Saturday, 10 May 2014

11th April - Yala National Park to Mirissa, Sri Lanka

The final drive set off again at 5.20, arriving at the centre as one of the first.  As we sat waiting for the permits, an Indian Nightjar flew past us, and then could be seen sitting in the middle of the road.  Was this to be a good sign?  The plan again was the same as before, back to where we had seen the Leopard before, however again the plan changed almost immediately.  Sampath received a call from his friend, we turned around and raced along a track which did nothing for all the bumps and bruises we had received all week.

As we came around a bend we could see only a few Jeeps in front of us, and in the open was a Leopard.  I watched as it got up and walked into the scrub and out of sight, but what I did not see immediately was the other Leopard sitting out in the open.  

Camera up, and plenty of shots, thankfully the SD card was full so I took it out and replaced it with a new one, this one was OK when I got home, so at last I have pictures of Leopard.

More vehicles arrived, and as usual they wanted to get the best positions, incredibly one person got out of the Jeep, and was talking on the phone.  The Leopard immediately turned its head towards the person.

These were two cubs, probably about nine months old, it listened to the man, and then looked around.

and then finally went to get up. 

But was clearly stiff after lying down, and went into some strange stretching positions

It wondered off in the direction of where its sibling had disappeared, but stopped just before the scrub, to turn around to look back, the man was still talking on his phone

It then seemed to pull a face that said "idiot" and then walked off to join the other one, out of sight.

What a beautiful animal, oozing with power and stealth.  Finally we had been treated to wonderful views of the Yala speciality, and with no problems over pushing and moving Jeeps.  The mood again changed and as we set off we really didn't care what else turned up, we had seen what we had hoped for.

We did continue though, and we came across another set of tracks in the sand by the side of the road.  Again there was leopard, and Sloth Bear, and you can see them both in this picture.

When you think bear you think of a large animal, so when I saw the bear prints I thought they were too small, but the Sloth Bear is in fact a small bear only about a metre long.

We followed the tracks and the road came around to an opening where there was a mongoose sitting on a rock.  It quickly went from view, but when it emerged again we could see it wasn't one of the commoner Ruddy Mongoose we had been seen, but a Stripe-necked Mongoose

It was foraging for food, digging into the sand with its muzzle, and muching on something it found.

Leaving the mongoose, we were in for some more excitement, the driver saw a leopard on our left, but as we came around the bend we came across another by the side of the road.  Startling it, it shot off quickly through the bushes.

A blur I know, and probably all a Spotted Deer sees before the lights go out, but a record.  The thought was these were two cubs also, and the one we startled was play stalking the other.  We waited to see if they showed.  As we sat there a Green Bee-eater perched alongside us.  Thankfully I photographed it, only to be told by Helen to be quiet.  I didn't take any more, so I only have one Bee-eater photograph from the trip, gorgeous

Once we realised that they were not going to appear we headed off, and came to the lake by the bungalow, and site we had visited before, and seen White-bellied and Grey -headed Fish Eagles.  There was always something going on during the last visit, and it was the same, thankfully today.

Firs up, by the side of the track was an Orange-bellied Green Pigeon.  This was a pigeon I wanted to watch, beautiful

On the other side of the lake were a pair of Brahminy Kites.  These kites are a common bird along the coast, and quite a widespread bird, as I have also seen them in north and Eastern Australia.

Wild Boar were drinking at he far side of the lake, with Cattle and Intermediate Egrets and an Indian Pond Heron feeding in the lotus and mud around them.

There was not much open water, the lake covered in lotus flowers and leaves.  On these Pheasant-tailed Jacanas scampered about.

A White-throated Kingfisher also sat patiently on one of the dead leaves.

We were on a raised bank over lookingthe lake, and in the bushes along side the bank a Baya Weaver Bird was in the process of building its nest.  A really complicated structure of grass and reeds.  You have to wonder how they go about starting it.

I successfully managed to capture an image of why the Pheasant-tailed Jacana is named.  Its long tail feathers streaming out behind it.

We moved up a little to the end of the track, taking us closer to the reeds and a little more open water.  A Purple Heron was stalking through the reeds in front of us.

and close by the more familiar Grey Heron was doing exactly the same.

Black-faced Langur Monkeys were running about on the shore, and a small party had come down to the water for a drink.  Clearly this is a dangerous exercise, because the monkeys were ever watchful, looking out for each other as the bent to drink.

They were joined by Spotted Deer, and as the deer came to drink, the monkeys would jump in surprise.  The deer are really beautiful, with delicate spots and a lovely black stripe down the back.

As I watched the monkeys I saw that they seemed to be drinking, and at the same time watching in the reflection of the water for movement.  This seemed to allow two to drink at the same time.  You can see the eyes of the monkey on the right looking into the water.

On the other side of the bank we picked up a Golden Jackal, gradually it made its way around the lake, coming quite close to us, and upsetting the monkeys and deer, although it did not seem to have any interest in them.

This monkey watched it from the safety of a nearby tree.

The alpha male monkey seemed to be occupied with some of the females that were drinking, but distractions resulted in him not succeeding in his quest.  We decided to leave, but as we back up a brightly coloured bird behind us was spotted and we stopped to enjoy a Small Minivet.

It was checking the ground beneath it for insects, and posed nicely for us.

We turned to leave, just stopping at the end of the path to see an Imperial Green Pigeon, another beauty, and the largest pigeon in Sri Lanka.

We stopped one more time by a small pool.  An Indian Darter was perched on a branch over the water.

We also wound our way past some more rocks that typify the landscape here in Yala, no leopard, but then I think we had done pretty well this morning.

It was back to the hotel, breakfast and pack before checking out as we were off back to Mirissa.  As we waited for the minibus, the Langur Monkeys around the pool were teasing and enjoying themselves.  Love this picture of the sunbathing monkeys.

Our journey took us back along the coast road we had travelled a few days earlier.  through the same towns and cities.  We stopped along the at  Hambantota first to admire the Lotus flowers on the lake.  The leaves and flowers are picked for food, and you could see the boats in amongst the plants.

The second stop was at a Fruit Bat colony.  Hundreds of Fruit Bats could be seen hanging in the trees, while every so often  some would fly between the trees.  You can see the fox shape of their heads that gives them an alternative name of flying fox, and the extended finger on the wing that they use to grip, and to clasp their wings around them as they hang for the trees.

In the trees you can see some of the bats cuddling young ones inside their closed wings.

Alongside the road you can see dead bats hanging from the power lines.  What happens is they hang down from one line, and then touch one beneath it creating a circuit, and electrocuting themselves.  Thankfully there are not too many.

We left the bats and continued to the hotel outside Mirissa where we checked in once again, and then headed back down to the pool and beach, where some concluded some major business.

The beach was as empty as before, this view reminded me of Tracy Island in Thunderbirds.  All that needed to happen was the palm trees fold back and Thunderbird Two take off!

We made the most of the daylight, staying outside to watch the sun set into the Indian Ocean.  The birds were Greater Crested Terns, attracted to the same fish the Stilt Fishermen were after.

The fishermen were of course on their stilts, whether fishing or not they created a lovely picture with the setting sun.

Tomorrow we have one more Whale Watch, our last chance to find the Blue Whale we had hoped for before we return home.  I am glad I have been able to post some photographs that show the beauty of this wonderful place.

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