Friday, 18 July 2008

making emma happy - part 1

Emma and Alex were on the beach-leg of their Sri Lankan holiday when I picked them up from the Bentota Beach Hotel (on 8 July) for a 2-day trip to the Sinharaja rain forest.

On the way, as usual, we had several wayside birding attractions. The first was this juvenile Crested Hawk Eagle sitting on a post in good light. The picture below was a digiscoped one (using Kowa TSN 823 scope with Nikon Coolpix 4500 camera fitted with custom-made adapters).

Crested Hawk Eagle juvenile
A distant blob on a power cable at 30 times zoom realized into another crested type—this time, a male Crested Treeswift. Nearing the ticket office in Sinharaja, our journey came to a stop again when I picked up this False Lantern-fly Pyrops maculata glued vertically to a tree trunk, which was our first real rain forest highlight.
False Lantern-fly This endemic land snail Oligospira sp.—possibly waltoni, didn’t hold us for too long. And we reached the ticket-office to get our permits. Awaiting our arrival at this point was Ranji, a local jeep driver, to shuttle us 3km up a very bumpy road to our rain forest accommodation that faces the primary forest.

Oligospyra - land snailAfter obtaining our permits and meeting our local guide, Suda, we drove up to Martin’s Simple Lodge, our overnight accommodation. We had to take the old and longer route as the shorter one that we used on my visit in March had become impassable due to heavy rains.

After reaching our accommodation, we enjoyed a cuppa at the lounge area, enjoying views of the lush scenery in front. A male Blue Mormon Papilio polymnestor butterfly breached our personal pace several times, coming within touching distance. A Yellow-fronted Barbet perched atop a tall Shorea megistophylla tree in front, becoming the first endemic bird to be scoped. And then, a noisy flock of Sri Lanka Mynas vied for our attention, evicting the barbet. That was endemic bird no. 2, and the scope needed very little adjustment. A Pale-billed Flowerpecker waited just long enough to reveal all 8cm of itself. A White-faced Starling proved the endemic no. 3.

We detached ourselves reluctantly from such easy pickings to go on our first proper walk. Blue skies greeted us above; we were told that was the first time in 4 days of heavy downpours.

Emma broke to me that she only needed two things to make her happy:

1. Seeing a Sri Lanka Blue Magpie
2. Not getting bitten by a leech.

In contrast, Alex having read biology for his degree and having volunteered field work in the South American rain forests, had a more daunting list, which included a mixture of endemic birds and natural history specials.

We had a promising start with dragonflies: Green Skimmer Orthetrum sabina sabina, Asian Pintal Acisoma panorpoides panorpoides, Wall’s Grappletail Heliogomphus walli and a pair of Marsh Skimmers Orthetrum luzonicum reminding us the importance of walking slow in the forest.

Suda at his usual best, dazzled us by spotting this beauty in the form of a Five-bar Swordtail Pathysa antiphates, which was sitting on a Dicranopteris linearis (Old World Forked Fern; Kekilla in Sinhara).

Five-bar Swordtail
A Tree-climbing crab Ceylonthelphusa scansor was found dead. A Kandian Day Gecko Cnemaspis kandiana and a Green Forest Lizard Calotes calote delayed our 200m march from Martin’s to the barrier gate further.

Soon after we entered the forest officially, Suda was at his element once again spotting this Common Brozeback Tree Snake Dendralaphis tristis resting on a tree fern.

Common Bronzeback Tree Snake
A vocal pair of Square-tailed Black Bulbuls sounded as if they were ready to nest again for this year. This was confirmed by Alex, who saw one with nesting material. A few Black-capped Bulbul and Yellow-browed Bulbuls were seen soon after.

