Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sri Lanka November/December 2015 Part 7 Yala..... the morning session.

"Throw those curtains wide, one day a year like this will suit me fine!'

Day 3 in Kirinda and today was the first trip out, I'll catch up with what we saw in and around Kirinda after day 1 later.

The trip to Yala was organised, a jeep was ready and waiting to take both Claire and myself off to arrive at Yala as soon as the gates opened, 6.30 am I believe.

As we drove towards the park entrance along the newly resurfaced road we passed agricultural land.
A pair of domestic Buffalo looked well in the early light.
Yale approaches   Sri Lanka
By the time we reached the park the sun was truly on the ascendancy,
Yale NP  Sri Lanka
For a brief moment we were dazzled by the gold.
Marsh Sandpiper    Yala,Sri Lanka
A Great White Egret arrived to start feeding
Yala,Sri Lanka

Oh yes, it was going to be a beautiful day!

One of the first things I did was to ask our driver to make sure that the mandatory guide that joins you for your safari was both English speaking and knew his birds. Many of the people who visit Yala are interested in seeing just one thing...Leopard. I made it clear from the onset I wasn't. I told our guide I was just as interested in birds and I would particularly appreciate it if he knew of any Owl or Nightjar roosts. To be honest I wasn't expecting him to deliver but it was more a statement of intent. One thing you are not allowed to do in Yala is to get out of your vehicle so you are dependant on what is viewable from the side of the road.

If we saw a Leopard all well and good but I didn't want to share that experience with dozens of jeeps all vying for a viewing spot. Been there and done that on our last visit and to be honest, it wasn't vey satisfying.
Anyway, guide on board and off we went. 
Almost immediately we found the national bird of Sri Lanka.
He was standing defiantly in the middle of the road crowing in the new day. I'm afraid Mrs Sri Lankan Junglefowl is a touch on the drab side.
A great start to the day but it was about to get incredibly better!
I have lost count how many times I have been to India and Sri Lanka, perhaps 10 I think, and one bird that has always been on my wish list is this one.
and I found it myself! I had to tell the driver to stop and reverse. All you could make out was the silhouette as the light was still poor. The camera has enhanced it and to my delight it's come out even better than I'd hoped.
What a stunning little bird. I now understand why everyone bar me was prepared to go and search the infamous location in Candolim,Goa well known for the Pitta in the shi... ! Yes, it was an area heavily used for public ablutions. Yuk!
Anyway, this one was spotted from the comfort of a vehicle and I was on an immediate high!
I had a jewel in the crown and the park was still waking up!
We drove around a few spots taking in some rather mundane birds. Yesterday's lifer today's also ran!!!!!
and Grey Heron. Keep going driver!
The Green Imperial Pigeon was certainly worth stopping for
and the Greater Thick-knee a lot closer than on  the mud flats of Kirinda.
Yellow -wattled Lapwing, OK lets grab a few shots
Scaly-breasted Munia, most definitely.
My head was still full of Pitta as we trundled along when it was the guides turn to shout to the driver to stop.
I am in awe of his spotting abilities. Never in a month of Sundays would I have seen the Nightjar, Indian I am pretty certain, such was the camouflage and after all, in deep shade too.
It was "high fives". What a spot.
I had been rather tongue in cheek when I had told him it was a species priority!
I tried to gat a better angle to avoid the back light but in fear of disturbing the bird too much we left it happily in it's roost.
Amazing stuff. If I saw nothing else all day I would have to say it was a success!
However, that was not the case. Far from it.
Before you knew it we were watching a Crested Serpent Eagle before it took off in search of a better vantage point.
One dead tree had two of the biggest birds you can hope to see sat in separate branches.
The Great White Egret looked pretty stunning with the greyish sky background.
The Painted Stork equally so.
We were seeing species that were not here on our last visit, then we had had to wait to Bundala N.P.  for wetland birds by and large.
We'd had a lot of rain though, many parts of the park that we could access were quite flooded.
Even a 4x4 vehicle needed to be wary when we crossed a river.
Despite grey skies on occasions we had plenty of sun too.
Stopping to let this Monitor Lizard cross the road, it was a big one, too big to get the whole beast in my shot.
We soon found ourselves parked up and watching so much activity all around us I couldn't decide what to concentrate on.
A fairly distant pair of Golden Jackal might not hang around long, maybe we should move closer.
On the other hand, right in front of us an Indian Roller was on a near bush.
It flew to the ground and picked up a grub before returning to the branch to kill and eat it. Unfortunately the grub died in vain as the Roller hit it so hard it exploded leaving what I presume was an unpalatable skin because the Roller dropped it on the floor.
Food was plentiful though and it soon had caught some new prey.
That was swallowed in one gulp!
To the side of the vehicle we had feeding Redshank
Pacific Golden Plover
Open-billed Stork
and Greenshank.
One problem with a jeep safari is that you are limited in the way you take your photographs. If the subject is too close the angle is all wrong. Then you have the direction of the sun which you probably have to accept and last but not least twigs and branches contend with. The jeep's driver does his best to put you where you ask to be. On the other hand the birds seem largely tolerant of a vehicle provided the occupants stay in it!
Anyway, despite the drawbacks I wasn't complaining. We moved on a little way and I was soon watching a Painted Stork trying to swallow a fish.
Better still a Grey -headed Fish Eagle flew in to a near tree to watch the proceedings.
I was looking in the wrong direction when the Eagle took off and I missed the action when it swooped down and picked up a good sized fish out of a fairly small patch of flooded grass. The fish had probably been doomed anyway but it made an easy catch for the Eagle.
What a morning I was having. I was reluctant to leave when our guide suggested we went down to the beach for something to eat. Lunch time already, the time had passed so quickly I'd been so engrossed.
Lunch time ? Heck no, I suddenly realised we were stopping for breakfast. It was only around 9.00am.