As the sun started setting, deer alarm calls got louder. We traced the source of the alarm calls and landed at a waterhole. We waited patiently hoping a big cat would appear and quench its thirst and satiate our hunger to see one. A minute or two later, Uncle Promodh whispered loudly…tiger tiger! Our driver/guide Bomma and I jumped off our seats and looked in the direction Uncle Promodh pointed…and in the foliage, he sat camouflaged, not a tiger but a beautiful leopard!
He got up and as predicted , walked out into the open. We had already backed our jeep and were waiting for him. Soon as he stepped out, I started shooting, hoping he would stop and look at me. He did just that! Stopped for a couple of seconds, stared into the lens and casually walked away into thick lantana foliage leaving all of us speechless!
An exciting finale to the safari for all of us but it was Andrea and his father Giovanni who were overwhelmed for this was their first ever jungle safari and the elusive cat graced the occasion!
Living in the jungle comes with its own perks. One wakes up to the chirping birds, different ones in different seasons while some days one goes to sleep hearing the tiger roar somewhere. Some afternoons langurs go ballistic with their alarm calls and deer sipping water at the water hole break into a run. Amongst all these wildlife moving in and out of the property, there is a consistent visitor almost every evening and at times during the day. That’s the gentle giant! Whether in a group or solo, elephants come in and go as they please.
Despite the three long decades of residing here, every time an elephant comes by, it leaves the onlookers in total awe. The graceful walk, the patient grazing, the gentle eyes and the stoic appearance… they never cease to amaze me each and every time I see them.
Yesterday was celebrated as World Elephant Day. At home, we celebrate elephants whenever they wish to be celebrated. All they do is walk in and start the party!!
Three road-blocks, a few sambar deer alarm calls, loud tiger roars and the nervous impatience!
It was half past five and we were driving towards a dam in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. A solitary barking deer and then a herd of chital (spotted deer) flanked the road and were grazing peacefully. Few moments later a sambar’s alarm calls broke the silence of the forest. Each sambar call was followed with a loud roar. A tiger had announced his or her presence! Alert chital were looking in all directions with fear in their eyes and restlessness in their posture. With bated breath, we waited, as minutes passed, the alarm calls stopped and so did the roars.
The silence of the jungle had returned and we continued on our drive. After driving around for about fifteen minutes, our driver Swami suddenly took a u-turn and headed back in the direction where we earlier heard the tiger roaring. Driving past the same herd of deer and half a kilometer later, the jeep came to an abrupt halt! Swami whispered…TIGER!
About two hundred feet away a tiger sat on the safari track like she owned the jungle. A few seconds after we spotted her, she started walking in our direction. I focused my camera and fired away. She stopped at a culvert, raised her tail and sprayed…she was scent marking the area. After she was done, she glanced in our direction and started walking towards us. As she came up the slope, I had goose bumps and my camera went on overdrive.
It was way past 6 pm and the day light was fading away fast. The tiger, now barely fifty feet from the jeep, stopped, stared at us for a few seconds. Thankfully I was in my senses to keep the shutter button pressed! She then turned and disappeared into the lantana undergrowth.
The entire sighting lasted about 2 minutes. To have such an encounter with this magnificent animal was unforgettable.
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.
A Wednesday in Bandhavgarh (tiger reserve in Central India). The park remains closed for afternoon-evening drives. To make use of every minute available before the afternoon sets in, we headed out towards the outskirts of the reserve with our guide with a promise of sighting a Fox. He took us to a spot where a fox apparently had a den. Setting a perimeter away from the den, a temporary hide was up in a jiffy and stood in wait.
Half an hour of waiting…. There was movement on the other side of the hide and we see a jackal entering. Staying wary of the “hide”, she sniffed around and to our surprise went halfway into a hole in the ground.
“Sir, she’s hungry and has entered the fox’s den to hunt. There must be pups!” whispered the guide. Taking photos, I was praying that the jackal stays unsuccessful in its effort to kill the pups.
