Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sri Lankan Keelback/දියබරියා[Diya Bariya] (Xenochrophis asperrimus)

An  endemic and common water snake of both dry and wet zone up to 1000m a.s.l.  Found in rice fields, tanks, marshes, rivers and streams. It is active in water bodies both by day and during night in search of its prey which consist mainly of fish and frogs.  It can be easily identified by having about 20 dark spots or bars of its first half of the body and two dark lines behind eye. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunnicephalus)

Brown-headed Gull is probably the most common gull of the island, which is abundant in northern coastal and lagoon areas during winter and rarely found in other coastal areas such as South-eastern part of the country. There are some summer loiters as well. It is gregarious and flocks can be seen resting on the water close to beach. It scavenges in harbours and also follows ships for ‘easy food’ thrown overboard from them.  Brown-headed gull can be easily distinguished from other gulls by dark-tipped red bill and black wing tips with two white spots near the edge visible when  flight. Brown hood appears of  breeding birds by the end of March.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

ඇලි වඳුරා [Elli wadura]/Grey langur (semnopithecus priam)

A common monkey found throughout the wooded areas of the low country dry zone of the island.  Lives as family parties of both sexes of around 5 to 20 or 30 individuals lead by a dominant male. Each troop has its own domain and they spend day time on the ground or in trees in seeking foods which consist mainly of vegetable stuffs like fruits, flowers, leaves and seeds.  It keep its tail held up when walk on the ground. Other than man who hunt them for meat specially Veddas, only leopard (Panthera pardus) and perhalf Python (Python molurus) can be considered as it enemies. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Black Headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus)

Common breeding resident of low country dry zone marshes, tanks, paddy fields and lagoons. However there are considerable number of breeding birds in wet zone especially wetlands around Colombo, said to be originated from a colony at the Dehiwela zoo. Its food consists of frogs, insects, crabs, worms, etc. It is partially nocturnal and flocks forming V formation can be seen flying to distance feeding grounds at dusk from their day time roosting places.  It breeds during early part of the year colonially with other species of herons, egrets etc on a nest made out of piles of sticks in trees in flooded water.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Phaius wallichii

A terrestrial orchid species of sub-montane to montane wet evergreen forests between 915 – 2134 m asl.  Flowering February, April – June and again from September to November. It grows under shade of trees and locally common. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Purple Heron/Karawal Koka (Ardea purpurea )

Purple Heron is a common resident bird of low country, both dry and wet zones. It feeds on fish, frogs and even insects on marshes, paddy fields, mangroves, lagoons and tanks by day, while most active at dawn and dusk.  Usually feed solitary by skulking among reeds. It breeds from December to February and again in May to June. Three or fours eggs lay in a nest which is just a pile of sticks placed on low trees growing in flooded water, often in company with other herons, egrets and cormorants.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Psyche (Leptosia nina)

Psyche is a slow flying common butterfly with island wide distribution throughout the year, though less common above 1500m.  It is usually found fluttering by the low shrub lands of open country and under growth of jungles.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Foggy-winged Twister ( Tholymis tillarga )

Common crepuscular dragonfly of shrub lands, usually close to water bodies such as tanks, lagoons, channels, marshes and streams from lowland plains to lower montane regions.  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

රිලවා[Rilawa]/Toque Monkey (Macaca sinica)

This common endemic monkey found in jungles of all over the island. It is represented by three sub species in three major climatic zones.

Dry zone - Macaca sinica sinica
Wet zone - Macaca sinica aurifrons
HighlandMacaca sinica opisthomelas

It lives as family groups of about 20 or more. Each family group has its own territory and much of their time spend on ground or on tree tops of that demarcated area, in searching of food which consists of fruits, berries, insects, flowers, nestlings and eggs of birds, lizards, geckos, young rats and squirrels, etc. Highland sub species is much arboreal than two low land races.  Toque monkey can store amazing amount of foods in their cheek-pouches and masticate them at leisure.  It doesn’t have any particular breeding period and breeds throughout the year.  Normally single young is born and twins can be born occasionally.  Young can cling to its mothers breast fur and easily travels with her wherever she goes. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

