I shot this paparazzi sequence at Yala National Park last month. I was guiding 11 British visitors from Kudu Travels, UK whose ground agent is RedDot Tours. This was my second tour with Kudu, the first being in 2006. They couldn't operate this tour during the last three years because of the war that existed in this country and the resultant travel advisories imposed by the British FCO, which got in the way of travel insurance. With the war coming to an end in May 2009, things are looking brighter in Sri Lanka again, and Kudu resumed their tour to Sri Lanka in 2010.
According to industry sources, existing Tour Operators with allotments have 'performed' upto 90% in some cases during the 2009/2010 season. This explains why you cannot get a decent hotel room booked these days in Sri Lanka. And why the vehicle parks at the main airport, Sigiriya and many other such tourist sites are chocker-blocked, most of the time. It explains why some tour companies had to make do with intercity buses to do some of their tours. And why some bloggers have fallen silent lately.
All right, the bird species in question here is Black-winged Stilt, known by a peculiar sounding scientific name, Himantopus himantopus (Linnaeus, 1758). The male was making its intentions amply clear by performing its not-so-subtle courtship dance—a lot of graceful head bobbing, and circling around the female.
The female then went into a posture of submission. She did this by assuming what looked to me like a stiff neck posture - by extending her head fully and holding it in a lowered angle. After seeing this, I alerted all around me of what will follow next, and to get their cameras ready. The sequence shared here are a few that I was able to capture moments later. They were achieved from our safari jeep, with moving souls in it.
With legs forming 60% of the total height, Black-winged Stilt is the bird with the longest pair of legs in relation to the body size in the world. The posture assumed by the female seems to aid her partner to mount on her easily and get a foothold—even with those lanky legs of his. And it sure must help the female to balance herself with the extra weight on her.
It was all over in a flash. The one below shows the male bracing himself in order to achieve a safe landing in the end. This was because the female reverted to her usual posture soon after copulation, while the male was still mounted on top of her. I think she did this intentionally to eject her partner from her back! It looked like she did not want him on her any longer than it was absolutely required!
Awkward, but mission accomplished.
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