Ian Lockwood

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Archive for the ‘Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak)’ Category

Sri Pada Field Study 2018 & 2020

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On our way to the summit of Sri Pada. Looking up at the peak on Day 1 of the three day ES&S field study in Peak Wilderness.

Sri Pada Field Study 2020

The annual OSC Sri Pada field study was revived again last month when a small group of OSC’s DP1 students and their teachers spent three days climbing and staying on top of this sacred pinnacle in the midst of the biodiversity-rich Peak Wilderness area. The learning experience gives the class an important opportunity to learn more about the peak, its biodiversity, vertical changes in forest vegetation, contrasting land uses and its cultural significance as an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. It is also a physically demanding experience that left our group exhausted and sore yet elated by its concluding day.

2018 Recap

Rewinding back to the last academic year, I had chosen to join Will Duncan’s Physics field study at Norton Bridge. My ES&S class was quite small and I was interested in having my students learn more about hydroelectricity in Sri Lanka. We went to Norton Bridge in December 2018 and spent two nights in the area. The highlight was getting a tour of the Wimalasurendra Hydroelectric Power Station. This station is part of the Laxapana valley cascade generating system that utilizes water coming down from the Central highlands through the Kelani river. The 52 MW pant is named after the “father of Sri Lanka’s hydroelectricity program” D. J. Wimalasurendra and was built in the late 1950s (CEB). The students also had a chance to make their own mini-power generators using a small stream at the guest house where we stayed. I used the same stream to look for frogs and was rewarded with a (Pseudophilautus macropus) while Will found an endemic Chesnut Backed Owlet (Glaucidium castanotum) in the adjoining tea garden (my first sighting after 13 years in Sri Lanka).

An important imitative on the 2018 ES&S & Physics field trip was the successful search for the endemic Daffodil orchid (Ipsea speciosa). I’ve been searching for this terrestrial orchid for many years in Sri Lanka and it finally took the wise advice of Nadeera Weerasinghe who suggested searching the Watawala area. That happened to be right near to Norton Bridge and so we stopped to walk along the Peradeniya-Hatton tracks and look for it. The flower is associated with mid-elevation pantanas (grasslands) which have been largely converted to tea estates and timber plantations. It seems reasonable to expect that the populations of Daffodil orchids are found in areas that survived the almost nearly complete landscape conversion to plantation land in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The dominance of plantations in Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands helps to explain why they are not common. We can think of daffodil orchids as important indicators of an ecology and landscape now lost to plantation agriculture. Its Western Ghats cousin, the Malabar Daffodil Orchid(Ipsea malabarica) is extremely rare and was thought to be extinct for many years (it was rediscovered in Silent Valley in 1982). The Gurukula Botanical Garden has a healthy population now. My father Merrick Lockwood, who has been passionate about orchids for many years, photographed a single Ipsea malabarica in mid-elevation montane grasslands in the north-west Palani Hills in the 1980s on a family camping trip.

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Class of 2020 all together at the start of the science field trips. (December 2018)

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Class of 2021 all together with a few teachers at the start of the DP1 science field trips. (January 2020)

2020 Sojourn on the Summit

This school year (2019-20) the science trip was placed at the beginning of the 2nd semester and we departed a day after returning from the winter holidays. Three of my students got sick but I was still able to take the remaining four with the support of my colleague (and KIS graduate) Andry Dejong as the female chaperone. The other DP1 science classes were in the same vicinity and we started off together.. The ES&S had to have a flexible approach to the journey and we ended being able to spend the night on the summit with other pilgrims.

Our first night was spent at the Blue Magpie Resort, the upscale sister guest house of the Fishing Hut. It is still within the Maskeliya Plantation’s Moray estate but is downstream a kilometer or so from the Fishing Hut. While it doesn’t enjoy the spectacular view of the peak, the stream at the Blue Magpie is better suited for exploring and swimming. It is also a lot less rustic-something that my group appreciated. Similar to past years, the learning of the field study was focused on four broad themes related to the Environmental Systems & Societies syllabus.

  • Theme 1: Land Use Variation (anthropocentric vs. natural ecosystems, plantation agriculture etc.)
  • Theme 2: Forest & Vegetation Types (llowland & montane tropical forests, cloud forests, pantanas)
  • Theme 3: Vertical Zonation
  • Theme 4: Biodiversity in a ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’

Montane forest in evening light, Peak Wilderness.

After careful consideration I consulted with the team and then made the decision to bivouac with other pilgrims up at the summit of Sri Pada. This meant carrying larger backpacks with food and sleeping gear on the hike up. In the past carrying loads has been a challenge for OSC students unaccustomed to backpacking and ascending altitudes after being at sea level. Working with Andry, we ensured that the group would go at a slow pace and stay hydrated to avoid these challenges.

We had overcast, but dry conditions, as we started the hike up through montane forest at on January 8th. The altitude at the start point above the Fishing Hut is about 1,500m while the summit is 2,243m -so it’s a rather steep 6 km hike up! There were virtually no leeches which pleased the group (and in particular one unnamed individual who has a phobia for them). The trail had been cleared for the season’s pilgrims but other than one small party led by a monk, we were the only ones on it. We hiked up the path under gnarled trees, around mossy boulders and along the ridge that leads up the eastern face of the peak. Occasionally, we had fleeting views of the peak with its summit hidden by a crown of mist. Our pace was slow and I wanted the group to keep an eye out for facets of the forest. At one of the few stream crossings the students found several small frogs. We took a break to refill water bottles there but were not that successful in photographing the amphibians.

