Saturday, April 30, 2011

Otters in Thalangama Lake

I use to pay a visit to the Thalangama Lake for birding when ever I m at Colombo on a weekend. It is a 20 minutes drive from home and a perfect location to observe Common Kingfisher, one of the popular birds among us to be photographed. Located in the middle of a crowded area,  the Thalangama lake contains an unbelievable richness of bio-diversity.

Saturday 29th January 2011 was another day I was in Colombo so I decided to visit Thalangama Lake.  When I go there I want to be the first and do not to let anyone else to steal my spotlight. So I left home earlier to be there by 6 in the morning. But when I got there, there were this Dr. and his friend. They seems have came there around 5.30 or so. He has missed the Cinnamon Bitten previous weekend and had returned to find it. They were shooting few Pin-tailed Snipes on the other side of the water. For me those birds were too far to be photographed. So I roamed around the place a bit.

Suddenly I heard a sound from the water beside the big "Kottan" tree. It looks like a large animal. I just checked because the place it full of Water Monitors, thinking this must be one of them (I never liked them so I wanted to keep in distance). Oh my god..! it is an Otter, one.. two.. and there were three of them. They were swimming and playing on the water close to the bank of the lake. This was the first time I saw them in the wild and I was so excited.

Otters are one of my favorite animals as I never fed up watching them. They are soo much full of life, I used to be at the cage of them for long time when ever I went to Dehiwala Zoo. I never knew they exist so closer in wild.

Otters , there were three of them.

Swimming away from us.

Playful lives...
 I followed them. They were moving closer to other two photographers, so I let them know there are Otters. But they didn't seems interested. May be they have seen them before. I watched them until they were disappeared in to the mangroves in the middle of the lake. Rest of day birding was not good for me but those otters had filled my day. Hope I could see them again.

See my best shot of them here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Finally leopards in Wilpattu

A heart breaking start at Wilpattu National Park after opening in 2010 I was so desperate to go there again as many of my friends have been lucky at Wilpattu recently with leopards as well as few bears. I haven't ever seen a bear or a leopard at Wilpattu. Of course I have only been there for a once.

My friend Madhawa has returned and wanted to spent his vacation productively. We were at Yala last time he was here and had a good time. But Yala is getting crowded in weekend and it is not good for part time wildlife photographers like us who could only go there on a weekend. Some people don't even know how to behave inside a National Park without disturbing the owners of the park. Sad to see but that is the truth. Hope the officers could do a better job in the future. So this time we pick Wilpattu, closer and clam beside I love the backgrounds at Wilpattu.

We were at the gate of Wilapttu by 6 AM on the Friday (22nd April 2011). All together there were 9 of us with a great 4DR5 owner we found when we were searching for a jeep. The area looked like flooded after the rain last night, dreams of seeing leopards was fading when we saw that. But the weather was getting better, we could see rays of sunlight coming through the dense forest.

Sunlight through web made some
beautiful wild moments
We roamed around the park till abut 11 in the morning, we came across the author of Portrait of Birds of Sri Lanka, Mr. Sunil Gunaratne. He was trying to video a Grey Hornbill nesting closer to the bungalow we were booked. He was thinking of getting the permission from us to go there and do the recording but the poor fellow couldn't do it because of the bungalow keeper didn't like it. Later we got to know it was due to the bad behavior of the tracker with him.

After the morning session we went to the Manawila Wildlife bungalow. It was overlooking Manawila with a spectacular view. Perfect place to relax and enjoy the nature and wildlife. I wish I could go there just to be there whole day.

It was raining time to time we were wondering whether to go out in the evening or not. Weather in the evening was much better but it wasn't good for leopards at all. We decided to roamed around to see some birds.

Manawila Wildlife Bungalow, Wilpattu National Park
It wasn't rain in the evening giving more hopes to us but there wasn't any leopard or bear luck till we plan to return to the bungalow. While our friends in the 4DR5 were shooting a Grey Fish Eagle close to Kumbuk Wila we decided to move forward  toward the resting place at the Kumbuk wila. Suddenly Saranga was shouting excitingly.. "lepa.. lepa.." There was a leopard about 100 ft away from us. It was drinking water from  a water hole on the road. Light was disappearing as well as the leopard. It wasn't expecting any visitors and turn around to disappear in to the thick forest in the darkness. It was two or three seconds of pure pleasure to the eyes of four of us and a complete day. I'm sure none from the 4DR5 still believe that we saw it. I can still picture the moment. We returned to the bungalow with hopes of tracking it tomorrow.

After enjoying the great food from Manawila bungalow keeper, we jumped in to the beds outside for a good night sleep. Walked up at about 2 in the morning and it was so cold. I was too lacy to get up and put on a t-shirt and dig deep in to my bed sheet. It was noisy outside. There were lot of frogs in the pond close by. 

It was 5.30 when I walked up second time when Madhawa shouting and pulling us out of the beds. But sooner it began to rain. Instead of going out we decided to hand around the bungalow. Later when rain shades away there were lot of cranes and cormorants at the pond and there were catching frogs. Hah.. I liked the sight more than other because of the noisy experience from the last light.

Caught !

Since weather got better by 10 we decided to go out, even though we roamed around the park whole day there were no signs of large mammals except few sambar deers and lot of spotted dears. It was nice to see that they are not that afraid of vehicles anymore. They were the signs of improvements for nature and wildlife lovers. There was no rain after the morning drop, which was a good sign. We returned to the bungalow at about 4 pm. Been so hungry we ate a lot. Later in the evening we played card and had some fun. I slept even without having the dinner.

Walked up at about 5.30 and got ready for the morning session. But we left the place little late. There were lot of leopard tracks on the way from Manawila to Ilanda mitti and they were continuing toward the Manikkapola side. Seems like it had moved on the road from the beginning. There were tracks everywhere but we couldn't track down. After a unsuccessful morning we decided to head back to the bungalow for the breakfast. Way back 4DR5 has suddenly  stopped in the middle of the road. Curious Sara has park the cab across the road to get a good view in front. Wow, it was a huge male leopard about 75ft away from us on the road. We didn't had the best view but managed to capture some nice shots. 

It was smelling the leaves of those trees
We were clearly in it's sight

Being there for about 5 minutes it had moved in to the forest. We followed it for sometime and bit later it rest under a tree deep down inside the forest. We decided to go back and have breakfast and return to the place again. After the breakfast we packed everything and returned to the leopard sight. It was there when we returned but moved away deep in to the forest later. We roamed around bit more and head back out of the park. It was unexpectedly successful safari in a rainy weather.