Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

April 13, 2017

Down off the mountain

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 3:26 am

Kithulgala

I caught the bus to Nuwara Eliya bus station and boarded the bus bound for Hatton. On the way, we passed guys suspended on hooks through their skin on the backs of trucks and a procession. I think it is a hindu thing. We got to Hatton and I recharged 100 rupees worth with airtel phone, then went up the road and had a cuppa and a hot dog for 80 rupees.

Yellow-billed Babbler
Yellow-billed Babbler( (Turdoides affinis)

Then I found a bus to Kithulgala. Actually it was an air-conditioned bus bound for Colombo and cost me 200 rupees! Outrage. I got dropped off at the bus stand, then went and had lunch – roti and a cup of tea. Egg rotis are really nice. Eventually, I contacted my Airbnb host – they are whitewater rafting mob. There are dozens here.

Greater Coucal
Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)

My cabin at the edge of the forest has no fan and no mosquito net, but it does have a bathroom. Rustic but very basic at $16 a night. The dude promised me fried rice for dinner and it is now 7:30pm and I am getting hungry.

Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis)

Late afternoon I went for a walk behind the police station but did not see much. I went and bought some water at the supermarket. It is so hot down off the mountains. I am now charging my camera battery, then later I will dump this afternoon’s photos to the computer. Then try and sleep. I have a box of mosquito coils and I ain’t afraid to use em! And some deet rub-on mosquito repellant.

black butterfly
black dragon-fly

Kithulgala bird list

8/4/2017. pm. Behind the police station.
9/4/2017 am. Kithulgala Forest Reserve.

Black Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul
Yellow-browed Bulbul (Iole indica)
White-bellied Drongo
Orange-billed Babbler
Yellow-billed Babbler, endemic to Sri Lanka and southern India.
Green Imperial Pigeon
Asian Openbill
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis)
Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)

April 7, 2017

Hakgala Botanic Gardens Birds

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 11:22 am

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.

This morning I took a trip to Hakgala Botanic Gardens, about 9 kilometers from Nuwara Eliya. I took a 311 bus to Welimada. The cost was about 30 cents. You could also get a tuk-tuk or a taxi. The cost would be considerably more. The gates open at 7:30am and cost 1500 rupees ($10) for a foreigner.

Cinereous Tit
Cinereous Tit (Parus cinereus)

I just followed the path up the hill until I saw some birds. The first one I came to was the Cinereous Tit, which has been split from the Great Tit. It has a broad black ventral line and has no crest. The Cinereous Tit is distinct in having a grey-back, black hood, white cheek patch and a white wing-bar. The underparts are white with the black central stripe running along the length. The female has a narrower ventral line and is slightly duller. (wikipedia).

Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher
Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher (Eumyia sordidus)

The next one I run into was the Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher. Such a mouthful for such a pretty little bird. These are endemic to Sri Lanka. First time I have seen these.

Kashmir Flycatcher
Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra)

I had been searching for the Kashmir Flycatcher in Victoria Park for days. Finally I found one. He was just sitting one a branch and darting down to the ground and straight back up again.

Black Bulbul
Black Bulbul (Hipsipetes ganeesa)

It took me ages to identify this bird. I could not find it in any of my identification files. I eventually did a google images search for “sri lanka bulbul” and there was one image in there that I recognised, and bingo! I had it.

Sri Lanka White-eye
Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis)

The Sri Lanka White-eyes were loving the aussie wattles. They are difficult to tell them from the Oriental White-eye as they are very similar and sometimes occupy the same range.

All in all I photographed four new birds today:- Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra), Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher (Eumyia sordidus), Cinereous Tit (Parus cinereus), and Black Bulbul (Hipsipetes ganeesa). Not bad for a morning walk around the garden.

Hakgala Botanic Gardens bird list

Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra)
Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher (Eumyia sordidus)
Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis)
Cinereous Tit (Parus cinereus)
Black Bulbul (Hipsipetes ganeesa)
White-throated Kingfisher
common myna
Spotted Dove
Red-vented Bulbul
Yellow-eared Bulbul
Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)

April 6, 2017

Victoria Park Day 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 10:08 am

Nuwara Eliya Day 2.

Trying to type with super glue stuck all over your fingers is quite difficult. I was sticking my shoes together just before and now I have hardened super glue covering my finger-tips. It makes touch typing a bit insensitive. Details, details. Let us get down to brass tacks. I was up this morning at 6:30am and heading down the hill towards Victoria Park, ready for round two. The gate was closed so I had a cup of coffee and a coconut rotti at a humpy across the road. Roti with sambal for breakfast. Delicioso!

