Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Crested Tree Swift at a nest.

The Crested Treeswift (Hemiprocne coronata) is a kind of tree swift. The tree swifts are aerial near passerine birds, closely related to, but distinct from the true swifts. They are restricted to southeast Asia and Australasia.

The Crested Treeswift is a common resident breeder from the Indian subcontinent east to Thailand. It was formerly considered conspecific with its eastern relative, the Grey-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis), but they do not interbreed where their ranges overlap.

These are birds of open woodland and forests. The Crested Treeswift builds a tiny nest which is glued to an exposed tree branch. It lays one blue-grey egg, which is incubated by both sexes. The nest is so small that incubating birds perch upright on the edge of the nest, covering the egg with their underparts feathers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Red-vented Bulbul

The Red-vented Bulbul is easily identified by its short crest giving the head a squarish appearance. The body is dark brown with a scaly pattern while the head is darker or black. The rump is white while the vent is red. The black tail is tipped in white. The Himalayan races have a more prominent crest and are more streaked on the underside. The Race intermedius of the Western Himalayas has a black hood extending to the mid-breast. Race bengalensis of Central and Eastern Himalayas and the Gangetic plain has dark hood without scales with dark streaks on the lower belly. Race stanfordi of the South Assam hills is similar to intermedius. The desert race humayuni from a paler brown mantle. The nominate race cafer is found in Peninsular India. Northeast Indian race wetmorei is between cafer, humayuni and bengalensis. about 20cm in length, with a long tail. Sri Lankan race haemorrhous has a dark mantle with narrow pale edges.

The Yellow Billed Babbler

The Yellow-billed Babbler lives in flocks of seven to ten or more. The Sri Lankan form T. a. taprobanus is drab pale grey. Nominate race of southern India has whitish crown and nape with a darker mantle. The rump is paler and the tail has a broad dark tip. Birds in the extreme south of India are very similar to the Sri Lankan subspecies. The eye is bluish white. It is a noisy bird, and the presence of a flock may generally be known at some distance by the continual chattering, squeaking and chirping produced by its members. One member often perches high and acts as a sentinel while the remaining members of the flock forage. They feeds mainly on insects, but also eat fruit and human food scrap.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Africa Wildlife Stock Photography. Baboon at Masai Mara, Kenya.

A link to this new gallery of photographs from Kenya, Botswana & South Africa is here

Monday, December 1, 2008

A DEDICATION TO KUMARA BANDA OF KUMANA. An extraordinary human being.

K.B squats next to a sleeping bull elephant-Yala.

I dedicate this exhibition to the memory of Kumara Banda, who I first met at the beginning of 2000. He was, at the time, working as a game guard (effectively a tracker), in Yala.
My friend Ashan and I were staying in the Mahaseelawa Bungalow, and he was assigned to us for the duration of our stay.
He was quiet, and reserved, but seemed to take in everything that happened around us, as we travelled through the Park. When he realized that I had a special interest in leopards, and photographing them, he said that he would like to accompany me as often as possible on my frequent visits to the Park. Thus began the most curious love/hate relationship, that became a source of constant amusement to my friends. Two stubborn men, trying to reach a compromise on something as simple as which road to take, most often ending up at loggerheads, with neither wanting to concede victory.
Over the years, on numerous occasions, he revealed his enormous knowledge of the wilderness. He could read the forest like a book. Every animal print and call meant something to him, and had its story to tell. He could tell, if the recently flattened grass imprint was from a deer having rested, or a leopard lying up, even when there were no footprints to decipher.
He taught me how to listen to the sounds of the forest, and make sense of it all, and I improved my own field craft immeasurably, learning how to decode signs and impressions left behind by different animals, just from their body impressions.
Kumara Banda was born and bred in the ancient village of Kumana, and a kinsman of the famous tracker Menika, of the days when Yala was reserved for 'sportsmen'. His knowledge and feel for the ways of the wild obviously ran in his blood. His instinctive knowledge of what a leopard would do was uncanny, and had to be experienced to be believed. Reading the signs that leopards left behind, and be able to age them precisely came naturally to him
Kumara Banda was once washed out to sea while cutting a breach in the Kumbukkan Oya sand bar. Given up for lost, he had managed to swim all the way back to Okanda, exhausted but very much alive. Immediately following the Tsunami of 2004, he alone among all the staff of the Dept. of Wildlife, swam in the raging sea, and the vastly expanded Palatupana lagoon, rescuing stranded survivors. In most other countries, his bravery, above and beyond the call of duty would have been rewarded by the state, but unfortunately, not in ours.
The end came quite suddenly while on duty in Maduru Oya National Park, where he was stationed since 2005, when he died of a silent heart attack.

I owe Kumara Banda a deep debt of gratitude, and will always miss his unique companionship.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why am I a Wildlife Photographer?