The clearing at 1,850m provides an ideal rest stop and we took a generous break with water, peanuts and chocolate. The group seemed relieved when we reached the main path with its railings, tea shops and steps. However, the novelty of doing monotonous measured steps, ascending concrete steps at 60 degrees soon wore off and they belatedly realized the value of the forest trail. After a tea break we reached the summit by 4:00. Catching our breath, we were able to observe temple rituals and watch the clouds roll over the lower hills as the sun went down. Swathes of mist whipped over the peak; one moment we would be basking in the scarlet light of the sunset and then thick mist would envelop us. As darkness set in I did a short frog search with Rizqi and we found several interesting individuals but were not successful with the photography. The night on the peak was memorable and shared with dozens of other pilgrims as well as a few emaciated dogs who had made the trek up. Early on, our group laid out sleeping bags in a corner of the pilgrim’s quarters under the temple. We snacked on mixture, pita bread and hummus and then tried to sleep. Of course, as more pilgrims and visitors make it up in the early hours the temple and associated spaces of the summit got rather crowded and noisy. I’ve done this before so I managed several good hours of rest but the kids were not happy with the sleep they missed.

By the earliest light the summit of Sri Pada was packed with pilgrims and numerous foreign hikers who had left Nalathani at midnight or after. I positioned my tripod near the lamp-lighting shrine and then coaxed my group out of bed to join me. Andry was up but the kids had a hard time getting out of their sleeping bags. There were clouds in the east which affected the sunrise and mountain shadow. It was more or less clear around the peak and by 7:00 the triangular shadow was being projected down on the western forests of Peak Wilderness. We started down around 8:30 and I guided the group down the Ratnapura steps and then around the mountain on the short-cut back to the main Nalathani route. The path gives you a fine experience of the cloud forest and there were several flowering Rhododendron (R. arboretum) trees below the summit. It wasn’t too long before the strain of the steps set in. Rika sprained her right ankle and I had problems with my knees. We wrapped the sprain and Andry lent me her walking sticks for the last stretch. Although it wasn’t as physically demanding as the ascent, we ambled slowly and carefully down to Nalathani where we met up with our van and started the journey back to Colombo. The group was tired but we reflected back on the significant learning and accomplishments of our journey to the peak.

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Cloud forest below Sri Pada’s summit with a flowering Rhododendron (R. arboretum)- an indicator of this high altitude vegetation type.

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OSC students photographing the shadow of Sri Pada. (January 2020)

Google MyMap of paths from January 2020 Sri Pada field study (click inside to interact with the terrain).

PAST SRI PADA STUDIES

  • OSC Class of 2010 (Sri Pada 2008trip)
  • OSC Class of 2011 (Sri Pada 2009trip)
  • OSC Class of 2012 (Sri Pada 2010trip)
  • OSC Class of 2013 (Sri Pada 2011trip)
  • OSC Class of 2014 (Sri Pada 2012trip)
  • OSC Class of 2015 (Sri Pada 2013 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2016 (Sri Pada 2014 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2017 (Sri Pada 2015 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2018 (Sri Pada 2016 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2019 (Sri Pada 2017 trip)

FURTHER READING & REFERENCES

Atmospheric Optics. “Mountain Shadow.” Photography by Ian Lockwood. 2010. Web.

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Laxapana Complex. Web.

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot. May 2007. Web.

Hance. Jeremy. “ Scientists discover 8 new frogs in one sanctuary, nearly all Critically Endangered.” Mongabay. 21 March 2013. Web.

Luxman Nadaraja and Sarala Fernando. Sri Pada. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa, 2011. Print.

Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.

Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.

Wickramasinghe, L.J. Mendis et al. “Eight new species of Pseudophilautus (Amphibia: Anura: Rhacophoridae) from Sri Pada World Heritage Site (Peak Wilderness), a local amphibian hotspot in Sri Lanka.” Journal of Threatened Taxa. 2013. Web.

 

 

 

Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands WWW Experience 2019

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Horton Plains cloud forest canopy study in black & white.

In the third week of January every year I have the opportunity and privilege of being involved in some rather cool teaching and learning in our home of Sri Lanka. The Experience Sri Lanka! Week Without Walls program gives OSC teachers the opportunity to share our passion for adventure, discovery and learning beyond the barriers of our classrooms. This year I once again led a group of students and teachers in and around the Central Highlands while exploring themes of landscape an ecology through an interdisciplinary unit involving visual arts and science (ecology).

The Sri Lanka Central Highlands trip, was an experience of significance with many important group and individual learning highlights. This choice WWW learning experience is part of the broader secondary school Week Without Walls program that I have been coordinating since its inception. OSC’s WWW program was first run in January 2010 as an outgrowth of the MYP outdoor education program (2003-2010) and has now matured into a key experiential learning highlight for all of the secondary school. Through a variety of grade-level and choice experiences there are several goals that define the program:

  • Fulfill the OSC mission statement of developing the whole person within a safe environment.
  • Expose students to our host country Sri Lanka’s culture and environment.
  • Enable opportunities for service learning and outdoor education.
  • Use Interdisciplinary Units (IDUs) to support and strengthen existing secondary curriculum (including the DP CAS program) for the benefit of student learning.

