Archive for the ‘Migration’ Category

Antarctic seal in town – Let it be free..!!

December 23, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191215/news/you-better-watch-out-antarctic-seal-in-town-382887.html published on 15.12.2019 on SundayTimes

It seems the elephant seal from the Antarctic might be here for Christmas, continuing to attract crowds and cause traffic jams in Colombo. The southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) that was first spotted on November 20 off Unawatuna has been resting on rocks off Wellawatte and Kollupitiya in Colombo, creating traffic congestion along the Marine Drive as curious crowds gather to watch it.

The closest colony of southern elephant seals is 6,500km from Sri Lanka, in Antarctica. This seal, which has apparently been driven here by ocean currents, is resting on Lankan beaches while going through what is termed a “catastrophic moult”.

“The moulting is an annual process for elephant seals go through and that is why its face has strips of fur falling off. This will happen all along its body, and the moult takes about four weeks,” marine mammals expert Dr. Asha de Vos of Oceanswell said.

“During this period the animal is basically shedding hair and skin, making it look pretty scabby but also making it pretty grumpy – please respect its need for space,” Dr. de Vos said.

She applauded navy and wildlife officers for controlling the crowds to give the seal rest.

When the seal was first sighted off southern Sri Lanka, it was speculated that the animal was sick as it was often seen passively resting on rocks. There was an attempt to capture it to check its health, but Dr. de Vos said the animal was healthy.

“The information going around that the animal is sick is not accurate. We have continued to monitor its body condition and have been talking with seal experts in the USA and South Africa who work with these species.

“Our assessment is that this animal is healthy and going through a completely normal process, so leave it alone,” Dr. de Vos appealed.

As the moulting process may take few more weeks to complete, it is thought the Antarctic seal will celebrate Christmas in Sri Lanka before heading back home or wandering the seas.

No respite from onlookers

The Southern Elephant Seal spotted on the beaches in the stretch between Kollupitiya and Wellawatte is being disturbed by curious onlookers who are attempting to feed the animal, take pictures and touch it.

In the absence of any wildlife officials to protect the animal, people were also seen throwing small stones or pebbles at the animal to gain its attention before snapping a picture.

At times Navy personnel who were present were able to keep the public away, but in their absence the people were seen getting closer to the seal and trying to touch it.

The seal, at times was seen taking evasive action to avoid the crowds by getting back into the water and surfacing from another spot, but only to be disturbed by onlookers all over again.

 

 

Bambalapitiya beach: The seal continues to attract crowds. Pix by Amila Gamage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As nesting season begins, Sri Lanka’s olive ridley turtles face myriad threats

December 6, 2019
  • With the main nesting season for olive ridley sea turtles getting underway, the species faces a range of threats in the waters and beaches of Sri Lanka.
  • The country’s navy recently rescued 32 turtles trapped in shrimp fishing nets in the island’s north.
  • Marine turtles in Sri Lankan waters often end up entangled in nets, posing a serious threat to their survival.
  • Sea turtles worldwide are seriously affected by the fisheries industry, with millions killed every year.

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/12/as-nesting-season-begins-sri-lankas-olive-ridley-turtles-face-myriad-threats/  published on Mongabay on 04.12.2019

COLOMBO — The Sri Lankan Navy has rescued 32 sea turtles that were likely being reared for their flesh, highlighting just one of the key threats to turtles migrating through this Indian Ocean island at this time of year.

A naval patrol on Nov. 24 in the Gulf of Mannar, which separates Sri Lanka from India, initially identified a turtle trapped in a shrimping net. A team of sailors deployed to rescue the animal discovered more turtles trapped in the net. In all, they rescued 32 sea turtles, among them olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas).

Removing a fishing hook from a turtle. Image courtesy of the Turtle Conservation Project.

Though turtles are frequently trapped by accident in fishing nets, it appears likely these animals had been caught elsewhere and corralled in these shrimp pens, according to navy spokesman Isuru Sooriyabandara. He told Mongabay that a patrol two days earlier, on Nov. 22, had seized 4 kilograms (9 pounds) of turtle flesh from a boat close to the same location, raising the prospect that local fishermen were keeping the turtles for later consumption.

Sri Lankan waters are home to five of the seven species of marine turtles: the green turtleolive ridleyhawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea).

It’s the first two, however, that account for nearly the entire population of nesting turtles in Sri Lanka: 68 percent are green turtles and 30 percent olive ridley turtles, according to the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA). While the peak nesting frequency for green turtles in this region runs from February to April, the period between November and March is prime time for olive ridleys, which flock in the hundreds of thousands to beaches around the Bay of Bengal, including parts of Sri Lanka, to nest.

A turtle flipper seriously damaged by getting caught in a fishing net. Image courtesy of the Turtle Conservation Project.

But the rise in turtle numbers during this time of the year leads to a spike in hunting of the animals by local fishermen — a trend that navy spokesman Sooriyabandara said authorities were vigilant about.

Still, fishing nets set in the Gulf of Mannar and elsewhere accidentally catch a lot of turtles, especially in the final quarter of the year as they migrate across Sri Lanka waters to their breeding grounds, according to Thushan Kapurusinghe, the project leader of the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) in Sri Lanka.

Entangled in fishing nets

The TCP conducted its first olive ridley rescue program from September 1999 to March 2001, in a bid to save turtles entangled in nets. It hired a boat and followed fishermen as they went fishing at dusk. The nets were checked throughout the night for possible entanglements, and any turtles found were immediately released. Over the two and a half years of the project, a total of 278 olive ridleys were rescued, comprising 157 females, 86 males and 35 whose sex was undetermined.

“The monitoring was strenuous, as a fishing net could extend several kilometers and these are laid on considerable distances to prevent turtles from getting entangled. So only a portion of fishing nets could be monitored by the TCP boat each night,” Kapurusinghe said, adding that the real rate of entanglement was likely much higher.

The front flippers of this hawksbill turtle found in Kosgoda was badly damaged due to a cut caused by a fishing net, so they had to be amputated. Image courtesy the Turtle Conservation Project.

Lalith Ekanayake, the chairman of the Bio Conservation Society (BCSSL), which also focuses on turtle conservation, said that while entangled turtles are able to keep their head up to breathe, the turtles that get caught deeper underwater are at high risk of drowning. Even those saved from the nets don’t always get away clean; many suffer injuries from the nylon mesh of the fishing nets, sometimes so severely that they require amputation of their flippers.

The IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Marine Turtles Specialist Group also recognizes the impact of fisheries as the biggest threat to marine turtles, while other threats include hunting, egg extraction and other pressures. “The turtles virtually everywhere are impacted by fisheries, especially longlines, gill nets and trawls. Millions of turtles are killed indirectly by fisheries every year worldwide,” said Roderic Mast, co-chair of IUCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned or discarded at sea, known as ghost nets, pose the worst of fishing threats to turtles, Mast told Mongabay.

All marine turtle species found in Sri Lanka are listed as endangered on the country’s National Red List and are legally protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act. But laws alone can’t address the threats, Ekanayake said, adding that there needs to be greater awareness among fishing communities about their role in the issue. Both the BCSSL and the TCP run awareness campaigns about the importance of marine turtle conservation.

A sailor rescuing a juvenile green turtle from a shrimp net in the Gulf of Mannar, northern Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of the Sri Lankan Navy.

Turtle nesting sites abound all around Sri Lanka, with the major nesting beaches on the western, southwestern and southern coasts. There’s a rapid decline of turtles all over the island, Kapurusinghe said, especially the leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead varieties.

“For example, the Rekawa nesting site [in the south] hasn’t seen a leatherback turtle in two years or a hawksbill in four years, which is alarming,” Kapurusinghe said.

 

Banner image of a turtle stuck in a fishing net. Image courtesy of the Bio Conservation Society.

Butterfly boom sees crowds of yellow visitors suddenly appear

November 17, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191117/news/butterfly-boom-sees-crowds-of-yellow-visitors-suddenly-appear-378447.html Published on SundayTimes on 17.11.2019

A swarm of Lemon Emigrants (c) Dr.Michael van der Poorten

Sri Lanka is experiencing a butterfly boom these days with even suburbs of congested cities such as Colombo seeing an increase in the fluttering visitors.

Many of them belong to the yellow Lemon Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona) species that traditionally begin a seasonal movement at this time of year, says butterfly expert Rajika Gamage.

Mr. Gamage, who is observing butterflies in the Thanamalwila area, said about 70 per cent of what he is seeing are Lemon Emigrants and about 10 per cent the Common Leopard and Lesser Albatross species.

Many reports are also coming in of clouds of butterflies such as the Crimson Rose out at sea, several nautical miles from shore. Renowned lepidopterist Dr. Michael van der Poorten confirmed butterfly movements have been observed from the Mannar area westward out to sea and from the Trincomalee area eastward out to sea.

A Female Lemon Emigrant (c) Michael van der Poorten

Until the mid-80s when, for reasons ranging from deforestation to pollution the phenomenon disappeared, it was customary to see thousands of butterflies appearing in clouds in Sri Lankan skies from February to April.

As this is the season of pilgrimage to Sri Pada mountain, Buddhist folklore had it that the butterflies also visited the mountain to pay homage to Lord Buddha. Thus the mountain was given another name, Samanala Kanda or “butterfly mountain.

“Indeed, many butterflies of several species are seen flying towards and up the mountain and are sometimes found dead at the top,” said Dr. van der Poorten.

Lemon Emigrants make this seasonal movement, as do many other species such as the Common Albatross, Lesser Albatross, Pioneer, Common Gull, Blue Tiger and Common Banded Peacock, he said.

Lesser Albatross

In 1949, the lepidopterist, L.G.O. Woodhouse, reported 69 species in this migration but now fewer species are seen, Dr. van der Poorten said.
He explained that seasonal movements occur soon after a boom in butterfly populations, which often happens soon after rainfall breaks a drought.

“A drought can reduce populations of both butterflies and their prey. But when the right conditions arrive the butterfly population can recover fast, leading to a boom,” Dr. van der Poorten said, adding that science knew little about these migration patterns or their causes.

Rajika Gamage said butterfly migrations occur throughout the year but only come to public notice when there is a boom in numbers.

“Continuous rain could help plants to grow lots of tender leaves that could provide healthy host plants for caterpillars to feed on, resulting in a boom,” Mr. Gamage said.

Himesh Jayasinghe of the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka said society members are sharing reports of butterfly sightings on Whatsapp and these will be analysed to identify migration patterns.

The most extravagant butterfly migration occurs on the American continent when thousands of Monarch butterflies make an annual migration.

These swarms, unlike those found in Sri Lanka, including those that go to Sri Pada, return home after their seasonal migration.

While these swarms – officially a swarm of butterflies is known as a kaleidoscope of butterflies – eventually return home they are then made up of new butterflies. It takes as many as four to five generations to complete the full journey all the way back up to Canada and the US as the Monarchs’ lifespan can be just two to five weeks.Each year, millions of Monarch butterflies leave their summer breeding grounds in the North Eastern United States and Canada and travel almost 5,000km to reach overwintering grounds in Mexico.

Lemon Emigrants in Matara

Dragonfly migration

November 15, 2019

Published on SundayTimes on 27.10.2019

The possibility of mass migratoin of dragonflies across Sri Lanka was first published by SundayTimes on 2011. It is believed the same phenomena reported last Sunday.

Not only birds, but dragonflies too are found to be migrating long distances. The sudden increase of dragonflies in some areas of colombo suggest their annual mass migration happened last week.

Sudden influx of dragonflies were best felt by those live in coastal belts as they usually arrive as a wave. The coastal community in near Dehiwala railway station confirms they sudden influx of dragonflies on Sunday 20th of October. “It was around 8.30 or 9 in the night that these creatures start coming. They flew directly into our houses like those winged-termites (meru in sinhala) swarming around” said Chaminda Pushpakumara a resident near Dehiwala Railway station. “We tried to put them out, but it was just futile exercise” others in the community too shared similar experiences.

Sudden increase of Dragonflies were observed in other areas as well. Hemal Pieris who lives in Kynsey road in Borella found one in his upstair bathroom. “I haven’t seen a dragonfly in many years and delighted of seeing one inside my own house. I gently coaxed it to fly away through  the
window” Mr.Peiris said.

Responding to a post on the social media put by the team of MigrantWatch who promote observation of migratory species in Sri Lanka, many responded seeing sudden influx of dragonflies from different areas. Vishwamithra Kadurugamuwa made his observation at Town hall in colombo 7. “I Was actually telling my wife that it must be a dragonfly migration” Mr.Kadurugamuwa who had heard of the phenomena said.

