Week 3 – lockdown 21

We are into the third week of the nation wide lockdown and same with my series. Not all days are fruitful, sometimes activity is less, and at other times, there is nothing to make a photo appealing.

I was updating my blog on the 20th day and PM Modi announced that the lockdown will be extended until 3rd May. This adds to my dilemma on what to post everyday.

Here is the collection from week three.

Day 15

Thirsty

It was a pleasant surprise to see a Streak-throated Woodpecker (female) land softly on a nearby tree and then at the saucer for a water break. Last week’s post had images of the male.

Forest floor

I spotted the melodious White-rumped Shama from my window. This shy species usually sticks to bamboo thickets but came out into the open to forage on the forest floor for worms and insects. A spot of the white rump is visible here.

Day 16

Glowing yellow

Soft short whistles announce the arrival of yet another delightful species called the Yellow-browed Bulbul. Glorious morning light took this image a notch higher.

Crown prince

In recent times, I have noticed regular activity of the Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers. Pecking on barks of trees, drilling holes on the trunk, the male would find a tasty snack and feed the female. This one here is the male.

Day 17

No grey areas…just colors

Last week, I posted only the tail, this time it is the full bird. Yet another vibrant species. While the name is Grey Junglefowl, this one has an astounding array of colors.

Mirror effect?

For a change, both the White-cheeked Barbets stood their ground and posed for a few seconds.

Day 18

Unexpected visitor

Out of nowhere, this Malabar Grey Hornbill landed, sat for a few seconds and took off. This is the male (notice the orange bill), the female has a pale coloured bill. In another sighting, I saw two Bronzed Drongo’s chasing a hornbill too. I guess expect the unexpected in the wild. 

Spiky hairdo

Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker male (full red crest) lands on the ground for inspection.

Day 19

The brahmin

An interesting name given to this species…Brahminy Starling. If you notice the extensions on the black head, that is what gives the bird its name.

Lesser gold

A female Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker (half red crest) takes a break from drilling the branch while looking for some titbits.

Day 20

Filling the blank

A purple sunbird (female) fills the spot by landing on the branch which had no pods on it. One can gauge the size of this tiny bird in comparison to the pods.

Junglee

A puffed-up Jungle Myna contemplates its next move.

Day 21

Play of light

Yet again the barren rock has an occupant. Spotted Dove in lovely morning light.

Woodie

The streak-throated woodpecker (female) latches onto a tree trunk before alighting to the nearby saucer to quench its thirst.

That concludes my three week quest to make images and post every day during the lockdown. To all my friends, family and viewers – stay safe!

All images made with Nikon D850 along with 600 F4 VR lens.

Shades of Blue

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Shades of Blue | Indian Peafowl (male), Forest Hills, Mudumalai, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The mug of coffee sits beside me untouched as I reflect upon the year that passed by.  While travel for photography was restricted mainly to Bandipur, Kabini and of course birding at home i.e. Forest Hills, few new places were explored purely for leisure.

Here’s to more travel, photography and exploration.

Wishing one and all a wonderful 2018!

Bears on a stroll

Bears

I always looked forward to evenings at Mark’s place (Mark Davidar). To me, Mark was a dear friend and an encyclopaedia of knowledge regarding wildlife. It was always a pleasure listening to his stories and incredible experiences.

Many a session have passed sitting in the verandah beside Mark who was always armed with his binoculars and had this amazing intuition for wildlife movement.

As we sat chatting one of the evenings, Mark mentioned about a certain Sloth Bear visiting the property regularly. She has a cub too, so be on the lookout for them, he said! I acknowledged with a nod. No sooner after he told me, I got lost in my imagination of a mother bear and a cub piggybacking on her.

It must have been past 5.30 pm, Mark trained the binoculars in front of his eyes and calmly stated, Sloth Bear! As I looked towards the trail, I saw two black objects walking at a brisk pace. The mother bear and her cub following her closely. As they stopped and curiously looked in our direction, I made a few images. Moments later, as the sun faded away in the sky, the mother-cub duo also walked away.

Shot in the year 2012, Canon 300 2.8 + 2x TC, 40D

Hunter vs Scavenger 

The late tiger popularly known as Prince had made the Mulapura waterhole a favourite cooling off destination. Hoping to catch a glimpse of him, our safari jeep and it’s occupants decided to wait there.

Across the waterhole at a distance, I spotted a crested serpent eagle perched on a bamboo branch. Because it was not an uncommon sight and neither an uncommon bird, I almost gave it a dismissive wave.

The movement of another bird had caught my eye! A jungle crow had perched itself on a lower branch. Wondering how the eagle would react, I kept my eyes on the scene through the telephoto lens.

