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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kitulgala - The Bridge on the River Kwai Connection

Do you remember ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, the famous World War II movie. Well, most of this movie, which was apparently pictured in Burma and Thailand was actually shot at Kitulgala in Sri Lanka. It was this 1957 British film that brought Kitulgula to the fore on the world map.

Kelani Ganga River View at Kithulgala 
But, it is not just the movie that makes this place special. Kitulgala is blessed with immensely pretty nature that consists of dense green tropical forests, wavy hills, a fast mountain stream and oodles of beauty.

Bridge on the River Kwai Story - 1 
It was here over this very mountain stream, the Kelani Ganga, that the bridge in the movie was constructed. Today, you do not see the bridge as it was dismantled after the explosion that was a part of the movie. The only explosion that you can feel here is the explosion in your adrenalin levels when you raft down its ferocious waters. It is said to have Class 3 and Class 4 rapids during the monsoon season. During the dry season, it is a relatively calm river, but still offers Class 1 rapids.

This was here the movie 'Bridge on the River Kwai' was shot 
By the side of this river is the colonial bungalow that calls itself the ‘Kitulgala Resthouse’. This place in itself is a great getaway. Since it is located by the side of the Kelani Ganga river, it offers splendid views of the river and the surrounding forest.

Bridge on the River Kwai Story - 2 
This rest house offers a great holiday experience for those staying in Colombo and nearby. Since it is just about 3 hours away, it is immensely popular with the locals. Its architecture, its rich association with the British film and its surroundings account for an interesting experience.

Lovely setting by the Kithulgala Rest House 
Even their kitchen is a treat for the palate. Their local delicacies and savouries are a definite for the taste buds. The place is a tad expensive, but the locale and the overall experience makes up for the slight pressure on the wallet.

Bridge on the River Kwai Story - 3 
During my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I just got to spend about 3 hours here which included an hour spent on the river. Hope to spend more quality time during my next trips to Sri Lanka. For anyone visiting the central highlands of Sri Lanka, do not give this place a miss. It will be totally worth even for a short pit stop.

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Green Lizard at Mini World’s End

I was standing at Mini World’s end, a very picturesque natural drop at Horton Plains in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The sheer beauty of this location was empowering, but the cynosure of all eyes was this green lizard that was basking in the sun at the cliff’s edge.

Green Chameleon at Mini World's End, Horton Plains 
The lizard was very well camouflaged in the bushes, but that wasn’t enough to escape from the prying eyes of my friend who spotted it and showed it the entire group. Soon, I began changing from my wide angle lens to my telephoto to capture this beautiful creature in great lighting.

Green Chameleon in monochrome 
This lizard posed for a good 10 minutes before deciding to take care of some other business. I would certainly say that this green lizard was the highlight of my visit to Mini World’s End.

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Baker’s Falls - Horton Plains, Sri Lanka

Horton Plains National Park is one of the most beautiful spots in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. It offers a diverse landscape in a short zone when compared to the tropical forests and dense vegetation around. In my mind, it looks very similar to the landscape of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, India. The barren landscape is interspersed with fast streams, mighty waterfalls and brilliant drops.

Silky Smooth Baker's Falls at Horton Plains 
It is here in this national park that one can see the pristine Baker’s waterfall that is set amidst dense green forests. The climb and descent to the waterfall is steep and tough and can get slippery in rain, but the waterfall views are totally worth the exercise.

The beautiful Baker's Falls 
There are lovely view points created for the tourist from where the tourist can gaze at the waterfall for hours. These view points are also great spots for photography. But the best view point is the one that is closest to the waterfall. I am sure that this spot would offer a brilliant shower during the rainy season.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Land Monitor Lizard from Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

The land monitor lizard is a fairly large sized reptile that is found quite commonly at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka. This reptile, though very slow owing to its large bulk is pretty strong and is known to even kill an adult deer for its meals.

Land Monitor Lizard bathed in golden rays of the sun 
I was lucky to spot many of them during my wildlife safari trips into Yala National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is situated near the South Eastern coastline of Sri Lanka. They are locally known as ‘thalagoya’ (thanks to Heminda for the local name). Some of them that I saw here were significantly huge and much larger than the ones I have seen in India.

Land Monitor Lizard at Yala National Park 
I was also lucky to spot these reptiles in great light. For e.g., I saw one of them clinging onto a tree in the golden hues of the early morning light. I saw a couple of them crossing the road and some of them amongst the bushes.

