Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Migrant update

Migrants have begun to arrive. I heard my first Blue-tailed Bee-eaters on 23 Sep., over my house and saw three of them the following day at my local wetland patch. An Asian Brown Flycatcher was heard in my backyard three days ago. Yesterday, I had my first Forest Wagtail walking gracefully in a woody corner. Now, that is one bird I need to photograph. But, the question is—how to do it—as it never seem to wait long enough for digi-scoping. May be I'll try one with my Lumix. The Brown-breasted Flycatcher and the Himalayn avian jewel, Indian Pitta are due soon. I 'maintain' a patch in a corner of my yard in a pretty wild state to invite in the latter, which is a high-profile migrant (for me).

I am pretty sure it will accept my invitation this year too. It will be in good company with the endemic Clubtail: Sri Lanka Forktail. I didn't include any images in this post as images are already in this blog for most of the 'things' mentioned here. Please click on their names if you would like to see how they look.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Macro Monday

This beautiful Robber fly was shot in my local wetland patch.
Robber flies are extremely skilful hunters and their menu includes among other things, dragonflies.

Robber fly

Sunday, 28 September 2008


Any thoughts on this kinkiness?
First, this is a male Painted Waxtail Ceriagrion cerinorubellum, a relatively common damselfly in my yard.

This cannot be a mating related accident, as then the kink should be downwards.
If you are new to damselfly mating, look at this pair in thier orthodox 'wheel position' where the male is on top.

So, how on earth has the rear end of the body turned upwards in this?
A birth defect caused at the emergence from exuvia—you know, when it tries to force itself out?
I don't know!

Let me know what you think, please.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Coastal Pennant bagged!

This dragonfly was photographed at the Weerawila tank (reservoir) during the Photography tour that I guided last month. It was identified by Odonatologist, Matjaz Bedjanic as a Coastal Pennant Macrodiplax cora.

I was quite pleased about this capture as Matjaz, following the identification, disclosed that the authors of the Dragonflies of Sri Lanka (2007) had tried to photograph this to be included in this photo guide without success. Before that, Karen Conniff, one of its co-authors of this book, had also urged me to look for this elusive dragon on my travels to the deep south.

We arrived at the Weerawila Tank (from Tissamaharama road end) at around 10.00 a.m., on 9 August, 2008 to improve the angle of a big aggregation of water birds seen previously. Unfortunately, there was very little bird photography that we could do due to the strong winds experienced on this day—so much so that we were worried to keep our scopes unattended!

On the positive side, in the grassy belt of land protected by the bund from the gusts was a swarm of dragonflies—with 1000s of dragonflies!

‘Dragonfly swarms’ occur when adults exhibiting a stereotypical tight interweaving flight pattern, form a high-density aggregation within a confined area. Swarms are often composed of multiple species.

The species observed in the order of the abundance (as casually observed) in this particular swarm included Dancing Dropwing Trithemis pallidinervis, Scarlet Basker Urothemis signata signata, Asian Groundling Brachythemis contaminata, Oriental Scarlet Crocothemis servilia servilia, and Coastal Pennant Macrodiplax cora featured here.

I suspect that this particular case of swarming was probably to seek protection from the elements and to feast on insect prey that may have also been sucked into this 'safety zone.'

Related Posts:
Pure Gold!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Elusive Adjutant - adult female WW HQ


Lesser Adjutant at the Yala National Park
A serial killer in a pool of blood?

We arrived at this crime scene at the Yala National Park during the photography tour that I guided last month. The cold look of the murderer, the bloody scene and eiry silence; we could just about connect the dots. Was it as bad as it seems?


The reddish hue in the water was painted by floral elements falling on it from nearby tree—Tamarind Tamarindus indica. Our prime suspect, the Lesser Adjutant, although has a criminal record of preying on unsuspecting birds, reptiles and small mammals, was innocent at this particular occasion.

Lesser Adjutant is a member of the Stork family and in Sri Lanka, it is mainly found in the dry zone where it is considered a scarce breeding resident. Its bare head almost like that of a vulture is an adaptation to deal with carrion, which account for its severe appearance deficits.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Macro Monday

Lathrecista asiatica asiatica female

Pruinosed Bloodtail Lathrecista asiatica asiatica young female (a lass) in my home garden.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Sky Watch Friday

Here's a very poor attempt at photographing a Spot-billed Pelican in flight at the Leopard hotspot; Yala National Park. Can you spot it?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Monday, 15 September 2008


This beauty was one of the many specials found on our visit to Sinharaja rain forest during the photography tour that I guided last month. It looked bizarre. This was the first time I came across it. And it really looked prehistoric. This effect was further enhanced as it was resting on a Giant Fern Angiopteris evecta —a primitive fern with very similar fossilised fronds having been found in rocks some 300 million years old.

I sought I identification help from Dr.Priyantha Wijesinghe (D.P. Wijesinghe, in most literature) who is a Sri Lankan Systematic Biologist working in the Entomology Department of the American Museum of Natural History (edit: he doesn't work at AMNH anymore).

He got back, "...your photographs are excellent, and I was very glad to see them, not having come across a live specimen of Zumala myself..."

That did not hurt my ego!

According to Dr. Wijesinghe, this Long-horned Grasshopper (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) belongs to the genus: Zumala, which belongs to the subfamily Pseudophyllinae, and tribe Phyllomimini. He confirmed that as far as is known, this genus is confined to Sri Lanka’s wet zone, and is represented by 3 species: Zumala robusta (Walker, 1939)—type species of the genus Zumala; Zumala cingalensis (Walker, 1869); and Zumala intermedia (Henry, 1939). This apparently is a female as can be seen from the ovipositor, the tip of which is visible protruding from between the back end of the tegmina (forewings).

Dr. Wijesinghe identified this individual as Zumala robusta, "...mainly on the basis of the shape and size of ovipositor and the dorsal curvature of the pronotum and tegmina in profile." He had based his identification on a paper done by G.M. Henry, the author of A Guide to the Birds of Ceylon, who was the entomologist of the Department of National Museums (then Colombo Museum), 1913-1945, and specialised in the study of Orthoptera. Henry's post was filled by Dr. Wijesinghe in the 80s.

The paper referred above is:
Henry, G.M. 1939. The genus Zumala Walker, (Insecta, Orthoptera) with description of a new species. Ceylon Journal of Science B Zoology and Geology {Spolia Zeylanica} 21 (3):219-228, 4 plts.

Dr. Wijesinghe explained to me that according to Henry, although this species has wing (concelaed under the tegmina), it is probably incapable of flight. Apparently, the other two species lack hind wings altogether, and therefore are flightless.

This is us after finding the Zumala.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Sky Watch Friday

This was photographed at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka—the best location in Asia to see Leopards. If you use your binoculars, you may be able see a pair of Great Thick-knees in the lower middle.

Can't see?

Okay, here's a scope view of one of them.

Great Thick-knee
No, it isn't the prettiest bird in Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Elusive Adjutant young male

Elusive Adjutant young male in my home garden Elusive Adjutant young male in my home Elusive Adjutant young male in my home Elusive Adjutant young male in my home Elusive Adjutant young male in my home Elusive Adjutant young male in my home WW HQ

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Dawn Dropwing

Dawn Dropwing aka Crimson Dropwing adult male photographed at the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Dawn Dropwing aka Crimson Dropwing adult female photographed at my home garden Dawn Dropwing aka Crimson Dropwing juvenile photographed at my home garden WW HQ
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