Indian Pitta
Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura)

When the gates opened, I bought my ticket for 300 rupees and went straight for the Indian Pitta site. Nothing there. So I wandered up and down the creek a bit and finally found it. It was too dark for standard photos, so I cranked up the flash on the camera. Luckily the Indian Pitta came real close and I was able to get some decently lit photos. But they were still are not sharp. Better than a poke in the eye with a pretzel I guess.

Crested serpent eagle
Crested Serpent Eagle

I was looking for the Pied Thrush, but did not see it all morning. So I just wandered up and down the park a few times looking for stuff.

Sri Lanka White-eye
Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis)

The white-eyes were feeding on the flowers and the tailorbirds were looking for insects among the leaves.

Common Tailorbird
Common Tailorbird (orthotomus sutorius)

Finally I found a Forest Wagtail and I was following him all over the park.

Forest Wagtail
Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)

After that I went down to the bus station to see about buses to Hakgala Botanic Gardens, and Kitulgala. They go every twenty minutes and every hour respectively. It was time for another coffee, so I had a proper breakfast of espresso and omlet.

Nuwara Eliya bird list

Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura)
Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis)
Common Tailorbird (orthotomus sutorius)
Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)
Common Sandpiper
Common Myna
Indian Pond Heron
Cattle Egret
House Sparrow
Yellow-eared Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul

April 5, 2017

Victoria Park

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 3:50 pm

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.

I got the train this morning from Ella at 9:23am. The ride was pretty spiffy through the mountains with deep valleys full of tea plantations and hills covered in eucalyptus trees or pine. I got into Nanu Oya at about midday. Only a few hours to go 65 kilometers. Standard fare in Sri Lanka. I got a lift in a van to my hotel which is on a hill and is called Hill View Guest Inn. The last one I stayed in was called Nice View. There is a theme emerging here I think.

Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

After I unpacked, had a shower and changed into my casual attire, I walked down the road to Victoria Park. It is a pretty famous birding spot in Sri Lanka, renowned for the Indian Pitta and Pied Thrush. There are a few other famous birds that inhabit this park but I did not see them. There were a few birders near a creek, so I sleazed over and had a gawk at what they were looking for. There was a Pied Thrush in the tree. I took a few photos but it was too dark and obscured by leaves to get a decent shot.

Pied Thrush
Pied Thrush (Geokichla wardii)

I wandered up the creek after that and saw a few birds in the shrubs.

Indian Pitta
Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura)

“The Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura) is a passerine bird native to the Indian subcontinent. It inhabits scrub jungle, deciduous and dense evergreen forest…. It has long, strong legs, a very short tail and stout bill, with a buff coloured crown stripe, black coronal stripes, a thick black eye stripe and white throat and neck. The upperparts are green, with a blue tail, the underparts buff, with bright red on the lower belly and vent. ” (Wikipedia).

Yellow-eared Bulbul
Yellow-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus penicillatus)

The Yellow-eared Bulbul is an endemic resident breeder in the highlands of Sri Lanka. “The yellow-eared bulbul is about 20 cm (7.9 in) in length, with a long tail. It has olive upperparts and yellowish underparts. The crown of the head is grey, and there are yellow ear tufts and a yellow patch below the eye. There is a white tuft in front of the eye and the throat is also white.” (Wikipedia).

Sri Lanka White-eye
Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis)

crested serpent eagle
Crested Serpent Eagle

Indian Palm Squirrel
Indian Palm Squirrel

Victoria Park bird list.

Common Myna
Yellow-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus penicillatus)
Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura)
Crested Serpent-eagle, juvenile
White-breasted Waterhen
Indian Pond Heron
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Pied Thrush (Geokichla wardii)
Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis)
Common Sandpiper
grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Cattle Egret
Spotted Dove

Forest Wagtail – seen.

indian Palm Squirrel

April 4, 2017

Creative writing 101 – Stream of Consciousness.

Filed under: General — admin @ 10:25 am

A Day out in Ella.

4/4/2017. I have got a notebook! And I am in a coffee shop, and a coffee costs more than a meal! Coming from Tissamaharama, I caught the direct bus going to Kandy. Otherwise I would have had to catch 3 buses! There are hundreds of white tourists around. They are so strange. They even bring their babies all the way from Europe! Bizarre. All the backpackers are way more exotic and strange than any Asian cultural activities. I bet all the Sri Lankan people come to Ella to gawk at all the weird white people.

Nice View Guest House
Nice View Guest House

Last night we had a massive thunderstorm with lightning and hordes of rain. My Guest House is on the top of a ridge overlooking big mountains. I think we are at about 1000 meters. It is so nice and cool after the heat of the lowlands. Oooh, there was almost a dog-fight. Not much else happens around here. It is starting to rain now. And man just walked by with a load of firewood on his head. This is strange writing on a piece of paper – so old skool – but I like it better than tapping on a keyboard. My thoughts flow more freely – if very laterally.

