Pokunuthenna Field Visit
It was yet another flutter to the wild outdoor for the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka.
Four days of Intermediate Zone wilderness journey started from 24th to 27th October 2015. The journey initiated from Faculty of Science, University of Colombo on 24th morning and continued via Awissawella road.
And we set off on our journey. A fellow comrade Mr. Chamitha De Alwis, tagged along with us at Samanala Wewa sanctuary, where we stopped at two sightings to find the strategic orchid at the exact location.
Not much of a butterfly activity at Samanala Wewa due to slight to moderate rain, milky cerulean (Jamides lacteata) was present there and our gang invented new ways to differentiate milky cerulean and metallic cerulean. The rain wasn't so bad, our troopers were optimistic, and had plenty of other animals to occupy themselves with such as beetles, moths, spiders etc.
We stopped by a temple at Thanjanthenna for lunch. That was our first location for the day. Behind the area we had lunch was a long stretch of a "Pathana" grassland. Even though our main target is to find butterflies, we seeked the whole "Pathana" for orchids. Nervilia sp. in general. It is a small terrestrial orchid that grows in the shades of tall grass. Not only Nervilia, but also there were some other flora species that we have not come across in our daily dose of greenery in the suburbs such as a Asparagus sp, which reminded that Christmas was not far and "kiripalu" a plant in the same family as Mangifera and not Ficus. As for the fauna, we found stick insects, spiders, a type of Aulapoma snail, avifauna such as Black Hooded Oriole, Scimitar babbler, Sri Lankan hanging Parrot, Large billed Crow, Grey Tit, Little swift, Barn swallow and of cause we found moths, moth caterpillars, and butterflies namely Small Grass Yellow (Eurema brigitta) and jezebel (Delias Eucharis), Hyperythra lutae moth; the temple premises was a site to behold as well, it was full of flora species and mineral rocks. The savanna expedition ended with a moderate rain that poured from time to time.
Hitting the road and again, windowing magnificent views of Mother Nature we came to an old dirt road named "Dahaiyagala sanctuary". On that road we faced many obstacles but our mighty old king cold helped us pass through them with ease. It was around 6.00 pm when arrive at the Pokunuthenna Eco Center, we were warmly welcomed by the owner of that place Ajith Sandanayake, well as for our lepidopterans, the first thing they saw were caterpillars! Yes caterpillars of the common Mime butterfly ( Papilio Clytia). And it was right in front of the lodging area. After the days summery was exchanged and many information was shared and many songs were sung with glee, the troop called it a day.
The first day was an outing to dahaiyagala sanctuary. Though the day started as Rainy, Foggy and Cloudy; the road was mesmerizing. The first things to come across were a flock of pea fowls (Pavo cristatus). What better way to start the day than with a bunch of "monara kurullo". The day was eventful with us splitting in to small groups, wandering, exploring so many wonderful creatures of fauna and flora as follows,
- Baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus), Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida), Wood Shrike (Tephrodornis pondicerianus), Grey Headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus), Yellow eyed Babbler (Chrysomma sinense), Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), Indian Swiftlet (Collocalia unicolor), Rose Ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri), Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura), Wooly Necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus), Indian Black Robbin (Saxicoloides fulicatus)
- Forget-me-not (Catochrysops strabo), Jezebel (Delias eucharis), Crimson Rose (Pachliopta hector), Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae), Common Bush Brown ( Mycalesis perseus), Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus), Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana), Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe), Zebra Blue (Leptotes plinius), Plain Tiger (Danus chrysippus), Chocolate Solider (Junonia iphita), Grizzled Skipper (Spialia galba), Tawny Coaster (Acraea violae),
- Arcttidae Moth Sp., Blister Beetle (Meloidae sp.), Pied Parasol (Neurothemis tullia), Paddy Field Parasol (Neurothemis intermedia), Ichneumon wasps (Ichneumonoidea), Owl Fly (Ascalaphidae), Indigo Dropwing (Trithemis festiva),
The troop retreated and was heading back to the eco center, while on the road stopped to have a cup of tea at a little shop where we found exotic rocks and tiny snails, and one of our members gave the child of the shop owner a lesion about butterflies. The evening was eventful as well with chitchats, a spree of termites with wings arousing from the ground, along with a "kiri vaula", a cat-snake, dinner, singing and a day's summery and a good night sleep.
The second day was a walk from morning till eve. We woke up and witnessed a couple of street fighter Indian Pittas fighting for territory. After breakfast and shooting a flock of forget-me-nots that were under the shade of a banana tree we set off by foot to the unknown territory. It was educative and enjoyable and we were up-close and personal with a variety of creatures of nature. The afternoon was welcomed by a drizzling rain and continued till around 5 pm. Then another short journey happened to the unknown territory where crocks and elephants claim war against humans. On the road the gang encountered a tail-less whip scorpion, which was on guard of the road ahead. Short sweet and safe the road except for a high voltage wire which is there as a protective measure. Even though we never got to witness any elephants or crocs, we got to see the bird life, a housing complex of a woodpecker, a family of Ashy Prinias, an Indian Cuckoo and some foggy-winged twister dragonflies in the lake.
The evening dusky grey sky dimmed its colour while silhouettes of damselflies float to nothingness emerging from the lake shores.
Every evening spent at Pokunuthenna, the BCSSL gang made a day summery, not only for butterflies, but also for every fauna and flora they came across.
The dawn came next day with a hint of sadness as the gang got ready to leave that hauntingly beautiful wilderness. The gratitude were offered, and farewells told as we departed Pokunuthenna, and headed back to the busy suburbs of Colombo.