Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

March 25, 2017

Mirissa Whale Watching

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 10:26 am

Sri Lanka.

This morning I was up before 6am waiting for the tuk-tuk which actually came on time. He took my to the fishing harbour and we got onto the whale watching boat. This dog did not care one iota about all the hustle and bustle.

let sleeping dogs lie
Let sleeping dogs lie

I stayed downstairs because I knew it would be rolling like heck up top. The whole thing only cost me 2000 rupees, which was a bargain – less than twenty bucks.

whale watching boat
Whale-watching Boat.

I must admit I did not expect to see much but we saw heaps of Blue Whales and really up close too. Maybe a bit too close at times. The Coast Guard came past us at one time and warned us to stay away from the whales a bit more. But I did not think the captains paid much attention because they kept getting pretty close.

Blue Whale
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

The boat itself was not too crowded. I was execting to be shoved into a can of sardines but it was fine. We even got breakfast – a cup of coffee, hot dogs, lolly water, and a slice of cake.

Blue Whale fin
The fin

On the way back we stopped and a Whale Shark swam beneath our boat. You could see the spots on his back and his big wide mouth under the water but he did not surface.

Blue Whale after blow
Just after a blow

I saw this tern sitting out on the water miles from land. I have no idea what it is.

Mystery Tern
Mystery Tern

And for an extra bonus, a couple of shots of sunset at Hikkaduwa.

Hikkaduwa sunset
Hikkaduwa sunset

sunset over island
Sunset over island.

Things I seen

Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
Whale Shark

March 23, 2017

Hikkaduwa River Cruise

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 8:29 am

Hikkaduwa Birding.

I went for a walk north along the coast last night and found a river cruise. So I arranged with the dude for an 8am boat ride along the river for 2000 rupees. A good deal, I thought.

Indian Cormorant
Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis)

I had been looking out for the Indian Cormorant for days and days, and there it was in my camera all the time. I did not notice when I took the photo. You can tell by the white patch on the cheek. doh!

river traps
Fisherman and traps

The fishermen had built all these stick traps to catch fish. I guess they just funnel them into an enclosure and they cannot get back out again.

Intermediate Egret
Great Egret

I think this is right. I usually tell by the length of the gape under the eye, but I am out of practice lately. edit:Thanks pete for the correction.

White-winged Tern
White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

Little Heron
Little Heron (Butorides striatus)

We call them Striated Herons.

Purple Heron
Purple Heron

Hikkaduwa bird list

Red-vented Bulbul
Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis)
Indian Pond Heron
LITTLE HERON (Butorides striatus)
Purple Heron
Intermediate Egret
House Crow
Brahminy Kite
White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
Whiskered Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)
WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
WOOD SANDPIPER (Tringa glareola)
Red-wattled Lapwing

March 22, 2017

Hikkaduwa Surfing

Filed under: Surfing — Tags: — admin @ 7:29 am

Sri Lankan Endless Summer.

This morning I set off determined to take some surfing photos in Sri Lanka. First off I went to the Fishing Harbour, hoping to get some shots of the left-hander near my hotel. But it was flat, so I took a walk around the harbour.

Hikkaduwa rooftops
Hikkaduwa town

There are lots of trawlers and other smaller fishing vessels in the harbour.

hikkaduwa harbour
Hikkaduwa harbour

There were lots of fish for sale, mainly bonito, tuna and some very nice squid for only 400 rupees a kilo.

fish for sale
fish for sale

Heading down the beach I spied some tourists gawking at something in the water, so I went down and had a look. There were turtles. So I rushed into the water, shoved all the goobers out of the way and took some photos of the turtles. I did not pat them, because that is so tacky. 😉


Moving along the beach, I spotted where the real surfer were – at a break down the beach. doh! It was really hard getting on to the beach because everybody has built crap right on the shore and there is no access to the beach unless you go through some restaurant or hotel.

