Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

May 31, 2017

Periyar Tiger Reserve

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 1:43 pm

Kumily, Western Ghats.

I am up in the mountains. It is a lot cooler and more pleasant. This morning I went for a nature walk at Periyar Tiger Reserve at Kumily, in Kerala. First thing I saw at the guide’s hut was a Golden-fronted Leafbird. Not a bad first impression I am thinking.

Golden-fronted Leafbird
Golden-fronted Leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons)

We were given some leech socks which I have never seen before. They seemed to have worked because at the end of the day I had a couple of leeches in my shoe and a girl had a couple too. But no bites. So they do work.

Great Hornbill
Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis)

I was very stoked to see quite a few Great Hornbill fly overhead. I was clicking away madly. That reminds me, I have to add these to my hornbill page.

Malabar Parakeet
Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columbides)

I was trying to photograph the elephants but this male Malabar Parakeet kept popping up near to us, so I had to divert to get him and then back to the elephants. Which you will see later.

White-browed Wagtail
White-browed Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis)

I thought these White-browed Wagtails were a couple of Oriental Magpie-robins until I looked at the photos closely. I got the shock of my life. The photo is pretty dodgy – record shot only.

Southern Hill Myna
Southern Hill Myna (Gracula indica)

A record shot only. Not seen these Southern Hill Mynas but I have seen the Common Hill Mynas in Malaysia, or have I? Well, actually seen at Kep, Cambodia and Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Jungle Myna
Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus)

There were a pair of Jungle Myna with a nest near my homestay/lodge. I have seen these before in Jerantut, Malaysia.

Nilgiri langur
Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii)

A few Nilgiri Langur were feeding in a tree near the trail.

male Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant

This one is a 20 year old male. There was a 60 year old female there as well. The male here has tusks.

Malabar Giant Squirrel
Malabar Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica)

This is also called the Indian Giant Squirrel. He was way high up in the tree. “The Indian giant squirrel, or Malabar giant squirrel, is a large tree squirrel species genus Ratufa native to India. It is a large-bodied diurnal, arboreal, and herbivorous squirrel found in South Asia.” (Wikipedia.)

Southern Birdwing
Southern Birdwing (Troides minos)

The guide said this butterfly was very rare. I have no idea about butterflies. It may be the state butterfly of Karnataka state.

Periyar Tiger Reserve bird list

Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis)
Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columbides)
Southern Hill Myna (Gracula indica)
Golden-fronted Leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons)
White-browed Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis)
Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus)
Cattle Egret
Indian Pond Heron
Asian Openbill
Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)
Grey Heron
Red-wattled Lapwing
Common Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo


Gaur or Indian Bison (Bos gaurus)
Asian Elephant
Malabar Giant Squirrel or Indian Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica)
Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii)


Southern Birdwing (Troides minos)

May 29, 2017

Another Kerala boat ride

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 3:27 pm

Kochi Backwaters.

I had no idea where we went today. I took ea taxi to this luxurious hotel where I waited for the van to pick me up. Then we drove south for nearly an hour through all the traffic until we came to a river. Then we had a cup of chai and went down and got in the boat.

poling the boat
Poling the boat.

We had two men poling the barge along the water. I was waiting for them to start up the outboard but they never did. They poled us miles and miles through all the waterways.

Kochi backwaters
Kochi backwaters.

It was raining on and off as we went. These people run out of petrol.

run out of petrol
Run out of petrol.

Not sure what this is. At first I thought sunbird, but no. It has a bill like a babbler. I have no idea what it is. Waiting for some help. edit: Thank you Tom Tarrant for the ID. The prinias stump me every time.

ID needed please.
ashy prinia (Prinia socialis)

I have a sneaking suspicion this may be the same bird. Or not. At first I thought it was a shrike-thrush or something similar. But no match. I have no idea.

unknown, id please
Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis)

There were not many birds around at all. I was fairly disappointed.

Greater Coucal
Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)

This lady and a few others were dragging nets around the canal. I have no idea what they were after.

netting the canal
Netting in the canal

Lots of boaters went past with their umbrellas up. Or plastic bags over their heads.

boating in the rain
Boating in the rain

Kochi waters bird list

Rufous Treepie
Asian Koel
Greater Coucal
House Crow
White-throated Kingfisher
Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis)

Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 12:55 am

Ernakulam Birding.

