Hungry chap

Crested Serpent Eagle (juvenile) feeding on a snake | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, 2015

As the name suggests, the Crested Serpent Eagle’s favorite prey of course is snakes. This sighting was purely accidental. Having stopped at a waterhole hoping for some animal activity, I scanned the wooded area for the juvenile serpent eagle who had made it his territory.

I was in for a surprise. The serpent killer had a snake between its beak. The eagle took its time with the snake, slowly devoring it and giving us an opportunity to make images. A chance to witness the serpent killer in action, was immensely satisfying.

Shot with: Canon 500 f4 IS + 1D Mark 3

Puddle of Snake 

During one of the monsoon evenings in Bandipur, the safari van came to a grinding halt! Shuffling feet reached the window by the door and a camera shutter went into overdrive. Sitting in the same side as the door, I cranked my neck and looked down to see what had caught the photographer’s sudden attention. A stripe-necked mongoose stood beside a puddle of water.

The mongoose then entered the puddle and walked all around disturbing the waters. What was this behavior, I wondered? Moments later, my questions were answered. The mongoose in a flash, darted towards one end of the puddle and came out with a snake in its jaws! The snake was ripped and devoured in no time. After the mongoose was done with the snack, it repeated the hunt, only to have run out of prey.

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Stripe-necked Mongoose feeding on a snake | Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Having only heard of age old stories of the rivalry and battles of mongoose and snakes, it was one of those super exciting moments that one experiences with lesser mammals. Nature and wildlife doesn’t fail to leave you spellbound with such uncommon occurrences.

Shot with: Canon 1D Mark 3 + 500 f4 IS

 

Lightning strikes twice | Part One

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Leopard on a Tree is every photographer’s dream shot. And I am no different. Harbouring the dream for a long time, I spend every drive scanning trees hoping to spot a leopard.

Friday, 19th June 2009: I had taken family friends for an evening safari into Bandipur courtesy ‘Tusker Trails’. After a futile weekend at Kabini looking for the spotted cat, I prayed to all possible gods who might convey my prayers to the wild cats as we entered Bandipur. In the beginning of the second half of the safari, I jumped off my seat almost yelling leopard but held back wondering if I was hallucinating! The teak tree had unususal spots and a tail hanging down a branch.

The driver had gone about 100 feet ahead from the actual spot. As we reversed the vehicle and stopped, the leopard was aware of our presence. Unfortunately for me, the driver parked the vehicle in such an angle that there was a tree on the right side blocking the full view. I zoomed to 400mm and started shooting. The cat was already on the move and stopped for a sec or two looking at us through the leaves. That’s when I managed this. In a flash it came down the tree and disappeared into the bushes. The action lasted only a few seconds. I quickly went through my pics and was disappointed with the results from this long time dream sighting. Except this picture. It was exactly what I had wanted – Leopard on a tree, looking directly at us through the gaps of the leaves completely camouflaged. Spotting this cat on trees and behind all that camouflage is very difficult and I take pride in the fact that I spotted it first!

What happened in the next few minutes is something I never expected or even dreamt off! That is for part two of the series. Stay tuned.

Shot details: Canon 40D, 100-400 IS, ISO 500, f5.6, 1/30 secs, EC –1/3, Aperture Priority

My Maiden Tiger shot

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Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Canon 40D + 100-400 IS lens

As we entered Bandipur for the evening safari,  I asked Adil what he thought he might see on his maiden safari. “We are going to see a tiger” came a confident reply. Having done enough drives without a wild cat sighting, I thought to myself “yeah…like we are actually going to see one”. It was a “normal” drive. We saw the chital (spotted deer), Indian peafowls, elephants. As we were going down a slope near the reserve, I heard an excited yell TIGER! TIGER!

I saw Vishnu Anna jump off his seat and rush toward the driver asking him to stop the vehicle. I looked in the direction he pointed and scanned every inch for the tiger. There she was! Sitting in a clear patch of green grass at a distance of about a hundred meters. Stray bamboo branches made it very difficult for the camera to focus on the tiger. Low light conditions didn’t help either. After five minutes, she lay flat and flipped over to the left. Then she got up and disappeared behind lantana bushes. We tried hard and spotted her again behind thick foliage. Waited for half an hour for her to come out in the open and then left.

The mere sighting gave me a high. For many it was their first tiger sighting. For me the first capture on camera. It had been a long time desire to photograph a tiger. Thrilled? Yes! Because the first shot was due for 4 long years! Satisfied? No! But I knew this is just the beginning of many more tigers to see!

Dholes on a Kill

kill_1A lot happens in the deep reaches of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The food chain doesn’t stop functioning just because we fail to be around to witness it. kill_2

In an evening safari, we crossed paths with two dholes (wild dogs) in one of the sections of the jungle. Lazing around on the grass and in a playful mood. Moving around at their own pace and one of them appeared bored yawning his afternoon away.

The other one appeared a little restless. Pacing along the trail and a little alert. Not sure of which direction to head to in this lazy afternoon.

kill_3But as time passed, he became alert to the surrounding. With his ears perked up, he paid more attention to the sounds and not to mention their sensitive olfactory senses. Before we knew, he was off on his way into the bushes and the other one followed his lead unquestioningly. kill_4The playful sense about them had disappeared. It took us a while to realise that they were off on a hunt.

…And we lost them. Way off the trail, deep into the foliage where our senses failed to track them. A while later, as we were doing the rounds of the rest of the jungle looking for wildlife, we get a call from somebody in the forest patrol team. We rush to the site only to see what the dholes who deceptively appeared laid back until they disappeared in the foliage cover.

The dholes had moved away from the kill when we reached the spot. After waiting for about 15-20 minutes they came back to feed on the kill.

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Though we missed the hunt, we were fortunate to witness this endangered species feeding on the fresh kill. Taken late evening in fading light with an ISO of 10000 or more.

The Showstopper

On 1st Jan, I landed in the front seat of the safari van for my maiden safari of the year.

As the vehicle turned onto the track leading to the closest waterhole, our driver Siddhu suddenly stopped the van and loudly whispered “Kittu Sir! Kittu Sir! Leopard!! Leopard!!” Having slept in the wee hours of morning after welcoming New Year 2016, I was fast asleep. I woke up with a start wondering what was going on! He then thrusts the camera on me and points towards the leopard.

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Leopard at dusk | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka

In my groggy state, I focused and fired away! Thankfully the leopard was stood still, contemplating his next move. A minute or less later, he decided to walk beside the track.  Disinterested as he was with our presence, he walked casually into the bushes and disappeared. Everybody in the van rejoiced… a fantastic beginning to the year!

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The Showstopper

Two things here, the image was shot with the same settings applied at the birding hide earlier that morning. Exposure -1.3 (yikes!) and ISO 400 (thank god!). Lesser ISO resulted in retaining the details and hardly any noise in the image.