Archive for March, 2010

When you hear about Bandhavgarh national park, the first thing that comes to your mind is tiger. But imagine tigers get extinct – a possibility in the near future, and a scare that i got on my trip to Bandhavgarh.

Bandhavgarh means Brother’s fort – a fort gifted by Rama to his devoted bro Lakshmana on their way back from Lanka. Many kings have ruled this beautiful patch of land since.

What’s Bandhavgarh like without tigers? I’d say it’s like a palace without king. You have fantastic meadows that were once villages, abundance of Sal trees, Chitals grazing, Langurs howling,  and Charan Ganga flowing amidst the bushes. But no tiger to roar (rather photograph). I did fret, but I enjoyed too.

I enjoyed 38 hours train journey from Bangalore. I enjoyed the visit to the fort on steep jungle roads that were paved during the reign of the Maharajas. I enjoyed the sight of the critically endangered Long-billed and Red-headed Vultures soring on thermals. I enjoyed having Samosas for breakfast everyday of my stay. I enjoyed the vast Rajbhera meadows. I enjoyed hearing to the complaints of fellow tourists on terrible park entry rules set by forest department. I enjoyed the alarm calls of deers. I enjoyed remembering Charger at Charger point.

A young Rhesus macaque in light and shades

I enjoyed waiting for forest entry gates to open early in the chilly morning and in the blazing afternoon sun. I enjoyed information exchange (on tiger locations) that happens during and after each safari. I enjoyed the stone carving of Vishnu – Sheshshaiya and other deities . I enjoyed chai at center point, which every jeep hast to touch on the safari.  I enjoyed the view of the temple, from the ground below and from up close. I enjoyed Crested Hawk Eagle shouting at young Langurs.  I enjoyed the dusty jeep rides. I enjoyed my first ever sightings of Lesser Adjutant, Red-headed Vulture, White-eyed Buzzard and Chestnut-shouldered Petronia. I enjoyed the sighting of Jerdon’s Nightjar in broad daylight.

Jerdon’s Nightjar roosting in the day

Sheshshaiya at Bandhavgarh fort

Hanuman Langur with her baby

A Golden jackal picking the scent from a tiger kill

More than anything else, I enjoyed the company of Butch without whom the trip wouldn’t have been possible and wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it was.

P.S.: B&W imaging is more challenging than RGB photography as you have one less dimension to express. One of the good articles that i have read on B&W photography is here on NatureScapes.

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Spot-Bellied Eagle Owl, one of the largest owls found in India, was the first sighting on first day’s evening safari.

Deepa floated the idea of NTP meet sometime in November. We soon decided on Kgudi, after considering Doddamakali, Bandipur and Kabini. January was the ideal time to visit the place. Seven out of twenty eight of us decided to spend two days at Kgudi, rahter than just one day meet, and left a day early.

Route: Bangalore -> Maddur -> Malavalli -> Yelandur -> Kgudi

Distance: 230km

On the way to Kgudi, around Malavalli lake, we sighted a number of birds – Small Green and Blue-tailed bee eaters, Rosy starlings, Grey and Yellow Wagtails, Ibises and more. Also, we saw a juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle.

The camp at Kgudi itself is haven for birds. Within an hour we sighted Verditer, Asian Brown and Paradise flycatchers, Jungle Babblers, Scarlett and small Minivets, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Lesser Yellownape woodpecker, and lot of other birds.

A Jungle Babbler right outside golghar

But the evening safari on the first day was washed out, thanks to untimely showers. The highlight was the spot-bellied eagle owl that had eluded us at Thattekad. Other than this, there was hardly any activity during the whole safari, but for few spotted deers and a lone Crested Hawk Eagle.

Spotted Deer

Late evening, manager of Kgudi JLR Ashish spent some time with us and Shreeram showcased some of his photographs. Ashish himself is a good photographer, and maintains his blog here.

Next day morning was bright and sunny, but the sightings weren’t better. There were a bunch of Crested Tree Swifts preening on a tree.

Crested Serpent Eagle was seen on all safaris – in sunshine, and in rain. Deepa has compiled a beautiful report here.

As we continued to drive around, I wondered how do so many people find leopards on such beautiful perches! Need more luck. Returned to the camp and saw Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Roufous woodpecker, and few others.

Soon, Sripad, Chirdeep and other NTP members arrived. Narayan took us for a small trek that lasted about an hour and half. Jungle Owlet, Pygmy woodpeckers, scat of wild dogs, a skull of Gaur, and alarm calls of Sambhar, but no big cat was seen. Returned to the camp tired and thirsty. By this time everyone had arrived.

During lunch caught up with all the NTP members who had arrived.

Evening safari was another drive in the park, until Narayan sighted sloth bears, mother and 2 cubs. There were around for few minutes, but quite far and the cubs were hidden in the uneven terrain. I could manage only a record shot.

Later in the evening, while driving back from safari, saw a beautiful Blue-rock Thrush perched close to the jeep. At shutter speed of 1/13s, jostling in the jeep for space with other photographers,  I could manage a decent shot. Notice the blur of its tail caused by the slow shutter speed.

Blue Rock Thrush – enjoying attention

Karthik couldn’t join us for the meet because of his Andaman trip. It was nice of him to send us a cake. Sanjay Mohan, ED of JLR joined us since MD couldn’t join. Later in the evening, Ashish showcased his guitar skills, while Deepa et al showcased their singing talent.

At night, some of us geared up for a ‘star trails’ night photography. Vineet was fantastic in identifying some of the star constellations. Spent quite some time trying to get taare photograph par, but was not very impressed with the results. Hope to get better next time. Thanks to Adarsh, Sanjay and Vineet for the star trail experiment.

Next day morning safari was spent without much luck, until all the jeeps converged near a water hole for a ‘tiger sighting’. Pintails, and couple of other ducks were at the water hole. Then, Sambhar alarm call. Expectation was rised, but I knew my luck – I had seen and missed many such moments. I clicked images of anxious people waiting for some big cat.

From Manish on extreme right to Anirudh on extreme left, all waiting anxiously for Tiger!

After about 20-25min of wait, all jeeps started leaving one after the other. Two of the jeeps left. Our jeep started to leave. Just then, one group of people excitedly got off their jeep and started clicking photos. I thought a tiger appeared!

We jumped off the jeep and check out this little fellow:

Draco – The flying lizard, known for brilliant camouflage

Got back to the camp for a sumptuous breakfast. And then we all posed for customary group photograph.

As i drove back home, just outside the camp saw a huge Naja naja – good end to a fantastic trip.

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