Thursday 4 December 2008


A masala post, bluuurp. Excuse me!

These days, there are regular sightings of Yellow Bitterns, and Black Bitterns at my local wetland patch . Their resident populations seem to have got boosted by migrant populations as it usually happens.
A new bird got added to my bathroom birding list. And it is is this lovely Black-rumped Flameback.

Black-rumped Flameback
The bathroom birding list comprise of birds seen from the bathroom windows (and occasionally doors), when occupied variously in it. My bathroom takes the form of a decent bird watching hide because of its strategic position. Other birds to have made to this pretty exclusive list include Brown Hawk Owl (aka. Brown Boobook) and Orange-headed Thrush! (One bird photographer even called over to photograph the latter using my bathroom as a hide!).

Brown Hawk Owl
Brown Hawk Owl vocalisations are a regular feature at the dusk soundsape these days. I observed a pair calling and chasing each other in what appeared to be a courtship ritual yesterday. I did not use a flash light, as it would disturb them. It’s the beginning of the breeding season for a lot of birds including this one.

BTW, the above picture of Brown Hawk Owl, shot at my yard, will appear in the Thayer Birding Software’s Gold Edition DVD – Birds of North America to be released on 12 December, 2008.

For your information, a Brown Hawk Owl was recorded by a tour guide named Jake Mohlmann at the rarity Mecca, St Paul’s Island off the coast of Alaska in North America in August, 2007. It stayed on untill September.

So, it’s officially now made its way to the ABA checklist.

Click here to see the pictures of the errant bird and to read the very interesting account written by Jake on this mega sighting. Also read this post by N8’s account at The Drinking Bird on the same.

The aforementioned DVD lists 2,850 photos, 708 songs, 551 videos ( including 493 new action videos), 837 abundance maps, thousands of variations of over 700 quizzes, 957 range maps ( including 695 new detailed maps), 957 birds seen in the U.S. or Canada (including accidental and extinct species), November 2008 additions to the ABA checklist; plus all features found in version 3.9.6. Click here to order this DVD.

Sorry to if I had given you more Christmas shopping!

I am expecting the construction work of my dragonfly pond to be completed before the end of this weekend. It’s taken longer than I expected. A female Asian Skimmer that dropped by for ovipositing at an inch-deep puddle of rain water in it as it was being built became the first dragonfly to officially lay claim to it first!

This was interesting as it was also a ‘first’ to my yard’s burgeoning dragonfly list. She appeared to be at a desperate breeding rush and had no decency whatsoever to wait until I declare the pond open.

I will be leading 15-day Christmas Birding tour in the last two weeks of this month. I’d like to break the radio-silence from time to time. Can anybody tell me how to do a ‘scheduled-post’ in blogger please? I searched blogger help but couldn’t find it.

My 32nd birthday is coming up on the 1 Jan, people. I accept greeting cards and gifts at 146 A, Pahala Bomiriya, Kaduwela, Sri Lanka from now onwards. As for gift items, birding and natural history related books, CDs and DVDs are appreciated, thank you.

I received a couple blogging awards recently. First of these were this beautiful award from the flowergirl at Madras Ramblings from India.
Arte-y-pico award And the second was this award from the fishing guy from OH, US.

Hot Blog Award
I'd like to thank both of you for these wonderful awards! It’s been a while since I received a blog award. So it is a good feeling to be recognized this way. I hope I will be forgiven for not complying with your full set of rules!

I got my first decent shot of a dragonfly in flight at the rain water pool that I blogged about in my last post.

Wandering Glider
It was this world famous Wandering Glider aka. Globe Skimmer Pantala flavascens, which is a globe trotting species considered as the most widely distributed dragonfly in the world. It is a known temporary pool breeder and is almost always found flying—which was what pressed me to attempt the above shot.

My Canon 40 D and Canon 100 mm f2.8 Macro Lens stopped auto-focussing last week when I was shooting dragons at the aforementioned puddle. I took them to the repair centre of the local Canon dealer. It turned out that it wasn’t the lens. So they kept the camera body for further checking. After a week or so they called me to say that it is working okay. Apparently the auto-focussing problem has happened due to humidity. All what they had done was to clean to contacts of the camera body with a soft cloth. The bloke there told me to repeat it if it happens again, but before doing that, to make sure that I remove the battery to prevent short-circuiting.