Indian Beach Heron
Indian Pond Heron on the beach

I do not know what this Indian Pond Heron was doing on the beach. He should be on the pond.

local ripping
Local ripping it up

There were lots of locals surfing really well.

smashing it
smashing it!

Probably an aussie

The surf was a fair size, I reckon about three to four foot.

going right
Another local going right

local in the tube
Grommet getting in the tube

So that is it. I got some surfing photos, saw an Indian Pond Heron on the beach and photographed a turtle. Quite a productive morning I reckon. Now for my afternoon nana-nap. zzzzzzzz

A nice train ride

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 6:07 am

From Bentota to Hikkaduwa.

And of course I am exaggerating for dramatic effect. But let us start at the beginning of this story. We had a malfunction with the booking at the villa at Bentota and we had to move to a guest house in Aluthgama, which is across the river from Bentota. It was not as nice but was close to the town and shops and everything. But it was very reasonable at $10 a night.

Bentota mangroves
Mangroves along the river

And of course I posted photos of my river boat ride in the last post. It was very enjoyable. I spent the rest of the time wandering around the town checking out the sites.

Aluthgama beach
The beach at Aluthgama

This morning I set off to get the train to Hikkaduwa. I bought a second class ticket for 70 rupees (about 60 cents) and waited for the train. I had a very funny moment at the station restaurant where there was a really old Sinhalese movie from the sixties on the television. The guys were dancing around and laughing their heads off. Very funny. I will try and find it on youtube.

Here come da train
The train comes

Well, the train came as you can see and I found the second class carriages this time. And I even found a seat, which was amazing. It was mostly full of Europeans going on day trips. I guess to Galle fort. Eventually I found my hotel after being driven up and down the road by the tuk tuk driver who had no clue where it was.

hikkaduwa beach
Learning to surf

After freshening up after my mammoth 37 kilometer train ride, I went for a walk down the road looking for the beach. I was offered a glass-bottom boat ride by some dude and coconuts and tours and rides on tuk tuks and wood carvings and trinkets and knick-knacks. I refused them all of course, having plenty of the aforementioned crap in my pocket. Any hoo, I saw the beach. There is a left hander off a reef, a beach break for the beginners, and reefs stretching along the coast. It is very touristy. And there was lots of white flabby skin lounging on deck chairs.

March 20, 2017

Another River Boat Ride

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 12:21 pm

Bentota River , Sri Lanka.

I had organised with the boat people the previous afternoon for 3500 rupees for a 3 hour boat ride. I thought that was a reasonable bargain. I arrived at 8.30am and they got the boat ready, full of petrol and off we went.

Shikra (Accipiter badius)

For starters we cruised along the waterfront properties and spied quite a few nice birds on the river-side. Wait a minute, I gotta go inside because I cannot see a thing on my monitor. Now I am kneeling down under the fan typing on my bed. It is way hotter inside but at least I can see the screen. Back to my processing.

Red-wattled Lapwing
Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)

These Red-wattled Lapwings were scabbing around in a dump by the river.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

This Sanderling wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola) was stuck on a rock out in the middle of the river. edit: thanks pete for the id.

Indian Pond Heron
Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)

I have been wanting to find and photograph these birds for ages. Finally my dream has been realised!

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

The Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is also known as the Eurasian Kingfisher, but I have no idea who would call them this?

Green imperial pigeon
Green imperial pigeon (Ducula aenea)

It is a shame I was so far away but it is a record shot.

purple-faced langur
purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus)

These monkeys were in the mangroves and were very skittish when we approached them in the boat. It was very difficult to get a shot of them and this is all I could manage. doh!

Water Monitor
Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)

There were lots of these on the river banks and hiding out in the mangroves.

Bentota bird list

Gull-billed Tern
Little Black Cormorant
Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
Common Myna
Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)
White-bellied Drongo
Brahminy Kite
White-bellied Sea-eagle
White-throated Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) aka Eurasian Kingfisher
Green imperial pigeon (Ducula aenea)
Shikra (Accipiter badius)
Stork-billed Kingfisher
Sanderling (Calidris alba) wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
Little Black Cormorant

Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus),
Saltwater or Mugger Crocodle

March 19, 2017

A Terrible Journey

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 5:54 am

Sri Lanka.

