Archive for the ‘bandipur’ Category

An update

I have never missed to update this blog at least once a month in the last 37months it came into existence. I haven’t written anything this month, neither have I ventured out much. So, this update.

An image from archive.

Not sure if the image can convey the grimacing pain this injured langur was facing.

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Monsoon is not the best time for sighting wildlife, or so is the belief. Monsoon is also not the ideal time for photography. But wildlife always throws surprises.

Butch and I were not keen on any particular sighting, but wished to see a pack wild dogs (at least after learning about a pack of 31). Ramesh was our driver on the first day’s evening safari. Half an hour into the safari we saw 3-4 jeeps coming from the opposite direction. They had seen a tiger cross and said they were expecting it to cross this path (one that leads to Subrayana katte). I asked Ramesh to take jeep in reverse without starting it. I didn’t want other jeeps to go ahead and block our view, and didn’t want the tiger to be disturbed because of our jeep’s noise.

Butch and I were sitting at the rear end of the Commander. Just as the jeep moved, a tiger emerged out of the thick lantana bushes right next to our jeep. She was right next to us, not more than 7 to 8 feet. I clicked an image, and realized she was too close. As I zoomed out, couple of other jeeps that were behind ours moved towards her out of the jeep track, overtaking our jeep. She turned back for a moment that i missed to click as i zoomed out to get her in the frame. She strolled away from us, scent marked on a tree and slipped into the bushes. The sighting lasted about 25 seconds, but the closeness was surreal. Rest of the safari was spent in tracking her to a waterhole, where she didn’t appear.

Monday morning safari started with sighting of few wild dogs on the highway. They were moving inside, towards tavare katte. It’s not easy to miss a pack of 31 wild dogs even if you have little idea of their movement. We caught up with them within 15min. The alpha dogs attempted to make a kill of Sambar fawn, which swan to the middle of the lake. Realizing that the effort was not worth, the pack leaders moved on follwed by sub adults and older pups of the pack.

Sub-adults and pups waiting for alpha dogs to make a kill

We were sure they will make a kill soon. Within minutes we saw a stag emerge out of bushes, chased by alpha female. She stopped momentarily seeing the jeeps. Taking this chance the stag crossed the road and scampered for an exit. Since there were only 3 jeeps, the dogs were comfortable and had enough space for themselves. The pack leader chased down the stag, faster than a sprinter.

Dholes start eating the prey while it is still alive

Stag was trying to gore the dog with his antlers, but the agility of the dog dodge him and made quick bites. Within seconds we could see the flesh and blood from the rear of the deer. The lead dog was joined by another. One caught the stag by neck and the other started eating from the rear. There is nothing clean or swift about this kill. Each bite will rip piece of flesh from the prey.

The action was simply incredible to watch. No photograph makes justice to the scene i witnessed. Soon, the deer was dead and another dog pulled the carcass inside the bushes.

Can’t describe the pain in the eyes of the deer

Little ahead on the road, the rest of the pack were waiting for the alpha dogs to arrive. Soon after the kill, the alpha female came to invite the rest of the pack for breakfast. She was so well greeted by her pups. They all strolled behind the bushes towards the deer carcass. We left them to have their breakfast in peace.

I was not asking for anything more. But we still had two safaris. The best part of Bandipur is that you are not disappointed even if you don’t sight a tiger. There are many other creatures that catch your eye, especially in monsoon. A Peacock was  trying to impress a mate. The dance and the way he put up the show was a treat to watch. If he were a guy, women would throw themselves at him.

A Peafowl dancing to impress his better half


Common Hoopoe

Stripe-necked mongooses are commonly found in Bandipur. Here’s one on his daily routine of finding beetles and other insects for a quick meal.

Commonly found Stripe-necked Mongoose

Bandipur has a variety of woodpeckers. Before we sighted the tiger, we were enjoying the sight of a female streak-throated woodpecker, who was soon joined by her better half. Monsoon is the season of love in the wild.

Female Streak-throated Woodpecker

Mr. & Mrs. Streak-throated Woodpecker


Red-wattled Lapwings are common around waterholes and open grass areas of Mulapura.

Red-wattled Lapwing

Crested Serpent Eagle preening

This is only an indication of what one can find in Bandipur. Go, enjoy the rains!

P.S.: This trip was from 6th June to 8th June 2010.  I tried to restrict the number of images, but couldn’t resist posting these many.

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A call from someone asking me about Dholes refreshed my memories from Bandipur. Dug my archive and got this image. I just loved it, not sure what others think.