I caught the bus from Alleppey to Ernakulam this morning. I was hanging on for dear life! Indian buses are more excitement than a roller-coaster ride. In the afternoon I walked along the foreshore, then continued on to Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary.

Indian flying fox
Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus)

“The Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus), also known as the greater Indian fruit bat, is a species of flying fox in the family Pteropodidae. It is nocturnal and feeds mainly on ripe fruits, such as mangoes and bananas, and nectar.” (wiki).

I climbed up the watch-tower and there was nothing to see. Then I heard this horrendous screeching. It was a pair of Shikra having a humungous fight, flying around yelling at each other.

Shikra (Accipiter badius)

The light was really atrocious but I did my best. My camera was doing all weird shit as well, so I had no idea what I was doing.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)

I found this old railway building, so I snuck in past the Entry Forbidden sign and was surprised to see a Black Drongo and some fidgety Greater Racket-tailed Drongos.

Rufous Treepie
Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)

There was also a Greater Coucal and a family of Rufous Treepie.

Ernakulam bird list

Shikra (Accipiter badius)
Brahminy Kite
Common Tailorbird
House Crow
House Sparrow
Common Myna
Common Tailorbird
Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)
Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)
Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)

May 26, 2017

The Muhamma Ferry

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 1:40 pm

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary.

It was a big day today and I am knackered. I got out of bed at 6am and trudged off to the bus station at Alleppey. I found out where the bus to Muhamma was. You cannot tell as the destinations are all written in Malayalam, which I cannot decipher one bit. I had a bit of time so I had a cup of chai and a couple of deep-fried pakoras for breakfast.

Rufous Treepie
Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)

The bus finally took off and we charged down the road at an adrenaline-inducing rate of knots, dodging bikes, pedestrians, trucks, and lowly cars. Better than a roller-coaster ride.

Rufous Treepie
Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)

We made it to Muhamma, so I stumbled off the bus, looking for the ferry. I went down the wrong road and had to backtrack for nearly a kilometer. I kept asking people “ferry?” and they smiled and pointed me in the wrong direction.

female Purple-rumped Sunbird
Purple-rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica) Female

Eventually I arrived at the Muhamma Ferry Terminal dusty, tired and thirsty. I sat down for half an hour to wait for the ferry. So I get on and sit in the ladies’ section unbeknownst to myself until the trip back. I was wondering why I was getting all these strange looka and giggles. Arriving in Kumarakom, I grabbed a tuk-tuk and made for the bird sanctuary.

male  Purple-rumped Sunbird
Purple-rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica) male

When I arrived, I found out that the workers were on strike and the joint was not open. So I set off along the creek and found a few tracks off into the bush and eventually found a few birds.

Oriental Magpie-robin
Oriental Magpie-Robin

The front Oriental Magpie-robin has got some pink spots on the breast. I have no idea what that is all about.

Black Drongo
Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)

I took me a while to work out the ID for the Purple-rumped Sunbird. Olive-backed Sunbirds were out of range, and it was definitely a Purple-rumped Sunbird when I saw the solid line on the chest of the male. I had seen them previously in Sri Lanka at Kalamatiya Bird Sanctuary. So no tick for that. But the Rufous Treepie is a tick.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary list

Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) tick.
Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius
Purple-rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica)
Brahminy Kite
Red-vented Bulbul
White-throated Kingfisher
Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Baya Weaver
Common Myna
Purple Heron

May 25, 2017

Kollam to Alleppey

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 4:32 am

Kerala Backwaters Boat Ride.

After two days in Kollam, I was ready to get on the boat for the Kerala Backwaters to Alleppey. The boat leaves every second day because on the other days it is coming back from Alleppey.

kerala trawler
A trawler

Black-headed Ibis
Black-headed Ibis

After I took this photo, we got stuck on a sandbar and had to reverse our way out. I was a bit worried there for a while.

Grey Heron
Grey Heron

Brahminy Kite
Brahminy Kite

There are thousands of Brahminy Kite all over the waterways of Kerala.