The five-day excursion into Sri Lanka’s high elevation interior exemplified some of the best outcomes of field-based learning. The learning focus was on using photo documentation to better understand the ecology and landscape of Sri Lanka’s mountainous interior. All of the students had some sort of DSLR or point and shoot camera where they could learn basic controls and composition as we had different encounters. This year we had 13 students and three of us adults to guide them. I was supported by Loretta Duncan and Desline Attanayake who both played key roles in organization and participating in all of our activities. We also had two drivers from Yamuna Travels who got us to our different destinations safely. The students were enthusiastic and cooperative as we took on new challenges every day. Accommodation for the first three nights was on the cozy-rustic side of things, but on the last night the group was treated to very comfortable rooms in Nuwara Eliya’s St. Andrew’s Jetwing hotel.

Pseudophilautus femoralis at Nuwara_Eliya.

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Montane Hour Class Fog (Taruga eques) at St. Andrews/Pidurutalagala.

We experienced consistently clear, beautiful weather with classic, crisp winter conditions. There had been frost earlier in the month but by the time that we got to the high reaches of the dormitory neat Mahaeliya bungalow in Horton Plains it was at least 10-15 degrees C° above freezing. The highlight of the time in Horton Plains was climbing the 2nd and 3rd highest mountains in Sri Lanka. Kirigalpotta (2,388 m) was the focus of a seven-hour round trip hike on Wednesday and Totupola Kanda (2,360m) was a short walk that we did on Thursday morning. For good measure we visited Sri Lanka’s highest peak Pidurutalagala (albeit by van, as walking is not allowed) on the final morning of the experience. On all of these morning we were blessed with exquisitely clear conditions that allowed for crystal clear views to Sri Pada and the neigboring ridges.

Early morning view to Sri Pada from the slopes of Thotupola.

Kirigalpotta adn Horton Plains from Thotupola Kanda.

 

PAST WWW TRIPS

*** for this blog post I have borrowed reflections (written by me) from past Highlands excursions.***

FURTHER READING & REFERENCES

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot. May 2007. Web.

De Silva, Anslem and Kanisha Ukuwela. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Reptiles of Sri Lanka. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2017. Print.

De Silva, Anslem. The Diversity of Horton Plains National Park. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2007. Print.

Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.

Rodrigo, Malaka. “Lanka’s central highlands win heritage battle”. The Sunday Times. 8 August 2010. Web.

Senevirathna, Ishanda. The Peeping Frogs of Nuwara Eliya. Colombo: Jetwings, 2018. Print.

Somaweera, Ruchira & Nilusha. Lizards of Sri Lanka: A Colour Guide With Field Keys. Frankfurt: Edition Chimaira 2009. Print.

Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.

Sri Pada Field Study 2017

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Lights of the Ratnapura and Kuruwita trails from the summit of Sri Pada.

In December of 2017 OSC’s DP1 classes journeyed into the Central Highlands to explore and experience field studies in biology, physics and environmental systems & societies. These excursions are now a solidified and key learning highlight for DP science classes. The physics students looked at and experimented with hydroelectricity near Norton Bridge and the Biology class did field ecology exercises on Castlereigh Lake. Once again, I took the Environmental Systems & Societies (ES&S) group up to Peak Wilderness for a study of biodiversity and human impact. It was a very small group (three students), supported by Kamila Sahideen who was on her first visit to the sacred mountain. We enjoyed three days of learning, basic accommodation and an overnight stay at the summit of Sri Pada (this is only the second time that I have taken students on the overnight component -the last time was in December 2012).

As usual, we focused on four broad themes related to the Environmental Systems & Societies syllabus.

  • Theme 1: Land Use Variation (anthropocentric vs. natural ecosystems, plantation agriculture etc.)
  • Theme 2: Forest & Vegetation Types (lowland, montane tropical forests, cloud forests)
  • Theme 3: Vertical Zonation
  • Theme 4: Biodiversity in a ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’
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Composite view looking north of Nalathani (Delhousie) and the Hatton Trail at dawn from the summit of Sri Pada. Pidurutalagala is on the horizon above clouds in the right corner. Wolfgang Werner’s book on Cloud Forest uses a view of the forest and falls to the left.

Because the group size was small this year, I consulted with the team and then made the decision to bivouac up at the summit. This meant carrying larger backpacks with food and sleeping gear on the hike up. In the past carrying loads has been a challenge for OSC students unaccustomed to backpacking and ascending altitudes after being at sea level. Our hike on December 12th was in persistent rain that lasted all day. The wet conditions and abundant leeches made it difficult to stop to conduct field observations and we pretty much walked straight up to the summit at a slow, but steady pace (see Google My Map below with metadata from Strava). At the top, we were not able to get one of the few rooms that are sometimes available and instead bedded down in the pilgrim’s shelter. We were at the summit by 1:30 and so the class got to spend the afternoon taking in the rhythms of the temple in season. There was a slow stream of pilgrims and pujas but for the most part it remained relatively empty all the way until the next day.

There were several important highlights from this trip. I was treated to a 10-minute observation of a solitary otter (presumably the Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra nair) at the Fishing Hut. I had observed a group of them at twilight a few years back so it was good to see that the species still visits the area. At the summit of Sri Pada there were more moths at lights than I have ever witnessed before. Many of these would eventually perish but hundreds were hanging out on walls, rock faces and sacred cloth. Birds included Blue Magpies at the Fishing Hut and then Yellow Eared Bulbuls, Dull Blue Flycatchers, Great Tits at the Sri Pada summit. No SL Whistling Thrushes on this trip (see 2010 post for my notable encounter) but another pilgrim posted a photograph of a male on Facebook shortly after our trip. On the way, home the group enjoyed a good sighting of a Legge’s hawk-eagle in a tea plantation on the edge of Peak Wilderness.

