Thursday, 8 March 2012

From wet to dry

The drive from Mirissa in southwest Sri Lanka to Yala in the southeast is a journey from the sweaty, green heat of the wet zone to the scalding sun and acacia scrub of the dry zone. It is also a journey through the lives of countless smiling, laughing people who inhabit this peerlessly beautiful stretch of coast. Here are fishermen plying their ancient trade, rice farmers, buffalo herds and great pans of salt dotted with wading birds. In the dry scrub are pink pom-pommed Mimosa trees in flower and Cassia bushes blazing yellow. An Indian monitor, with papery grey skin hanging about his neck, plods by the roadside and in the dry country are new birds and mammals for our trip. The purple-faced leaf-monkeys of the wet zone are replaced by tufted grey langurs, sitting on their haunches on the grass, like old men at a village meeting. Little green bee-eaters make their entrance too and lighten every bush in the scrub. Two female ashy-crowned sparrow-larks burst into flight from a dry pan of rust-red soil, and a yellow-crowned woodpecker bounds over the track ahead of us.

As we approach our lodge a sounder of wild boar tentatively crosses the track around our bus, the half-grown young still stripy. They are right to walk tentatively as Dhammi points out where he recently saw a leopard right by the entrance road; we can only hope for such luck tomorrow. Our lodge, Chaaya Wild, is spectacular and its grounds are bustling with wildlife. Three-striped palm-squirrels hurtle through the trees, a scaly-breasted munia weaves its haphazard nest by the swimming pool, pale-billed flowerpeckers snap loudly all around and a white-browed bulbul sits hesitantly in a tree's shade by reception. I feel we're going to have fun here.

New Sri Lankan wonders this morning


tufted grey langur
Semnopithecus priam thersites


Indian roller
Coracias benghalensis indicus
ashy-crowned sparrow-lark
Eremopterix griseus
Eurasian spoonbill
Platalea leucorodia
yellow-crowned woodpecker
Dendrocopos mahrattensis


Indian monitor
Varanus bengalensis

2012 Totals
Mammals: 38
Birds: 369
Reptiles: 9
Amphibians: 3
Fish: 2

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