Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sri Lanka Part 2: Galle



So, having spent 4 nights at the superb Estate House we were off to Galle in the South West, a drive of 3 hours, travelling through Horana and Avissawella to the Southern Expressway that takes you south. A good journey with Brahminy Kite, yellow bittern, white bellied sea eagle and plenty of egrets and herons noted from the car. We were greeted at the Jetwing Lighthouse hotel see here as old friends and offered a super room overlooking the ocean. Excellent stuff. However, it was election day and there was an alcohol ban throughout the country! Room service was still available, so the lad brought drinks to our room and we could have them on our balcony. This ban was until Saturday. Safe to say, first time I have had a meal with only water!!
We had stayed at this excellent hotel last year and there were a few areas that I wanted to revisit as they offered opportunities for good birds. We took a walk along the beach and into a coconut grove. Regulars like babblers, white throated kingfishers, house crows and common sandpipers were all on show and in the grounds, 2 red wattled lapwings and an indian pond heron that spent its entire day by the pool!
View from the breakfast table

Lighthouse dining room

Looking north from the hotel gardens


cattle egrets

red wattled lapwing

house crow

common sandpiper
After our first night and some arrak in our room, I was up for first light and wandered over the road to an area the locals call the jungle. Here, the tsunami in 2004 washed away many houses and thick vegetation, which was cleared to make a sports ground for the locals to play cricket. However, opposite was still a jungle area and whilst not full of lots of species, was a great area to photo more of the regular birds. It was also a superb butterfly area and one I revisited at some point each of the 5 days we were in Galle.
Black hooded orioles, brown headed barbets, white browed bulbuls, red wattled lapwings, scaley breasted and white rumped munias, Sri Lankan swallows, Asian palm swifts, a solitary crested treeswift and brahminy kites were all easy to find along with Asian koel and greater coucal. Just a wonderful place, some 3 minutes from the hotel room.
Sports ground that used to be jungle. Note house in background

Jungle area: good birds, butterflies and leeches!

Tsunami damage still all around.

brown headed barbet

Sri Lankan swallow

rose ringed parakeet

blue tailed bee eaters

juvenile scaley breasted munias

overhead red wattled lapwing

white browed bulbul
After breakfast we took a tuk tuk to nearby Hikkadua where we popped into a turtle hatchery. Here, the chap who ran the whole farm showed us around, explained what he was doing whilst also showing us turtles he had rescued that were injured. There was one with propeller damage whilst 2 others had lost flippers due to being caught in fishing nets. He ran this whole establishment on donations and entrance fees, no grants from the government or wildlife charities. He had rebuilt the hatchery after the tsunami which washed away the farm along with killing 6 members of his family, including his father who had originally set up the place.

Wendy with a one year old turtle


After a bit of shopping it was back to the alcohol free hotel and off for another local wander, this time back to scrub land to the north. Here, lesser goldenback woodpeckers, common mynahs, more blue tailed bee eaters whilst out to sea, gull billed, little and common terns. A large white bellied sea eagle came in off and headed inland.
red vented bulbul

Asian koel

brahminy kite

Indian pond heron

white breasted waterhen

rock pigeon

Hotel pond heron and palm squirrel
noisy white throated kingfisher

lesser goldenback, male

lesser goldenback, female
The next morning found me in a tuk tuk heading to Kottawa rainforest, some 30 minutes out of the city. I visited this excellent and protected habitat with the naturalist, Anoma, from the hotel last year. This time I was met by a local guide and off we went, having paid a couple of quid to enter. As with rain forests, the birds are noisy, the leeches hungry, lizards are fast and very little gets seen. It really is a question of "getting your eyes in." An Asian paradise flycatcher (white male) was noted as rose ringed and Alexandrine parakeets screeched overhead. A couple of the smaller, endemic Layard's parakeets were also seen, but impossible to photograph. A Sri Lankan drongo was the only bird I managed to get a very poor snap of. Kangaroo lizards hopped for cover as I removed more leeches from my feet. They clearly enjoyed the blood laced arrak that ran through my system as the guide, in flip flops had one leech for the whole 2 hours. Just a real privilege to see such an important habitat, to stand and listen to the cacophony of barbets, coucals, koels, hornbills, parakeets and macaques. Back to the hotel and a full leech check upon arrival.
Sri Lankan drongo through dense vegetation!