Lesser Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)

I am not sure if I have seen these before. Probably. Just checking. Hmm, it seems like I have not. Oh well, that is a tick then. doh!

poling along
Poling along

Setting nets from small canoe seems to be the common way to fish around the backwaters of Kerala.

tough old bloke
Tough old bloke

Fishing is a tough life and this guy seems to have it in spades.

Great Cormorants
A tree of Great Cormorants

Asian Openbill
Asian Openbill

Ashy Woodswallow
Ashy Woodswallow (Artamus fuscus)

I thought this might be a tick but I have seen them before in Ban Lung, Cambodia in 2012. doh!

Green Bee-eater
Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis)

I think this one might be a young one.


There were hundreds of these Chinese cantilevered fishing nets, just like the famous ones in Kochi.

Kerala Backwaters bird list

Ashy Woodswallow (Artamus fuscus)
Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
Grey Heron
Indian Pond Heron
Black Drongo
Little Egret
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Asian Openbill
Black-headed Ibis
Little Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Oriental Darter
Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)
Brahminy Kite
Black Kite
Stork-billed Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher

May 24, 2017

Kollam Boat Ride

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 2:29 pm

Kerala Backwaters.

I caught the train from Varkala to Kollam this morning. It cost me a whole ten rupees. But I only went about thirty kilometers. It started raining on the way. I think it is pretty close to the start of the monsoon. It was raining pretty heavily all morning. I found a hotel near the ferry dock. Pretty seedy but cheap. I managed to find out about a boat ride on the backwaters around Kollam.

the skipper
The skipper.

It was the public ferry that went around all the islands near town. We would just go from wharf to wharf picking up passengers and dropping them off.

date night
Kids getting on the ferry.

It was a marvellous bargain. Twelve rupees for a two hour sight-seeing tour around the Kollam backwaters. Ha ha.

deck hands
The deck-hands.

We would get to a wharf and the deck-hands would jump off and hold the boat still with ropes while the passengers got on and off.

Chinese cantilevered nets
Chinese fishing nets.

These are the same type as the famous ones at Kochi. They are cantilevered and go in and out of the water very easily. Just using science.

Trawler fleet

There were so many trawlers. Hundreds and hundreds of them tied up along the harbour.

friendly kid
Friendly kid.

This kid said hello to me, shook my hand and gave me a couple of biscuits. Such wonderful hospitality.

Kerala houseboat
Kerala Houseboat

This is your standard Kerala Backwaters Houseboat. They cost a fortune to hire them out.

Fishin indian style

Lots of people out fishing along the waterways. I saw one guy catch a decent sized fish. They just have a length of fishing line tied to a stick and away they go.

haulin em in
Setting the nets

A couple of fishermen setting their net from a a dug-out canoe.

May 21, 2017

Sri Lanka to India

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 6:33 am

From West Sri Lanka to West India.

I spent a bit of time waiting for my visa to India in Colombo, then I went to Negombo for about 4 days. I spent most of my time in Negombo bicycling around the town and checking out the beach about 3 times a day.

Plane to India
The Plane to India

So finally I get to go to India for the third time. I was utterly shocked when I saw the plane. It was a small twin-engined thing. EEEK! But it was ok. It got us to India despite being two hours late. I arrived In Madurai and rested up for a couple of days before heading to Trivandrum in Kerala, then on to Varkala, up the coast a bit.

North Cliff
Varkala Beach

I am staying on the cliff above the beach. This morning I took the camera for a walk and got some shots of the fishermen coming in through the surf. These guys nearly got smashed.

Surfing after fishing
Nearly smashed.

But luckily they missed the big one and happened to find a little wave to come in on. Crazy stuff.

Catching a small one
Coming in on a small one.

There were all these guru-looking dudes dispensing blessings or something to the pilgrims. Maybe they were brahmins or holy men. I have no idea.

Karma Chameleon
Dispensing karma

I have not seen many birds yet. But I have been in cities and a beach. These are all I have seen so far.

Indian birds so far

White-throated Kingfisher
House Crow
Great Egret
Black Kite
Brahminy Kite
Common Myna

May 6, 2017

Nothing Happening Here

Filed under: Surfing — Tags: — admin @ 5:38 am

It is a nothing day.