Mosaic of moths on the summit and slopes of Sri Pada.

On the morning of December 13th I was thrilled to see the clouds clear to reveal misty valley below. The view to the east was free of clouds and when the sun came up it provided the right atmospheric conditions to produce the magical mountain shadow that is a rare, ethereal phenomenon to experience. As usual, the shadow dropped as the sun rose and soon merged with the conical mountain that had cast the light. We lingered beyond the time that most pilgrims stay on the summit,

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Composite image of the mountain shadow seen look to the west from Sri Pada’s summit. We were blessed with a fine sunrise and a clear shadow-an awe-inspiring phenomenon that is not guaranteed to pilgrims at the summit of Sri Pada.

PAST SRI PADA STUDIES

  • OSC Class of 2010 (Sri Pada 2008trip)
  • OSC Class of 2011 (Sri Pada 2009trip)
  • OSC Class of 2012 (Sri Pada 2010trip)
  • OSC Class of 2013 (Sri Pada 2011trip)
  • OSC Class of 2014 (Sri Pada 2012trip)
  • OSC Class of 2015 (Sri Pada 2013 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2016 (Sri Pada 2014 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2017 (Sri Pada 2015 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2018 (Sri Pada 2016 trip)

FURTHER READING & REFERENCES

Atmospheric Optics. “Mountain Shadow.” Photograph by Ian Lockwood. 2010. Web.

Fernando, Sarala and Luxman Nadaraja. Sri Pada. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa, 2011. Print.

Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.

Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.

 

Google My Map showing our trail (collected on Strava and then exported as a GPX file)

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2018-01-31 at 9:34 pm

Sri Pada Field Study 2016

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Montane Hourglass frog (Taruga eques) on the montane forest trail to Sri Pada.

Montane Hourglass frog (Taruga eques) in dying bamboo groves (@ 1,800 m) on the montane forest trail to Sri Pada. Found by DP1 students Jannuda and Aryaman.

This year’s annual DP1 science field trips went out slightly earlier than in past years-luckily with no drastic weather consequences. The DP Physics students investigated hydroelectricity near Norton Bridge and the DP Biology class did field ecology exercises on Castlereigh Lake. Meanwhile, I took the Environmental Systems & Societies (ES&S) group up to Peak Wilderness for a study of biodiversity and human impact. It was a relatively small group (eight students), supported by Rebecca Morse our new language acquisition teacher. Together we enjoyed three days of learning, basic accommodation and the traditional hike up to the summit of Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak).

Once again we focused on four broad themes related to the Environmental Systems & Societies syllabus.

  • Theme 1: Land Use Variation (anthropocentric vs. natural ecosystems, plantation agriculture etc.)
  • Theme 2: Forest & Vegetation Types (lowland, montane tropical forests, cloud forests)
  • Theme 3: Vertical Zonation
  • Theme 4: Biodiversity in a ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’

This year’s group proved to be particularly good at finding frogs and I also encountered several notable bird species that are highlighted in the pictures in this post. The Peak Wilderness area, now designated as a World Heritage Site, is rich in amphibian diversity with new species being described in recent years (see links below). The design of our day hike to the peak is such that it allows the group to stop, look and record examples of biodiversity. The Peak Wilderness area is, of course, very different than what the Colombo area hosts and much of what we see in plants, amphibians, fungi etc. needed to be properly identified with the aid of guide books. The other themes were reinforced both on the hike and the days getting to the Fishing Hut and back. The trip is not designed to be data-driven and the focus of the three short days is on observations and experiencing the guiding themes. Walking up to the peak is a rather physically demanding aspect that distinguishes the ES&S trip from the other science field studies.  Most of the class was hobbling around campus on the two remaining school days of the week when we returned. This was my 18th trip, if my calculations are correct, and along with the rest of the group I returned with a sense of accomplishment, awe in the beauty of nature and concern for the way that our species is treating this sacred mountain.

Human impact in the Central Highlands (Eucalyptus plantation, pine plantation and cleared tea fields, tea estate and slopes above Maskeliya).

Human impact in the Central Highlands (Eucalyptus plantation, pine plantation and cleared tea fields, tea estate and slopes above Maskeliya).

Frogs in montane forest on the trial to Sri Pada.

Frogs of different sizes and colors  in montane forest on the forest trail to Sri Pada. IDs to be added shortly.

Male Kashmir FLycatcher (Ficedula subrubra) a rare winter visitor to Sri Lanka's Central Highlands photographed in montane forest at 1,400 meters.

Male Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra), a rare winter visitor to Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands photographed in montane forest at 1,400 meters.

Biodiversity photographed near the Fishing Hut (1.400m): From Left to Right: Indian Blue Robin (Luscinia brunnea),Toque Macaque (Macaca sinica) and the endemic Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush (Zoothera imbricata).

Biodiversity photographed near the Fishing Hut (1.400m): From Left to Right: Indian Blue Robin (Luscinia brunnea),the common but endemicToque Macaque (Macaca sinica) and the endemic Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush (Zoothera imbricata).

