Friday, 25 December 2015

Sri Lanka November/December 2015 Part 8 Yala..... after breakfast.

I hadn't wanted to be dragged away from my photography but when I realised it was only 9.00am ish I wasn't as disappointed. There was plenty of the day still remaining, loads to see, well hopefully!
There one or two other vehicles down by the beach, the one area you are allowed to get out of the vehicles to stretch your legs, eat your packed breakfast/lunch and if needed, a loo break. Be warned though, it's the bushes and it's not a pleasant experience.
Anyway, I spotted this Red-vented Bulbul perched on our vehicle's wing mirror.
It spent ages , I'm not quite sure doing what, attacking itself, admiring itself or trying to catch insects, anyway I loved the shot which I hadn't realised I had got until I got home and saw the writing on the mirror.
I would have tried for a lot more had I known but my attention wandered to the Tree Swifts instead.
Apparently the chatter amongst the other vehicles had been the Leopard sighting. One had been found up a tree and the usual crowd of vehicles had descended on it. Fair do's our guide hadn't even mentioned it. I had after all told him I was not interested in joining the mob.
Soon we were off on our own again. We seemed to be going to spots where there were few other vehicles, maybe they were all still parked around a tree!
Anyway, my thoughts were elsewhere. A female Orange-breasted Pigeon
A Grey-bellied Cuckoo disappointingly distant.
A Green Bee-eater with prey.
How many can you eat without a glass of water ? No more than two that's for sure.
The first one went down effortlessly though.
The next find was this Changeable Hawk Eagle
It was using it's vantage point to seek out prey.
but we didn't see it catch anything despite it's attention to some nearby bushes. We moved off leaving it on it's tree perch. As our driver turned the vehicle around to face the direction we had arrived from he suddenly exclaimed "Leopard". There it was , emerging from the bushes and on to the path near the very spot we'd been parked. Had the driver killed the engine straight away it might have stayed out in the open but he didn't. In his excitement he carried on towards it, about 30 metres away. The Leopard gave us momentarily superb views but it turned on it's tail and disappeared.
No chance of a photo,it was all too quick but we did see one. Honest!
We found a spot overlooking a small lake and sat and watched both Open-billed Storks and Black-headed Ibis gathering nesting material to take back to distant trees.
Driving on we looked for new subjects.
Excuse me!
Some creatures are bolder than others or maybe they were just distracted.. 
These Spotted Deer thought long and hard before dashing across the road in front of our jeep.
By now it was getting quite hot, the Water Buffalo were enjoying a dip.
Many birds had decided to disappear or were just taking it easy like this Lesser Whistling Duck
Others were still looking for food.
but they were in the minority now.
When we returned to the spot I had earlier seen the Painted Storks I asked if we could stop again. There had been one single Wooly-necked Stork which had been impossible to get a reasonable shot of. Whereas the Painted Storks had settled down to roost, the Wooly-necked was still wandering around, better still, getting closer to the road Slowly but surely it came in to a spot clear of bushes and vegetation.
I have only seen one of the species at close quarters before and that was in the fading light of dusk. In the brilliant sunshine the purple feathering was a surprise. Quite stunning.
I think guide and driver were a little surprised just how long I was prepared to wait for the shot but there were also some Hornbills moving through the trees too. The harsh light and shadows even more difficult to cope with on a black and white bird.
The morning session had gone equally fast in my mind but the driver looked like he needed a sleep so it was suggested we head back to the beach for lunch.
Heading back we discovered the road was blocked by one huge Crocodile.
Claire took that shot with my 70-200. If you look you can see the Croc quite clearly.
It lay as still as a fallen log, mouth wide open.
To the right of us the road fell away sharply and down below were a herd of Spotted Deer.
Two came up to the roadside.
They obviously weren't fooled by the Croc and returned to the others who all retreated but in the meantime a troop of monkeys, Tufted Grey Langurs had arrived on the scene and were munching on the bushes further down the road.
A morbid curiosity as a young Langur started heading down the road towards the Croc. Would it fall prey to this huge monster ?
Fortunately for the Langur the answer is no but for me the photographer, a mixture of disappointment and guilt at the thought of the shot I might have captured.
We spent an hour at the beach. Time to chat to another group to see what they had seen. No Leopards it seemed.
After another session trying to capture Treeswifts to pass the time I was more than ready to abandon that frustration and climb back on the jeep. 
What a fantastic morning. I jokingly gave our guide two new targets. No 1 was Sloth Bear. We had seen one on the last visit but the views were obscured and I wanted the opportunity to better the photographs I had captured. No 2 was Blue-faced Malkoha, a strange choice you might think! On our last visit I had seen one sat out right next to the road as we flew around a corner in the jeep. The driver shot past it and the opportunity gone. I wanted another go at that species too!
So armed with targets off we went in search.
During our lunch we had seen distant storm clouds gathering and sure enough before you knew it the brilliant sun had gone and the heavens opened. A shame because we were at another very interesting but rather exposed spot. In front of us a weir in full flow, unlike the mere trickle I saw last time Beneath it were at least a dozen Crocs all laying in wait for fish to fall over the weir and straight in to their waiting jaws. Some were further downstream waiting for those that had been missed!
Unfortunately we were in danger of getting soaked in the driving rain so we left.
As the rain eased off we found new sights to see.
Samba Deer
and at the other end of the scale Black-naped Hare... another of Claire's captures.
The rain was easing off but the light was not that brilliant.
Still we were finding new things to photograph. I remember when a Hoopoe was a top target. Not so nowadays. I have been lucky to see one many times and sometimes very,very close. 
A Black-rumped Flameback appeared but sadly only briefly in full view.
Not nearly as close as the Brown Shrike though.