I have to get the train to Nuna Oya tomorrow, then a bus to Nuwara Eliya. It take something like 2.5 hours to go 60 kilometers! The garbage collectors have just turned up out the front. The driver has an umbrella over his head to protect himself from the evil raindrops. It is really pouring now and everyone has their umbrellas out. I feel a bit left out.

Balcony View
View from my balcony

I am wondering what to have for lunch. Maybe something different than rice and curry? Something western perhaps, but what? Chicken fried rice might be nice. An omlet? The sun is out and nearly stopped raining. Soon time to move.

Now I am up the hill at a local restaurant have fried rice and chicken, 400rupees, and a coke, 60 rupees. I also went to the supermarket and bought a couple of raxors, 130 rupees. All the locals are eating at this joint, so that is a good sign. Beware the western tourist restaurants – shit food, high prices and more chance of food poisoning. A couple of Buddhist monks just went by in a tuk-tuk.

April 2, 2017

Yala NP Jeep Safari Part 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 2:11 pm

Yala National Park Part 2.

Back again for part two of the Yala National Park Jeep Safari. It ended up costing me 5500 rupees which is about 40-50 dollars. We started at 6am and finished around midday.

Asian Openbill
Asian Openbill

If you are only interested in the birds, do not go on a group safari. Go by yourself or with other birders. The non-birders will cramp your style, man. They get bored stopping for birds. They only want crocodiles and elephants and leopards.

Baya Weaver
Baya Weaver

We saw a few birds but not a great amount. I must say that Bundala National Park had a much better array of bird life. And the safari was much better with better guides and drivers who really knew their stuff – where the birds were and what the birds were.

wild boar
Wild Boar

We did see some great sights, such as crocodiles, Asian Elephants, wild boars and a few spots hiding in the foliage that belonged to a leopard. Oh, and I got some photos of a mongoose. We saw a few of them and we were lucky enough at one stage to photograph a mongoose loitering on the road and along the edges.

Mongoose
Mongoose

Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Yala NP Jeep Safari Part 1

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 11:58 am

Yala National Park Part 1.

Up at 4:45am this morning, hustled into the jeep. There are four other people already seated in the back – 3 frenchmen and 2 Serbians. I am the last one. We zoom off into the night. I cannot see a thing. After twenty kilometers in the dark, we arrive at the gates of the park and there are maybe fifty other jeeps already there. We line up and wait for the gates to open.

Woolly-necked Stork
Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)

As soon as there is enough light to see, I open my breakfast – a slice of cake, 2 bananas and 2 toasties. I give a banana and toastie to the frenchie from Chamonix. He has brought nothing so I take pity on him and feed the poor wretch.

crocodile
Crocodile

The jeeps start to jockey for position, all trying to push in and get ahead of the others. There is no system, it is pure chaos, pure Asia. Finally the gates are open and we get in surprisingly quickly and it is like the Amazing Race Yala. Jeeps are speeding ahead, trying to get to the good spots first. Pure mayhem.

Grey-headed Fish-eagle
Grey-headed Fish-eagle

It finally settles down and we get to a small lagoon and see some birds and a few reptiles such as crocodiles and Land Monitors.

baya weaver
Baya Weaver and nest

Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant

Water Buffalo
Water Buffalo

Changeable Hawk-Eagle
Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus)

Only two new birds this time:- Woolly-necked Stork and Changeable Hawk-eagle.

Yala National Park bird list

White-throated Kingfisher
Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)
Asian Openbill
Painted Stork
Indian Pond Heron
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Lesser Whistling Duck
Darter
Wood Sandpiper
Red-wattled Lapwing
Indian Robin
Green Bee-eater
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Barred Buttonquail
Red-vented Bulbul
Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Baya Weaver
Common Myna
Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus)
Grey-headed Fish-Eagle
Crested Serpent-eagle
White-bellied Sea-eagle

Crocodile
Land Monitor
Mongoose
Water Buffalo

April 1, 2017

Bundala Jeep Safari part 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 2:09 am

Bundala National Park part 2

Continuing on from the last post, still at Bundala National Park.

Pintail Snipe
Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura)

Greater Painted-Snipe
Greater Painted-Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)

Spot-billed Pelican
Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis)

Spot-billed Pelican
Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis)

Red-necked Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

Paddyfield Pipit
Paddyfield Pipit (Anthus rufulus)

Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Grey Plover
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)

Land Monitor
Land Monitor(varanus bengalensis)

March 31, 2017

Bundala Jeep Safari 1

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 12:02 pm

Bundala National Park part 1.

This morning I got up at 6am for my jeep safari to Bundala National Park. I had a driver but I sat in the back on these airline-type seats. The whole safari cost me 7000 rupees which is about sixty dollars.