Why am I a Wildlife Photographer?
Twelve years ago, while finishing a two-year contract at the Institute of Fundamental Studies in Kandy, I had to make a decision about my immediate career future. If I wanted to stay on at the IFS, I had to register for my next Degree, a PhD in Archaeology. Instead I wanted to leave, as I still had a hope of joining the Dept. of Archaeology, despite five frustrating years of trying. I also felt that there would be time enough to do a Ph D, if I found full time employment in Archaeology, and was able to identify needs, and design research programmes, accordingly. At the back of my mind however, I knew that the prospect of joining the Dept. was not the best.
While I was thinking aloud of other options, based on my many interests, my Supervisor, and team leader at the time, Dr Martha Prickett Fernando, an American Archaeologist, asked me to list out all the things I wanted to do, and arrange them in order of priority. There were two that topped the list. One was to become the best wildlife photographer that I can be, while working for Conservation. The other was to be a writer and write a best-selling book.
As my attempts to join the Dept. of Archaeology over the years, led to a series of dead ends, and the frequency of my visits to National Parks, especially Yala, increased, I also met like minded individuals engaged in similar pursuits. In 1999, I decided to focus on wildlife photography almost single mindedly. At the time, the need to take better photographs, of leopards in particular, was strongly felt by a small group of us, that had come together, to produce a book on the Sri Lanka leopard. This was primarily to further the conservation of this little understood and sometimes, much misunderstood carnivore. My method was to totally immerse myself in tracking, learning about and photographing leopards, to get from where I was as a photographer, to where I wanted to go.
Fortunately, the fact that I was not employed on a regular basis, freed me to spend as much time as I could in Yala. In the year 2000, I also got acquainted with a Yala Game Guard, a tracker, by the name of Kumara Banda. Born in Kumana village, he had an extraordinary instinct for animals, combined with the most unbelievable field craft.
Jehan Kumara, the late Dr Ravi Samasinha, and I were the three main collaborators in compiling a book on all aspects of the Sri Lanka leopard .In 2003, our book, ‘For the Leopard’ was published, and a generous contribution that covered all the design, and publishing costs, enabled the Leopard Trust Fund, that was simultaneously launched, to grow from the sale proceeds of the book.
I am the middle child in a family of three boys. From my youngest days my interest was in Nature, and I was to subsequently discover the world of books. Mechanical things never interested me. My other family members are more mechanically and technically savvy, and that includes my mother. However, I am a self - taught photographer, who as a child, with a plastic camera, took photographs of natural subjects only. People were never a part of what I chose to photograph. To this day I have to remind myself to sometimes photograph people too.
In 1999, I decided to fuse my knowledge as a naturalist, with my interest in photography. One of my secondary objectives was to prove that wildlife photography in Sri Lanka could and should reach international standards.
In 2002, my photograph of a hawk eagle grappling with a land monitor, taken in Yala, was given a Highly Commended award by BBC WILDLIFE magazine’s WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR, competition. This is recognized as the biggest and most prestigious international competition for wildlife photography. It is open to amateurs and professionals alike, and that year received approximately 20,000 entries. Awards were given to just 100 entries. The picture traveled with the competition’s annual exhibition, both in Britain and Europe, as well as North America and Australia. Thereby, Sri Lankan wildlife and Yala, in particular got rare exposure, and I felt vindicated. The photograph was also published in the Book - Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Portfolio 12.
I still believe, that cameras and lenses, are merely tools that enable you to capture the picture that you have in mind, or freeze that fleeting moment in time. Just as much as my vehicle, is a means of transport, to get me to where I want to go, wherever that may be.
To be seduced by the technology (that is constantly changing anyway), and lose oneself in the techno babble is to lose sight of what is paramount, which is your subject, and the way it is presented.
Photographing Nature is a powerful way to raise awareness of its beauty and importance, beyond the confines of the enthusiastic few.
All the photographs, bar one, in this exhibition are printed from colour slides, or transparencies, although I have been using a Digital Camera as a back up since mid 2004, and as my frontline camera since 2006. The large backlog of my photographs using slide film, requires me to restrict my selection to film. This Exhibition, is also my long goodbye to film.
The photographs exhibited here, span the period 2002 to 2007 with the exception of three or four, that were taken earlier. None have been exhibited before, and reflect my personal selection.
In photographing animals, I make every effort to capture the essence of that animal. I hope I have succeeded. My selection does not in any way constitute a representative collection of this Island’s substantial bio-diversity. Neither is it restricted to Sri Lankan subjects.
I make no apologies for what I choose to photograph. I do not believe that wildlife should be viewed as ours, mine and theirs. Thankfully, animals have the good sense not to respect our political boundaries and live freely, governed by their needs only.
They live in a borderless world, and we too need to take a cue from them, and have an ecosystem approach to conservation. A nation’s wildlife is in reality a part of the natural heritage of the whole world.
I am essentially a long lens photographer, and this collection also reflects that bias. It also focuses on my special interests, which are birds and leopards.
To be successful, a wildlife photographer, requires, concentration, patience and discipline. Some days in the field can be shatteringly exhausting, with little result to show for the effort. I have made many personal sacrifices along the way, but the sum total of time spent out in wilderness areas, in the proximity of wild animals, has been a sheer joy. I have absolutely no regrets. The natural beauty and events that I have witnessed, far exceeds what I have been able to capture within the confines of 35mm frames, most often from within the confines of a restrictive vehicle.
I hope what I have succeeded to capture, inspires others, especially the younger generation, to appreciate and safeguard our irreplaceable natural heritage.

my exhibition of photographs runs at the
8th Lane, Colombo 3
from 26th November to 7th December 2008
10am to 7pm

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Collared scops owl, Sri Lanka, Wildlife, stock library

Collared Scops owl photographed from an upstair bedroom window in Gregory's road. Colombo. Photographed on 29th September 2008 More Sri Lankan wildlife pictures at this link. www.threeblindmen.com

Green garden lizard (Calotes calotes). Sri Lanka Wildlife Photography. www.threeblindmen.com

For more pictures of Sri Lankan Wildlife please search www.threeblindmen.com