Suddenly it was announced we were moving, and we did so at some speed. A message had been received, we were off to see something specific.
"Sloth Bear?" I enquired.
Yes, right guess. Ah well bunfight here we go but in fairness I had given the Bear as a No1 target.
In the distance I could see all the jeeps lining the road, all facing our direction.

The Bear had been sighted all right but amazingly it was walking along the side of the road, ignoring all the vehicles. Problem was it was obscured as it was on the other side of the road. The jeep in front of us, the only one too, latched on at the back of the queue and we followed in front of it facing the direction the bear was heading. We waited for the bear to draw alongside and then we simply tracked alongside it. All the other jeeps were facing the wrong way!
However, the bear was on the hunt and it stopped to excavate a hole.
It emerged , well not ready for a photo shoot shall we say!
Hey, whose complaining.
The views were stunning but we'd had our fair share and we left the bear for others to see
It's quite amazing how sometimes luck runs with you. I had spent two long days at a local reserve in North Wales as I had heard that the Kingfisher was showing well. Here in Yala it was a couple of minutes aside and the results were so much better too!
On a trip to The Gambia I'd hoped but failed to see Green Sandpiper. I'm always missing them when they pass through on migration here at home. Yala ? No problem!
OK , not everything performed to order
This White-browed Fantail refused to come out of the bush.
and the Malkoha ?
Well we saw a few but they certainly weren't playing the game. Gone in a flash. My guide told me they are very furtive and he'd never seen anyone get a shot of one. Maybe that was to make me feel better .
Anyway, we were loosing light now and it really was time up.
A last shot of a Pied Hornbill that was out in the open.
and I was ready to accept that it was the end of the day. We drove back towards the entrance gates.
But it wasn't.
The end of the day that is.
Oh no!
Crossing the road a pair of Barred Buttonquail.
I managed a grab shot before they disappeared in to the long grass.
Another Pitta was seen nearby but it was only a glimpse of the top of it's head.
That was a good end to the day but still there was more. We stopped a few yards short of the gates when a pair of Yellow-crowned Woodpecker were spotted.
Two "lifers" to end an amazing day.
I haven't had many better days than that one!
That said, Bundala was much better than Yala last time around.
I would wait a couple of days before going, too many sweets in one go are bad for you!

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