I guided and facilitated a photo shoot of leaves in my garden, to be used for a desktop calendar for a local corporate. They were after leaves of 14 species of native/endemic flora to select from them, 12 to go with each month. I found them about 16 with various hues and textures to surpass their requirements. The two ladies who came got a few leeches too. Which was more than what they bargained for!

Now, I know I have admitted that I do not have leeches in my yard in a comment somewhere in this blog. Things have changed, folks. A small leech population has established probably after an accidental introduction caused by yours truly, when leech socks and boots were brought home straight from the rain forests without de-leeching them at the forest!

And let me tell you that some people that I know of are not too amused by this. So it is official that my home garden is a safe heaven for home-grown-terror. The first person to get a bleeding bite was my mom.

My friend Java Jones has tagged me for a blogging game called "I never".

Okay here goes my reply Mr. Jones. I’ve never.

1. thought that I would switch from Lion to Carlsberg in this lifetime. Seriously.

2. eaten a better tasting Chinese chop suay rice (mixed meat/sea food) than at the ‘late’ Garden restaurant that used to be near the Liberty Roundabout at Colpetty. Does anybody know whether it’s been relocated, please?

3. ad better arm-chair birding in Sri Lanka than from the balcony at Martin’s Simple Lodge, Sinharaja.

4. expected that a full body massage at La Passion, Battaramulla 90210., would be so awesome after a good day’s manual labour (at the pond).

5. think that anybody in this country could give a better earth-shattering head and shoulder massage as Ananda at Vajira Salon, Bamba.

6. thought that St Peter’s would thrash Royal 41-nil at Rugby as it happened magically in 2007 in our own den.

I end this masala post with this beauty that I photograged at my local wetland patch.

It is an Oriental Scarlet aka Scarlet Skimmer Crocothemis servilia servilia. Apparently this is also found in outside the Orient despite the local common name; "Oriental Scarlet" suggested in the Sri Lankan dragonfly guide, which in my opinion ought to be revised. According to the “Dragonflies through Binoculars – A Field Guide to Dragonflies of North America”, it was “discovered in Miami in 1975, I has spread to Orlando by 1986….It now occurs in the FL Keys, Cuba, and Hawaii and in the Old World ranges from the Middle East to Japan and Australia.”


flowergirl said...

Wow, some masala! And I'm the first to comment as well.

Your bathroom sounds a great place to hang out, Gallicissa!

Guess what, I've downloaded the dragonfly book you mentioned - its available as a free download, so now I have a reference source as well.

GG said...

Hey Congrats on all the awards and other achievements!Sounds like you've had a very successful 2008.

The Brown Hawk owl photo is just soo beeauuuutiful!!!!

Anonymous said...

Super owl shot Amila - not to mention the dragons!

I don't think I'll ever switch from Lion!!!

spookydragonfly said...

First off...Congrats on your much deserved awards! Amila, your capture of the Wandering Glider is absolutely perfect! And lastly, it's good to hear your dragonfly pond will be completed in target time...your first dragonfly eggs...Aw-w-w!!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and great pictures.
The woodpecker is a pileated woodpecker ??
- Cheers from Canada.

Christopher said...

Your Black-rumped Flameback had me drolling. I hope someday I can make it out there to join one of your trips!
Oh, and congrats on the very much deserved awards!

Adventure girl said...

Awwwwwwwwwww! Congrats on the awards! Do you live in the middle of a forrest?

Anonymous said...

Those are some pretty intense birds to spot from your bathroom. I just don't want to know what you were doing when you took those photos.

I'm afraid I can't tell you how to schedule posts in Blogger but the process is pretty simple in Wordpress...

Sunita Mohan said...

