Archive for June 2006
In mid May I took my 11th Grade Environmental Systems and Geography students on a three-day trip to Sinharaja rainforest in south-western Sri Lanka. Sinharaja hosts the largest remaining swathes of lowland tropical rainforest in the country and is a gold mine for naturalists. We were fortunate to have rainless but humid weather with cool evenings. Like most other sensible visitors we stayed at Martin’s Lodge on the edge of the park boundary. We were very fortunate to have Sri Lanka’s leading bird guru, Professor Sarath Kotagama, and his PhD student Chamipra accompanying us on this trip. They gave us a detailed introduction to the area, its history as a logging site and then its protection in the late 1970s. During the days they guided several students on point transects while I worked with other on 5mx5m vegetation plots. Karen Coniff, a parent, naturalist and dragonfly authority accompanied us and made invaluable contributions as a chaperone and guide.
Our group of 13 students mainly focused on the road and paths leading to the research station. On the last day I was able to lead a small group up through the primary forest to Mulawlla Peak (760m). We were treated to an impressive panorama over the rainforest canopy. Overall we did excellently with sightings and observed many of the endemic birds such as the spectacular Blue Magpie (several flocks of four to six individuals), two Red Faced Malkohas, several Spot Winged Thrushes, SL Jungle Fowl up close and personal, SL Gray Hornbill and more. I was also happy with the lesser life forms: we observed jewel-like jumping spiders, the carnivorous pitcher plants (Nepenthes distallatoria), plenty of the endemic kangaroo lizards (Otocryptis wiegmanni) and several common snakes. I was on the look out for the endemic Green Pit Viper (Trimeresurus trigonocephalus) having failed to see it on past trips to Sinharaja and Kitugala. I had seen and photographed a medium sized one in Galle in February, but that was a captive specimen. So I was very happy when our guide located a small yet, gorgeous specimen on our way out of the park! It was a fitting end to a great trip and learning experience.