නියඳ[Niyanda]/Snake Plant (Sansevieria zeylanica)

Niyanda is a common indigenous herb of dry rocky and sandy places of low country dry zone to mid hills.  Fibers extracted from leaves are used in reed mat industry.  Roots use in indigenous medicine to treat bile and gonorrhea.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Small Salmon Arab (Colotis amata modestus)

Due to salmon-pink color and epi-center of its distribution - which is believed to be of Arabia-, this small butterfly of low country dry zone got that name Small Salmon Arab. It is rather uncommon butterfly of scrublands and open areas. Unlike most other butterflies it often flies during hot hours of the day.  Female of this species sometime has white form instead of usual salmon color.  Larva of Small Salmon Arab feeds on plants of Salvadora persica and Azima tetracantha of Salvadoraceae family. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

නියගලා[Niyagala]/Glory lily/Flame lily(Gloriosa superba)

Common climber in lowland forest boundaries and waste lands. Flowering in throughout the year in wet zone and September to January in other areas.  Powdered plant is used in indigenous medicine but rhizomes are poisonous. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sanderling (Calidris alba)


Uncommon winter visitor to North-Western and south-eastern coastal areas during migrate season and usually found in flocks during its stay here till end of winter in Northern half of the world.  It breeds in tundras in the far North. Its usual habitats are sandy beaches where it follows the waves as they advance and recede, while picking up small invertebrates exposing to view at each ebb.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

This common winter visitor arrives in the island from northern lands of Artic circle and occupies coastal areas, lagoons and estuaries mainly of the dry zone. Turnstone got that interesting name due to its habit of flipping over seaweeds, pebbles and shells in search of its prey which mostly consist of small invertebrates hide beneath them. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pruinosed Bloodtail (Lathrecista asiatica asiatica)

A dragonfly of lowlands and mid hills. Often found in coastal areas. Uncommon. Females are similar to males (Shown above) but have yellowish green strips on mid dorsal area of the body. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blue dawn glory (Ipomoea indica)

Native vine of tropical America, introduced and later on naturalized in disturbed sites of villages and towns particularly of wet zone and hills. Very common and flowering during August to November.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Barn Swallow/Atu Wahilihiniya (Hirunda rustica)

Barn swallow is a very common winter visitor of all zones of the island, arriving at the beginning of the North-East monsoons and stay till end of April.  It has a very fast flight and much of its time while in Sri Lanka spends on the wing capturing small flying insects. They are very gregarious and often found as flocks of 10-30 or more birds perching on telegraph wires. There is a famous night time ‘roosting street’ in Rathnapra town of this bird consisting of thousands of birds during migration season.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

කන කොකා [Kana Koka]/Indian Pond Heron ( Ardeola grayii)

Very common bird usually found in paddy fields throughout the island. It also lives close to tanks, lagoons and marshlands. Eventhough it is solitary in habit during day time feedings , flocks can be seen flying to its night time communal roosting trees at dusk. Breeding season is from December to May and nests can be observed in regular heronries sometime with other species of herons, cormorants.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Black-crowned night heron/ Raa Koka (Nycticorax nycticrax)

Common resident bird of marshes, mangroves, rivers, tanks and lagoons of low country both wet and dry zone and foot hills.  Nocturnal in habit and spending the day time roosting communally in trees.  Its food consists mainly of fish, frogs and some water insects.

Blue Daze (Evolvulus glomeratus)

Blue Daze is an ornamental plant introduced from tropical America and now widely cultivate in hill country gardens. Flowering probably throughout the year. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala)


Coppersmith Barbet is a very common bird of forests and gardens of low country dry zone and lower hills. However occasional sightings of it in some wet zone areas are recorded and scattered colonies are reported from places like Kandy and Avissawella (A Guide to the bird of Sri Lanka – G.M. Henry 3rd Edition).  It has a very unique note a slow wonk, wonk, wonk….like a hammer on a copper pan. Hence the name Coppersmith barbet. Its breeding season is from November to May and again from July to Sepetember. Lay 2-3 dull white eggs in a hole cut in a dead branch of a tree or an upright post.  It keeps solitary or in pairs and parties of few birds. Food mainly consist of berries and occasionally insects like moths and plying termites.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