OMG, and you got Ms. Owl all wide-eyed too. Shame on you!
(Sorry, just couldnt resist that! :D )
Lovely, lovely photos. Is it your camera or your bathroom that is the secret of your fantastic photos? (not being snarky... I really like the photos)Another Canon user here so I suppose I'm just a teensy bit jealous. Can you tell? No, I thought not :D
Congrats on the awards! Two of them. Wow!
Well deserved, Amila. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an Owl, I love the photo. I will look forward to the ABA publication as now I look at bird rumps more often. From your description, it should help me!
Congratulations on awards and hope you have wonderful trip(s).
I don't use blogger but you should be able to change the post date and time at the time of posting.(My Google friends say so!)

spookydragonfly said...

Hello Amila...Not sure if this will help, I'd go to post options at the bottom of your page(to the left) when your typing a new post...from there I believe you can change your date and time(to the right). You can delete this!!! I may be wrong...I am a computer illiterate, as you know!

Tami Weingartner said...

WOW! What a beautiful Owl and a wonderful shot.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi flowergirl,
One of my friends came over to my place to photograph the Orange-headed Thrush from my bathroom about 12 years ago! So it is a known hotspot in the birding circles over here!

Glad you found the free download. I knew you would find the electronic version easily after googling the title. I too have the same.

Hi Sasani,
This was shot after it was flushed out of its day roost by an angry mob of diurnal birds. When that happens it goes to find a new perch to escape from the commotion. And when it does that, it usually obliges to give good views like this!

So, taking advantage of its troubled nature, I approached this step by step and photographed it as I got closer and closer. In the process, I recorded pretty interesting changes to its posture. This was taken a bit away from it and I have caught a relaxed posture of it. When I was pretty close it assumed an alert-- posture, which made it look more elongate to try its best to conceal its real outline in a bid to avoid detection. It appeared to me that it was willing to occupy the spot and put up with me rather than flying away to another perch and risk catching the attention of the mobsters!

Hi Java,
Thanks! I used to think like you about Lion!

Hi spookydragonfly,
Thank you! Wandering Glider was captured in manual mode – and I am pretty please with that shot, actually. This was a female, btw. I will share the pics of the pond next year after adding the vegetation and making it look more natural. Please bear with me until then!

Hi guild-rez,
Thanks for dropping by. This is a Black-rumped Flameback. Pileated does not occur in our neck of woods.

Hi Christopher,
Black-rumped Flameback is the commonest Woodpecker in Sri Lanka. And it is always a joy to see one from the bathroom! I'd be very happy to go birding with you, if you ever come this way.

Hi Adventure girl,
I don’t have the luxury of living in the middle of a forest still.
I prefer to call my garden a well-wooded one.

Hi Mike,
Birds can be so distracting at times! I have had regular sightings of the BHO from my bathroom but this shot of it was not taken from it.

Hi Sunita,
Har-har! You are funny!
As mentioned in the above reply, this Owl was not shot from the bathroom!

The Woodpecker was shot from Panasonic Lumix FZ-18. The owl was digi-scoped using my Nikon Coolpix 4500 coupled with my Kowa scope. The two dragonfly shots were taken from Canon 40 D. So as you can see it’s not all Canon.

Have a super day!

Hi Kalu,
Thanks a lot! I am pleased you like the owl. Haha - glad to know that I have made you a bird watcher!

I am very much looking forward for the trips. Thanks also for the tip on doing a scheduled post. I think your friend's tip should work.

Hi again, spookydragonfly,
I decided to publish your comment as I think you may be right! It is what Kalu above has also suggested, so it should work hopefully. Thanks a lot for coming for my rescue!

Hi Tami,
Pleased to hear from you. Glad you liked my owl. Well its your owl as well as you have got it in the North American birding list now!

Kathie Brown said...

Gallicissa, Happy Birthday early!

Congrats on the Awards.

Love the owl photo and that woodpecker! The Scarlet Skimmer is very cool too! Perfect for Christmas time! (Is there a Santa skimmer perhaps?)

To schedule a post go to the post options button in the bottom left hand corner when you are in the Compose mode. It will open up a screen beneath your post where you can change the date and time, but it only works if you DO NOT use word verification!

Anonymous said...

Hey Amila - if you want to rid your environs of leeches try sprinkling tobacco dust (sweepings off the floor of the factory works great)on the affected areas. Works wonders! On the other hand - if you are into increasing the biodiversity of your patch....!!!

