Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Sri Lanka Spurfowl- A Rare Encounter with an endemic forest dweller‏

Having a particular interest in endemic birds which are found only in Sri Lanka, I was particularly interested in photographing the elusive and rare Sri Lanka Spur Fowl. This shy bird has hardly been photographed  and when I heard of a sighting I was determined to find them. A member of the pheasant family this bird is endemic to the rainforests of Sri Lanka. A very secretive and shy bird it is known for its loud call but rarely seen as it slips through the dense undergrowth. The call is loud and consist of three syllabled whistles.

 was advised to reach the location before daylight and set up a hide. Remaining still and patient is key in order to catch a glimpse of this rare bird. Reaching the spot at around 5.30 am I set up behind some branches and bushes which I draped with a khaki bed sheet under which I set up my tripod and lens. The morning calls of the various birds is just astounding. From the loud orange  billed babblers and black bul buls in their mixed feeding flocks to the cacophonic calls of the Sri Lanka jungle fowl who first appeared in the open to feed on the worms and grubs.

After about an hour the bird arrived on cue, it was the male bird which had white streaks running across his body and a red patch on his face. Unfortunately the light was still too low in the dense forest for my lens to focus and hence I missed the photo opportunity. After walking around and pecking at the ground the bird disappeared back into the dark forest giving a very loud echoing call.  Determined not to give up, I stood fast and remained in the spot, and my patience paid off when the female appeared and shortly afterwards the male came out.

Despite the low light, the sun was high enough to capture some good images. Later I was told of a chick being sighted few times with the adult couple. Such a young bird as far as I know has never been photographed before, and this knowledge made me want to come back again to the location few weeks later.

Back in the same spot again two weeks from the first sighting, I set up again in my usual spot before dawn. The morning dew makes the surroundings moist and leeches are found everywhere. Hungry for blood these critters managed to make be bleed from the onset, but I remained determined in order to capture my quarry in film. As expected the birds arrived with the young chick in tow, but their stay was short lived as an aggressive Jungle fowl chased them away. Remaining patient throughout the day, I caught short glimpses of this shy and elusive family several times, enough to get some good photographs. The chick was a young male and was showing signs of plumage akin to his father.
I felt honored to have been witness to this rare sight and I hope that they remain undisturbed by the many visitors who frequent this pristine forest.
May the call of the spur fowl echo across the vales, streams and canopies of our rainforests for years to come.

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