The beginning and ends of this story are fine. It is just the getting from one place to the other that was a nightmare. First off, here is a glorious shot of the fishing fleet at Negombo Lagoon.

Fishing Fleet Negombo
Fishing fleet

Me and my mate Vikas went to visit the fish market. They dried all the fish out on the beach. Most of these ones were the little ones.

drying fish
drying fish

There were heaps of fishermen netting on the beach. They would bring the nets in and throw the nets around to get the fish out of the nets.

Beach fishermen

This is the boat ride on the Negombo Lagoon. 2500 rupees for an hour boat ride. Well worth it. Here we are going along showing Vikas and the boat driver. You can see the bird photos on the previous post.

Negombo Lagoon
Negombo Lagoon boat ride

Negombo Beach
Negombo Beach

I am sitting in my hotel room in Bentota, which is sixty kilometers south of Colombo. It has been a relentless mission just to get less than a hundred kilometers. We started off in Negombo not knowing when the trains were leaving. Our hotel owner gave us all the wrong information. So we walked down to the bus station and get the bus to Colombo just as it was leaving. It was one of those old rickety ones. A local bus that stopped at just about every hillbilly joint along the way.

When we got to Colombo the traffic started to get really bad. It was bumper to bumper and the bus seemed to stop every half a kilometer as well. I was getting a bit aerated at this point, wishing I had never got on this stinking heap of crap. The closer to the inner city we got, the worse the traffic was. As we were approaching the bus terminal it was gridlock. We just got off and haggled with this tuk tuk driver to take us to the train station.

The train station was worse. Nobody knew which train we had to catch and we ended up waiting 2 hours for the train to arrive. When it finally did, it was standing room only and packed in like sardines. Argh… An hour and a half later and we finally made the sixty kilometers to Bentoto. It was worth it. The town is surrounded by jungle and the beach is clean white sand. Our villa is very nice – $25 for Air Conditioning, private bathroom, and breakfast.

Bentota Beach
Vikas at Bentota Beach

That was the bad part in the middle. This morning I took some photos of birds around the hotel and then went for a swim at the beach. The water is really warm. Travelling is not all beer and skittles, you know.

Bentota – Sri Lanka

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 5:40 am

Bentota Birding.

I took these photos from the roof of my hotel at Bentota, Western Sri Lanka. It is pretty close to the beach and there is also lots of jungle type vegetation with coconut trees and gardens.

Oriental Magpie-Robin
Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis)

The ubiquitous Oriental Magpie-Robin. They are everywhere I go.

BLACK-HOODED ORIOLE (Oriolus xanthornus)

I am pretty sure I have not photographed these before. Maybe I have in Vietnam. Not sure.

WHITE-BELLIED DRONGO (Dicrurus caerulescens)

A new bird for me.

ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri)

This is a really bad shot. Just a record shot for the time being until I get a better one. They are fairly common I think, so I am sure I will see them again.

Red-vented Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)

Plain Prinia ??
Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata) ??

I am pretty sure this is not a Plain Prinia but maybe some type of babbler or thrush. Do not know??

Indian Palm Squirrel
Indian Palm Squirrel (Funambulus palmarum)

These cute squirrels were running around on the roof of the hotel next door.

Bentota Bird List

Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis)
BLACK-HOODED ORIOLE (Oriolus xanthornus)
WHITE-BELLIED DRONGO (Dicrurus caerulescens)
Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri)
Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata)

Indian Palm Squirrel (Funambulus palmarum)

March 17, 2017

Day One Sri Lanka

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 3:40 pm

Negombo Lagoon, Sri Lanka.