Moments later, the fox (presumably the mother) sneaked up to the jackal only to be chased away by the predator much larger than her. Having chased the fox away, the jackal resumed her search in the fox’s den.
Anxious moments passed with the helpless fox watching and hoping her pups don’t get caught in the jaws of the hunter.
Finally it all came to an end. The frustrated jackal gave up and left the den and fox alone. Relieved that the predator had left, the fox sat within vicinity of the den on the lookout for other predators.
Minutes later, we left the hide too in relief that no pups were killed. Nevertheless an exciting encounter was witnessed.
About a year and a half ago, I had set up a bird photography hide on my property. Of the multiple species that visited the perch, the yellow-browed bulbul was one species I had been praying for.
Many months later, sitting at the hide on one of the lazy mornings, I heard a familiar call. Moments later a pair of Yellow-browed Bulbul landed on a perch. A few fickle minutes of exploring the perches, feeding, a quick dip in the bird bath and off they went.
Immense joy and satisfaction fills me for having the much awaited species as a visitor at my hide 🙂
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!
This fleeting bird had been a topic of discussion among birders and a lucky few had sighted it. Annual visitor to Ooty and its surrounding areas of higher elevation, it remained elusive to most. The precise location of this species was unknown for most times, hence lesser known sightings.
That year, news of this bird being sighted in the Botanical Garden of Ooty spread like wildfire. A weekend trip with friends was planned and off we went in search of the Kashmiri and a few other endemic birds of the Western Ghats.
Staying mostly in the canopy of trees and shrubs, the Kashmiri came out in the open only to flash-feed. Keeping a track of the flycatcher’s movements, only one time he perched on the dry log. I pulled the camera off the tripod, rushed to the spot, knelt and took a few pictures. This tiny birdie made me run around in circles for this satisfactory picture.
A game of tennis and an intense rally going on. Amma hears the langur go ballistic near the Machaan (watch tower), a few hundred metres away. The alarm calls get louder by the minute. Amma and Aunty Lakshmi, break the rally, drop their rackets and run towards the Machaan while my brother Rahul and I continued playing.
Few minutes later I hear the faint sound of my phone ringing. It was Aunty Lakshmi. They spotted a female Leopard. By the time I got there, the Leopard had disappeared. We went up the Watch Tower and waited. We heard the female Leopard ‘sawing’….that gave us hope of her reappearance.
For five long minutes we waited.. and heard all about Amma and Aunty’s sighting. Suddenly there was commotion. We looked towards the water tank and spotted this beautiful male Leopard walking past it. This shot was made when he stopped on the rocks for a few seconds, looking in the direction the female had gone. Oblivious to our presence, he trotted into the Jungle and disappeared. All the action started and ended in about 1.5 minutes. It felt like a lifetime! Words fall short in expressing what you feel when you spot a Big Cat in your backyard.
Shot specifications ISO 1600, Av f5.6, 1/60 secs, EC 0, Aperture Priority. Canon 40D, 100-400 IS
I would have been kicking myself if I hadn’t gotten off the car and taken the camera out from the trunk (I was driving with four other friends…so no camera in hand). I spotted the owl off the main road in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. The first thing that came to my mind was the picture of a Forest Eagle-owl, photographed in BR Hills by Dr. Ajit Huilgol. Unsure if the owl I clicked was the same, I came back home and referred his picture against mine. It was the Forest Eagle-owl indeed! I was thrilled. This still remains as one of the most special wildlife and birding moments!
While I download pictures from a ten day long Rajasthan trip, which of course included Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, I leave you with a picture of this magnificent male tiger (popularly known as Sultan) from my previous trip to the same reserve with Toehold Travel and Photography in December 2014, skippered by dear friend and award winning photographer Sachin Rai. Wait up for more treasures captured from this trip to the lovely jungle.