...

As usual, all of your captures are top notch...enjoyed your text as well. Sounds as if your "oozing charm" worked on the girls and they truly ended up enjoying a learning adventure!

Perfect capture of the Sabretails in the mating wheel!

Too many snakes here!(maybe I'd better catch up on my reading!?)

RyanM said...

So many snakes in 1 trip :) Love to see these snakes in the wild. Great post as usual Amila - fantastic job. I love the way you got the little ones in to bird watching when even the parents couldn't get them to :)

Gallicissa said...

Hi Chriss,
I didn't mention this in this post: but Ripleys thrashed me at scrabble. Twice. I think I was too tired. Or may be it was the beer.

I am very happy to hear that you are collecting your pocket change for a future trip with me! That's awesome news! Thanks a lot!

Hi Stu,
The snakes performed well for us.
The cat snakes were smashing.

Hi K,
Green Pit is usually docile during daytime, so it'd 'allow' close up photography. But I do not get carried away for obvious reasons!

Hi Kim,
Yes, the girls really enjoyed the trip particularly the rain forest leg as it had them lot of life forms they liked.

I knew you would like the Sabretails! They were blinded by love, so it was easy to reach them. I find it easier to photograph them when they are thus occupied.

I take you are not a big fan of snakes!

Hi Riyazi,
Sinharaja is a great spot for snakes and other reptiles if you really go focussed on them.

I am glad my magic worked on the kids to get them appreciate birds more!

Doug Taron said...

Nice snakicity in this post. I'm partial to the green whip snake.

Glennis said...

Sounds like everyone had a wonderful day, so much wildlife spotted by all.
I like the green whip snake, its markings so pretty. no doubt it is deadly poisonous since it is so pretty.

The Right Blue said...

Looks like a spectacularly successful trip. Your snake photos are quite beautiful and intriguing to me. We have no snakes in Hawaii, so I am not used to being around them and no very little about them.


Sasani said...

oh wow!
I wish I could get out of this lab for a day for an adventure like that!!! < start daydreaming.....>

Gallicissa said...

Hi Doug,
I used to have Green Whip Snakes in my home garden when I was schooling, but they are not to be found anymore. It makes a beautiful subject for ophiographers.

Hi Glennis,
Good to hear from you. Green Whip Snake is a rear-fanged one and it is not deadly poinsonous to humans.
It is one snake I am confident in handling.

Hi Bobbie,
I am glad to be living in a continental island with nearly 93 species of snakes! Yes, I am aware that you do not have any snakes at Hawaii. That's the price you have to pay for being an oceanic islander!

Hi Sasani,
I hope your PhD woes will be over soon. I am sure the next time you visit Sri Lanka will be as Dr. SJ.

ANZAGA said...

Enhorabuena por el blog. Me agrada descubrir que en todos los paises del mundo hay gente que ama la naturaleza. Saludos. ANZAGA.

Gallicissa said...

Thank you Anzaga!

fishing guy said...

Amila: What a neat group of nature capture. That whip snake was really something.

oldcrow61 said...

Your photos never cease to amaze me...fantastic. You get to see so many fabulous creatures...I'm a wee bit jealous.

storyteller's other blog said...

What wonderful mementos of your trip. I love learning new things as I admire your photos too.
Hugs and blessings,

Gallicissa said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks! It is good to see many people liking the Green Whip Snake. I can see why!

Hi OC,
Thanks! We went firing in all cylinders on this trip and everybody chipped in. So, we ended up raking in a big haul!

Thanks! This was a very enjoyable trip for everybody concerned - even for the local tour guide!

flowergirl said...

I just love the insect ones! You have a great eye for composing!

Gallicissa said...

Hi flowergirl,
Thanks! I prefer to compose my shots before pressing the shutter to minimise the need for cropping.

St said...

great post and equally great pics, especially the dragon's.

Oh and your macro monday spots wonderfull. The best so far for me, The robber fly headshot.
Keep up the good work.

Gallicissa said...

Hi St,
Thanks a lot!
I have got better shots of that particular robber. I tried shooting it with a tripod without any success.

Larry Jordan said...

Hi Amila!

The Chestnut-backed Owlet is very cute and I love the snakes, especially the Green Whip Snake!

I'm glad to see that your dragonfly pond is doing so well. I expect to see many more dragonfly photos ;-)

I captured a few and they are on my IATB post. Do you have any suggestions for dragonfly ID resources?

Gallicissa said...

Hi Larry,
Thanks for dropping by!
I enjoyed seeing those dragonfly pics on your IATB post. As I commented in it, the best resource that I can recommend for you is "Dragonflies through Binouclars - A Field Guide to Dragonflies of North America" by Sidney W. Dunkle. I wish Sri Lanka had such a comprehensive guide!

Disclaimer: Dragonflies can be addictive and distract you from birding.

Liz at Yips and Howls said...

Beautiful photos. I especially like the snakes.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks a lot Liz!
Good to hear from you.

Larry Jordan said...

Thanks for the warning Amila. That's all I need is another addicting photographic habit! :-)

Thanks for the recommendation on the dragonfly reference and your expertise on the IDs too.

Gallicissa said...

My pleasure, Larry!
I started my interest in dragonflies in 2004 by first photographing them and later seeking expert help on ID.

Amila Kanchana said...

I've got say the same thing those gals did,awesome!

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