Monday 24 November 2008

November rain.

brings about lots of pleasant changes in the environment. One of these is it creates temporary pools in most parts of Sri Lanka. This may sound bad news when you think about mosquitoes. But these pools also attract dragonflies, which come to find food and love. Aggressive predators, dragonflies in their aquatic larval stages feed among other things on mosquito larvae. Also at their free flying adult stage; they feed on mosquitoes, quite a bit. Therefore, dragonflies play an important role in controlling these harmful pests, which increase during wetter months.

While birding in a secondary forest patch close to my residence, I came across quite a cute little temporary pool with plenty of dragons. I found myself making two trips to this fantastic wetland reserve to attempt to capture some of its beautiful residents in camera. Here are a couple of dragon shots that I managed.

Blue Pursuer Potamarcha congener -- adult male.

Blue Pursuer Sociable Glider Tramea limbata -- adult male.

Sociable Glider

My birding highlights included Yellow-fronted Barbet - an endemic bird of Sri Lanka that is still holding a small population – probably the closest locality to Colombo in its distribution in Sri Lanka. This endemic is still not recorded in my garden yet; despite the latter being only a 1.5 km away as a Crow Barbet flies. The reason for its absence in my yard is probably is due to the fact that the intervening gap being somewhat heavily built-up. It just shows how habitat-specific some of these endemics are.

Yellow-fronted Barbet

I also saw my first White-browed Fantail in my local area. Primarily a dry country bird, it occurs in the wet zone where vegetation has been cleared and secondary growth has taken over. Therefore, in my opinion, it’s a good indicator species about dryness that is creeping into parts of the wet zone due to increasing human activity.

Fellow blogger; Java Jones lamented once that he doesn’t get to see White-browed Fantail in the garden of his highland retreat anymore. I asked him whether his land has got ‘wetter’ than before. His answer was, a ‘yes’. He had planted a lot of trees for habitat enrichment over the years, which have turned his garden greener and consequently too wet for White-browed Fantail! He mentioned that it is found in nearby tea fields, which are open and sunny but not in his backyard anymore.

Monday 17 November 2008


My garden about which you have heard a lot is just .42 acres. In case you are new to this blog, it is quite well wooded as well. Most of the trees in it have been planted by me since I was 13 -- from the time I got hooked on nature as a schoolboy. Now that I am 30-something some of those trees stand to remind me how much I have aged as a naturalist. My garden borders to 9 other neighbouring home gardens, some of which are also quite well-wooded. So, by no means it is an island surrounded by lifeless sea of development. The natural riches that I get in my yard are also thanks to my neighbours who keep their gardens greener. This has helped to maintain a large enough area to harbour a decent enough diversity of natural history in what is actually a sprawling residential area.

Some of my neighbours are related to me and I have unfettered access to their gardens 24/7. I have even planted a few trees in them from time to time for habitat enrichment. Some of them are economically important trees. And I happen to derive indirect benifits from having them in the vicinity. So, it is a win-win partnership, as I see it. I have to observe here that none of my dear neighbours are as keen on natural history as I am. In fact they remain wilfully ignorant of the nature around them and lead lives of aloof ordinary citizens.

With that being the state of affairs, my cousin bro, next door decided to a clear what he termed as a 'grassy jungle' in his backyard, which in my world of reality translated into a good dragonfly and butterfly patch. Perhaps, he didn't know that it was a happy hunting ground of mine. Perhaps, I didn't dwell the importance of his backyard patch has to many critters that call it a home. All of a sudden he seemed to have got this preposterous notion of a 'cleaner environment' and turned a NIMBY!. He is not alone in this erratic thinking and quite a few neighbours seem to have their gardens with minimal low vegetation.

Careful diplomacy with my cousin to spare those patches fell on deaf ears. In our close-knit Asian social relationships, we depend on each other -- especially the neighbours for various kindnesses that are not valued in monetary terms. Having had no positive response to save this patch, I had to resort to more persuasive means of negotiations such as by threatening them of 'islolation' and categorising them into 'axis of evil'!Finally, this worked somewhat and I managed to save a few squares of 'grassy jungles' just as Tom Lovejoy saved those rectilineal squares of 1, 10, 100, 1000 of Amazonian rain forests from being clear-felled in the late 70s when they were being cleared by the Brazilian government to create among other things, cattle ranches to meet the demands of meat-eaters 'Up North'. Tom, I learnt had used less threatening negotiation tactics.

Due to thick overhead vegetation, my garden until recently had very few patches getting direct sunlight at the ground level, which is an important requirement for a good butterfly and dragonfly patch. This is why I decided to create a permanent patch for dragonflies and butterflies in my yard - one that I'd have full control of. After all, I cannot go on to use my bargaining tactics with my neighbours all the time!

For this end, I opened up a sun-lit patch in my backyard by selectively logging a few trees recently. More information of this new patch and a dragonfly pond that I am creating in it as we speak will be dealt in post later on. Until then, here's my .02 of the stuff I found in my .42 in the last few days. Enjoy!

Common Hourglass Tree-frog Polypedates cruciger -- adult female. Endemic species.

Common Hourglass Tree-frog

Common Pierrot Castalius rosimon

Common Pierrot

Green Imperiel Pigeon Ducula aenea - feeding on fruits of Fish-tailed Palm Caryota urens. This is a record shot. I have far better shots of this, which is the largest wild pigeon in Sri Lanka. I have 6 Fish-tail Palms in my yard.

Green Imperial Pigeon

Hump-nosed Viper Hypnale hypnale -- found inside a pile of coconut husks while clearing the land for the pond. Venomous but not deadly to humans.

Hump-nosed Viper

Tiny Grass Blue Zizula hylax -- wing span of the adult is about 1.5 cm -- the first butterfly photographed in the new patch.

Tiny Grass Blue

Pied Parasol Neurothemis tullia tuillia -- female

Pied Parasol - female Oh! I had yet another new bird in my yard in the form of a Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus, which is also a new one to my local area. As in other recent new records, I heard it first. An Indian Pygmy Woodpecker and a Large Cuckooshrike were also seen well.

Monday 10 November 2008

Macro Monday

White Four-ring Ypthima ceylonica

White Four-ring

Apefly Spalgis epeus

White Four-ring

Thursday 6 November 2008

Indian Rockdweller

Last month, I explored an abandoned quarry just 70m as a crow dragonfly flies from my place. There are two natural rock pools there, and I found 6 species of dragonflies not recorded in my garden! This Indian Rockdweller Bradinopyga geminata female is one of them. I have shown the original shot I took and 3 crops I made from it to reveal this cryptically coloured dragonfly. A post about other dragonflies of this 'new patch' will be done later on.

Indian Rockdweller female Indian Rockdweller female Indian Rockdweller female Indian Rockdweller female
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