Land Monitor lizard hanging on the tree trunk

It is said that the land monitor lizard, like the crocodile has extremely powerful digestive juices and can digest nearly anything. But, if you intend to get close to these creatures, do watch out for their poisonous saliva, which if ingested by your body can cause serious damage. And for their long tail, which can deal a solid blow.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rawana Ella, Sri Lanka

This scenic waterfalls holds a special place in the Hindu mythology. It is believed that Ravana (from the Hindu epic Ramayana) hid Sita, the wife of Rama in one of the caves behind the waterfall. This event took place after he kidnapped Sita from India and brought her to Lanka. This cave is known as the Rawana Ella cave and the entire area comes under the purview of the Rawana Ella Wildlife Sanctuary.

The mighty Rawana Ella Falls that hold an important place in Hindu Mythology

But, this is not the only special thing about this place. This multi-tiered cascading waterfall is one of Sri Lanka’s widest waterfall and is quite a sight to behold especially with its sheer height and surrounding structure.

Rawana Ella Falls

This waterfall is located about 11 kilometres from Bandarawela and is enroute to Yala National Park from Nuwara Eliya if you take the Ella route. The Rawana Ella lies 4,470 feet above sea level on the foundation of a cliff.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Upcoming Travel: Long Weekend at Kabini National Park

I have waiting for this long weekend for a very long while. In fact, my bookings were done more than a couple of months back. It has been a good 5 years since I visited Kabini National Park and I am so excited that I can hardly express it in words. Four of us leave tomorrow at sunrise and head towards Kabini River Lodge, a Jungle Lodges and Resorts property. The plan is to enjoy the Jungle Lodges environment till Sunday afternoon and go on 4 jungle safaris in the interim. I hope the recent rains aren’t a spoilsport and help me spot the beautiful and elusive cats.

This relaxed holiday would not only help me revive some good ‘ol Kabini memories, but would also give me the luxury of processing my Sri Lanka and Thanjavur pictures, which have been pending for a while now. And I am also running behind in terms of blog updation as I have been unwell for the last week or so. I hope that I can write at will from the green and pristine surroundings of Kabini. Overall, I intend to have a great time.

Kabini, here I come….

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Guest Post: Discover the Natural Beauty of Hidden India through its Magnificent Forest Trails

Forest trails in India can offer a simple walk through breath taking wildlife reserves in the forest regions of the country, or real exploration adventures, trekking through natural and pristine environments.

There is no better way to unveil the beauty of the flora and fauna that is hidden within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. You can make the most of these treks through the forest trails by choosing to be accompanied by a naturalist guide who can help you spot the various species of wildlife and appreciate their natural habitat and diversity as well as recognizing each individual species.

Although forest trails are the ideal way to explore and discover the natural treasures within the Indian forests and parks, there are certain precautions all trekkers must keep in mind when venturing along the trails. First of all you should be well equipped with a good pair of trekking shoes and thick socks. Next, always take a wind jacket or waterproof with you as well as a thick waterproof jumper, gloves and cap, for the weather in these forest regions can be very unpredictable. If you are trekking for several days always take a ground sheet and a sleeping bag with you.

When you pack your backpack make sure you include plenty of water, enough canned food and glucose food such as chocolate or dried fruits to provide enough energy for the trek as well as any other equipment you may need for longer treks and overnight camping. When you venture along the forest trails be it for one day or several days you should always be fully equipped in order to make this experience as enjoyable as possible.

Amongst the main regions for the best forest trails in India you will find the Gir National Park in Gujarat, the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal, the Periyar National Park in Kerala, the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam, the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, the B.R. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka, the Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur, the Namdhapha National Park, the Velvadhar National Park in Gujarat amongst many others.

These numerous Indian forests and wildlife sanctuaries stretch for thousands of square kilometres throughout the many regions in India and offer an extensive array of wildlife and amazing natural habitats. Each park and nature reserve boasts a specific type and variety of species typical to that region as well as protected wildlife such as tigers in India’s Project Tiger Reserves.

One of the best areas to spot the rare and endangered species is in Gujarat within the Gir Forests, home of the Asian lions. In the North Eastern state of Assam and the national parks of Kaziranga and Manas you may be lucky enough to spot the one horned rhinos, which now counts amongst one of the endangered species of our planet.

The region of Uttaranchal features an ideal climate and an area of varied landscape offering the perfect site for nature walks and hikes. The region boasts high alpine fields and snow covered areas of thick tropical rainforests in the Terai region, as well as sprawling deciduous forests in the Himalayan region. Within these diversified environments many different and unique forms of wildlife can be seen offering a rich natural habitat to plants and animals of all kinds.

Situated in the south within the state of Kerala is the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is estimated as one of the best in India if you wish to observe the elephant communities and take advantage of the spectacular photographic conditions. Other animals inhabit the sanctuary, including Tigers, Spotted Deer, Bison, Gaur and many others. The National Parks of Keibul Lamjao in Manipur, the Dachigam and the Velavadar in Gujarat also harbour endangered species such as the Thamin Deer, the Kashmir Stag and the Blackbuck.

The Arunachal forests feature a rare natural environment boasting the only surviving rain forests in India that cover more than sixty percent of the state’s natural forested area. For trekking and rainforest trails you should head for the Namdapha National Park where you can venture through the rare beauty of these rainforests offering a panoply of wildlife specimens that are unique to this environment.

India is a haven for those who have a passion for trekking in natural and preserved environments offering forest trails and rare wildlife unlike any other in the world.

Author Bio:
Alina is a travel author who has written many articles that keeps on guiding the travellers throughout the world. Angelina herself is an avid traveller who has travelled more than 22 countries. She also talks about travel options like Cheap tickets istanbul that explains how tourists can minimize the cost of their travel fares.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Upcoming Travel: Great Living Chola Temples

Tonight, I am headed towards the Great Living Chola Temples, one of India’s more famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Great Living Chola Temples are located in and around the town of Thanjavur (Tanjore) in Tamil Nadu. The idea is to spend a near full two days exploring these temples and also may be soak in the scenes by the banks of the river Cauvery.

These Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola empire, which stretched over all of South India and the neighbouring islands. The site includes three great 11th and 12th century temples: the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Gangaikonda Cholisvaram Temple and the Airavateswara Temple at Darasuram. These Great Chola Temples of Southern India are an exceptional testimony to the development of the architecture and ideology of the Chola Empire and the Tamil Nadu civilization in Southern India. They represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type of temple (characterized by a pyramid tower).

Giving me company on this trip are 3 more friends from office. We are leaving tonight in a Toyota Innova Car, staying at Hotel Gnanam in the heart of Thanjavur, exploring the 3 temples as much as possible and then returning to Bangalore by Sunday night making it a fully packed weekend trip. The last time I was at Thanjavur, I was a kid. I am so looking forward to this trip and promise hordes of photographs and loads of experience once I am back.

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Icicle Magic

Icicles are brilliant weapons. They are strong and sharp to pierce through human flesh and do not leave back any fingerprints as they melts into water. Or at least this is what the suspense movies portray.

Icicles

It had been a while since I saw Icicles out in the open nature. I got lucky when I spotted them enroute to Bumla Pass in Arunachal Pradesh, North East India. The dropping temperatures and the biting cold winds had ensured that the melting water turned into sharp icicles.

Icicle Sword Fight

These icicles seemed to weave a nice and interesting blanket around the snow covered and some non-snow covered brown rocks. It’s colourless formation also seemed to form a nice contrast against the white surroundings and the clear blue sky.

Icicles enroute to Bumla Pass

The Icicles were so inviting that me and my friends got down from the warmth of the car and decided to play a war game. Each of us got us a nice solid icicle and indulged in a near true sword fight.

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Thukje Chueling Ani Gompa, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

I have been to a lot of Buddhist monasteries during my travels, but I had never seen a monastery that was run by nuns, which is very similar to the Christian society. I saw such a place, in fact many such monasteries during my backpacking trip to the north western stretches of Arunachal Pradesh.

Inside the Ani Gompa along with the young Ani (nun) 
Such monasteries are called Ani Gompas, which literally translates into ‘Nunnery’. No male monk can be seen near these Ani Gompas and all you can see are sparkle eyed and clean-shaven nuns who are busy managing the day-to-day operations of the Ani Gompa.

Thukje Chueling Ani Gompa

In this case, I was at the Thukje Chueling Ani Gompa that is situated on top of a hill that faces the Tawang valley. This place is about 10 kilometres from the city of Tawang. Though this Ani Gompa was small in size, it made up for that in its vibrant colours and different surroundings.

Sreedhar admires the statues inside the Ani Gompa

In fact, the place was so interesting that we ended up spending more time at these Ani Gompas than the true Buddhist Gompas. These Ani Gompas are a must see in your Tawang holiday plan. If you are interested in such kind of holidays, do look up all inclusive package holidays from TravelSoon that offer this and much more. I definitely recommend this kind of cultural experience of Tawang. They are truly special and very different.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Self Catering Holiday Cottages–Cost-Effective yet Ideal way to enjoy your holidays!

Whether you are a couple or a family or a large group of family and friends, self catering holiday cottages are meant for all of you. These holiday cottages set in picturesque locations give the traveller a home away from home feeling. And the best part is that they offer all these at a lower cost than the hotels.

To cite an example, I stayed at two such self catering holiday cottages along with my large group of friends during my recent trip to Sri Lanka. One of them was set amidst the central highlands of Sri Lanka and was surrounded by tea estates, while the other cottage was facing a beautiful lake that was set close to the Southern coastline of Sri Lanka. In terms of facilities, they were on par with hotels. In fact, they offered more space in terms of a kitchen, dining hall, lounge and so many other things like a large garden, multiple hiking trails, etc. We absolutely loved the self catering concept as it allowed us to explore our culinary skills, save money that would have been otherwise spent at a restaurant and call our own shots in terms of food. Though, both these cottages came with a in-house cook and caretaker, we hardly used their services as our group had its fair share of cooks.

I know that this is a personal choice, but sometimes, such self catering cottages, allow the tourist to save so much money that would have been spent otherwise on hotels and restaurants. It is not that we have to save this money, but we can definitely spend it elsewhere on things and places that appeal to us. Additionally, these cottages act as an extension of your home, but set in pretty locales. And, in most cases, such cottages allow the group to stay together and thus make optimum use of the holiday time.

I believe such self catering holiday cottages are popular even in the United Kingdom. For those interested in the Lake District National Park, Keswick cottages and Ambleside cottages are great options. These old market towns offer great character and culture apart from great greenery and vistas. The annual beer and film festivals are also a huge rage here. And for those interested in Wales, these Welsh cottages offer great variety. The traveller can choose cottages from the beautiful Isle of Anglesey to the mighty peaks of Snowdonia and to the Pembrokeshire National Park and the Gower Peninsula.

Note: Please use your own discretion before booking any of these cottages. The author is not responsible for your decision.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Visions of Corn from Dirang

It was a bright and nippy winter day and I was at the tiny hill station of Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. The place was very scenic and beautiful, but the vision that remains etched in my mind is that of the corn stacks that could be seen nearly everywhere in this pretty hill station and around.

Corn House

Whether I was inside the Dirang Basti or was exploring the tribal villages in Sangti valley, these corn stacks greeted me everywhere. Their bright orange colour stood out beautifully in the Himalayan sun.

Corn in the Himalayan Sun

It looked like most of these corn stacks were kept out to dry. I am assuming that this corn would help the locals bide the bitter cold winter and hence they were drying them out and making them ready for storage.

Corn - left to dry

But, then, this is just an intelligent assumption of mine. Would you know the true reason?

Corn

In any case, here are some more of these interesting corn pictures.

Corn Store

Corn Storage for bad times

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Western Hoolock Gibbon in Pictures!

This was the first time I saw an ape (no homo sapiens please) in real. And it was also the only Ape of the Indian Subcontinent. It was the Western Hoolock Gibbon, a small sized ape species, but extremely fast.

Hoolock Gibbon bathed in the golden rays of the sun

And I saw these magnificent creatures at the Hoolongopar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary near Jorhat in Assam, North East India. It took me a good three hours of trekking in the morning to see them.

http://photos.beontheroad.com/p755239748/e3b118d6e

The morning trek inside the forests was uneventful till we heard loud laughter and some kind of singing coming from ahead of us. My guide told me that was the gibbons singing. Apparently, the Hoolock Gibbons sing when they are happy.

Hanging Hoolock Gibbon

Soon, the sound of the Gibbon song led us to the Hoolock Gibbons. The Hoolock Gibbon stay in families and are rooted to the upper most branches of the tallest trees. Unlike the other primates of India, they do not have a tail, but are blessed with highly flexible and lightning fast limbs.

Female Hoolock Gibbon with Baby

These Gibbons love to hang by their limbs on these trees. These hanging positions actually looked quite graceful to me. And they love to jump across the branches in extremely quick movements.

Hoolock Gibbon

These gibbons are diurnal and arboreal. My guide told me that these Hoolock Gibbons fed primarily on fruits, leaves and insects. During my sightings, I saw a couple of families. One of the families had 2 young ones and a juvenile. The juvenile seemed to be jumping from branch to branch and was posing for us.

Hoolock Gibbon

The male Hoolock Gibbon has black fur and white eye brows while the female gibbon has brownish-grey fur that darkens near its chest.

Hoolock Gibbon

My best moment during the Hoolock Gibbon sighting was when I saw a fight between 2 males. Apparently, one male had wandered into the territory of another Hoolock Gibbon family.  The head male of this Gibbon family then proceeded to chase this outsider and thus began the super quick flying on across trees.

Hoolock Gibbon

All I could see was black bodies whizzing from branch to branch. The lightning quick Gibbon movements are a sight to be treasured. Finally, the outsider was chased away.

Hoolock Gibbon

The other interesting moment came when I saw a young Hoolock Gibbon suckling on its mother. Both mother and child were staring at us from above. After a long photo shoot, we left them alone to enjoy the antics of the other Gibbon families.

Hoolock Gibbon in flight - A blurry monochrome

In total, I saw about 4 Hoolock Gibbon families and about 14-15 gibbons during that day in the Hoolongopar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary. That visit was total paisa vasool (value for money).

Hoolock Gibbon

Here are some more pictures of the Hoolock Gibbon in various positions and performing different stunts.

Hoolock Gibbon

Hoolock Gibbon







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Hill Myna from Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

When I was visiting the Hoolongopar Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, the only thing in my mind was the Hoolock Gibbon and the other rare species of primates. Even though I am a very passionate birder, birds were not on top of my head here as I was about to see the only Ape of India.

Hill Myna

But, I guess you can never take the love for birds from a true birder. While I was walking through the forests, I spotted this hill myna sitting on the top branch of a tree. It looked nice and beautiful and colourful against the clear blue sky.

Hill Myna

And then I got so engrossed in it that I started taking multiple pictures of it. This Hill Myna was also helpful to the cause and stood there posing for a long while.

Hill Myna

Here are some more pictures of the Hill Myna from the Gibbon Sanctuary of Assam in North East India.

Hill Myna

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Birds of Kaziranga National Park, Assam, North East India

My last post on Kaziranga was about its rich wildlife. But, it was not just a rich wildlife experience for me, but also a super rich birding experience. One can see all kind of birds at Kaziranga…the classic raptors, the scavengers, the migratory birds, waterfowl, terrestrial and others.

Crested Serpent Eagle

The diverse habitat at Kaziranga ensures that one can see a variety of birds in a short time. From the grasslands to the tropical forests and from the swampy marshland to the large lakes, Kaziranga has that special oomph factor that attracts a lot of avifauna species.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

I was here at Kaziranga for 7 days and each day I came up with a rich birding haul. In fact, my experience was fantastic during each safari.

Common Stonechat

Every forest range of Kaziranga offers different insight to the avian world of Kaziranga. The Eastern range is great for raptors, fishing birds and waterfowl. The central range is ideal for grass land birds and migratory birds. The Western range is more like a healthy combination.

Grey Headed Fishing Eagle

The most special bird species of Kaziranga is undoubtedly the Bengal Florican. I was lucky to see a couple of them on my final day at Kaziranga. They are quite an interesting sight. It is said that during the mating season, the male jumps up at least 20 feet in the air to win over the female.

Indian Roller

This was also the time I saw the most number of raptor species in one national park. I got to see the Grey headed fishing eagle, Changeable hawk eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Spotted Owlet, Pallas Fishing Eagle, Black Shouldered Kite, Long Billed Vultures and the Crested Serpent Eagle.

Alexandrine Parakeets

This visit to Kaziranga also treated me to the unbelievable sight of a large group of Alexandrine Parakeets feeding ferociously on the fruits of the BER tree. Seeing so many alexandrine parakeets go crack crack crack at the BER fruit is a sight that will remain etched in my memory forever.

Open Billed Stork

Every birding session was special and at the end of my seventh day and 15th safari, I had a very rich birding haul. The list includes: Greater Adjutant Stork, Lesser Adjutant Stork, White Breasted Waterhen, Long tailed Shrike, Darter, Open Billed Stork, Indian Roller, Common Stonechat, Black Drongo, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Bengal Florican, Crested Serpent Eagle, Little Cormorant, Purple Heron, Alexandrine Parakeet, Oriental Turtle Dove, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Black necked Stork, Spotted Owlet, Ruddy Shelduck, Black Headed Ibis, Spot Billed Ducks, Greenshank, Grey Headed Fishing Eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Bar Headed Geese, Lesser Whistling Duck, Bronzed Winged Jacana, Greater Cormorant, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Large Egret, Grey Heron, Red Vented Bulbul, Common Teal, Northern Lapwing, Grey Headed Lapwing, Black necked Crane, Stout Bill Kingfisher, White Breasted Kingfisher, Swamp Francolin, Red Junglefowl, Pied Starling, Jungle Myna, Common Mallard, Long Billed Vultures, Greater Coucal, Black Shouldered Kite, Pallas’s Fishing Eagle, Indian Pond Heron and Oriental White Ibis.

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