And sorry I forgot to congratulate you on the slew of awards, but better late than never, huh? Great stuff! Congratulations - well deserved!

Redzlan aka Tabib said...

Congratulation on the awards!.
Beautiful Black-rumped Flameback woodpecker.
Stunning owl.

Congrats again!

Chrissy said...

The brown-hawk owl is a fascinating creature. I just love those eyes. Congrats on your awards, you certainly deserve them.

Sunita Mohan said...

Salt... the leeches hate it. Apparently it makes them roll off and shrivel up. I haven't tried it but this is advice from my brother who has a plantation full of leeches (I keep telling him to market them to some exotic pet-store; it should fetch him more than his cardamom plantation can)

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Kathie,
There is no Santa Skimmer but that would be good name for that dragonfly for sure.

Ah! I now remember that you discussed how to schedule a post sometime ago!!
Thanks for sharing it! I don’t use word verification, so I guess that shouldn’t be an issue for me.

Hi again, Java,
Thanks for sharing that interesting technique to get rid of leeches.

My worry is whether that would also get rid of some of the other life forms. Anyway, I will keep that in mind to tackle this home-grown terror, if it gets worse!

As you know, leech socks worn with the wellies/hiking boots work marvellously well to prevent bleeding bites to the legs and lower half of body, which are most vulnerable for bites that could cause bleeding. I normally do not even bother flicking off the odd leech that get on to the boots as I walk in leechy areas as I know they would often fall/get off after failing to find easy blood. Most new visitors to leechy terrains devote too much of attention to leeches even after being geared with proper rain forest wear, which to me doesn’t make much sense. I view it as a waste of energy and time that can be used to enjoy the forest/spot other forms of life. When we go walking in the rain forest as a group with such visitors, they hardly contribute any sightings to the group other than leeches!

Yes, the awards are nice and cool, thanks a lot! I am looking forward for RD's 2008 blogging Awards.

Hi Tabib,
Glad you liked my Flameback and the Owl.
I heard the owl today as well but was too busy to look for it.

Hi Chrisss,
Thanks. I took a lot of pictures of it as I got closer and closer and this one came off well.
I should do a post sharing the other postures that I caught on camera during that observation.
You will like to see how much it changes itself in the alert/threat posture.

Hi again, Sunita,
Yes, your bro is right. In fact that is a popular method to get rid of leeches especially after they have caused a bleeding bite. This is turning out to be a good KAP (Knowledge Attitude and Practices) survey on leeches! I think I should do a post on leeches one day. I should get a shot of a fully-fed virtually-immobile leech before that!

flowergirl said...

Check out this link

It was my first encounter with leeches...and we did exactly what you said Gallicissa! (focus on the leeches!!) Maybe next time we'll be in better frame of mind!

Sunita, yes salt and tobacco is a standard "concoction" in the Kerala plantations.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Another fascinating post, Amila. I had to look up the definition of "masala" and I think I get the idea.. a mixture of things, right?

I had to grin over your bathroom birding list, but I won't laugh out loud; whatever works, works!

I'll be interested to learn what sorts of creatures your backyard pond attracts, and look forward to some photos.

I hope you and your companions have a successful birding tour. Good luck for your sightings.

Oh, congratulations on being included in Thayer's DVD, and on your most well-deserved Hot Blog Award.

Anonymous said...

Hey Amila - don't know if you've seen this post I did on Leeches, if not, check it out.


Mel said...

My bathrooms have no windows... no bathroom list for me!
Congratulations on the awards!

Michele Wassell said...

Wow... What BEAUTIFUL photos. I love the Owl. Interesting post, thoroughly enjoyed. BTW... I am a big scrabble fan as well... Actually, pretty addicted to it. :)

Amila Salgado said...

Hi again, flowergirl,
Thanks for sharing that very interesting post. Leech socks provide a sound defence against their bottom-up attacks. I will share pics of them in my leech post to come!

Hi Pat,
Thanks as always!
Yes, Masala in its slang form refers to an interesting mix of things. Bathroom birding is great fun you should try it as well!