kangaroo lizard

close up

Kottawa rainforest

my guide, which you have to be with

Pesky leeches.
It was now Saturday and a check on the sea from the breakfast table gave views of 2 wedge tailed shearwaters. No camera!!  A beer by the pool in 35C seemed like a sensible idea, but not one for such activities for more than half an hour,  we were off for another wander to the local Buddhist temple. We chatted with the monk who lent Wendy 4 books to read, 2 of which she could keep, but 2 needed to be returned before we left. We met Nilantha and his brother Raja who invited us to their home. They told of the tsunami coming through their house, washing all away, a wall of water 6 feet high! I then played cricket on the sports ground with the local lads, who called themselves the Bad Boys and all wanted to have their photograph taken. Raja invited us to come along for a boat ride up river the following morning. Good opportunity to get to a place I wouldn't otherwise see.
My attempt to bowl a doosra.................

...................was disptached to the boundary

Wendy and Raja, check out the damage to the house behind!

Common mynah

Loten's sunbird, male

Buddhist temple

white throated kingfisher

Tailorbird
The next morning, Wendy had plenty of reading to do, so I headed off for the boat trip. Great fun with indian and little cormorants, whiskered terns, water monitors a plenty and a darter. The latter, apparently, not a common bird for the south west. Raja rowed and we chatted about the election result, his children and he told me, how 17 years ago his father drowned in the river and he had to sell his tuk tuk to pay for the funeral. His only source of income gone!
Raja offered this trip for free. Just proud of where he lived

darter

Little cormorant

Large (7 feet) water monitor

Another from the boat

Pleasing shot of a common sandpiper

Indian jezebel butterfly
The dinner that evening, as ever, was superb and made even more enjoyable as we could drink wine with it. Sunday dawned and another pre breakfast stroll over the road. More of the same but still brilliant. 3 black hooded orioles, 2 red vented bulbuls and 6 yellow billed babblers all in the same tree. A paddyfield pipit was new for the trip and I managed to get a few reasonable record shots of butterflies that I wasn't sure of their id.
paddyfield pipit

scaley breasted munia

Medus brown

White four ring

Pied parasol dragonfly

yellow billed babbler

Common sight

orange breasted green pigeon, female

black hooded oriole
Our last day, Monday, so another wander before popping over to see Raja and family as we had been invited to visit. We were greeted into their house and offered king coconuts to drink. He offered Wendy a present which we said we couldn't accept but both he and his wife were insistent. Wendy continues to wear the wonderful gift. I have a few plans to help this very peaceful and genuine man and his family of 4 children. In 2008 he got a job in Baghdad cleaning industrial ovens. He told of working all night in these and then spending the day in bunkers as bombs etc went off. After 15 months earning small amounts for his family back home, he returned and now gets occasional labouring work on building sites at night when it is cooler. He worked Christmas Day so the family had their Christmas dinner at 4.30 am.
We then walked to the river, via the temple to return the books, for any more birds and insects before returning to the hotel to pack ready for our move north to Negombo at 9 the following morning. It had been a very busy and utterly brilliant 5 days, with new birds noted, some Buddhist thoughts, wonderful locals and an excellent hotel. I suspect we shall be returning soon!
Fishermen on the river

Typical Galle sunset, from the hotel bar.



Loten's sunbird, male

Another brown headed barbet

amazing colours of  the blue tailed bee eater
None of the children had ever looked through binoculars.

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This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. Further European destinations are planned and a bigger trip to The Crimea was planned for 2014 but now not possible. so 2014: Sri Lanka in January, Poland in April, Madeira in June and The Camargue in July. So far 2015 has been Sri Lanka in Jan, Poland in Feb, Sri Lanka in April and The Camargue coming up in 1st week of September.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer
08.06.08

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly
06.06.08

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine
29.05.08

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox
24.05.08

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells
22.04.08

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)

Reflections

Reflections
daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society http://bsnhs.webplus.net/

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. http://hairybirders.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.hertsbirdclub.org.uk/ The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups.
http://www.birdforum.net/ An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc.
http://www.guidedbirdwatching.com/ A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
http://www.britainsbirder.co.uk/
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at
http://www.thehadhams.com/ www.thepelhams.net/content/section/12/139/

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander