Friday, 3 September 2010

Well I have to be fair in my observations, so biting the bullet; I’m impressed by the parental instincts of these disgusting parasites of the avian world, crows. I’ve said how intelligent they are, but now I’ve witnessed two being amazingly protective over a youngster who obviously can’t fly but has been displaced from the nest. As well as bringing it food regularly, they do a first class job of fending off any possible threat. Whether chickens, dogs or humans, they will dive bomb the offending perpetrator and maintain a dual attack to waylay them. I considered for a while going and wringing the sodding things neck, you know, one less crow and all that. But looking at the dedication of the parents and vulnerability of the offspring I felt ashamed. Who am I to deprive a couple of parents of their precious child? (Photo: Crested Woodpecker - Newlands guesthouse, Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

An impromptu afternoon off was taken too, when my laptop started going into slow motion. It felt really hot, so I turned it off and put it under a fan to cool it down. Deciding to bake myself on the beach for a few hours, I actually prefer to go in the hotter part of the day; it gives maximum tan in a shorter space of time. It means I can be vain enough to go home with a gorgeous tan, yet concentrate on my work for most the time. Let’s face it; I’m never going to be the sort to hide from the sun. And yes, I know the risks of melanoma; I also understand that the damage is more often done many years before. So if I’m gonna be doomed, I’m already doomed; I just hope I won’t look pasty white laying in my coffin, at least the bits that make it that far. (Photo: Kalkudah beach - East coast, Sri Lanka)

Whilst on the beach I spend so much of my time keeping an eye out for anyone coming my way. Don’t flaunt yourself before the locals! Anyway, the result of this is paying more attention to what is going on around you. It puts you in observation mode. I caught sight of a wasp like insect, busy digging out a tunnel, for quite some time too. As I got closer and closer it remained unperturbed, being too intent on the task at hand. I don’t think it was building a home for itself. It dug at the top edges of the high water mark, where the sand had enough moisture not to collapse into the tunnel. So it wasn’t stupid, I suspect it was building an egg-laying site, it surely couldn’t have used a tunnel to live if it was inundated with water everyday. Mind you, the speed at which it built, it wouldn’t be too inconvenient to build a new home each day. I watched it for a while as it tried a few patches of sand until it decided on the right spot. Also spotted a lone monkey too, sat on a tall tree stump. I thought it was a hawk or something from a distance, as I walked closer off it went, bounding across a coconut plantation. At one point it stopped halfway up a palm trunk, behind it, peering round to see if I was pursuing it. When it say me looking its way he just hid his head behind the trunk again, a bit like a young kid playing hide and seek, yes of course you’ve been seen, but if you hide again maybe, just maybe, you’ll get away with it. He, should I say it, didn’t wait too long to find out before bounding off again. I had no chance of getting my camera though, it was only 20 metres away. (Photo: Sand wasp - Kalkudah beach, Easst coast Sri Lanka)

I’ve been walking around the enclosures, the NGO redevelopment housing. The one actually around the village of Kalkudah is a shit-hole. The majority of houses have not even been finished, the lucky ones are only short of rendering on the brickwork, but many aren’t complete enough to live in. Palm frond huts stand within the compound, the family still residing in temporary shelters. Of the dozens there, only three have seen a lick of paint, giving an overall drab, humorless feel to the place. These few have put in a lot of work, creating bright, welcoming abodes. Despite all having an enclosure around their homes hardly any have bothered to plant any fruit or vegetables. Again there are one or two exceptions, guys who have a very productive garden growing. But the rest have made no effort to improve their situation, it has the feeling of a run down shanty town. Another observation is the number of homes standing empty, many of these are finished projects, shuttered up with never any sign of life. It gives rise to the rumours of some families having a number of homes built, by different NGO’s; having gone to one then the other, showing their deeds of destroyed homes. Without any coordination between the NGO’s some families ended up with a number of new homes while others got nothing. Not all the new developments are as run down, ones the other side of the village are much more presentable. All finished with render, mainly painted, a bright new enclave of homes. Without casting dispersions on the fisherfolk, it is mainly the local enclave of fishing families living in the worst development. None of the compounds have anything growing within them except the palm trees that were already there. I realise their tradition is to fish, but surely even the slowest thinking person can see how easy it would be to grow food, and how much it would improve their lives. (Photos: 1] Reptilian attitude - Newlands guesthouse; 2] NGO compound - Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

The Tamil attitude to animals is very harsh, at best they don’t give a damn about nature, at their worst they can be damned brutal. I always thought Hindus revered cows, yet how can that be if you inscribe identification marks into their hide with a knife. I even cringe at the thought of branding, I don’t care what anyone says, it bloody hurts. Burn yourself and see, cows have nerves too, they too feel pain, isn’t that why they bellow and struggle while being branded. So imagine what it must be like to be held down and have letters, or designs, carved into your hide. Bearing in mind that is supposedly a sacred animal you can imagine how much concern they show for other species. Simple really, none! A half starved puppy keeps coming into the guesthouse grounds, only to be beaten with a stick and chased out. I feel awful about it, coz of course I got to befriend it, which only encourages it to come in. A sticky situation, one I can do little about, but I don’t want to exacerbate the problem. Runi, the owner, has two dogs, who survive on the thrown out scraps. The chickens feast on what the dogs leave, the debris. Being a guesthouse/restaurant there are more scraps than on most properties, so it encourages other dogs to come into the compound. He won’t tolerate it, throwing stones and even beating them if he can get close enough. I don’t like the treatment he dishes out, but can understand he doesn’t want a whole host of scrounging hounds overwhelming his property. He’s a lovely guy, but he has no heart at all when it comes to animals, neither do the other local people I’ve observed. That is one difference I see in favour of the Singhalese, they hold more respect for animals, whereas the Tamils tend to hold more respect for their fellow man. (Photo: Wild beehive - Newlands guesthouse, Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

Today was a day for flying beasties to beware. Two different swarms had colonized trees within the guesthouse grounds, the first a type of bee, the second a large variety of hornet. Initially I was worried about the bees, thinking the family were destroying the whole hive to get the honey, I was pleased to realize they only took half the honeycomb. No harm was done to the bees or the rest of the hive, I guess credit must be due for the foresight in sustaining the colony. Not that the honey is used for anything but to instantly devour the honey, comb and all. The hornets faired a lot worse, they’re notorious for their lethal sting, claimed to be deadly if stung a number of times. Their hive was dispatched of completely, first sealing the exit with them all inside then torching the whole tree they’d nested in. The tree will survive, but the presence of the hornets won’t be tolerated. If disturbed by load noises they attack in a swarm, people have supposedly died from such an attack. How can I argue about that, I’d rather not risk getting stung by such vicious critters. (Photo: The burning bush {or hornet's demise} - Newlands guesthouse, Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

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