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Action unfolded almost immediately! The crow began harassing the eagle with continuous attempts of flying into the eagle. The eagle responded by opening its wings and following every movement of the crow. This went on for almost a minute and finally, when the eagle had enough, it took off from the scene.

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It was only then I realised what was actually going on. As the eagle flew, I noticed something hanging off its leg…a snake. The serpent eagle had hunted a snake which was clutched in its powerful talons. Sensing an opportunity, the crow tried bullying the eagle to steal its meal. Warding off all attempts of the crow, the eagle decided to take its snack away and eat it someplace safe!

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Visiting forests is not all about big cats. Drama like this makes makes an uneventful safari an exciting experience.

Mr. Red

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Mr. Red | Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse, Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, India

Soft light shone through the canopy of bamboo as one visitor after another came, made their presence felt, posed for photographs and went about their business (foraging). 

Once the coast was clear, Mr. Red decided it was his turn to show off. The usually intimidated spurfowl walked in cautiously but soon settled himself after scanning the area to make sure no other dominating birds were around. As he posed in the lovely golden light, it allowed me to make a few frames as the red turned to gold. 

A regular visitor to the photography hide, the red spurfowls rarely leave us disappointed. Stay tuned for more. 

A new King

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Basavankatte Male | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Scattered drops of water falling out from the sky disappeared into the baked safari track, leaving no trace. The summer had taken its toll on Bandipur with most of its waterholes in a pitiful state. Looking up, I wondered, is there any respite for the jungle from this heat?

It was as if someone above was listening to me! An hour into the drive and the scorching sun finally hid behind dark clouds, claps of thunder pierced through the forests, heavy drops of water landed with a splash and soon we welcomed rains. As we took cover and quietly rejoiced, the forest was turning a new leaf and someone was going to proclaim himself King!

Continuing on our safari, we passed many puddles of water and our driver-guide had to carefully negotiate the slippery track. Few hundred yards ahead, a huge male tiger walked on to the track and occasionally went about, scent marking his territory. Watching all this in the drizzle, we decided to inch closer. Sensing the proximity, he turned around and gave us a deadly stare!

At that moment, everything including the rain stood still! It was as if Lord Indra himself had stopped the rains and silenced the thunder to announce the arrival of the new King!

A year of blogging

Cool breeze passes by as I sit by the backwaters in the dead of the night. Beside me, a couple of friends cast their imaginary fishing lines, and enact a struggle as if they had caught an African catfish (an invasive species). My thoughts wander toward the evening safari during which we narrowly missed the Black Panther.

Many such memories from various jungles came flashing back as I sat by the banks. Narrow misses, close encounters and no sightings in game drives are common in a wild life enthusiast’s days. All of these experiences penned down, one story at a time in the blog. A year gone by since it’s inception and I have somehow managed to post 52 photoblogs.

While choosing pictures was not so difficult, the writing part definitely was! Travel, meetings, busy times, lack of focus, no peace and quiet are excuses I often come up with. Despite that a blogpost went online every week. That being said, most importantly it has improved my writing and increased focus on the smaller details.

The last year has seen some significant development, from switching camera gear to Nikon and shifting hunting grounds. Bandipur an all time favorite, now faces stiff competition from Kabini which is slowly working its way up the list of favorites.

Commemorating one year of blogging, here is a collection of favorites from the above mentioned parks.

Here’s to more shooting, writing and blogging!

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Greater Gold

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Travel and work kept me away from home for a while. Post rains, a lovely sun-lit morning was a welcome sight and I trotted into the hide to entertain my winged visitors.

To test a recently acquired 1.4x TC, I mounted it on the lens and started making images of a white-cheeked barbet nibbling away on a fruit. A woodpecker landed on the dry stump, as I trained my lens onto the woodie and saw that unmistakable red on the head and I knew there was something odd about this woodpecker!

On closer inspection, I realised the wings were fully golden! This was indeed a different woodpecker….the Greater Goldenback Woodpecker!  The woodpecker explored the stump, hopping around and after a minute or so, took off.

Always a great feeling, when a new winged visitor makes an appearance at the hide 🙂

Image shot with: Nikon D750 + 600 f4 VR, 1.4 TC 

Ghosts of the Blue Hills

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Nilgiri Langur | Avalance Road, Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India

On a cold Christmas evening, a bunch of friends and I were driving on a narrow road towards Avalanche Lake, a destination near Ooty. As we turned a corner, I caught sight of multiple black figures sitting on a tree beside the road. Nilgiri Langur!