Square-tailed Black Bulbul with nesting material
The butterfly action inside the forest was also good as expected after rains. A Clipper Parthenos sylvia descended to the path to tease us before veering off. A Sri Lanka Birdwing Troides darsius female kept to the upper levels, while a courting pair of Tree Nymph Idea iasonia were busy doing a delicate aerial dance. A Red Helan Papilio helenus was on a non-stop flight along the track.

An Indian Skipper Frog Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis spotted by Emma was reining in a puddle on the track that almost never go dry.

Indian Skipper (Dhoni)Frog
A gaudy male of the dragonfly, Spine-tufted Skimmer Orthetrum chrysis was not too far, making regular sorties from a low twig.

After we had almost reached the point, where I was trying to reach on this pre-lunch session, we chanced upon a mixed-species bird flock. A half an hour vigil at this point, yielded our targets in quick order, with Orange-billed Babbler, Legge's Flowerpecker, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, scope views of two pairs each of Red-faced Malkoha and Malabar Trogon , several Sri Lanka Crested Drongos, a lone Lesser Yellownape, five Orange Minivets, and a few of the bulbuls all making appearances.

A juvenile Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher was also seen here; it didn’t appear to be part of the big flock. By the time we reached Martin’s for lunch, our hunger index— counted in the ascending scale from 0-10—had reached an-all time high of 8.5 for some of us.

Why we went for an extended pre-lunch session was realized 15-minutes into our post lunch walk as the heavens really opened as it is so typical at Sinharaja. It necessitated a hasty retreat to a shelter nearby. This was not before we bagged two more dragonflies to our growing tally in the form of a Shining Gossamerwing Euphaea splendens and this beautiful Amber-winged Glider Hydrobasileus croceus.
Amber-winged Glider
Alex picked up a raptor just as we have reached the shelter. A close inspection revealed that it was the Crested Hawk Eagle no. 2 for the day. When the rains eased off after about 30 minutes, a couple of Green Imperiel Pigeons arrived at a dead tree to give decent views. They were soon outnumbered by a flock of 11 Sri Lanka Green Pigeons that came to share the same tree.

We resumed our walk when the rains stopped. A call of a Sri Lanka Blue Magpie filled the air. That helped to locate it, and Emma was happy. A Spot-winged Thrush came to the track to find a last meal. A Sri Lanka Junglefowl male too came on to the track.

It turned overcast again affecting the light and visibility prompting us to make a slow retreat to our base. A troop of Purple-faced Monkeys Trachypithecus vetulus proved our last highlight of the twilight, before we reached our base for a good hot water shower, drinks, day’s log and dinner to end a splendid day-1.

The day 2 will continue soon.

Related posts:
making emma happy - part 2


Anonymous said...

Wow that was a page full. Looks like you and the visitors had fun! I also went birding! Actually among many birds, I saw a few that I have not seen before or did not notice before.
I will post some photos after I return from a trip I am taking. It was at a park that we go time to time. Because of migratory birds, it is a bird sanctuary now.

Tabib said...

Very handsome Crested Hawk Eagle!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Thanks Amila, that another fascinating read. Sounds like fun.

Amila Salgado said...

We were lukcy to be there after some heavy rains - so the forest was bursting in life.

Great to hear that you too went birding! I look forward to see your pics. I only know a handful of N.American birds. But I am sure I can some local help for you to put names to them.

Hi Tabib,
Thanks! Nothing to beat your Blyth's Hawk Eagle though! Had gorgeous views of it at the dump at Fraser's Hill.

Amila Salgado said...

Thanks RD,
Yes, it was great fun.
Sri Lanka awaits you!

Pat - Arkansas said...

You have created a beautiful, amazing, and most interesting web site. While I am woefully lacking any sort of knowledge about the environment, birds and insects you discuss here, I am not without the capacity to have interest in them, and to greatly admire your wonderful photographs.

Thank you for sharing your part of the world with those of us who may never be fortunate enough to visit personally.

I greatly enjoyed todays post and look forward to reading more.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Pat,
Thanks a lot!
We have a lot of diversity packed into a small country over here.