The construction work of my pond is now complete. It was quite a hectic operation. I have now begun to pump water to it. Some afternoon rain also helped.
Of course, you will hear plenty of reports about my pond in the coming year.

I am looking forward for the trips. You will hear about the Sinharaja trip over the weekend.

Hi again, Java,
That’s an interesting observation. I will link to it when I do my leech post. Thanks for sharing!

Hi Mel,
Thanks! I had a lot of involvement in designing my bathroom – so I was able to add a few daring additions to it!

Hi Michelle,
Thanks! It’s always nice to hear from a Scrabble aficionado!
N. Americans are pretty darn good at Scrabble, I know. I think I will have good opportunity to play some scrabble, soon.

You have a beautiful blog with great photographs and I promise to be back.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Amila: Your site definetly deserves awards because your photos are outstanding. Your bird photos today just pop off the page, excellant work. It was nice to get a pre-visit from the dragonfly.
Make sure after you change your dates and times to post that you hit Publish Post. It will then take you to the screen of your posts and show you are scheduled to post.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi fishing guy,
Thanks again for the award and this wonderful comment. I will do my next post as a scheduled post. Your tips are helpful!

Its Time to Live said...

Someday I hope to grow up to be you! Great blog and images.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi, It's Time to Live,
Wow! What a great compliment! Thanks a lot! I had a quick visit to your blog and liked it. You have a great eye for photography. I will be back for sure.

Stuart Price said...

My bathroom doesn't even have a window..........I saw a mosquito in it once though. And the there is occasionally some mould growing in the corner........

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Stu,
ha ha! In addition to what you've got in yours, I've counted geckos, spiders, moths, frogs, roaches as regular residents/visitors.

My occasional visitors include land snails, crickets and dragonflies!

Beverly said...

Okay, at first start I think perhaps this post was really just too much information! LOL …but you saved it nicely!!!

Congratulations on all your awards! Way cool!

When you create a post for Blogger, you will see, in the lower left-hand corner a link titled “Post Options” Click it! You will see how to post-date your post! :)

As usual, loved the photos…especially your Black-rumped Flameback…but then, I have a thing for woodpeckers.

I'm not going to ask what your Owl was staring so intently at...

Beverly said...

PS...I'd like to hear about your pond and how you built it. I LOVE ponds. Here's the last one I built:

I used to dangle my feet while sitting on the rocks...the koi would nibble my toes!

I want to make ANOTHER one, in the place where I live now! I wonder if I'd just get more skunks and racoons...not to mention bears. [sigh]

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Beverly,
Thanks for your two comments.
Yes, I was careful not to reveal too much information!

Thanks also for those tips on scheduling posts. I will try that in my next post.

Oh! That particular Owl, I promise, did not see any evil!

Good to know that you too love ponds. Thanks again for that link.
Your pond looks really natural and beautiful! I am afraid mine would not be as aesthetically pleasing as yours. I made it as a backyard pond mainly to be ‘functional’ to attract dragonflies, and especially to get them to actually breed in it. And of course to photograph them, which is my ulterior motive.

I hope to add aquatic vegetation and reeds/weeds tomorrow.
Due to construction work, the low natural vegetation around it was disturbed. It will recover soon with the sunlight and rainfall we have here.

I promise to do a complete pond post next year when I am back in the base. Please bear with me until then!

roentare said...

Your photography rocks and it is fantastic

oldcrow61 said...

Your pictures are as always, amazing! The owl is just gorgeous. I hope we see a picture of your dragonfly pond soon. Sounds like it's going to be a success with the Asian Skimmer already dropping by. Congratulations on the award. Well deserved.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

That flameback is an awesome bird!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Roentarre,
Thanks a lot! Coming from you, I take it as a very good compliment as your photographs also rock! I will sure be back. Thanks again for dropping by.

Hi OC,
Thanks. Yes, I intend to do a post about my dragonfly pond this month.I still feel that I need to add more vegetation to it. Yes, the award are always cool!

Hi Nancy,
Thanks! Glad you liked it. We have two that look like that with one considered an endemic now.

TR Ryan said...

I love this post! (the link is fixed thanks for the head's up!)

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