The posibility that a mass migration of dragonflies could be happening across Sri Lanka was first observed in 2011 by Nashath Hafi who is a member of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka that setup its MigrantWatch program with intention to study the migration phenomena. “I was waiting for the train in Moratuwa railway station in the morning watching some birds at the time I observed wave of dragonflies. Usually the dragonflies flying casually on circular route, but all these were moving southward. Thousands of dragonflies were seen moving across and it was a spectacular scene” Mr.Hafi reminded his rare sight.

Mr.Hafi continued to observe the Southbound dragonflies from Moratuwa to all the way until Kollupitiya. When finding more information, the information about a dragonfly migration. Maldivian-based biologist Dr. Charles Anderson initially revealed about this migration which he suggest be happening across India to Maldives and all the way to Africa based on observations of mass aggravation of dragonflies in different areas. . According to Dr.Anderson’s study, the path dragonfly use has a distance of around 14,000 kilometres and could be called the world’s longest insect migration.

A Globe Skimmer Dragonfly found dehiwala

Dr.Anderson based on his data calculated the Dragonflies first appear in the capital city of Maldives on mean 21st of October on average. Quite interestingly the wave of Dragonflies was observed in Sri Lanka in 2011 was on 20th October. What is more surprising is this year the mass movement of dragonflies were observed on the same day – 20th of October. Dragonfly numbers peak in November and December, before the insects then disappear once more. The insects arrive in waves, with each staying for no more than a few days.

Indian observers also reported large agrevation of Dragonflies on Indian beaches. a dragonfly swarm reported from Mumbai coast on 14th Oct and different parts according to Sujith Chandran who is from Kerala. The migratory dragonflies fly along with the coast is observed in Indian.

According to Mr.Chandran, the communities in Keral coastal areas know this phenomena happened with the onset of Monsoon winds. “The locals believe the dragonflies emerge at time of when sun enters zordiac of Libra. In local language the Zordiac sign Libra is called ‘thula’ and dragonflies are called as ‘thumbi’- so locals call named them as ‘Thula Thumbi’”, said Mr.Chandran.

When interviewed, even the local coastal community – specially the members of the fishing communities live near coast are known of the phenomena, eventhough it is still least studied phenomena that came into light recently.

The species that involve in the migration are called as the globe skimmer or globe wanderer scientifically known as Pantala flavescens. The dragonfly is up to 4.5 cm long, that can have wingspans around 7.5 cm . They are good flier who tirelessly fly for hours without making any perch. The wandering glider flies in large swarms.

Globe skimmer is considered to be the most widespread dragonfly on the planet with good population on every continent except Antartica although rare in Europe according to the literature. According to a research by scientists at Rutgers University-Newark of USA studying the genes of Globe Skimmer found that specimen found from different areas of the world have similar genetic profiles so similar. They studied Pantala flavescens from USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, India, South America and interpret this similarities as a result of long distant migration.

Earlier this week, on the coastal areas observed in Dehiwala, Wellawaththa and Bambalapitiya, swarms of dragonflies consisting of 10 – 15 individuals could be commonly observed, but by the Friday, this number had decreased drastically spotting only few individuals according to the observers. This could indicate either the dragonflies moved away from Sri Lanka to continue their journey toward Maldives or spread inland. Perhaps part of the swarm moves away, while another stays. There are more questions for science to find out and if it could firmly establish, the Dragonfly migration could be yet another spectacular wildlife encounter Sri Lanka could be blessed to witness.

Report increase of dragonflies in your area

Have you seen an increase of dragonflies in your area..? If so, it could possibly be a migratory dragonfly. The MigrantWatch team of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) based at University Colombo welcomes your to contribute to their citizen science program to study this phenomena. You can send them your observations through email to migrantwatch.srilanka@gmail.com

Expect thousands of ‘dual citizens’ at election time

November 3, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191020/news/expect-thousands-of-dual-citizens-at-election-time-374099.html published on 20.10.2019 on SundayTimes

While the dual citizenship of presidential election candidates has been a hotly-debated topic in the political arena, it is expected that thousands of other “dual citizens” will be in Sri Lanka by election day in November.

Exhausted Indian Pitta found fallen on 28.10.2018. Pix by Sarath N. Senanayake

Some of them are eligible for European passports while others come from Asian countries.

None, however, will come through immigration channels, and they do not care at all about the political drama in Sri Lanka.

These dual citizens are migratory birds that come here annually from northern countries at this time.

About 2,500 of the 10,000 world bird species engage in long-distance migration as a response to changing weather and the availability of food, spending their life in different countries.

Nearly half – 245 species – of the 508 bird species recorded in Sri Lanka are migratory and generally begin arriving in late August, staying on here until about March-April next year before returning to their country of origin to breed.

“As the main steps of the migratory routine are predictable and move in a rhythm, bird migration can be considered to be like a ballet dance – in fact, bird migration could be called the greatest dance in the world,” ornithology expert Dr. Sampath Seneviratne told the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society this week.

A helping hand for the Indian Pitta

“Birds that breed in European countries such as Russia, and in Asian countries such as China, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India, migrate to Sri Lanka.

“We need more research on migratory patterns as there is a lot to unravel,” said Dr. Seneviratne, President of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) and a senior lecturer at the University of Colombo.

Historically, migrating birds are believed to have arrived in Sri Lanka along three main routes to Sri Lanka, using designated pathways. This view was based on observations carried out in colonial times.

“It is time to have more advanced research to link the dots with the use of new technologies,” said Dr. Seneviratne.

The traditional method of researching migration is carried out with the use of rings fixed on birds’ legs.

If a bird with a ring fixed by ornithologists in one country is found in another country it acts as proof of presence of the bird at two locations.
Science has led to improvements in tracking. The new trend is “geo-tagging”, in which scientists place a satellite tag on a bird. The tag emits signals that pinpoint the bird’s location.

Dr. Seneviratne said satellite tracking by India has led to findings that contradict traditional knowledge of the main routes used by birds migrating to Sri Lanka.

“Geo-tagging is expensive, so we can’t do it in Sri Lanka at this point,” he added.

A national bird-ringing program carried out by FOGSL and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) under Professor Sarath Kotagama has revealed interesting patterns such as the same birds migrating annually to the same site – sometimes to the same plots – in a pattern used by their ancestors.

“Some people believe the ringing process puts birds in danger. But this is a myth and it is perfectly safe, and I’m bit disappointed when I hear such allegations,” the FOGSL President said.

“We need science, and without understanding birds, their behaviour and their migratory patterns it is not possible to conserve them.”