Pied Cuckoo
Pied Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus)

At the ranger station we picked up a guide and set off down the road into the park. There were plenty of birds and sometimes I did not know where to point my camera.

Green Bee-eater
Green Bee-eater

Both the driver and the guide knew heaps more than me about the local birds and they were continually spotting new birds for me to photograph.

Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

At one stage we drove all the way to the ocean. It was a magnificent rugged coastline with waves crashing along the cape and a turtle playing in the water. Just a few lobster fishermen about and that was it.

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail(motacilla flava)

After about 4 hours we headed back to the park entrance and logged out so that they knew we had not been eaten by a crocodile. As a cautionary tale. We saw a crocodile right next to where I was walking last night. I think it was probably a silly thing to do. doh!

Indian Thick-knee
Indian Thick-knee (Burhinus indicus)

The Indian Thick-knee (Burhinus indicus) was formerly a subspecies of the Eurasian Thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus indicus).

Great Thick-knee
Great Thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris)

Barred Buttonquail
Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator)

There were two male Barred Buttonquail on the road ahead of us, completely oblivious to us. They were more interested in fighting.

Grey-headed Fish-eagle
Grey-headed Fish-eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus)

New bird were: Spot-billed Pelican, Red-necked Phalarope, Pintail Snape, Painted Snipe, Indian Thick-knee, Kentish Plover, Barred Buttonquail, Pied Cuckoo, Ashy Prinia.

The only problem with so many birds is taking too many photos! I took more than 600 photos and it is taking me hours to sort, delete, then process the photos. And I used up two cards – a 16gb and an 8gb.

Ashy Prinia
Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis)

This Eurasian Spoonbill is fully in breeding plumage with an orange neck band, yellow and red patches under the throat, and a head plumage. This little water-hole was full of Painted Storks and Eurasian Spoonbills.

Eurasian Spoonbill and Painted Stork
Eurasian Spoonbill and Painted Stork

Part 2 coming up in the next post. There were just too many photos.

Bundala National Park bird list

Lesser Whistling-Duck
Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis)
White-breasted Waterhen
Purple Swamphen
Black-winged Stilt
Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus)
Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Black-tailed Godwit
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Little Stint
Ruddy Turnstone
Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura)
Greater Painted-Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)
Red-wattled Lapwing
Yellow-wattled Lapwing
Great Thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris)
Indian Thick-knee (Burhinus indicus)
Pacific Golden Plover
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
Darter
Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Purple Heron
Grey Heron
Indian Pond Heron
Yellow Bittern
Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala)
Lesser Adjutant
Black-headed Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Asian Openbill
White-throated Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator)
Sri Lanka Junglefowl (Gallus lafayetii)
Indian Peafowl
Green Bee-eater
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Pied Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Barn Swallow
Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
Spotted Dove
Brahminy Kite
Grey-headed Fish-eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus)
Shikra
Brown Shrike (lanius cristatus)
Large-billed Crow
House Crow
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Indian Robin
Oriental Magpie-robin
Common Myna
Red-vented Bulbul
Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis)
Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata)
Common Iora
Paddyfield Pipit (Anthus rufulus)
Yellow Wagtail
Yellow-billed Babbler
Watercock (gallicrex cinerea)

Black-faced Langur
Water Buffalo
Crocodile
Land Monitor

March 30, 2017

Bundala Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 2:55 pm

Bundala National Park Access Road.

I got the bus from Kiula to Bundala Junction, where I am staying at the Lagoon Inn. After a shower and a rest, I snuck out the back gate and walked along the park fence. I stupidly wore my flip-flops and immediately got stabbed in the feed by vicious thorns.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus)

After that silliness, I followed a track to the highway and then found the road to Bundala National Park. The country is very dry with lots of thorny bushes at the edges of the wetlands/lagoon. There are lots of birds out on the wet grassy bits as well as a few buffalo.

Water Buffalo
Water Buffalo

I got as far as where the fishermen have their boats, had a look at their boats, walked along the water edge for a little way and then turned back. One of the park workers gave me a lift on his motor-bike, which I was glad of because my feet were getting rather sore by then. When I got back to the hotel, I was told you are not supposed to walk along that road. doh!

Asian Openbill
Asian Openbill

Common Redshank
Common Redshank

Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus)

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

Bundala bird list

House Crow
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)
Common Myna
Red-wattled Lapwing
Black-winged Stilt
Red-vented Bulbul
spotted Dove
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus)
Common Redshank
Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura)
Indian Pond Heron
Asian Openbill
Black-headed Ibis
Purple Swamphen
Whited-breasted Waterhen
Sri Lanka White-faced Starling (Sturnus albofrontatus)
Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus)
Pipit
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)
Loten’s Sunbird (Nectarinia lotenia)
White-throated Kingfisher

Water Buffalo

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