Plastic waste collected but then left on the forest trail to Sri Pada. The growing amounts of non- biodegradable waste on the sacred slopes is an eyesore hard to ignore. The situation has encouraged new moves to "ban plastics" this pilgrimage season. Starting with a "pack it in, pack it out" approach would be one sensible idea. We collected the waste pictured here and brought it back to Colombo.

Plastic waste collected but then left (and partly burnt) on the forest trail to Sri Pada. The growing amounts of non- biodegradable waste on the sacred slopes is an eyesore that is hard to ignore. The situation has encouraged new moves to “ban plastics” this pilgrimage season (see links below). Starting with a “pack it in, pack it out” approach would be one sensible idea. We collected the waste pictured here and brought it back to Colombo.

OSC's class of 2018 at the Kithulgala Resthouse shortly before we went in three separate directions in pursuit of different science goals.

OSC’s class of 2018 at the Kitulgala Resthouse shortly before we went three separate directions in pursuit of different science goals.

Class of 2018 ES&S class at Laxapana Falls (left) and on the trail to Sri Pada (right).

On the way to the summit: Class of 2018 ES&S class (+ Julius) at Laxapana Falls (left) and on the trail to Sri Pada (right).

Climbing the steep stairs to Sri Pada with clear views and no rain. The elderly woman from nearby Maskeliya, seen to the left here, said she had been up 250 times!! There was little reason to doubt her... the students stopped complaining after we talked to her.

Climbing the steep stairs to Sri Pada with clear views and no rain. The elderly woman from nearby Maskeliya, seen to the left here, said she had been up 250 times!! There was little reason to doubt her… the students stopped complaining after we talked to her.

Starting back down to the Fishing Hut from the Sri Pada summit temple. The patch of tea near the hut is distance far below. It took us about four to five hours to get up and about three to get back down. Our purpose was to go slow and see as much as possible…

Starting back down to the Fishing Hut from the Sri Pada summit temple. The patch of tea near the hut is in the distance far below. The hut area is off to the mid-right of the frame but the clearing is visible in the forest canopy. It took us about four to five hours to get up and about three to get back down. Our purpose was to go slow and see as much as possible…

The Way to Adam's Peak: a map mural from Whatsala Inn.

“The (Hatton) Way to Adam’s Peak”: a map mural from Wathsala Inn. Our trail to the peak came out of the forest on the middle left of the map.

PAST SRI PADA STUDIES

  • OSC Class of 2010 (Sri Pada 2008trip)
  • OSC Class of 2011 (Sri Pada 2009trip)
  • OSC Class of 2012 (Sri Pada 2010trip)
  • OSC Class of 2013 (Sri Pada 2011trip)
  • OSC Class of 2014 (Sri Pada 2012trip)
  • OSC Class of 2015 (Sri Pada 2013 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2016 (Sri Pada 2014 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2017 (Sri Pada 2015 trip)

FURTHER READING & REFERENCES

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot. May 2007. Web.

Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.

Rodrigo, Malaka. “Eight new shrub frogs discovered from the Peak Wilderness.” Sunday Times. 2013. Web.

Rodrigo, Malaka. “Lanka’s central highlands win heritage battle”. The Sunday Times. 8 August 2010. Web.

“Taking polythene and plastic water bottles to sacred Sri Pada Mountain banned during season.” Colombo Page. 13 December 2016. Web.

Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.

Learning in Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands (Part 1): Understanding Ecology through Landscapes

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Totupola Kanda (2,360m) Sri Lanka’s third highest peak seen from the Maha Eliya bungalow. We hiked up to the summit on Day 2 of the WWW trip.

Totupola Kanda (2,360m), Sri Lanka’s third highest peak, seen from the Maha Eliya bungalow. We hiked up to the summit on Day 2 of the WWW trip.

In the last few months I have had the opportunity to lead groups of OSC students into Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands for two different learning experiences. In December we did the annual field study in Sri Pada based out of the Fishing Hut in Maskeliya plantation’s Moray Estate. As usual, my class and I focused on studying themes of vertical zonation, biodiversity, land use and forest types. We were a small group made up of seven students, one parent and OSC’s Grade 3 teacher, Erika Williams, who accompanied us as a female chaperone. At the end of January I was back in the hills again, this time with my Week Without Walls microtrip. In this second year, we focused the learning though an MYP-inspired Interdisciplinary Unit (IDU). The focus was to learn about the ecology of the highlands through photo documentation with daily hikes being a key aspect. Over five packed days we looped though the hills starting in the south at Belihuloya and ending up on Sri Lanka’s highest peak Pidurutalagala before returning to Colombo.

Learning about the landscapes, both natural and human influenced, was a key part of the WWW learning experience. We started on a hike out of Belihuloya navigating rice paddies and intermediate zone semi-evergreen forest. Later we walked through pine plantations, swam in cold mountain pools, climbed the three highest mountains in Sri Lanka and spent several nights in the high altitude Horton Plains. The weather was dry and in the plains we awoke to frost before we did a brisk hike on the World’s End trail. The group exerted themselves every day- helping to address the Action or Activity IB CAS requirement. There were gastronomical joys –in simple camp food and more lavish spreads on the last day. The 15 students developed a newfound appreciation for hot water, electricity and cell phone connectivity. They did amazingly well and, despite a few stumbles into serious mud, came through in good spirits. In this post I share some of the different landscapes in panoramic format. Part II highlights the biodiversity that we encountered.

OSC students approaching the summit of Kirigalpotta (2,388 m) Sri Lanka’s 2nd highest peak. There is a bit of drop to the north of the peak that, when wet ,can look like from milk from a distance-hence the name of the peak. We had clear, albeit hazy, views back to Totupola Kanda (left peak) and World’s End (under the clouds to the right). Virtually the whole trail to the peak and back is visible behind the group.

OSC students approaching the summit of Kirigalpotta (2,388 m) Sri Lanka’s 2nd highest peak on Day 3. There is a bit of drop to the north of the peak that, when wet ,can look like from milk from a distance-hence the name of the peak. We had clear, albeit hazy, views back to Totupola Kanda (left peak) and World’s End (under the clouds to the right). Virtually the whole trail to the peak and back is visible behind the group.

Healthy evergreen forest on the southern slopes of Horton Plains seen above Bambarakanda Falls. On the right, the land had previously been cleared for either tea or pine plantations. Grasses have now taken over the area and some patches show signs of recent burning. The altitude here is approximately 600 meters.

Healthy evergreen forest on the southern slopes of Horton Plains seen above Bambarakanda Falls. On the right, the land had previously been cleared for either tea or pine plantations. Grasses have now taken over the area and some patches show signs of recent burning. The altitude here is approximately 600 meters.

Calophyllum walkeri sentinels in a path of dieback cloud forest near the Ohiya entrance to Horton Plains National Park.

Calophyllum walkeri sentinels in a patch of dieback cloud forest near the Ohiya entrance to Horton Plains National Park.

Looking across Ambawella farms and Hakgala to Pidurutalagala (Sri Lanka’s highest peak) from the slopes of Totupola Kanda at the end of a quick hike on Day 2 of the WWW experience. This was the first time that an OSC WWW group hiked up to Totupola (the third highest peak). It is an easy gradual trail through “pygmy forest”-literally waste level, wind blown cloud forest covered in mosses and epiphytes. There was also a surprisingly high number of leopard scat on the path.

Looking across Ambawella farms and Hakgala to Pidurutalagala (Sri Lanka’s highest peak) from the slopes of Totupola Kanda at the end of a quick hike on Day 2 of the WWW experience. This was the first time that an OSC WWW group hiked up to Totupola (the third highest peak). It is an easy gradual trail through “pygmy forest”-literally waste-level, wind-blown cloud forest covered in mosses and epiphytes. There was also a surprisingly high number of leopard scats on the path.

Shades of Eravikulam and the high Western Ghats? Actually, the landscapes of Horton Plains are both similar and yet very different than their cousins across the Palk Straits. Here south of the World’s End trials patanas and cloud forest highlight the unique aspects of Sri Lanka’s high altitude landscapes. Note that cloud forest dominates ridge tops while the patanas (grasslands) fill the valleys. This is opposite to what is found in the shola/grassland mosaic vegetation of the high altitude Western Ghats ranges. Similar to the Nilgiri Hills the patanas have healthy populations of fire and frost-resistant Rhododendron arboreum trees.

Shades of Eravikulam and the high Western Ghats? Actually, the landscapes of Horton Plains are both similar and yet very different than their cousins across the Palk Straits. Here, south of the World’s End trail, patanas (grasslands) and cloud forest highlight the unique aspects of Sri Lanka’s high altitude landscapes. The cloud forest dominates ridge tops while the patanas fill the valleys. This is opposite to what is found in the shola/grassland mosaic vegetation of the high altitude Western Ghats ranges. Similar to the Nilgiri Hills, the patanas have healthy populations of fire and frost-resistant Rhododendron arboreum trees.

Cloud forest and frosty valleys of patanas in Horton Plains National Park.

View 1: Cloud forest and frosty valleys of patanas in Horton Plains National Park.

View 2: Cloud forest and frosty valleys of patanas in Horton Plains National Park. Kirigalpotta (2,388 m) Sri Lanka’s 2nd highest peak is undistinguished high point in the middle of the image. It has a more prominent, pyramid profile when see from the west.

View 2: Cloud forest and frosty valleys of patanas in Horton Plains National Park. Kirigalpotta (2,388 m) Sri Lanka’s 2nd highest peak is undistinguished high point in the center-right of the image. It has a more prominent, pyramid profile when seen from the west.

Tree ferns (Cyathea crinita) seen from the road to Pidurutalagala with Sri Pada - out of focus - in the back ground.

Tree ferns (Cyathea crinita) seen from the road to Pidurutalagala with Sri Pada – out of focus – in the back ground.

Sri Pada seen from the summit of Pidurutalagala Sri Lanka’s highest point at 2,524 m. We experienced a spectacularly clear day with crisp views looking at the Central Highlands to the south of the peak.

Sri Pada seen from the summit of Pidurutalagala Sri Lanka’s highest point at 2,524 m. We experienced a spectacularly clear day with crisp views looking at the Central Highlands to the south of the peak. Most of the foreground was once cloud forest and has now been converted to vegetable gardens, timber plantations and tea estates.

Looking down at Nuwara Eliya’s Gregory Lake (altitude @ 1,868 meters) seen from Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka’s highest point (2,524 m). The area in and around Sri Lanka’s premier hill station is well known for its tea, tourism and productive vegetable plots.

Looking down at Nuwara Eliya’s Gregory Lake (altitude @ 1,868 meters) seen from Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka’s highest point (2,524 m). The area in and around Sri Lanka’s premier hill station is well known for its tea, tourism and productive vegetable plots.

View south from the lower slopes of Pidurutalagala. The panorama is snitched together from nine different images and greatly reduced in size in order to upload it here. Key mountains are labeled on the image.

View south from the lower slopes of Pidurutalagala. The panorama is stitched together from nine different images and greatly reduced in size in order to upload it here. Key mountains are labeled on the image.

OSC Highlands microtrip group on Pidurutalagala, 29 January 2016.

OSC’s Highlands microtrip group on Pidurutalagala on Day 5 (29 January 2016). Back Row from left to right: Rosanne, Shenali, Leoni, Aryaman, Sanoj, Khalis, Ifane, Jamaal, Mohamed & Amir. Front Row: Kamila, Alejandra, Diana, Malaika, Maya, Yoon Hwan, Anindo & Ian

 

The 2016 Sri Lanka Highlands WWW route map. Click on the link below for it to open in ArGIS online.

The 2016 Sri Lanka Highlands WWW route map. Click on the link below for it to open in ArGIS online.

MAP LINK

References provided in Part II:

Written by ianlockwood

2016-02-20 at 2:48 am

Learning in Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands (Part 2): Understanding Ecology through Biodiversity

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Male Pseudophilautus femoralis in cloud forest above Nuwara Eliya.

Male dull green shrub frog (Pseudophilautus viridis) in cloud forest above Nuwara Eliya.

Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands have been recognized for their significant biodiversity. The area is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site yet (adopted in 2010) and there is a growing awareness about its unique flora and fauna. The Highlands are composed of the mountainous region at the heart of the southern island and include significant areas such as Peak Wilderness, Horton Plains National Park, the Pidurutalagala forests, the Knuckles protected area and several smaller tracts of forest. Most of the Central Highlands have largely been cleared of original vegetation in support of the plantation (mainly tea) industry. This happened during the 19th and early 20th centuries during colonial rule though recent decades have seen loss of forest to hydroelectric dams, plantations expansion and other human land uses. Today the remaining protected areas may be a small percentage of the total area, but they are well protected and offer the opportunity to experience some of Sri Lanka’s unique biodiversity.

Collage of low res snapshots taken of life forms and waste on the trail to Sri Pada during the DP1 ES&S field study there in December 2015.

Collage of low res snapshots taken of life forms and waste on the trail to Sri Pada during the DP1 ES&S field study there in December 2015.

The elusive Pied Thrush (Geokichla wardii) one of the most difficult birds to see in Sri Lanka. Spotted at Nuwara Eliya’s Victoria Park with the expert guidance of Ishanda Senevirathna, the naturalist at Jetwings’ St. Andrew’s Hotel.

The elusive Pied Thrush (Geokichla wardii), one of the most difficult birds to see in Sri Lanka. Male above and female in the inset image. Spotted at Nuwara Eliya’s Victoria Park during the Week Without Walls with the expert guidance of Ishanda Senevirathna, the naturalist at Jetwings’ St. Andrew’s Hotel.

Calotes nigrilabris, the black-lipped lizard, basking in the sun just off the precipitous slope of Kirglpotta’s summit. This agamid (dragon) species is endemic to the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.

Calotes nigrilabris, the black-lipped lizard, basking in the sun just off the precipitous slope of Kirglpotta’s summit. This agamid (dragon) species is endemic to the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.

A study of Pseudophillauts femoralis, a rare endemic shrub frog from Sri Lanka’s cloud forest. All females except the bright green male in the upper right. Identification courtesy of Ishanda Senevirathna of St. Andrew’s. Kamilla found the male that is photographed here and the MYP5 students helped with holding lights.

A study of Pseudophillauts viridis, a rare endemic shrub frog from Sri Lanka’s cloud forest. All females except the bright green male in the upper right. Identification courtesy of Ishanda Senevirathna of St. Andrew’s. Kamilla found the male that is photographed here and the MYP5 students helped with holding lights.

Several different shrub frogs including Pseudophillauts sp. and others (to be updated shortly) from the Nuwara Eliya nocturnal frog walk.

Several different shrub frogs including Pseudophillauts schmarda and others (to be updated shortly) from the Nuwara Eliya nocturnal frog walk.

The Rhino Horned Lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii), an edemic cloud forest species from Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands. This female (top image) and male (middle and lower image) were photographed in Horton Plains National Park where their populations are stable though not always easily seen.

The Rhino Horned Lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii), an endemic cloud forest species from Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands. This female (top image) and male (middle and lower image) were photographed in Horton Plains National Park where their populations are stable, though not always easily seen.

 

PAST WWW TRIPS

PAST SRI PADA STUDIES

  • OSC Class of 2010 (Sri Pada 2008 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2011 (Sri Pada 2009 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2012 (Sri Pada 2010 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2013 (Sri Pada 2011 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2014 (Sri Pada 2012trip)
  • OSC Class of 2015 (Sri Pada 2013 trip)
  • OSC Class of 2016 (Sri Pada 2014 trip)

FURTHER READING & REFERENCES

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot. May 2007. Web.

Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.

Rodrigo, Malaka. “Lanka’s central highlands win heritage battle”. The Sunday Times. 8 August 2010. Web.

Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.

Class of 2017 stopping at the clearing on their way up to the summit of Sri Pada. We had clear views of the peak and surrounding forest all the way up to the temple at the summit.

Class of 2017 stopping at the clearing on their way up to the summit of Sri Pada. We had clear views of the peak and surrounding forest all the way up to the temple at the summit. Back row: Carolyn, Brittany, Ahnaf, Sanoj, Shenali & Erika. Front row: Ian, Ariana and Jamaal. Photograph by Abbi Pilapitiya.

 

2014 OSC Field Study to Sri Pada

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Sri Pada Collage 2014

Last December OSC’s Diploma Program students once gain explored the Peak Wilderness area and made a pilgrimage to the summit Sri Lanka’s sacred mountain, Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak). The idea behind this annual field study is to better understand the mountain’s ecology and appreciate its value as a stronghold of biodiversity in a rich Sri Lankan cultural landscape. As this blog has recorded the experience started out as an Environmental Systems and Societies (ES&S) field study but it now incorporates the three major DP1 science classes. This year the DP Physics students, led by HOD Will Duncan, accompanied us part way and then stayed at a guest house near Maskeliya Lake. They focused on themes of power generation and were able to visit a CEB hydroelectric turbine and later use natural stream flow to test electricity generating devises built by the students. They were supported by Dr. Indrika Senaratna. Tim Getter, the DP Biology teacher and I with the support of colleagues Dawn McCusker and Taiga Shipley took our students deeper into the wilderness to conduct our learning activities at the Fishing Hut.

OSC's Class of 2016 taking a breakfast break at Kitulgala on the way up to Sri Pada.

OSC’s Class of 2016 taking a breakfast break at Kitulgala on the way up to Sri Pada.

Ground orchid () in grasslands in collage with montane forest canopy view.

Ground orchid (Satyrium nepalense) in grasslands in a collage with montane forest canopy view.

As we have done for the past several years, we were based at the Moray Estate Fishing Huts. These rustic cabins are rented out to people willing to put up with simple amenities in order to experience a uniquely beautiful location. The huts lie at the boundary between manicured tea estates and mid-elevation sub-montane tropical rainforest. The Environmental Systems and Societies (ES&S) class focused on four themes of study:

  • Theme 1: Land Use Variation (anthropocentric vs. natural ecosystems, plantation agriculture etc.)
  • Theme 2: Forest & Vegetation Types (lowland, montane tropical forests, cloud forests)
  • Theme 3: Vertical Zonation
  • Theme 4: Biodiversity in a ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’

Our principal study day was on Tuesday December 9th when the ES&S class ascended the peak and the biology class conducted a series of ecological studies around the fishing hut. The ES&S class went with light packs for the day. The idea was to observe and record changes in plant diversity as we traversed human and natural landscapes and gained altitude on the peak. The hike is physically demanding, but it is a beautiful, wooded trail that is hardly use by pilgrims. Large clouds gathered over us by midday and we navigated several rain showers on the final step section just below the peak. We arrived at the temple around 1:00. It was wet and so, after ringing the newly installed temple bells, we started back down the hill. Originally we had intended to stay on the summit but several students were not outfitted with sleeping bags and warm gear, which necessitated a return to the hut.

(Elattoneura tenax) in a stream emerging from a mixed plantation of eucalyptus and degraded montane forest.

Red Stiped Threadtail (Elattoneura tenax), an endemic damselfly, in a stream emerging from a mixed plantation of eucalyptus and degraded montane forest.

On the final morning the ES&S class left the hut early in order to study stream diversity and look for dragonflies in degraded forests. The biologists completed a biotic index study of two streams and by mid-morning all our groups were heading back to Colombo. There was heavy traffic that delayed our arrival back at school. In spite of itchy leech bites and sore legs it was a memorable learning experience of applied science in a unique part of our Sri Lankan host nation.

OSC's DP ES&S class and their teacher at the Adam's Peak Falls viewpoint.

OSC’s DP ES&S class and their teacher at the Adam’s Peak Falls viewpoint.

 

FURTHER READING & REFERENCES

Aksland, Markus. The Sacred Footprint: A Cultural History of Adam’s Peak. Bangkok: Orchid Press, 2001. Print.

Carpenter, Edward. From Adam’s Peak to Elephanta. London, 1910. Print.

Cowley, Les. “Mountain Shadow Effect.” Atmospheric Optics. 14 October 2006. Web.  also see Sri Pada shadow.

Dhammika, S. “Sri Pada: Buddhism’s Most Sacred Mountain.” Sacred Island: A Buddhist Pilgrim’s Guide to Sri Lanka. Web.

Iyer, Pico. “The Holy Mountain.” Time Asia. August 8-14, 2006. Print.

Living Heritage Network. Sri Pada. 10 October 2006. Web.

Lockwood, Ian. “2013 OSC Field Study to Sri Pada.” Ian Lockwood Blog. January 2014. Web.

Lockwood, Ian. Primal Peak.” Outlook Traveller. March 2007. Print & PDF.

Lockwood, Ian. “Sri Pada: A Naturalist’s Pilgrimage.” Serendib. Print & PDF.

Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.

Skeen, William. Adam’s Peak: Legendary Traditional and Historical Notices. Colombo: W.L.H Skeen & Co. 1870. Print.

Tennent, James Emerson. Ceylon: An Account of the Islands Physical, Historical and Topographical, 2nd Edition. London: Longman, 1859. Print.

Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.

Written by ianlockwood

2015-01-15 at 10:27 pm

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