About an hour later the bird had revived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

කලකදී සැඟව යන ගව කොකා (Cattle Egret)

June 24, 2018

Cattle Egret is a common bird – but can you spot this bird in your area these days..? The photos show ground of University of Colombo on the morning of 26th of May 2018. There were 55 Cattle Egrets foraging on the wet ground with number of them in full breeding plumage. The birds started gathering few days prior, where about 35 cattle egrets were counted on University Grounds on 22nd of May. On 22nd of May; Prof.Kotagama pointed out this could be a congregation before a seasonal movement/ migration and when I visited university of Colombo on 4th of June – not a single Cattle Egret could be spotted.

Elsewhere (in India), it researchers observed Cattle Egrets show seasonal movements during their breeding season along with the monsoon – getting disappear in June and emerge back in September. So our cattle egrets too could be following a similar pattern without our notice.

So do observe cattle egrets and report cattle egret sightings. If you remember an area where cattle egrets were present earlier, please make a visit this week to the location to find out whether they are still there. You can send observations to gardenbirdwatch.srilanka@gmail.com.

Following is an article about the phenomena appeared on Vidusara 20.06.2018

A cattle egret in breeding plumage (c) Evarts Evarts

දිගු කකුල් සහිත, මාළුන් අල්ලා ගැනීමට ම පිහිටි උල් දිගු හොටක් සහිත, බොහෝ විට ජලාශ්‍රිතව දැකගත හැකි සුදෝ සුදු කුරුල්ලන් ‘කෝකුන්’ සේ පොදුවේ හැදින්වීමට අප පුරුදු වී සිටින්නෙමු. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ දී අප දකින සුදු පැහැති කොකුන් සියල්ලන් ම පාහේ එක් වර්ගයක් යැයි සිතුවත්, සැබහින් නම් එවන් කොකුන් වර්ග 4ක් සිටි. මහ කොකා (Great Egret), මැදි කොකා (Intermediate Egret), පුංචි අනු-කොකා (Little Egret) සහ ගව කොකා (Cattle Egret) මේ කොකුන් වර්ග වේ.

මේ අතරින්, පළමු කොකුන් තුන් වර්ගයම ජලාශ්‍රිත ව වාර්තා වුවත්, ගව කොකා නම්, බොහෝ තැන් වල වාසය කිරීමේ කලාව හොදින් ප්‍රගුණ කරගත් කුරුල්ලෙකි. සෙසු කොකුන්ට සාපේක්ෂව ගව කොකුන්ගේ ගෙල කෙටි වන අතර පැහැදිලිව දැකිය හැකි ත්‍රිකෝණාකාර හිසක් පිහිටා තිබේ.

ගෙරි-කොකා නැතහොත් ගව කොකා ලෙසද හදුන්වන කුඩා ප්‍රමාණයේ කොකෙකු වූ Cattle Egret, වචනයෙන් කියවෙන ලෙසම බොහොවිට ගවයන් ආසන්නයේ බොහෝවිට දැක ගත හැකිවේ. ගවයන් ගේ චලනයේ දී සහ ගමනේ දී කලබල වී ඉවත් වන ගෙම්බන්, තනකොලපෙත්තන් වැනි කෘමින් ද පණුවන් ද ආහාරයට ගන්න අතර ගවයන් ගේ ඇගේ වසන  මැස්සන්, අටමස්සන්, කිණිතුල්ලන් අල්ලා ගන්නා නිසා, ගවයන් ට ද මේ කුරුල්ලාගේ ගැවසීම ප්‍රයෝජනවත් වේ.

Cattle egrets with cattle (c) Audubon Society

ගවයන් ගැවසෙන ස්ථාන වල බහුලව සිටියත්, ගව කොකා පරිසරයට හොඳින් අනුවර්තනය වීමට හැකියාව පෙන්න්වන්නේ, ගවයන් නොමැති නගරාශ්‍රිත ව ද හොඳින් දිවි ගෙවීමට ඇති හැකියාවයි. විවිධ ප්‍රදේශ වල පැතිර සිටින ගව කොකා, විශේෂයෙන්ම නගරාශ්‍රිතව කුණු බැහැර කරන ‘කුණු කඳු’ ආශ්‍රිතව ව සුලබ දසුනකි.

සාමාන්‍ය කාල වල දී සම්පුර්ණයෙන් සුදු පැහැති වන ගව කොකා සුවැදී සමයේ දී හිස, ගෙල සහ ඉහල පිට කය රන්වන් පැහැයක් ගනී. බොහෝ විට තෝරාගත් ගසක සමුහයක් ලෙස කැදලි තනයි. මෙම ගස බොහෝ විට දිය පාරක් හෝ වැවක් අසල තිබෙන බව අද්යයනය කර තිබේ.

සාමාන්‍යයෙන් සුවැදී සාමය මැයි සිට ඔක්තෝබරය දක්වා දිවෙන බව සදහන් වේ. එහෙත් මේ පිළිබද නිසි අධ්‍යයනයක් අවශ්‍ය බව පෙන්වා දෙන්නේ, සුවැදී සමය පාදක කරගත් සංචරණයක් මොවුන්ගේ දක්නට තිබෙන බැවිනි.

උදාහරණයක් ලෙස ගතහොත්, කොළඹ ප්‍රදේශයේ දී මැයි මස අගදී පමණ මේ කුරුල්ලන් එක් වර අතුරුදහන් වන අතර, ඔක්තෝබරය පමණ වන විට නැවතත් දක්නට ලැබේ. ඉන්දියාවේ කල අධ්‍යයනයකට අනුව, නිරිත දිග මෝසම් වැස්සත් සමග එම ප්‍රදේශයෙන් අතුරුදහන් වන ගව කොකුන්, නැවතත් ඔක්තෝබරයේ දී එම ප්‍රදේශයට පැමිණේ. මිට අමතරව කාලයකදී නිහැරීමක් (Migration) ද, සමරහ ගව කොකා ගහණ විසින් සිදු කරන බව අනුමාන කෙරේ.

කොළඹ ප්‍රදේශයේ දී සිදුකල නිරික්ෂනයන්ගෙන් ද පැහැදිලි වුයේ, ගව කොකුන් කාලයක දී ප්‍රදේශයේ දී දැකගත් නොහැකි බවය. මෙහි දැක්වෙන කොළඹ විශ්ව විද්‍යාලයේ පිට්ටනියේ දී මැයි 26වැනිදා උදෑසන ගත ජායාරූපයකි. මෙහි දැක්වෙන පරිදි ගව කොකුන් 55ක් පමණ ගණනය කිරීමට හැකිවිය. මිට දින කිහිපයකට පෙර සිටම, විශ්ව විද්‍යාලයීය පිට්ටනියට මේ කුරුල්ලන් එකතු වීම ඇරඹු බව, එම විශ්ව විද්‍යාලයේම මහාචාර්ය සරත් කොටගම මෙම සිදුවීම හැදින්වුයේ, මෙය මේ කුරුල්ලන් වෙනත් ස්ථානයක ට යෑමට ප්‍රථම සිදුකරන එක්රැස් විමක් විය හැකි බවය. කියූ පරිද්දෙන් ම ඊලග සතිය වනවිට, පිට්ටනියේ එකුදු ගව කොකෙකු හෝ වාර්තා නොවිය.

ඔක්තෝබරයේ දී මේ කුරුල්ලන් නැවත දක්නට ලැබෙන බවත්, මෙය සුවැදී සාමය පාදක කොටගත් ගමනක් ලෙස සිතිය හැකි බවත් මහාචාර්ය කොටගම අප වෙත පැවසිය. “ගෙරි කොකා ගොඩක් බහුල ව දැකගත හැකි කුරුල්ලෙකු නිසා, බොහෝ විට අපේ අවධානයට ලක් වෙන්නේ නෑ. ඒත් මේ දවස්වල ඔබේ ප්‍රදේශයේත් මේ කුරුල්ලා දැක ගන්න පුළුවන් ද කියල නිරීක්ෂණය කරන්න” යැයි මහාචාර්ය කොටගම ආරාධයනක් කළේය.

කුරුල්ලන් ගැවසෙන කුණු ගොඩක් වැනි තැනක් මේ කුරුල්ලන් නිරීක්ෂණයට හොද ස්ථානයකි. නැවතත්, මේ කුරුල්ලන් දක්නට ලැබෙන දිනය ද සටහන් කර ගැනීමෙන් මේ පොදු කුරුල්ලා ගේ හරිහැටි නොදත් විස්තර සොයා ගැනීමට ඔබටත් උදව් කිරීමට හැකි වනු ඇත. ඒ නිසා ඔබගේ නිරික්ෂණයන් gardenbirdwatch.srilanka@gmail.com වෙත යොමු කරන්න.

The aggregation of Cattle Egret on University Grounds on 26.05.2018

Gentle marine giant stays more on our waters

April 30, 2017

A whale shark seen with a swimmer off Colombo. Pic courtesy Nishan Perera

As the sightings of whale sharks increase in our waters, experts say the world’s largest fish needs to be protected.

“We still know very little about whale sharks, but the fish is already ‘endangered’ and highly threatened by both target and bycatch fisheries,” says marine biologist from Blue Resources Trust, Daniel Fernando. He made the remarks at a lecture at an event organised by Sri Lanka Sub-Aqua Club this week.

The blue whale is the largest creature on Earth, but since it is a marine mammal, the crown of being the largest fish goes to the whale shark. A whale shark can grow up to 40 feet (12 meters) or more and weigh about 20 tons. The average whale shark is 8 metres long, but the ones found in Sri Lankan waters are 6-7 metres according to Mr Fernando.

Scientifically classified as rhincodon typus, the whale shark called ‘mini muthu mora’ in Sinhala is in fact a species of shark. But unlike other sharks, they do not have teeth and they are filter feeders that depend on plankton. By opening their huge gaping mouths closer to the surface, they scoop in these plants along with any small fish.

Divers have reported more sightings in the seas off Colombo.

Nishan Perera, a marine biologist who has made regular dives in the oceans off Colombo, reported more whale shark sightings in February and March when these fish are seen in our waters. “Two or three whale shark sightings during this period is normal, but this year there were dozens of encounters,” Mr Perera said.

A giant whale shark seen in colombo seas (c) Sanjeev de Silva

The Maldives is a famous destination for whale sharks and queries revealed a lower number of encounters in Maldivian waters when there was an increase in our waters said Mr Perera. The whale sharks have spots on the body and its pattern is unique for each individual. So, the Sri Lankan marine biologists also shared the photos of the whale sharks seen in Sri Lankan waters with other international whale shark databases to verify where they are from.

It could be the same individuals seen in different occasions, but the fact that they are seen more often means that the fish that are used to passing through our waters are staying a little longer than previous years.

Author of the “Sharks of Sri Lanka”; Rex I De Silva says the large number of recent sightings baffle him. He says these fish usually migrate to areas rich in plankton. These areas are where there is an upwelling of nutrient-rich water from the depths. So, it is possible that, fuelled by changes in hydrologic factors, such upwellings are now occurring with greater frequency in our coastal waters. Upwellings encourage the growth of plankton which, in turn, attracts other plankton feeders such as fish. Whale sharks also feed on fish (especially small scombrids) which are attracted to the plankton.

Changing oceanic patterns due to global warming is another reason according to the expert. However, these are just suggestions as to why whale shark sightings have become common in recent years. We just do not have sufficient data to draw firm conclusions, cautioned Mr De Silva.

Howard Martenstyn, another expert, points out that there are more nutrients in the western seaboard compared to 2016 as evidenced by increased rainfall and river outflows and that may explain more whale shark sightings. Mr Matenstyn also reminds us that the number of sightings in the same area does not usually equate to the number of whale sharks, highlighting the need for more supporting data and investigations.

The whale shark is a gentle giant, which allows divers swim with them. They pose no danger to humans but an accidental blow from the powerful tail can cause injury. Experts advise keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 metres from the front of the body and 3 metres from the rear.

The whale shark takes about 15 years to mature to reproduce and is vulnerable to overfishing. Sri Lanka passed laws banning the catching of whale sharks in 2015, but awareness of such regulations, along with implementation, is often lacking points out Daniel Fernando.

Published on SundayTimes on 30.04.2017 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/170430/news/gentle-marine-giant-drawn-to-our-waters-238733.html

Experts urge Sri Lanka to join global effort to protect sharks 
Sharks have slow reproductive cycles and cannot be fished at levels similar to other fish. But sadly, Sri Lanka is among top 20 shark killing countries ranked at 14th place according to a 2013 report by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and the Pew Environment Group.

The Fisheries Department says that steps have been taken to protect sharks. Five species are protected by law, including three species of thresher sharks, oceanic-white tip shark, and the whale shark. The department says it even distributes tools such as de-hookers and line cutters among fishermen that can be used to release sharks caught in nets or hooks.

