Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Indian Flapshell Turtle

The Indian flapshell turtle is a soft-shell turtle found in South Asia, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The name flapshell comes from flaps of skin located on the plastron (lower shell) which cover the limbs when they retract into the shell. The nose is short and stout and the claws are large and heavy. 
Indian flapshell turtle in Bundala NP.
We saw adults in Bundala National Park basking on a rock in a slow moving stream. 
Close-up of head.
We saw a youngster in a mudhole in a road in Yala National Park, with what appeared to be a bum leg, and it will almost surely be crushed by a safari vehicle going through the mudhole. 
Indian flapshell turtle in Yala NP.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sri Lanka Black Turtle

The Indian black turtle (Melanochelys trijuga) is a freshwater turtle in Southern Asia. There are five subspecies, two of which are found in Sri Lanka, M. t. parkeri, found only in Sri Lanka, and M. t. thermalis, found in Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives and known as the Sri Lanka black turtle. 
Sri Lanka black turtle in the lake in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
In Udawalawe NP
In Bundala NP.
The carapace (upper shell) of the black turtle varies from reddish to dark brown and black with yellow streaks running along the length. The plastron (lower shell) is brown. The face can have orange or yellow spots or marks and colors vary between subspecies. 
A closer view of the black turtle in Kandy
This turtle, in Bundala NP, has orange marks on its head, which is consistent with the descriptions, but it looks more like a box turtle. I have my doubts as to whether it is a black turtle. 
These turtles, also found in the lake in Kandy, appear to be red-eared sliders, an invasive species from the U.S., instead of black turtles. They are found on the list of turtles in Sri Lanka

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Black-Crowned Night Heron

I've previously posted on a juvenile black-crowned night heron in Botswana that gave me fits trying to identify it. But up until our recent trip to Sri Lanka, I'd never seen an adult, even though they are found throughout most of the world. 
Black-crowned night heron in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
In our recent trip to Sri Lanka, in a walk around the lake in downtown Kandy, we found a tree full of nesting black-crowned night herons and also saw another juvenile with its characteristic orange eyes. 

The night heron, as it is commonly called in Eurasia, although Sanjay referred to them as black-crowned night herons, have a black crown and back (although they often look blue to me), red eyes, short yellow legs and feet, and the rest of the body is white or gray. 
An adult on a nest.

A couple near a nest.
They are stocky with short bills, necks and legs. Their resting posture is hunched, but when hunting they do extend their necks. 

A juvenile on the branch of the same tree.
There are four subspecies, and I was again seeing Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax, the nominate subspecies found in Europe, Asia and Africa. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Black-Headed Ibis

The black-headed ibis is also known as the black-necked ibis, Indian white ibis and Oriental white ibis. It is found in South and Southeast Asia, from India to Japan, but is most widespread and breeding in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. It has white plumage and a black head, neck, bill, legs and feet. The tail has light gray ornamental feathers. The head and neck are naked. We saw only a few black-headed ibis: from a long distance in Minneriya National Park and in a small lake in Yala National Park.
In Yala NP. 

In breeding season bare patches under the wings turn red, the head may get a bluish tinge, or a pink or bright red patch behind the neck, the tail may turn jet black and it may get a yellowish coloration on the breast and back. 
We were apparently there during breeding season as this ibis has a blue tinge on the neck and some yellow under the tail. 
The ibis on the left at Lake Minneriya NP, has the red under the wings and yellow tail and back. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Eurasian Spoonbill

The Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) is also known as the common spoonbill and has three subspecies. We saw the nominate subspecies (P. l. leucorodia) in Sri Lanka, both in Udawalawe National Park and Bundala National Park. 
Eurasian spoonbill in Udawalawe NP.

When breeding, which was what we saw, it is all white except dark legs, a black bill with a yellow or orange tip (I thought I was seeing mud), red eyes, a dark yellow collar at the neck base, an orange/yellow area around the base of the bill, a chin and throat that are bare and bright orange, and a buffy/yellow crest. 
Orange at the base of the bill.
Orange at end of bill, red eye and orange and red at neck base. 
Yellow crest and yellow collar at base of neck. 
In non-breeding season, the Eurasian spoonbill lacks the crest, the bill is duller and has a yellowish tip, the orange skin on the chin and throat is reduced, and the yellow collar is reduced and incomplete. 

Although some of the spoonbills I saw were in breeding plumage, I've seen photos of breeding birds that were substantially more spectacularly colored.  

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Saltwater Crocodile

Saltwater crocodiles are the real deal. They are the massive crocs of Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter. I've always wanted to see one, and now I have, in Bundala National Park in Sri Lanka. However, all crocs are not created equal and the ones we saw were not as massive or as impressive as the Nile crocodiles we saw in Masai Mara, that feast on wildebeest and zebra. 

The saltwater crocodile, also known as the sea crocodile, and saltie. are found from India's east coast and Sri Linka, along the shores of Southeast Asia and down through the islands of Indonesia to  the shores of Northern Australia where they have been burned into our consciousness. 

Males rarely grow longer than 20 feet and 2,400 pounds, but it is estimated that the largest males grow to 23 feet and 4,400 pounds. Females are half that, 10 feet. It has a wider snout than most crocodiles, but a longer snout than the mugger crocodile which is considered to have the widest snout. 
It has oval scales, smaller scutes and fewer armor plates on its neck than other crocodiles. Adults have broad bodies compared to other crocodiles that are relatively lean. Adults are greenish drab, often with some lighter tan or gray areas. 
There are color variations, some being fairly pale and others blackish. The tails are gray with dark bands. 
Weight increases exponentially at some point as they get larger. Adults 19 feet, 8 inches, weigh more than twice those that are 16 feet. Dominant males maintain the best territories with access to the most abundant prey. It is most closely related to the mugger crocodile, which we also saw in Sri Lanka, and the Siamese crocodile. 
They have the strongest bite of any animal, but most of the force is for biting down. It is much less strong for opening the jaw, so the jaws can be securely shut with several layers of duct tape. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Stripe-Necked Mongoose

The stripe-necked mongoose is found in western peninsular India and Sri Lanka and is the largest of the Asian mongooses. 
Stripe-necked mongoose in Yala NP.
Its most distinguishing characteristic is a black stripe that runs laterally down both sides of the neck and which gives it its name. It is a rusty brown to grizzled gray. Compared to other mongooses, its tail is relatively short and black, except for some gray at the base. There are two subspecies, Herpestes vitticollis vitticollis, which has more of a reddish tint to its fur, the one we saw, and H. v. inornatus, which lacks the reddish tint to its fur. 
They prefer forested areas near water sources. 
I'm finding that my camera had a hard time focusing on the mongooses of both species, perhaps because of the grizzled gray in low-light circumstances. I saw only one stripe-necked mongoose, it was early on the first day in Yala National Park while we were in earnest search for leopards. Sanjay had indicated we were not stopping for anything other than leopards the first two hours. Judy was not feeling well that morning and did not accompany us. Sanjay seemed excited to see this mongoose, and stopped despite his earlier declaration, noting it was the second species of mongoose we had seen on our trip. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Grandgirl Southern Utah Adventure - Day 3

Day 1 of our Southern Utah adventure is here and day 2 or our Southern Utah adventure is here

The morning of day 3, Monday, we went to the lobby of the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Kanab for breakfast. They had bacon and hot chocolate, among other things. Lots of people were eating breakfast, including a number of people right near us speaking Chinese. {Squirrel: "We just ate breakfast at the hotel."} [Bug: "We just ate breakfast and left the hotel."]

Prior research revealed that a good place to see bighorn sheep was the vicinity of the east entrance to Zion's National Park. One on-line post suggested stopping at pullouts and slowly looking around on the canyon walls for bighorn sheep. Another suggested taking the one mile round trip Canyon Overlook Trail as a good place to find them. {Squirrel: "Now we are going to Zions bank, I mean Zions park. After that, we will head home. I am soo sad!"} [Bug: "No we are off to Zions park."]

It was about 34 miles from Kanab to the east entrance to Zion's. We got off by about 8:00 p.m. Not too far in to Zions we saw a couple walking near the side of the road on our right side and looking up.I looked back and saw a bighorn sheep. I pulled into the nearest pullout, grabbed my camera, and went back and got some photos. The girls lost interest after awhile and went back to the vehicle. {Squirrel: "We are almost in, and we saw 3 dear and 10 horses! 12 more Horsas! Now we saw signs of big horn sheep! Yay! We Just saw 5 big horn Sheep!"} [Bug: "we saw a ton of big horn sheep."]
We know they must be around - look at the sign.
Yes, they are!
After a bunch of photos I got back to the vehicle and we went a little more distance until cars starting lining up along the road and I figured it must be the Canyon Overlook Trail, a very popular hike. We pulled over and prepared ourselves for the hike. It is a great trail with metal railings on precarious parts (with large drop-offs), in one place a wooden platform underneath an overhang which would otherwise be just air, a small ledge along a weeping seep, and a fabulous vista at the end into the main canyon, with a very steep drop-off. 

Squirrel came back to me quite bent out of shape because a man told her she was getting too close to the edge. People and ledges are interesting things. I climbed Mt. Whitney with a guy that was afraid of heights and literally crawled on his hands and knees along a window with a drop-off on both sides, but a width of probably 15 feet to walk on. Having been with scouts and other young people, I generally try to restrain my impulses to pull them back, as long as they are being careful and thoughtful (of course if they are horsing around, that is a different matter - but I haven't seen horsing around as a problem near steep cliffs). {Squirrel: "[T]his weird guy told me to not sit next to the edge of the clif. He is just a explorer, and he can't tell me what to say. I wish I were to say: 'you can't tell me what to do.' But, I didn't."}
We asked a man to take a picture of the three of us together, then started back. The girls were up ahead doing a great job. No overt fear of heights which I think is a good thing, as long as there is respect for the situation. {Squirrel: "We just went on a hike, and I loved it!"} [Bug: "we went on this super awesome hike."]
From the Canyon Overlook Trail the road goes through a long tunnel down into Zion's Canyon. I decided to turn back the way we'd come and go back a less crowded route. On our way back we found the spot where the bighorn sheep had been spotted. No one was looking and the bighorn sheep weren't obviously there. But I got out and walked up the hill a ways and found them. They were kind of bedded down behind bushes. I inched closer and got quite close, perhaps 15 or 20 yards from a couple of sheep, then I just stood and watched. After a while, more sheep began to appear and basically ignored me. I watched them about 30 minutes and got fantastic views of some ewes and their young ones. The girls spent most of that time in the car doing other things, but did catch glimpses. I guess it takes age (and interest) to appreciate how rare that kind of a sighting is. {Squirrel: "There is a ton of baby Sheep up on the mountain! They are sooo cute! On the hike, we saw very cool bighorn sheep..."}

We stopped further along to take a horse ride, but the timing wasn't right. We got to the east end of Hwy 9 and turned left (north) onto Hwy 89 at Mt. Carmel Junction. Before long we got to Orderville. We'd talked about Orderville as a place where the Mormons practiced the law of consecration (the United Order) and held everything in common. It didn't work very well and before long they abandoned the practice. We passed the rock places we'd stopped at on the way down and then turned off to visit the cemetery in Orderville, something we did with our kids when they were very young. We read some headstones and found many colorful yellow ones that were mostly for infants only a year or two old when they died. Some of the headstones were quite decorative, with angels.

Then we stopped at the German bakery that had not been open on our way down, Forscher. We got some pastries and a sandwich. It was okay, not great. {Squirrel: "I just went to the Forscher bakery! it was so fun! I had a Buter chocolate Crasant!"} [Bug: "Then we went to a german bakery. I got a really gross cheese cak."]

We continued north past the junction with Hwy 12 which we'd taken from Bryce, and continued on through Panguitch, Circleville, Junction, Marysvale, and Joseph. [Bug: "then we went for a while on the rode and we went through towns and got to a gasstation papa got gas and I went in side the gas station. I was trying to find some food. they didn't have any sandwiches wich are my favorit. so, I got a bag of Ruffles chips, and a slim Jim."]

We spent part of the long drive talking about our Cannon ancestors. We learned that their fourth great grandfather, Captain George Cannon, was the captain of a ship that picked up slaves in Africa and sold the slaves in the Caribbean. Not something we approve of or are proud of, but the world was much different then. His daughter, Leonora, moved to Canada and met and married a young Methodist minister named John Taylor. They were converted to Mormonism and moved to the U.S. where John met Joseph Smith and became an apostle. When Joseph sent the apostles to England on a mission, Leonora sent a letter with John to her brother, George Cannon, who by that time lived in Liverpool. John stayed with the Cannons in Liverpool while he did missionary work and George's family also converted to Mormonism. Then they decided to emigrate to Nauvoo. George Cannon's wife, Ann, died at sea and was buried at sea just before arriving in New Orleans. Then George and his children, including his son, George Q. Cannon, took a steamship up the Mississippi River to Nauvoo where they were met by John and Leonora Taylor and Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was assassinated at Carthage Jail and John Taylor was with him at the time. In fact, a watch he had in his breast pocked prevented a bullet from killing him. George Cannon built the drag to carry Joseph's and Hyrum Smith's bodies back to Nauvoo and George also made the death masks for Joseph and Hyrum that are used today to really understand what Joseph and Hyrum looked like. George Q. went to live with his uncle, John Taylor, and crossed the plains to Utah with John Taylor's family in a wagon. John Taylor taught George Q. how to write and set type and he eventually started his own publishing company and published the Deseret News. George Q. became a counselor to Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow and died just before Lorenzo Snow did, otherwise he would have been president of the church (Squirrel knows all of the church presidents). We went into quite a bit more detail, but this is the flavor of it. The girls wanted to know if George Q. had a George, and he did, and I'm sure that George has had generations of George after that. {Squirrel: "So, Papa is talking in the car about captain Cannon. He had a son named George, and George had a son named George, and George number 2 had a son named George, and George number 3 probably had a son named George. Wow!"} [Bug: "papa talked alot about ancesters...papa talked about camptain cannon it was so cool. Captain cannon captured slaves and sold them."]

We eventually got on the I-70 for a ways before getting off near Salina where we returned to Mom's Cafe for dinner. I was really impressed with Mom's Cafe the first time around and thought it merited another visit. The girls got cheese burgers and I got fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and a small buffet dinner salad. We shared a slice of coconut cream pie which was quite thick. {Squirrel: "We are going to Salina to eat at moms cafe! We loved it so much, that we decided to go there again! So, it was really good! I got a burger, and fries! So yummy!"} [Bug: "then we went on the road again. We were going to salina to get dinner. and can you guess were pap and I wanted to eat, Mom's Cafe!!! we finished eating it was so good...I ate a cheeseburger and fries, that was a good meal."]
There it is - Mom's Cafe - again!

We retraced the route we'd taken on the way down, up Hwy 50 to Scipio to stop at the petting zoo. It wasn't open. Again. {Squirrel: "Now, we are headed to the petting zoo. We are going to see lots of animals there! Well, turns out, they are still closed. Yay. Well, we are going home!"} [Bug: "then we went to Scipio we went to the petting zoo again but it was closed again now were on our way home."]

So we got in the adventure-mobile and drove to the girls' home in Utah Valley, following the I-15. {Squirrel: "We will be there in 30 minutes! I am so sad our Journey had to end! I learnd that next to mount Nebo is Nephi! On the trail, a long time ago, it was really pretty!...We see 350 cows on the side of the road! They are so cute! I see mount timpanogas! I see beauty! I see resturants! I see...home. noooo! Now I have to end the journal. This trip was awesome! Bye!"} [Bug: "there was about 400 cows we saw, on the way home."]

These three days were a blast. I loved being with the girls. They were great company, were interested in many, diverse things, and I got to share with them some of the things I love: the outdoors, animals, hiking, travel, family history and history.

I remember back to my own limited time with my own grandparents and how little I remember about them. I realize the girls will be quite young when I finally leave the earth. I'm hoping there are some memories of this trip that will stay with them and these blog posts are part of that determination that they will!