The vehicle came to a screeching halt and I whipped out my camera. The sudden braking of the vehicle alerted the langur who were feeding on the tree. One by one, they jumped off the tree and disappeared into the woods, typical of their shy nature. All but one remained sitting on a branch, with a mouthful of food, wondering what was all the fuss about.

As the langur sat still, I made a few images. The langur realising that his companions aren’t returning, fled the scene soon after.

Unfortunately, the nilgiri langur’s conservation status is classified as vulnerable primarily due to habitat destruction. I sincerely hope their numbers increase with all the conservation efforts going in.

Image shot with Canon – 300 2.8 IS II + 1D Mark 3

The Hanging Parrot

A beautiful green coat, a striking red beak and an exotic blue patch on the throat sums up this little birdie.

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Mr. Handsome | Vernal Hanging Parrot, Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

Preparing myself for the parrot’s visit to the fruiting Singapore cherry tree, I got myself in position and waited. Sure enough a parrot landed on the tree and got to business right away. Hanging like a bat, the parrot proceeded to feast on ripe cherries.

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Hanging High | Vernal Hanging Parrot, Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

It is indeed a beautiful sight to see these parrots negotiate branches carefully, hang upside down and feeding. The Vernal Hanging Parrot is one of my favorite birds!

Images shot with: Canon 40D + Sigma 500 f4.5, Feature image with 40D and 300 2.8 + 2x TC

 

Fully fed and riding high

At the Bandipur forest reception, a couple of department drivers informed me about a leopard sighting that happened earlier that morning.

A spotted deer (chital) had been hunted the previous night and the leopard perched on the tree with its prized kill and a full tummy. The morning visitors were treated to this glorious sight. Assuring that the leopard would still be at the same spot, the drivers wished me luck.

Entering the forest at 4 pm, we headed straight to the spot where the leopard was last seen. A few vehicles were already lined up, the leopard must still be there, I thought to myself. Driver/guide Siddhu pointed in the direction of the leopard.

I’m fully fed! Do not disturb! | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

He was perched quite contentedly on the lowest branch of the canopied tree. With lantana bushes coming in the way, I had to stand and attempt taking photos with a heavy lens and no support. To make matters worse, the other occupants in the jeep were literally jumping up and down in excitement. Mutiple shusshss’ and please don’t shake the vehicle…did not help either. I managed a few frames, before the rest of the vehicles lined up with loud excited visitors. Too much noise disturbed the afternoon siesta and the leopard came down the tree to hide in the thick foliage. Divers and naturalists told us the deer kill was on the ground and the leopard must be feeding on it.

We left the spot and drove around other parts of the forest seeing umpteen number of birds, gaur, elephants and a transformed Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Lush greens and previously dry waterholes were now filled up. Well, most of them at least. It was a good feeling to be back in my favourite reserve after a bout of heavy rains.

On the return lap of the safari, we drove back to the leopard spot. He was now seated on a higher branch and was in and out of sleep. I made a few images and a video too.

His Majesty | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

As the sun set and it got colder, Mr. Leppy curled up (not literally) and went to sleep.

Curled Up! | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

The fully fed leopard was content with his meal and I was content with the evening drive and a refreshed and transformed Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Images made with Nikon D750 and 600 f4 VR II 

The scimitar never called

Mosquitos were feasting on me as I waited in the birding hide for the brown-cheeked fulvetta. A number of these skittish birds were occasional visitors. The drying river bed few metres away from the hide worked in my favour. Evening sessions which were usually non-productive started attracting birds due to water availability at the bird bath.

Few fulvettas appeared cautiously, took a dip in the bath and left. A white-rumped shama would disappear somewhere behind, only to perch on a stump few minutes later and dry itself. An old bird bath that was removed and left behind the perches had collected water and was hosting birds! Must bring that bird bath to the front, I made a  mental note.

And then in a flash, a bird appeared…yellow beak like a curving sword and the unmistakable colors! One of the shyest birds, and a skulker; Indian Scimitar Babbler had made a quiet entry. The presence of this babbler is known by the continuous calls but always stays hidden behind thick foliage.

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Hopping down from the tallest stump, it disappeared into the old bird bath. All I could see was splashes of water and I hoped for it to sit out in the open to dry itself. A painful wait ended with the babbler sitting on every perch at the hide and finally settling for a branch on a tree nearby.

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Ignoring the sound of the shutter, the scimitar babbler calmly dried itself while I made some images. Once done, the babbler made a quick exit, leaving me with a wide smile. A quick review of the images left me smiling wider. I finally had pictures of the skulker.

Shot at Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse with a Nikon D750 and 600 f4 VR II