But more needs to be done to protect these apex predators in our ocean near the top of the marine food chain and help regulate populations of species in the marine ecosystem, the experts say.

Sharks are also important to the economic survival of the fishing industry and have the potential to attract tourists. So Sri Lanka should follow the example of the Maldives and other nations to support international conservation and protection of sharks, marine expert Howard Martenstyn, says.

Several species of shark migrate into different areas of oceans governed by different countries. So to protect them, the Convention of Migratory Species initiated a memorandum of understanding on the conservation of migratory sharks in 2010. Sri Lanka has not yet signed this, but marine experts say this would be a great step forward in recognising the value of sharks within our national and regional waters, points out Daniel Fernando.

Sad plight of a whale shark in Galle, 2014- photo courtesy Lankadeepa

Rare night heron found exhausted

November 30, 2016

A Malayan night heron, a rare migrant bird, appeared in a garden in Thimbirigasyaya this week, spotted by Rajini Jayawardena who lives in Siripa Road last Sunday night.

“It was a relatively large bird and was in the garden, hidden in the darkness. It didn’t fly away even when we went closer to it so I was worried about whether the bird was injured,” Ms. Jayawardena said.

The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), based at the University of Colombo, was alerted and its MigrantWATCH team identified the bird as a Malayan night heron, which visits the country around this time.

As there were no visible injuries, the team believed the bird was exhausted and disoriented by its long flight of more than 2000 miles and decided to let it recover by itself.

Ms. Jayawardena kept a watchful eye on the heron to keep it safe from cats, crows and other predators. When even by Tuesday the bird did not show any improvement FOGSL decided to capture it and give it a check-up.

Dr. Sampath Seneviratne, who took care of the bird, said it had no injuries – it was simply exhausted. After receiving some first aid, the night heron was released to a better habitat in a Colombo suburban area.

Bird migration is in full swing with star migrants such as the greater flamingo flocking in their thousands in lagoons in the Jaffna peninsula, according to Janaka Bandara, who photographed these birds.

Global conservation giant meets in LankaThe Global Council of BirdLife International, the world’s largest partnership of conservation organisations with partners in more than 120 countries and territories, meets in Sri Lanka this week.

The organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Zurita, said the meeting in Sri Lanka will contain important discussions.

BirdLife Global Council’s local partner is the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), represented by Professor Sarath Kotagama.

The public will have a chance to meet BirdLife International’s members and representatives of its Asian partners at the BirdLife Asian Partnership Bird Fair being held today from 7am-5.30pm at the Thalawathugoda Biodiversity Study Park located near the Kimbulawela end of the Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship Road. The event is free and more information can be obtained from http://www.birdfair2016.wordpress.com.

Published on SundayTimes on 20.11.2016 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/161120/news/rare-night-heron-found-exhausted-217581.html

World’s longest dragonfly migration via Sri Lanka?

November 6, 2011
By Malaka Rodrigo
Last week, a large cloud of dragonflies was observed along the west coast near Colombo. Subsequently, an increase of dragonflies was sighted in many areas islandwide. This sudden appearance of dragonflies in large numbers raised the curiosity of the public.This wave of dragonflies was first reported moving southwards in large numbers on October 20 morning. One of the witnesses, Nashath Haffi of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) says while travelling by train he observed this wave around 7 a.m., parallel to the coast, continuously from Moratuwa to Kollupitiya. It is not clear whether the swarm continued further southward.With the aim of investigating the phenomena, the Sunday Times visited the Dehiwala beach, which was in the middle of the recorded route of the dragonflies last Sunday. The residents, mostly fisher folk, when interviewed, confirmed sighting on October 20 a wave of dragonflies flying southwards at a height of about 10 feet. Some of them said it was the first time they had observed such a phenomenon, while others said it was an annual event.

The Dehiwala residents also assisted in catching a few dragonflies still hovering in the vicinity. This dragonfly is about 4.5 cm long, with a wingspan of about 5 cm. The body is a golden colour (dark yellow) with a dark line. The wings are clear and very broad at the base, with a tip near the end. The photos were shared with dragonfly experts and the species identified as Globe Skimmer, or Wandering Glider, scientifically categorised as Pantala flavescens.

Investigations also revealed an interesting fact that this dragonfly is migratory like birds. A Dragonfly migration is believed to be happening annually from India to Africa via the Maldives. Dr. Charles Anderson, who had researched this migration, confirms that, the dragonflies caught in Dehiwala, are the same species involved in the India-Africa migration. Living in the Maldives since 1983, Dr. Anderson continues to observe a sudden influx of dragonflies which raised his initial curiosity. Dragonflies need freshwater to raise their young, as their larvae stage is spent in freshwater.

However, the Maldives is a group of oceanic islands with sand that absorbs all the rainwater it gets. Hence, no freshwater pools are formed even after rain falls. So, apparently, the dragonflies recorded in the Maldives are from elsewhere.

Dr. Anderson started noting down dates of dragonflies seen for the first time in the Maldives, and then compared the data of dragonflies appearing in South India. He found a clear sequence of arrival dates from north to south. According to this data, dragonflies first arrive in Southern India and then in the Maldives. According to his research, each year, dragonflies first appear in the Maldive’s capital, Male, between October 4 and 23, with a mean arrival date of October 21. Quite interestingly, the sighting of the dragonfly wave along the west coast was reported on October 20, which is quite close to the dates they arrive in the Maldives. So, dragonflies seen in Sri Lanka, must also be those involved in this migration.

Dragonflies, though hardy, are small insects – so how can they fly such long distances? Dr. Anderson also attributes that wind patterns help them in this journey. In October, and continuing into November and December, a weather system called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) moves southwards over the Maldives. Dr. Anderson suggests these dragonflies must be flying on these winds at altitudes above 1,000 metres.

Globe Skimmer (Pantala flavescens) caught from Dehiwala

“Ahead of the ITCZ, the wind blows towards India, but above and behind it, the winds blow from India. So, it seems that, the dragonflies are able to reach the Maldives by flying on these winds at altitudes above 1,000 metres” he said.

This could probably be assisting them to visit Sri Lanka too. Since last week, we are experiencing much rain, which could be a result of this weather pattern. Raising the importance of following traditional knowledge, many of the Dehiwala fishing community say these dragonfly waves appear with the change of wind, or ‘goda sulan’, which they are quite accustomed to identifying.

The researcher also found data of sudden appearances of dragonflies in Africa, and when collated, the analysis matches, indicating this migration continues all the way to Africa, more than 14,000 km away.

