Saturday, 17 August 2013

Sri Lanka Part 1 - Negombo

First up, I think it's important to point out that Sri Lanka was not a birdwatching trip (whatever Mrs Fst0pped may claim) - there was no chasing of endemics (of which there are 33 species either confirmed or proposed), and all birding took place in easily accessible locations either near or in transit between the places we were staying. Having said that, I mentioned to the tour organiser (Jith of WalkwithJith fame, if you see him at Birdfair tell him Andrew and Amy said hi!) that I liked to watch birds and we mysteriously ended up with naturalists as tour guides. So I didn't do too badly.

No birds; just a beach, some exotic trees and the Indian ocean.

And Sri Lanka is green. Unbelievably green. White Throated Kingfishers sit on telegraph wires over rice paddies, Common Mynas and Yellow Billed Babbler's flock like starlings across the ground, pecking through the dust for scraps; even the bloody pigeons are green, and I had the great pleasure at one point of seeing a Sri Lanka Green Pigeon perched in a tree (proposed endemic, split from Pompadour Green Pigeon - hoping for an armchair endemic tick at some point in the future). Just a pair of binoculars and a spare half hour off the beaten track was usually enough to catch up with 20+ different species. It's another world.

Our first couple of days were spent in a 'Holiday Village' resort in Negombo. The resort was to Sri Lanka as University is to the real world - nothing like the real experience but a good way of easing into the unfamiliar. After a 10 hour overnight flight spent sat behind a toddler, who screamed for approximately 9.5 hours of it, the first day was basically a write off and was spent reading, sleeping and taking gratuitous photos of beaches and waves. The second morning of our stay, we had an early boat trip up and down the river surrounding the resort. This is where the birds started flowing.

Big list of photos below. Very much record shots, no extra work done on them. A few might appear on the Flickr with a bit of cleaning up, but here on the blog they are unadulterated other than occasional heavy cropping.

You all know this one right? Wader migrants are usually winter birds, so this is a good find for this time of year. An odd glimpse of home among the more exotic avifauna. 

Greater Coucal, with the menacing red eye. Better views had later in the trip, but no better photos.

Indian Thick Knee. Those bulbous eyes are just as strange and disturbing in real life.

My guides called this out as a Plain Prinia, but comparing book with photo from the comfort of my own home I'm 95% certain this what we have here is a Jungle Prinia. The supercilium and mantle colour are difficult to call in this light, but that chunky curved bill is fairly diagnostic. Confident enough that the trip list has been updated anyway, though I may Birdforum it for lulz.

Male and Female Pied Kingfishers, nicely posed to show off their differences. The male has the double breast band, while the female above has the broken band.

Purple Heron

I debated lazily reusing the Striated Heron shot from the last post, but decided that it stood out too much because it's actually half decent. Viva la mediocrity.

White Breasted Waterhen. Apparently wanting to kill me.

White Throated Kingfisher. More common than sparrows.

Red Wattled Lapwing. Only slightly less common than White Throated Kingfisher.

Friday, 9 August 2013

How to be an activist without getting arrested

Yesterday I flew back into the UK after 10 days in Sri Lanka. This morning I was wide awake at 05:45. The story of the trip will be told over the next few posts, but for now I'm lacking the willpower to trawl through an SD card full of photos. So instead, here is a fairly shameless plug for an old university friend of mine.

Ruth is a freelance journalist who, among other things, specialises in social and environmental issues and occasionally flirts with travel writing (and, for those interested, has managed to combine all three of these things on her Ethical Travel blog). She is a very nice person, and in the last few days she has released an e-book called "The Armchair Activist's Handbook".

I've been quite excited about this for a while because - quite apart from the reflected glory of being able to tell people that one of my old coursemates has actually used her English degree, and TO DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN TEACHING (this is very rare) - I am a person who would love to do more (i.e. something) to change the world for the better but doesn't really like the idea of chaining myself to railings, or dropping ill-considered fire extinguishers onto policemen's heads. And there's that "work" thing that takes up all the interesting bits of the day.

It occurs to me that readers of this blog - nature loving, mortgage/rent paying lot that you are - will probably empathise with this, and might also be quite interested in the concept of "Armchair Activism". The book is split into 10 sections, from food, to clothing, to the exploitation of natural resources, and each section contains a few different case studies describing the things ordinary people have done to help make their little corner of the world a better place (my favourite might just be guerilla gardening, and there's a spot at the end of my road that's crying out for it. Watch this space). It's inspiring, and there's almost certainly something in there that's within your power, even if it's just picking nettles for soup.

I think you'll agree that at £1.59, this book is quite clearly priced to raise awareness rather than to make money, and that awareness is something that's all too sadly lacking in the population at large at the moment. You can read the introduction and the first chapter on Amazon by clicking to look inside the book; I really enjoyed it, so take a wander over, have a read and see what you think.


Right, enough of the non-bird related material. Next stop: Sri Lanka Part 1 - Negombo

Striated Heron - Negombo, Sri Lanka

The author of this blog reserves the right to have picked out the best photo in the collection to advertise this next post in order to make it look like all his photos are this interesting, and will not be held responsible for any crushing disappointment that may follow as a result.