Monday, 9 August 2010

Sinharaja with the Taylors

Soon after returning from the bird photography tour with Felix Ng and co., last February, I guided a 3-day trip to Sinharaja ‘world heritage’ rain forest. It was with Dave and Paddie Taylor from Southport, UK. They were keen naturalists; thus, we never ran out of things to appreciate.

Our birding was extremely successful—we bagged twenty-two out of the thirty-three endemic birds currently recognised (according to Birds of South Asia by Dr. Pamela Rasmussen). These included the Serendib Scops Owl at a day roost. Discovered in 2001, it is one of the two endangered endemics found Sri Lanka, and was a great find given the short duration of the trip. To use a birding slang, it really was a crippler. We also found a roadside nest of a Sri Lanka Frogmouth with a brooding male in it. It was different to what was seen in late January.

The fruiting Symplocos cochinchinensis (Bombu in Sinhala), found in forest edges with secondary growth, were drawing a lot of birds, as I found in late January. These included the endemic Yellow-fronted Barbet (shown above), and the Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon—a “bonus bird” for Sinharaja—as it is essentially a highland endemic.

And then, we had this male Legge's Flowerpecker, the males of which sport colours of a certain champion rugby school in Sri Lanka. Cough, cough.

The tree it is on is the endemic pioneerDillenia triquetra (Diyapara in Sinhala).

Our top mammal for the trip was a Grey Red Slender Loris that I spotted. This nocturnal primate is endemic and uncommon; we were quite lucky to find it near our accommodation. Apart from this, we also came across a lone Sambar, several Giants Squirrels, and plenty of Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys.

We saw a good array of 'large-format' butterflies: Sri Lanka Birdwing, Red Helan, Blue Mormon, Sri Lanka Tree Nymph, and Clipper—all which provided soothing distractions while birding.

I spotted a Green Pit Viper, which was the top reptilian highlight. It is often found perfectly merged to the low vegetation close to streams and moist patches. During daytime, it is quite sluggish, preferring to stay still in a chosen spot, relying on its protective resemblance to avoid detection.

Some of you may remember that I have a special liking for boots. Well, it is mainly because my line of work takes me to places where snakes are frequently found. During the last winter birding season, my favourite pair of wellington boots got worn out like the last molar of an old elephant. So I found myself back in the market. And last week, I bought myself a new pair of wellies from the Malwatte Road. If you want to got shopping for a good pair of wellies, that's the place to go! I paid Rs. 900 for mine. More than the great bargain, it was way better than what was available at the bigger stores. The ones sold in the latter are either too short, making wading through small streams challenging; or have harder back quarters, making walking, a nightmare. I think they may be good for mowing lawns and such gardening stuff. But for people like us, who use them on rugged terrain, those gardening types just wouldn't do.


santhoshi said...

hi which shop in malwatta road?

Me-shak said...

And you went shopping in malwatte? ha ha :P super.

Amazing pictures, Amila. Lovely. I remember the frog mouth? I love that picture in the post.

You are so luck to do what you do.


Gallicissa said...

Hi Santhoshi,
Sorry I can't remember the name of the shop. But, the shops on either side of the road have them; plus they sell them at the same price. Note, the recommended one by me, comes only in black. The green & sexy one available in just a single shop on the right, AUDA, is for industrial use, and is too heavy for hiking. And it is over 3,000 bucks!

Hi Me-shak,
Thank you!
Malwatte road is a shoe shopper's paradise!

Kirigalpoththa said...

900 for a pair of boots is super! You sure know how to bargain ;)

Gallicissa said...

Hi K,
To be honest I didn't bargain; the price was just right!

Stu said...

Nice Barbet!

Don't wellies get a little smelly in a tropical place like Sri Lanka? Sounds like a recipe for atheletes foot.......

magerata said...

Again a very informative post. Is the Grey Slender Loris, same as the Horton Plains Slender Loris, which was rediscovered recently. Like Me-Shak said, your love for what you do, always shows. I am sure you have some very satisfied customers.

Gallicissa said...

Hi Stu,
Thank you!

I wouldn't wear them for the whole day; during the midday break (in between birding sessions), I would remove them and put them out for sun drying.

When visiting leechy rain forests, I would wear my Wellington boots on top of two layers: normal socks and leech socks. They do cause a bit of sweating. But, once you get used to wearing them, there's no drama. The sweat is absorbed by the two socks, leaving the boot not-too-moist inside. So smelly scenarios rarely happen.

Having the feet protected against snake and leech bites, and the ability to wade through shallow streams (as opposed to hopping on slippery rocks) are, to me, far more important. And that gives me a lot confidence to keep my eyes set for subjects high up, rather than looking down all the time, paranoid.

p.s. I use antibacterial soap to clean myself after a great day's work!

Hi Magerata,
Oops! I am made a blunder: it was a Red Slender Loris Loris tardigradus, not Grey Slender Loris Loris lydekkerianus.

As far as it is known at present, the Horton Plains Slender Loris and the one found at Sinharaja are two sub species of a single species (Loris tardigradus). The HPSL is rarer; hence the reason why it made big news following its rediscovery.

I spoke to my friend Saman Gamage, one of the research associates involved in the rediscovery of the Horton Plains Slender Loris, and he confirmed to me that it is being investigated whether the Red Slender Lorises in the wet zone are indeed two different species. In addition, they are trying to answer a lot of questions with regard to the Grey Slender Loris too, which seems to show a lot of individual variations.

So for now, the Horton Plains Slender Loris is Loris tardigradus nycticeboides, and the one found at Sinharaja (and a host of other lowland wet zone areas in the southwest) is 'Western' Red Slender Loris Loris tardigradus tardigradus.

Gallicissa said...

Further reading on Horton Plains Slender Loris.

flowergirl said...

Hey Amila, one of our MNS members spotted a loris too recently....I shall post pictures shortly.

Enjoying the cricket?! I did, esp Sehwag.

Gallicissa said...

Hi flowergirl,
Look forward to seeing that loris pic. Didn't enjoy the last game; that "no ball" was very poor sportsmanship by the Sri Lankans. Sorry about it!

Yep, Sehwag was amazing.

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