No surf, nothing exciting going on. Just a couple of photos of dudes, body boarders, crabs and trawlers.

body boarder
Body Boarder

I got all early to go to the beach this morning, hoping for some good photos of the surfing. When I got there, there were a couple of dudes out. But nothing exciting. No ripping going one. And then everyone came in.

After-surf chat
Finished a surf.

A young Sri Lankan surfer went out just in front but did not catch any decent waves. So no photos of that. Another dud. So I packed up my camera and went to the other side of the harbour for a look-see.

rock crab
Crab on the rocks

Nothing except a few crabs and some fishermen out in the harbour, trying to catch some little fish with cane rods and fixed fishing line – no reels.

Trawlers in the harbour

The trawlers are still in the harbour. I have not seen many of them going out to sea lately. Nothing happening.

May 5, 2017

Surfing Hikkaduwa Again

Filed under: Surfing — Tags: — admin @ 5:04 am

Hikkaduwa Surfing Redux.

Well, here I am back in Hikkaduwa. The problem is, it is the end of the season here. The swell yesterday was too big and it was closing out. Today was a bit smaller and there were a few guys out. They did not stay out long. I do not know why. The right-handers were pretty good.

surfing 1
Surfing 1

I was hanging out with the Sri Lankan guys who were renting out surfboards. They were also surf instructors and gave lessons to beginners. They told me that the surfboards they hire came from Thailand – some pop-out factory. This guy is lining up the tube.

surfin 2
Surfing 2

And here he is into it.

surfin 3
Surfing 3

About five minutes after this, they all left the water. Lame. They were only out for half an hour. doh!

Surfing 4

May 2, 2017

Getting Indian Visa in Sri Lanka

Filed under: General — admin @ 8:33 am

Applying for Indian Visa in Colombo.

The first thing you need to do is get all your information together. You will need a lot of personal details, so make sure you have all that stuff well in hand. Here are the details that you will need.

Current Passport number, Place, date of issue, date of expiry
Last/old passport number, place, date of issue. Maybe need a photocopy.
Education level, eg Graduate.
Your religion.
Birth place, date
Parents names, birth date, place of birth.
Address in Sri Lanka. (Your hostel)
Permanent address (in your country).
India address(hotel).
Marital status. Name, place and date of birth of spouse, if married.
Occupation. If unemployed or retired put down last employer.
Visa type (tourist).
Length (6 months).
Number of entries (double).
Places to visit (put up to 12).
Likely entry and exit ports (ALL PORTS)
Purpose (tourist)
Date of arrival in India.

If you cannot find your old passport number, just write a letter to the High Commissioner stating that you have lost your old passport, it was destroyed, the dog ate it. State that you do not have old passport and state if and when you last visited India.

After you have gone through all that data-mining, go to the IVS website and download the FAX REFERENCE FORM . Print it out and fill it in with a BLACK pen.

Indian visa fax form eg
An example filled in.

Then, Go to the IVS page and click on “Apply Online” at the bottom of the page and fill it in as you go. Make sure you fill in all the fields before you save on each page or it will not let you do it. Make a note of your reference number and you can save and come back later if you do not have all the information. Better to have it ready. The information I detailed above is all that you will need.

Then you will need 2 or 3 passport photos. They MUST have a WHITE background and be 2″x2″ , and be recent. I got 6 photos done for 250 rupees.

Next Step. Print out the Appication form, paste a photo on it, sign it twice – under the photo and at the end.

Get some photocopies of your current passport, your old passport, your Sri Lanka Visa page in your passport. You may need a bank statement, hotel booking in india, or tour itinerary. I did not need these things but I had them ready.

ivs  colombo
IVS Office , (image owned by google)

Ok, then go to the IVS office at:
IVS Global.
129 Philip Gunawardena Mw.
Colombo 4

If you have not done any of the above, do not fret. There is a shop down the road that will do it all for you – printing, photos, comb your hair, conduct wedding ceremonies – for a fee.

Go into the office and see the girl on reception. She will check out your form and help you with any mistakes or confusions. She will check your passport, photocopies and then give you a number and you go to the first floor and see the officer when called. The officer will check your form, take the money(15,000 rupees for me), and give you a date to come back and leave your passport. A day after that you can pick it up with your visa.

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