This one shot on my old Canon 55-250mm IS lens. I shouldn’t have sold it!

update  30th April 11:12am :

I uploaded the image above from home last night. I altered my usual workflow from using Canon DPP to using Adobe Camera RAW. I did not realize that the color profile or color gamut was Adobe RGB. The image looked good in photoshop. When I checked this from office now, I found it to be dull. And I instatnly knew what was wrong.

I opened the image in GIMP and just changed the color profile. So here is the same image without any other changes, but color profile in sRGB:

The reason for this is that though Adobe RGB has a bigger color space or wider gamut, the web browsers support only sRGB profile. So, for all your web display use sRGB and when you wish to get your images printed, use the color profile of the printer. A default color profile will not give the colors as it looked on your monitor when you processed.

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A Brown-fish Owl perches close to your jeep at 6:40pm, on a cloudy monsoon day. You obviously can’t expect an owl to make an appearance in bright sunlight. Wildlife photography in Indian jungles (all tropical jungles perhaps) is more challenging because of low light. So, what is the work around?

One, faster lenses such as 400mm f/2.8. Two, newer generation of low noise at high ISO cameras. But what if you are not a rich guy (like me)? One, accuse good photographers that their images came from better lenses and better cameras. Two, try to make better of what you have. Let me take the latter route.

1. Use whatever form of support that is available. Seat of the jeep or support of the metallic bars.

2. Under-expose the image by 1-2 stops and recover the image in the post-processing.

Using the right metering is vital in exercising these techniques to get the right exposure.

Brown-Fish Owl

This Brown-Fish Owl perched on this tree when we were watching a herd of Gaurs near a water hole in Bandipur. The bird was close enough for my 55-250mm IS lens. It was pretty dark. I underexposed by nearly 2 stops at ISO-800 to get 1/13s shutter speed on Partial metering. I took the support of jeep window to hold the camera steady. I recovered the image as I wished, albeit little noise.

Crested Serpant Eagle – Eye contact at eye level

This is a full frame image at 250mm. Had I put my hand out of the jeep, I might have caught this bird. This is what monsoon does to most wildlife. They sit idle and don’t care much. ISO-200, 1/10s shutter speed. I did not underexpose more than I wanted. Barely any post-processing. Evaluative metering. I took the support of jeep seat to get the required stabilization.

Holding the camera steady for slower shutter speeds is the key for getting sharper images in low-light. While on jeep safari, carrying tripod is not always an option whereas carrying a monopod or a bean bag is. Fill-in flash is also helpful to get faster shutter speed, but keeping the interest of subject in mind avoid it as much as possible. Neat Image helps to reduce noise, but I can’t afford the software at present.

If you have some more techniques to share or wish to make donations for me to but a f/2.8 lens, feel free to contact me.

P.S.: Thanks to JLR Bandipur drivers, Kiran for Brown Fish Owl image, and Ramesh for Serpant Eagle image.

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It’s not the leopard, not even the tiger. The deadliest assassins in the Indian Jungles are Wild Dogs or Indian Dholes (Cuon alpinus). The have the best strategy for hunting – team work.

Their communication skills are fantastic, whistling sometimes, and just intuitive co-ordination at others.

A pack of 14 wild dogs were sighted regularly around Mulapur area of Bandipur National Park. Unlike tigers and leopards, wild dogs in a pack of this size hunt almost everyday. Wild dogs can hunt down prey much larger than their size, and they commonly feast on Sambar and Spotted deers.

An alpha dog leads the attack, and keeps an eye for prey, and threats from other predators.

On a particular day, the pack of 14 dogs showed a remarkable strategy. The divided into two groups of 7 each, and were pursuing Chitals. We were tracking two packs, and the spotted deer for nearly an hour.

Usually found in herds of 10 or more, these two Chitals were separated from the herd by the pack. Their anxious look is evident in the image.

Tall lantana bushes made us lose track of a pack of 7 dogs, and the chitals. Half an hour later, we caught the two packs uniting – one pack well fed, evident from their belly, and the other still looking for a meal.

A Red-Wattled Lapwing chick became the casuality. Within few seconds, right in front of my eyes, the chick was caught and feasted on even as the hapless mother Lapwing looked on (in the background, left of the tree trunk).

Krupakar and Senani have a wonderful documentary, Wild dog diaries, on these predators at Bandipur produced for National Geographic. They were filming the second series of this documentary at the park this time, and i’m sure this pack of 14 dogs will be taking a center stage. I got a chance to meet the wonderful duo at their home – a memory i’ll cherish forever.

On ICUN endangered species list, Indian Dholes are on recovery mode. There are at least 4 packs in the Bandipur tourist area, and is good to see them thrive.

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Panthera tigris and Panthera pardus are the two big cats in the southern Indian forests. Almost every visitor wants to see a tiger, but there are many who want to see only a tiger. On most days, the safari will be a chase for the the elusive Leopard, and the majestic Tiger. More so for the latter than the former.

On June31st-July1st, surprisingly, there was only one guest, a young British girl. Her eagerness and excitement to see elephants and other animals was more than that to see a tiger. Learning that i had never seen a tiger in the wild, she wished me luck.

We were driving out of the park, almost at the end of the morning safari. We were close to the highway. It was about 8:30am. A forest department safari van stood right in front. The driver flashed the headlights. Kiran, JLR driver, stepped on the gas and at about 50mtrs we saw the tigress Gowri leading her 4 cubs. Kiran stopped the jeep instantly, and by the time i could clearly see, Gowri and one of her cubs had crossed. Other 3 cubs too were very swift. There was no time to get my camera out. I just enjoyed the sight of those wonderful cubs walking with their long tail held up. We tried to track her for nearly an hour after that, but no luck.

The expectation and disappointment was higher for the visitors who came after 1st of July, as the sightings board at the Pug Mark restaurant read ‘Tiger (Mother & 4 cubs) –  1st July –  8:30am – Minister Guthi road‘.

At times, I wished to get a chance to photograph a big cat. It would be disappointing to go back without even a record shot. Once, we tracked a fresh pug mark (first image on the post) and drove in that direction. Just then, a forest department jeep came from the other side. The smile on driver’s face gave away what we had missed. Two minutes!

Alert Fawn


It was the time for the last safari. I had accompanied two Indian-American guys on previous day. We had tracked alarm calls for nearly an hour, and then left the spot only to know, later in the night, driver Kiran, in another jeep, had spotted a tiger at the same spot, soon after we had left. I didn’t want to rub my bad luck on them again. I accompanied a family with two 10 year olds.

Now, what are the chances of sighting a big cat when you are with a group making lot of noise as against with a group of disciplined wildlife photographers? I’d say equally likely :)

I suggested Ramesh we first scan the Mularpura area instead of the other route we usually take. We were looking for wild dogs, and so were Krupakar-Senani. Nearly an hour into the safari, no sign of any predator. The guests were asking the question almost every visitor asked, Where is the tiger, When was the tiger seen last?

Just then, alarm calls of spotted deer. Ramesh bought the jeep to a halt and we scanned the area. Alarm calls got stronger. Deer started moving. Deer ran from one side to another. I had not seen a herd of spotted deer run so fast. 20 minutes flew past. Kids were getting edgy. Soon, herd settled down and started grazing again. Alarm calls subsided. There goes my last chance!

Chitals running, soon after alarm calls


Ramesh started the jeep, and Kiran’s jeep came from the other side, informed Kiran about the alarm calls and left. Our alertness had dropped a little. We had moved about 150 mtrs, and suddenly something big and yellow with black spots ran, in a flash, from one side of the track to the other. Ramesh yelled ‘Tiger!’ My mind said No.. spotted deer! Within a second, we utter in unison ‘Leopard!’ No one else in the jeep saw the leopard. It was huge.

We took a left turn and stopped the jeep, hoping to see him again. Scanned the area for 10-15 minutes. No sign and no calls. Ramesh takes a u-turn. A jeep comes from the other side, and whirs past. We head back to the place where deer were grazing, and thought of going to another area. I didn’t want to miss the leopard, I said ‘let’s go back now‘. A U-turn and a left turn, we see the leopard walking at a distance. Guests missed again.

Ramesh stopped the jeep. I got out to see if he is still on the jeep track. I walked some 10mts from the jeep and saw him walking on the track undeterred. Took a few shots, my first shot of leopard on foot:


Got into the jeep and drove towards the leopard, but he hid behind the bushes. I got on top of the bonnet of the jeep, and there he was staring straight at me.

Standing on the bonnet without making any noise, hand holding the camera in the drizzle, i fired 3 shots at 1/30s keeping my shaky hands as steady as possible.

I was waiting for him to move into more open area. He kept staring, and i kept waiting. Guests inside the jeep could barely see him, and their patience didn’t out last that of the leopard. A small noise and he ran behind bushes, not to be seen again.

The Leopard Look – Parthenium in the foreground, forest fire charred branches amidst lush green bushes in monsoon


I got in the jeep and showed the image to the guests. They say ‘Wow… You have a very good camera!’

Then they say ‘Where is the tiger? Can we see the tiger?

P.S.: Click on the images, color redention in smaller version doesn’t seem right. Larger images look better.

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