White-tipped Spreadwing (Lestes elatus)

Terrence de Fonseka wrote in 2000(The Dragonflies of Sri Lanka – WHT publications) “Apart from recorded locations nothings is known about this species in Sri Lanka”. Aluthnuwara, Kandy Mankulam Pundaluoya, Puttalam, Ramboda Trincomalee and Marichchkkaddi are mentioned as recorded locations.  However it is a locally common damselfly of low lands both in dry and wet zones and lower hills (Dragonflies of Sri Lanka – Gehan’s photo guide and personal observations)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

වරා[Wara] (Calotropis gigantea)

Wara is a common tree/shrub of disturbed vegetations (Common around paddy fields and tanks) in dry and arid zones of low country.  Flowering all the year round. It is an indigenous plant of Sri Lanka and found also in several other south Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Maldives. Also in Malaysia and China. Milky juice extracted from this tree is used as a remedy for Leprosy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Common Sandpiper is a common winter visitor to Sri Lanka from Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, arrives in August to September in large numbers and departs in April and May.  During that season it can be found almost everywhere of country where rock and water exist together.  It is usually encountered as a solitary bird or a flock of scattered few feeding on tiny mollusks, insects and crustaceans while bobbing is tail up and down continually.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Angled Castor (Ariadne ariadne minorata)

Angled Castor is a common butterfly found all over the island in all the year round, though becoming scarce above 1200m. It is abundant in degraded vegetations. Its larval host plant is Thel Edaru (Ricinus communis), a plant which is widely cultivated to extract Castor oil. Hence the vernacular English name for this butterfly. Larva also feed on Kahabiliya species (Tragia plukenetii and Tragia involucrate

Friday, October 22, 2010

අසෝක/දියරතඹල[Ashoka/Diyarathabala](Saraca Asoca)

An indigenous tree of about 9m tall found in low country forests, basically in dry zone and also cultivated in home gardens as an ornamental plant. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

Very common migrant and summer loiter to low country coastal areas. But sometimes ascend up to lower hills. During migrate season most low country tanks, paddy fields and such marshy areas abound with this tern. It flies low over water bodies, bill pointed downward in search of its food which consist mainly of aquatic insects, small fish and tadpoles and when tired rest on near by paddy field bund, fence posts or like places. 

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

Whimbrel is an uncommon migrant bird to low country, especially to dry zone coastal areas. It arrives in Sri Lanka in September - October and return back in April to North Europe and western Asia for breeding. Marshes, mudflats and lagoons are its favorite habitats in its stay in Sri Lanka during winter months of Northern hemisphere. In such places it feed mainly on crabs, mollusks and worms, usually singly or sometimes as small parties of 4 -5 birds. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Leaf-nosed Lizard/Dumbara Ankatussa(Ceratophora tennentii)

An endemic lizard of Sri Lanka confines to the knuckles range.  It is a diurnal and slow moving lizard of natural forests, cardamom plantations and also adjoining home gardens at elevations of 760 – 1220m in knuckles range.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pied Kingfisher/ගෝමර පිළිහුඩුවා[Gomara pilihuduwa] (Ceryle rudis)


Pied kingfisher is a resident bird usually found in marshes, lagoons, mangroves, slow flowing rivers and tanks of low country. It is common in coastal areas.  It feeds mainly on fish and other aquatic animals catch by hovering over the water surface and suddenly plunging into prey and emerge with it a moment later. It lives in pairs and breeds during March – May in a burrow dig into the bank of a river. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Erigeron karvinskianus(Mexican daisy)

Native herb of Mexico and introduced to Sri Lanka and several other countries of Southeast Asia, Southern Europe and also India. Common weed of roadsides and tea plantations of hill country. Flowering throughout the year. White flowers change to purplish when fading. Earliest record of introducing this herb comes from Peradeniya botanical garden in 1926 and it is said that wide spread was due to deliberate introduction of it as a mat forming herb on soil of drain sides and step banks of tea estates as a prevention measure of soil erosion. .

Thursday, October 7, 2010

මයිනා [Myna]/Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)

Very common breeding resident of all zones up to 1700m. It lives in gardens, cultivations, and grass lands but not in dense forests, usually associated with cattle and buffalos and feed on ticks which infest on them and insects mainly grasshoppers which are disturbed by their feet while they graze. Hence the name Gon Kawadiya use by Sinhalese people for this bird. It appears to pair for life. But sometime flocks with considerable numbers are formed in out of breeding season. Also roost in night in thousands at a selected place usually few trees sometime in city centers or patches of shrub in marsh land. Breeding season start in March and last till August or September. A nest is a hole in a tree with mass of sticks, straws and feathers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red-striped Threadtail (Elattoneura tenax)


An endemic damselfly of submontane primary rainforests and near by less disturbed areas. It is usually encountered close to fast running streams. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

පින්න මල්[Pinna Mal]/Chinese glory-bower (Clerodendrum chinense/phillippinum)

Origin of this plant believes to be occurred in China though now wide spread in tropical Asia, Africa and tropical America. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and escapees are become weeds in shrub jungles and such habitats. It is a small shrub and flowers blooms during April to May and again in August to September.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

House Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)


Probably the most common toad of Sri Lanka, usually found in anthropogenic habitats throughout the island, both in wet and dry zone excluding Jaffna peninsula, from sea level up to hills about 1800m a.s.l. Not prefer to live in natural forest floors though sometime found close to forest edges and degraded forest areas (Above right hand side picture was taken at Fishing hut eco lodge situated in the buffer zone of Peak Wilderness sanctuary. I have also observed it in a tributary to Maha oya of Pussella in knuckles range, close to an anicut of an irrigation channel). Active during night and terrestrial, though not uncommon close to water bodies. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oriental White-Eye (Zosterops palpebrosa)

Common resident bird of forests, well wooded gardens and cultivations of lowlands to hills about 1200m in wet zone and 1800m in the drier Uva hills. Keeps in pairs or small parties and arboreal in habitats, but descend to ground for bathing in usually small streams running through undergrowth of forests. Fly from tree to tree in search of its food which mainly consists of nectar, insects, caterpillars and berries. Breeding season is from April to May and probably again in September. Lay 2-3 pale blue eggs in a small cup shape nest slung between two twigs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Taraka Ibba/Mevara Ibba/Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans)

A Land tortoise of low-country dry zone up to about 300m, usually found in shrub jungles, grasslands, chena cultivations and teak plantations. It feeds mainly on plant matters such as flowers of varies plants, but also scavenges on animal matters. Though illegal it is widely collected for pet trade. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

පොළොස් කොට්ටෝරුවා[Polos Kottoruwa]/Brown-headed Barbet (Megalaima Zeylanica)

Very common breeding resident of all zones while becoming less common at higher hills. Much prefer to village gardens and open lands than dense forests. It lives in pairs or sometime in small loose feeding parties, usually keep in touch by means of its loud monotonous call. Its food consist mainly of varies kind of berries and fruits. It also feed on insects such as beetles taken by fly, since being an arboreal bird it never descending to the ground. The main breeding season is from February to July while secondary season may be possible in August to September. Nest, a hole in a soft-wooded dead stem or branch of a tree pecked out by birds themselves.

Friday, September 17, 2010

වල්සූරියකාන්ති/වටසූරිය[Wal-Suriyakanthi/Wata Suriya]/Wild Sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia)

 A native plant of South America and introduced to many countries including Sri Lanka as an ornamental plant and now considered as an invasive. It is a common weed along roads and on waste grounds particularly at mid elevations (1000-5000ft).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Conjoined Swift (Pelopidas conjunacta)

W. Ormiston while describing of this Swift in 1924 wrote - “It is not rare at Haldummulla, but is difficult to catch in first class condition. I have also taken it at Haputale, Madampe and Galle, and have specimens from Ratnapura” – (The Butterflies of Ceylon). Ironically above ‘First class specimen’ was also ‘caught’ in a plantation of Pines in Haldummulla (6º 45´ 923˝ N, 80º 52´ 986˝ E). It is considered as an uncommon butterfly of all elevations of wet and intermediate zones up to 900m (An Illustrated guide to Butterflies of Ceylon – Rajika Gamage – 2007). However contrary to that above location is 1231m above sea level. Larva of Conjoined swift feeds on paddy and grasses of family Poaceae.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

තිත් පොළඟා/දාර පොළඟා[Thith Polonga/ Dhaara Polaga]/Russell’s viper(Daboia russelii)

Russell’s viper is a highly venomous ground-dwelling snake with wide distribution from sea level to mid-hills of about 1500m a.s.l. But relatively common in dry zone shrub lands and grass lands. It is responsible for large number of human mortalities in agricultural districts since they are common in such anthropogenic habitats due to abundant of its main prey (i.e. rats).Other than small mammals like rodents its diet consists also of lizards, frogs and sometimes birds. Russells’s viper has very remarkable loud hiss emitting through its nostrils when threatened. P.E.P.Deraniyagala(A colored atlas of some vertebrates from Ceylon – Vol 3) mentions that wild specimens have a strong odor resembling that of crushed bed bugs (S: Makunu ganda) or of the flowers of the Mi tree(Madhuca longifolia) but does not emit when in captivity. He also records that it is frequently killed and eaten by the cobra (Naja Naja). This snake can be easily identified by having a light pink or white V shaped mark on head and a row of sub circular dark brown blotches of about 22-24 along vertebral region and two similar but with smaller blotches of rows beside lateral one.
Colour Guide to the Snakes of Sri Lanka

Thursday, September 9, 2010

කෝවක්කා[Kowakka]/Ivy gourd(Coccinia grandis)

A common perennial climber grows in woodlands, forest borders and open areas from sea level to about 800m in low country, especially in dry zone. Indigenous and flowering from June to September. Leaves edible and both fruit and leaves are used in snake-bite treatments. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

කැහිබෙල්ලා/කන්කෑරැස්සා[Kahibella]/Blue Magpie (Urocissa ornate)

An endemic bird inhabits only primary forests and near by home gardens in wet zone and foot hills. Uncommon and declared as a vulnerable bird in IUCN red list of threatened fauna and flora of Sri Lanka (2007). However feeding flocks consisting of up to 6-10 birds are not uncommon in buffer zone villages of Peak Wilderness (Sri Pada sanctuary) and Sinharaja forest. Though gregarious, pairs or solitary individuals are sometimes met with. It feed on insects [grasshoppers, leaf insects, beetles, etc.], caterpillars, shrub frogs, lizards and also some plant matter such as fruits. It is very noisy bird especially while hoping from branch to branch at all levels of trees from ground to canopy in search of foods. It is referred by a very interesting name of Kankaarassa by villagers in some areas around peak wilderness (Udamaliboda, Dikelikanda..etc) due to its  loud crakrakrakrak  call. Breeding season is from January to March and usually nest builds at the top of slender trees in forest and sometime even in home gardens. Once I have found a nest with eggs about 4-5 m above ground in top of small tree growing near a stream in a village. Group of three birds used to visit that during my observation period (only 2 days). Nest is some what similar to crows nest

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Common Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor)

The most common and widespread agamid lizard of Sri Lanka inhabiting all over the island up to about 1400m above sea level. It is uncommon in forest areas and much common close to human habitations. It is arboreal and diurnal while usually seen on low shrubs and tree trunks waiting for its prey, which primarily consist of insects. It is also feed on juveniles of other agamid, geckos and some plant matters, such as seeds, leaves and buds. Cannibalism also reported among larger individuals of this lizard. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Elusive Adjutant (Aethriamanta brevipennis)

Uncommon dragonfly. De  Fonseka (The Dragonflies of Sri Lanka – 2000 ) mentioned that “it is unrepresented in the Museum collection and has not been recorded from here since first mentioned by Selys in 1897”. Fraser says that it is very local and rare. It is also said that it breeds in small weedy tanks surrounded by forest. However I have observed it in fair numbers during most of the months of the year at Anavilundhawa sanctuary -a  wet land Ramsar site in North-Western province - and also once at Girithale tank of Polonnaruwa district.