Leopard Rock | Nagarhole

img_8232

Driving through the Nagarhole jungle, I wondered, where is this Leopard Rock! Image of the elusive cat crouching on that very rock flashed in front of me (courtesy dear friend Thomas S Anand).

As I was reminiscing that amazing picture which adorns one of the walls at home, I took a left turn on the road and spotted a huge rock at a distance. Could this be Leopard Rock? A few moments later it was confirmed as a leopard climbed onto it and sat majestically.

With my heart racing, I took the jeep off road and killed the engine. Using the side view mirror as support for the lens, I started shooting. I started the jeep with a desire to get a little closer to the rock. The noisy engine startled the leopard who got off the rock and hid behind some foliage. As I moved the jeep forward, he decided it was enough and disappeared into the forest.

It was thrilling experience. Thanks to Bids and Archana for forcing Alfred and I to lunch in Kutta. Nagarhole would never have happened from Virajpet.

Shot with: Canon 40D + 100-400 IS

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.

mongoose_kill_jk12043
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

 

Look what the Hawk dragged in

 

che_kill_jk_1787
Crested Hawk Eagle with Monitor Lizard kill | Kabini

 

Raptors in the wild are not an uncommon sight but catching them in action is rare. A crested serpent eagle, devouring a frog it had killed only moments ago, was sighted at a far off branch. Too far to make images but nothing escapes the ranges of binoculars.

Driving further ahead our naturalist called out crested hawk eagle! Moments later he excitedly tells us “Sir, it is with a monitor lizard kill!” Looking through the lens, I saw the headless monitor lizard held in the tight clutches of the raptor’s powerful talons. Over a quarter an hour we sat observing the feeding via binoculars and also making images of the action.

I have seen picures of this raptor species with kills varying from malabar giant squirrels, jungle/common mynas, egrets to name a few. Its always nice to have one action packed image of your own 🙂

Shot details: Canon – 1D Mark IV + 500 f4 IS; Kabini, Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Lightning strikes twice | Part One

img_3647

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

img_6771
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!