Migrant Watch – You too can support science

There is a need for extensive research to solve the mysteries of this migration. But the first step would be to monitor where the dragonflies have been sighted in large numbers, which will at least give the coordinates of a possible map. The FOGSL has initiated a programme called MIGRANT WATCH, and invites the general public to forward information on these dragonfly movements. If you have seen swarms of dragonflies recently, please forward location and related dates.

Migrant Watch mainly aims at observing Migrant Birds as a Citizen Science project. Prof. Sarath Kotagama also highlights the importance of observation even by non-experts, as being immensely helpful, as that of the dragonfly migration, which was triggered by Nashath sharing his sighting on October 20. So, he invites all to participate in MIGRANT WATCH, and email the data to fogsl@slt.lk or, post it to FOGSL, Dept. of Zoology, University of Colombo, Colombo 3. Further details can be obtained from 2 501 332 / 0712 543 634 / 0712 543 634.

published on sundayTimes on 06/11/2011 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/111106/News/nws_09.html

Feathered migrants come back to Bundala Wetland

October 30, 2011

It’s the migratory season, and birds from overseas are arriving to stay out the winter months with us. And some of the visitors are old friends, writes Malaka Rodrigo

Sri Lanka is the destination of choice for a variety of migrant birds, and they usually stop over at the same sites every year.

This was proved by two feathered visitors – a Common Redshank and a Lesser Sand Plover – that were captured recently in the Bundala National Park, on the southern coast.A team of bird lovers working for the National Bird Ringing Programme noted that the two birds had been ringed during earlier visits to the national park: the Common Redshank was ringed in 2009, and the Lesser Sand Plover in 2007.

Exhausted Pitta found in Maradana in 2009
Setting up mist nests in Bundala at dusk

Bird migration is a source of fascination to bird lovers. Year after year, during the visiting season, these overseas callers are drawn to Sri Lanka, because of the island’s geographical position, just below the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. Sri Lanka represents their final destination in their long journey from their homes in northern climates.

The National Bird Ringing Programme, a scientific study of bird migration patterns, is a joint venture of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka and the Department of Wild Life Conservation. The programme was launched six years ago, in April 2005, at the Bundala National Park.

Migrant birds start arriving in Sri Lanka around the middle of August, ahead of the winter in their native lands. After spending around six months in the island, they return to their breeding grounds towards the end of April the following year. Of the 492 bird species recorded in Sri Lanka, 169 or 36 per cent are migrants. Waders, ducks and coastal birds represent the bulk of the visitors.

The Bundala wetland, about 15 kilometres east of Hambantota, is a paradise for migrants, and has been the base for the ringing programme.

Ringing is a delicate operation, and is generally conducted at dusk. Mist nets (nets with small holes eyes) are strung up around the Bundala lagoon. Birds that get entangled in the nets are taken to the camp and their statistics recorded. A small, individually numbered ring is attached to the birds’ legs.

The ringing exercise takes place four times a year, three during the migratory season and one in July. The three migratory season operations are conducted at the start of the wintering period (September to October); in mid-winter (December to January), and the end of the wintering period (March to April).
Researchers say the ringing programme should be expanded to other locations in the country in order to allow a better understanding of the migrants.

Habitat loss is a serious threat to migrants, says ornithologist, Professor Sarath W. K. Kotagama. The migrants are highly vulnerable to disruption of habitat, such as the cutting down of swathes of forest. These disruptions may threaten the very survival of the bird species, he says.

Watch out for migrants in trouble 

Anyone who cares about birds and wildlife would be interested to know that you do not have to go all the way to the south coast, to places like the Bundala Nature Reserve, to see migrant birds.

Some of the more common migrants visit home gardens as their temporary residence, and even hover around populated urban areas, including the city of Colombo. These visitors include the Indian Pitta (Avichchiya); the Asian Paradise Flycatcher (Sudu-Redi Hora); the Blue-tailed Bee-eater; the Brown Flycatcher, the Barn Swallow, and the Forest Wagtail.

The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, an affiliate of BirdLife International, organizes “MigrantWATCH”, an opportunity for bird lovers to observe and study migratory birds.

Some of the common migrants need our help in order to survive. The Indian Pitta, for example, arrives in Sri Lanka, usually exhausted after its long journey. Protect the bird if you see it in your garden.

The Sunday Times reported one such Indian Pitta that was rescued in Nugegoda. and another that was rescued in Colombo. Alert residents can help the tired bird by rescuing the troubled Indian Pittas found in their gardens. “This is one of the reasons we started MigrantWATCH,” says a member of the Ornithological Society.

If you spot a troubled migrant bird, or would like to participate in the MigrantWATCH programme, call the Field Ornithology Group (011) 2501332 / 0776248302, or write to fogsl@slt.lk.

Upcoming Migrant WATCH activities:

* Lecture on “Migration and Bundala Birds” by Prof. Sarath Kotagama on Saturday, October 29, at 9.30 am, at the Science Faculty of the University of Colombo (entrance on Thurstan Road)
*  Field visit and workshop to Bundala to study migrants and wader birds: 10 to 13 November

*  Field visit to Mannar : 8 to 11 December
*  Field visits to Thalangama and other wetlands to see migrants

(call (011) 2501332 / 0776248302 for details).

Published on SundayTimes on 30.10.2011  http://www.sundaytimes.lk/111030/News/nws_21.html

From the Himalayas to your doorstep

October 24, 2011

(This is the migration season and during this time of end October, the migrant Indian Pitta has been found several occasions exhausted after their long journey. This is another article done in 2009, where a pitta has been rescued in heart of populated Colombo. Since the same can be repeated this year, the article is repost here, so that you can help if you get an exhausted visitor in your own garden or even at your office..!!)

Sri Lanka, being the southern tip of the Central-Asian flyway, has about 200 migrant birds visiting each year. The Indian Pitta is probably the most beautiful of them all. This bird that breeds in the Himalayan foothills may visit your home garden this season, writes Malaka Rodrigo

Suranga had just finished his morning workload when he heard the raucous cawing of a flock of crows. He looked to see what the commotion was all about. For a moment, he thought a rainbow had fallen from the sky. But it was only a multi-coloured bird which, fluttering weakly, landed near him. Gathering all its remaining strength, it tried to fly but ended up getting stuck in the nearby AC. Suranga with his fellow workers at the Delmege Company rescued the bird, placing it carefully in a cardboard box.