It is a long way from Japan to Sri Lanka. I have gone from snow and -5 degrees Celsius to a humid 30 degrees. It has taken a few days to adjust to the heat, but I still haven’t. I slept most of yesterday and only venture out in the mornings and late afternoon. The middle of the day is for siesta.

House Crow
House Crow, (corvus splendens)

I am staying at Randi Homestay, close to the lagoon and the town. This morning I took a boat ride through the lagoon for an hour. It cost about $20. I really enjoyed it.

BLACK-CAPPED KINGFISHER (Halcyon pileata)?? White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

I am not too sure about this kingfisher. I will get a better ID later. It is a White-throated Kingfisher or White-breasted Kingfisher. Also known as Smyrna kingfisher, is a tree kingfisher, widely distributed in Asia from Turkey east through the Indian subcontinent to the Philippines. I got a note from Sean who says that it is White-Throated Kingfisher, (Halcyon smyrnensis fusca). Thank you Sean for the clarification and the race.. I have much to learn, grasshopper. 🙂

Juvenile Striated Heron ? or Yellow Bittern ?
Juvenile Striated Heron ? or Yellow Bittern ?

It could even be a juvenile Black-capped Night-heron. doh! Nah, Juvenile Striated Heron.

ASIAN OPENBILL (Anastomus oscitans)

Ha ha I am very certain about this one.

BROWN-HEADED GULL (Larus brunnicephalus)

Doh!, not sure about this one either.

Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern

fruit bat
Fruit Bat

This is the first time I have seen one of these flying around in broad daylight.

Purple Heron
PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea)

Monkey in the mangroves

Negombo bird list

Indian Cormorant no.
LITTLE CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax niger)yes
Great Cormorant maybe.
White-winged Tern ?? (Chlidonias leucopterus)
GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)
House Crow (corvus splendens)
BROWN-HEADED GULL (Larus brunnicephalus)
LESSER CRESTED TERN (Sterna bengalensis) or GREAT CRESTED TERN (Sterna bergii) ??
PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea)
Grey Heron
LITTLE HERON (Butorides striatus)
Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)??
ASIAN OPENBILL (Anastomus oscitans)
White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis)

January 15, 2017

Large-billed Crow and Coal Tit

Filed under: Birds,Japan — Tags: — admin @ 8:22 am

Hokkaido Birding.

I went for another walk down to the river at Furano today. I was looking for the Large-billed Crow, Brown-eared Bulbul and White-tailed Eagle. I have video’ed these birds many years before but did not have photos of them.

Large-billed Crow
Large-billed Crow ( Corvus macrorhynchos)

I dipped out on the Brown-eared Bulbul and White-tailed Eagle. But I have seen them around here. I just have to be patient. The crow was on the tree right next to the hostel. They are quite common here. The only problem was it was freezing cold. One of the guys said it was minus twenty today. I had to take photos with my gloves on.

Coal Tit
Coal Tit (Periparus ater)

I had no idea which tit it was at first and had to go to the internet for some help with identification. I am reasonably sure I have got the identification right on this one.

Coal Tit
Coal Tit (Periparus ater)

Many thanks to for the identification help. There is a brilliant search engine on there. Seriously fabulous.

January 10, 2017

Snow Clearing in Japan

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 5:02 am

Furano, Hokkaido.

It was a great morning skiing today in Furano. About 10-20 cms of fresh powder snow. I gave it a good shake until I started aching in my bones so I came in for lunch. Whilst having my standard hakusai, moyashi and egg sandwichi, I spotted the snow clearing going on. I love all the snow clearing machinery. So I grabbed the point and shoot and rushed out onto the road to take some photos of the wonderful machines.

back hoe
Back Hoe.

After chomping off big chunks of snow wall along the road, the snow muncher/blower goes back up the road while the other machines push more snow onto the road. The back hoe pulls it onto the road from the sides.


The grader scoops it up into neat piles.

front-end loader
Front-end Loader.

And the front-end loader cleans up more snow from the sides.

snow muncher
Snow muncher/blower

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress