BIRDWATCHING: The "Red vented Bulbul"
Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) is about 20cm in length, with a long tail. It has brown or black upperparts, with a white rump. The breast is brown or black, and the rest of the underparts are white apart from the red around the vent. The head and small crest are black.
The bird is a member of the bulbul family of passerine birds. It is resident breeder in tropical southern Asia from India and Sri Lanka east to Burma and southwestern China, and has also been introduced to Fiji,Hawaii and the United Arab Emirates.
Red-vented Bulbuls feed on fruit, nectar and insects but have become a danger to fruit- and orchid-plantations, especially in Hawaii but to my knowledge not in Sri Lanka.
Sea Turtles Project
The Sea Turtles Project in South Bentota is one of many sea turtle hatcheries along the coast, but it’s probably the best advertised. All of them do approximately the same thing: buy turtle eggs from the locals, bury them in protected plots until they hatch, and then release the 1- to 3-day-old turtles into the sea. This one also keeps several older turtles (1 to 5 years) for study, as well as a turtle that had one of its front flippers cut off by a fishing net, and a friendly albino turtle that will swim right up for a pat on the head and a closeup.
Most of the turtles they hatch are green turtles, although they do get loggerheads, hawksbills, olive ridley, and (rarely) leatherbacks.
The grounds and facilities were pretty much destroyed by the 2004 tsunami, and have been rebuilt over the past couple of years as funds permit. There were about 15 holding tanks when we visited, ranging in size, but all plain cement and shaded by rudimentary roofs. The tank for hatchlings has a moveable screen for protection from crows and other predators.
They move the screen for visitors, and let you play with the hatchlings – insofar as turtle hatchlings can be said to play. (They mostly just flop around.)
There’s a sandy fenced-in plot for the eggs. The numbers on sticks in the photo are for cataloguing the clutches.
Like most of the turtle conservation projects in Sri Lanka, the Sea Turtles Project relies completely on donations and entrance fees (Rs200) for funding, and is staffed by volunteers. They need visitors to keep the hatchery going.
Read about the Sea Turtles Project. Donations are welcome, and information about how to donate can be found on the “Tsunami Damage” page – write to them first, though.