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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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All the participants with Karthik

All the participants with Karthik

I remember a colleague asking ‘Who’s a Naturalist?’ when one other colleague told us that he was invited by a popular wildlife photographer to work as a naturalist (the authenticity of which is not worth exploring). Answer to this question was what first answered in the Naturalist Training Program, which i attended from March 27-29, conducted by S. Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist of Jungle Lodges and Resorts.

A person who studies natural history is know as a naturalist. Someone who looks at the nature in totality, someone who does not study nature with respect to one particular species is a naturalist.

Barking deer AKA muntjac

Barking deer AKA muntjac

The three day training program consisted of sessions on topics like biodiversity in India, introduction to bird watching, bird behaviour, urban wildlife and the most exciting of all, plant-animal interaction. The sessions were interspersed with Nature trails in the morning and evening inside the herbivorous enclosure of Bannerghatta National park. After the nature trails in the evening, David Attenborough‘s The Life of Bird series was played. The mesmerizing life of birds would inspire a novice to an avid bird watcher.

In the group of 17 odd people, probably 4-5 were into bird watching prior to the program, but most others weren’t. But the zeal of everyone was truely inspiring. The immense knowledge of Karthik got us to appreciate every little thing we saw in the nature trail. The sap sucked by the miniscule scaley insect on a leaf, and two ants close by to quench their thirst by the sap still remains vividly in my mind. The intricate interdependence of various forms of life, where loss of even one species could result in death of about 30 other species was put into perspective.

Bonnet macaque - mom and son

Bonnet macaque - mom and son

Watching keenly the behavior of the birds, and observing little things is what makes bird watching such an exciting activity, even if the bird is a common one. This point was put across by Karthik when he asked us ‘Does Myna hop or walk?

Asian Paradise Flycatcher (male)

Asian Paradise Flycatcher (male)

How often would we get to see the beautiful male Paradise Flycatcher from the dining table? This bird was around the camp for quite some time. So were many Sun birds, feeding on nectar from the flowers on jacaranda tree.

We were able to sight a variety of herbivorous mammals in the herbivorous enclousure. Black bucks, Gaurs, Chitals, Barking Deers and Nilghais shared the same space. This made it possible for some to get Blackbuck and Gaur in the same frame! :))

The only big carnivorous in the enclosure are the Mugger Crocodiles, which were sighted in the late evenings on the banks of the lake.

Three days, i was totally cut off from the bustling city and enjoyed 4 back-to-back bird watching sessions in 3 days.

Few more images:

jlrntp participants looking to identify a bird spotted

jlrntp participants looking to identify a bird spotted

Praying mantis, last species to be shot

praying-mantis

Largest species of wild cattle, Gaur

Indian Gaur

Ubiquitous White Cheeked Barbett

white-cheeked-barbett

P.S.: I was more into learning and less to photography, so please excuse me for these images.

Since this trip, AF on my 450D + 55-250mm IS lens seems to be little cranky. I am not able to get images as sharp as i got earlier with the same. May be i need to give the camera for service and get the lens calibrated. Anyone has any tips regarding this?

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