I am delighted to hear this very encouraging comment from you!
Please come back for part 2!

Maria said...

Exciting photos and a very intersting blog!
I like the brown frog which has the same colour as the floor on which he is sitting!
Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos from Sri Lanka!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Maria,
Thanks a lot! Yes, the frog is well concealed in there.

I am pleased to hear from you. I will visit your blog soon.

Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Great observations and photos - as usual! Those Green Pigeons (along with the Imperials) must have been a stunning sight.


Amila Salgado said...

Thanks Java! It was a crowded scene and a beautiful one at that.

Anonymous said...

HAH, I agree with Emma, leeches aren't nice to be bitten by! Even if I had Thai pepper straight, it would be a task spotting so many interesting varieties of wildlife! Very much enjoyed your walk :)

Amila Salgado said...

Hi anonymous,
She was a smart one to come up with such a simple 'wants list'.

That Thai pepper was hot, struth!
I am glad you enjoyed the walk!

Larry said...

Great photos! I grow some hot peppers in my garden and add them to my food now and then but they're not that hot-holy smoke! and for breakfast at that.I hope that I come into some money one day so that I can travel to great places like this and do some birding!

Amila Salgado said...

Thanks Larry!
Martin at Sinharaja makes one earth-shattering Sri Lankan omlette using liberal quantities of a pepper similar to:

Believe me it can leave you in tears for sometime! Actually, it is great with a chilled beer before doing the day's log!

If you continue to save $200 per month as you have started to do, you will have enough money saved for an overseas birding trip in no time!

Stuart Price said...

Your jungle trip sounds like fun, some nice photos too.

I read below you've been blogging for 3 years. I started mine in Jan 2006 (though I moved to my current location in Jan 2007). Great invention, the internet........

Amila Salgado said...

Thanks Stu!
Yes, we had a good trip - we were lucky with the weather.

I have been a blogger just 9 months not 3 years. Apart from you (and earlier Carmo) I don’t think there are many bird bloggers from Japan who blog in English. So you fill an important vacuum. I greatly enjoy your terrific bird & scenery shots. And rants on sports!

Modesto Viegas said...

Excellent, as usual...
Thanks for the photos and story.
Best regards,

Kathie Brown said...

What a trip! Love the insects! How beautiful is that 5 bar swordtail! All your birds have such foreign and fascinating names. And purple-faced monkeys? Wow! You guys saw it all! Thanks for your kind comments on my blog while I was gone. I'm back now with lots of stories to tell.

GG said...

Lovely photos as usual. Have you ever considered doing a photo exhibition? or a book or a tv programme of Sinharaja? :)

And as for the chillie paste, there's nothing like a really hot breakfast to pump up the body for the day ahead!

Margerie said...

What a wonderful expedition! Snakes, crabs and birds oh my.

I hope the blue magpie did not remain elusive.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Modesto,
Thanks! Glad you liked it.
Have a great week!

Thanks Kathie!
Yes, we did see a lot.

Actually 'purple-faced' part of the name is not completely right as it appears very dark in the field. As it is an endemic primate, a name such as Sri Lanka Leaf Monkey would have been appropritate in my humble opinion. I get them in my home garden too.

I look forward to hearing your updates.

Hi Sasani,
Thanks! A book on Sinharaja is something that I have dreamt of. I have a 'raio-face' so, I am not sure a TV program will be too popular!!

As for breakfast - That's a true Sri Lankan's verdict! Great to hear that you still uphold your Sri Lankan values!! -- even while living in Down Under.

Thanks Margerie!
Yes we had them all! The Blue Magpie was seen well that evening -
that's how I made '50% progress in making Emma happy'. The balance 50%is the toughest - you will find out who succeeded - leeches or me in MEH part-2!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

wow--packed with life!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Nina,
Good to hear from you. Yes, we had a good diversity of life. An it made our walk pretty slow!

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