“We never expected to find such a beautiful bird in a congested Colombo neigbourhood like Maradana,” said Chandana Hettiarachchi, Maintenance Manager of Delmege. A bird lover himself, Chandana identified the bird as an Indian Pitta known as Avichchiya in Sinhala and called the Dehiwela Zoological Gardens for advice on how to treat it.

Though the Indian Pitta feeds on insects and worms, this Pitta had happily eaten the fruits and rice offered to him. It was also drinking water showing signs of early recovery, so the rescuers kept the bird in its box in a dark corner without disturbing it. After a few days, its strength regained it flew off to explore its new territory.

This is not the only instance of an exhausted Indian Pitta being rescued in Colombo during the migration season. The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) too reported two Indian Pittas found in Colombo a few weeks ago. One of them died of exhaustion, but the other recovered and flew away, much to the delight of the rescuers.

“It is not uncommon to find exhausted Indian Pittas at the start of the migration season. They are not sick, but get disoriented after the long journey,” explained veteran Ornithologist Prof. Sarath Kotagama. He advised that the troubled birds be fed with mild sugar syrup and if unable to fly, provided a safe place away from possible predators, until they are fit to fly again.

The Indian Pitta is called Aru-mani-kuruvi in Tamil which means the 6 ’o clock bird and its loud, clear double whistle ‘wheet-tew’, can be heard in the morning and evening around 6 ’o clock. So listen for this unmistakable call – it maybe a visitor from the Himalayas.

If you see a troubled migrant

There may be exhausted late comers who may still land on your doorstep. Dr. Deepani Jayantha offers some tips on helping them.

  • An exhausted or injured bird could be fully conscious, semi-conscious or unconscious. Such a bird should be protected from dogs, cats, rats, crows, shikras etc. Keep them in a dark, quiet and warm place. Handle them gently only if necessary and never force-feed a semi-conscious or unconscious bird.
  • If it is too weak to fly on its own; try giving it small amounts of low concentrated glucose saline with Vitamin C.
  • If the bird is able to fly, release it as soon as possible in a proper environment.
  • If it is necessary to keep the bird for a few days for medical care, provide a proper cage (avoid injurious materials) with a perch protected from predators. Attend to traumatic injuries (broken bones) as necessary – if extensive care is needed, consult a veterinarian
  • Provide clean food and water. 

Published on 2009 on SundayTimes http://sundaytimes.lk/091108/Plus/plus_13.html

Fly, fly, pant, pant.. there’s more to go!

October 24, 2011

What do you do if you come across a dead-beat migratory bird?
By Malaka Rodrigo, Pic by Sasitha Weerasinghe

(This is the migration season and during this time of end October, the migrant Indian Pitta has been found several occasions exhausted after their long journey. This article has been done in 2007, where several such pittas are rescued. Since the same can be repeated this year, the article is repost here, so that you can help if you get an exhausted visitor in your own garden)

“The day has just arrived at my garden in Kalubowila, but the morning sky was gloomy and hinted more rains. ‘Kelie’- my female dog was suspiciously looking at a darker corner in the garage. In the shade, there was a bird. It didn’t move….. It looked at me innocently, through its wide open eyes. ‘Kelie’ was vigilant, but haven’t tried to attack, may be understanding the anguish of the exhausted bird. I have taken it to a veterinary surgeon and later handed over to one of my friend to look after it, as it couldn’t stand on its own. Small worms were fed and the bird showed hints of recovering. However, it was too weak and after three days, on Saturday 10th November, the bird – Slaty-Legged Crake died.

This was the experience of Dulani Dissanayake, a bird watcher who tried to save the life of a migrant bird that would have been exhausted after its long flight.

Over 200 species of birds migrate to Sri Lanka, during the migratory period that starts usually in late August and extends upto to March/April. The bird visitors travel mainly from Europe and northern parts of India. Circulated on the email network of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) last week, were two more accounts of migrant Indian Pittas found in home gardens. The Indian Pitta found in Udahamulla in the garden of Sasitha Weerasinghe was also exhausted, but recovered after being fed with water.

The Indian Pitta found at Udahamulla.

But the Indian Pitta at Pelawatte in the garden of Dr. Udaya Kumarasinghe was not that lucky. This Pitta had been observed over the past few years in his garden and Dr. Kumarasinghe had even treated the bird two years ago. On that occasion, he had been seated on his verandah when the Pitta just fell off a nearby tree. He nursed it and the bird recovered in an hour or so and flew away but returned to his garden for the rest of the season. The Pitta came back last year as well. Some of the territorial birds show site tenacity which drives them to the same location year after year.

“It is common to find the migrant birds exhausted after a long flight. Those migrants who travel during the night may be attracted to the light. This is why many birds are found in home gardens. Birds that are attracted to light may collide with windows and get hurt. They can also be easy prey to domestic cats and dogs while resting. Otherwise, birds usually recover on their own,” says veteran ornithologist Prof. Sarath Kotagama. Birds may be found even in the heart of Colombo, where the lights of the buildings attract migrants. But such incidents are rarely recorded, he adds.

Emphasizing the importance of collecting data, Prof. Kotagama invites bird watchers to send their records to the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) which is also conducting the National Bird Ringing programme in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, primarily to study migrant birds.

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Try a little TLC

Usually before the migration, birds feed a lot to gain the strength needed for their long flights. Their bodies are streamlined for flight and in addition, migrant birds employ several other mechanisms to minimize the effort of flying. Larger birds like eagles, cranes and storks soar in the sky, using the thermal upwind. They fly to a higher elevation and then manoeuvre with the wind to move forward with minimum effort.

Larger birds usually migrate during the daytime through a route mostly across a land area. Small birds like Flycatchers and Indian Pittas prefer to travel at night. Not having the advantage of soaring, they have to beat their wings continuously to travel.

If you find an exhausted bird, you need to be calm and not panic the bird further. Chase away the cats, dogs, crows and any other potential predator and leave the bird as it is to recover. If the bird seems to be extremely weak, it could be given water.

Bird Flu: is it really safe..?

There are fears about the spread of Bird Flu through migrant birds. But Avian Influenza has not reached the island or any location that is on the migratory route.Still it is always best to take precautions before handling a sick bird. Using a pair of gloves and cleaning up thoroughly after handling such a bird is indeed wise.

The best we can do is protecting the habitats that are used by these migrants. Start the effort in your own home garden. Plant a tree, make a shade for the exhausted migrants to rest and live in peace during their stay.

Published on 18.11.2007 on SundayTimes www.sundaytimes.lk/071118/Plus/plus00016.html