Along rolled a tiger

It was safari number five and overcast conditions loomed over us as we entered the Moharli gate. While there was a cool breeze, some dark clouds hovering above us screamed of certain rain.

Ratan (our driver guide) proceeded towards Jamunbodi Lake with the hope of finally showing us a tiger. We stopped at the view point and I made a few images of the beautiful setting. A panoramic view of the lake is what I hoped to capture. My only regret was that it was overcast and the beautiful afternoon light that transforms the lake into a magical place, was absent that day.

A little ahead on the road, we noticed that a jeep had stopped and the occupants were looking upwards at a higher branch. As I was wondering what bird it could be, an Indian Roller took flight and flew right over us. Hoping the bird would perch close by, I kept my eyes on it. While it did land on a branch near me, it took off within seconds. A disappointment indeed.

Vikram excitedly announced ‘roller dikha toh tiger definitely dikhega’! No sooner had he spoken those words, our guide pointed to the right and said tiger! I strained my eyes and looked in the direction he pointed. I saw some movement in the bushes and soon a tiger emerged from the foliage.

From the foliage

Our guide identified the tiger as a female who is popularly called Maya. She slowly walked out into the open, giving everyone present, a grand view. In no time, from just a handful of jeeps, about 10-15 lined up there. Excitement knew no bounds for driver, guide and tourists for it had been almost three days since a tiger had been spotted.

She neared the jeeps, with clear intentions to cross the road. Armed only with a telephoto lens, all I could manage was a portrait of this beautiful tiger as she trudged along and finally crossed the track.

Deep focus

She crossed the track and seemed focused on something. Scanning the surrounding area, we discovered where her focus lay. A couple of Sambar Deer grazed, oblivious to the fact that a tiger had them in sight.

Person of interest

We were expecting some action, but unfortunately for the tiger and us, the sambar let out an alarm call. They had finally spotted her. Slowly, she made her way into denser foliage and then out of sight.

Where them sambar at?

As we were soaking in the sighting with smiles and handshakes, heavy drops fell on us and moments later we were in the middle of a cloudburst. All of us were drenched to the bone in that heavy downpour. Even the rain jacket didn’t help much to me and the equipment. We drove out and took shelter at a forest department office until the rain receded. We made one more round to the area we saw the tiger. No sign of movement, we decided to exit the park.

After we returned to our homestay, I immediately wiped all the equipment and put it out to dry. All was well..no issues!

It was later that evening, Vikram narrated to us about his unique connection between an Indian Roller sighting and a tiger. Every time he has seen that bird, he has spotted a tiger. Incredible!

Tadoba is a jungle close to my heart and it has rarely disappointed. That evening our stars aligned and thanks to the Indian Roller, along rolled a tiger.

From my trip to Tadoba in October 2019. All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens.

Barsaati nullah di Kudi

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Barsaati nullah di Kudi | Bijrani, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, India

A week in Corbett hadn’t borne any fruit (read tiger sightings). The highlight of the trip so far had been a wonderful sighting of the very rare Leopard Cat, Common Green Magpie and a Collared Falconet! All three of course in the Dhikala region. Sightings in Bijrani had been poor and the jungle trips were ending in disappointments.

Wrapping ourselves in multiple layers including thermals, we set out yet again for the morning drive in peak winter. The bone chilling cold was only starting to leave as soft light shone through the sal trees. The gorgeous winter sun turning everything into gold that morning.

Driving past the barsaati nullahs (watercourse that flows during rains), Dhasmanaji guided the gypsy onto a track leading to a waterhole. Pramod jumped in excitement and pointed ahead…Tiger! Over a hundred feet away, a flash of orange and black disappeared from the road side into tall grass.

Rushing forward to the spot, there was no sign of the tiger. We backed up and waited by the side of a barsaati nullah, in hope that it would reappear. Minutes later, there was a rustle in the thick grass, soft cautious steps approaching us and then she emerged. The gorgeous morning light enhanced the beauty of this young lady and we shutterbugs finally had an overwhelming sighting.

Image shot with: Canon – 1D Mark IV + 500 f4 IS

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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The queen of Bijrani

A little over a year ago, I visited the Bijrani side of Corbett Tiger Reserve. The forest rest house, small canteen, ever smiling staff especially Manish, the quiet but starlit nights and an occasional jackal doing the rounds with the hope of getting tit bits of food post closure of the canteen… vivid memories from there.

The agenda of the trip was simple, photograph tigers in the Bijrani zone. Memories of briefly spotting a young tigress on a glorious morning in February were still fresh. Would she honour us with her gracious self again was the big question?

We were welcomed with rain at Ramnagar. The morning drive was a washout though we hoped the skies would clear and the afternoon drive would bear fruit. Post lunch the dark clouds disappeared and the sun shone brightly upon us.

As we drove through a wooded area, a Paradise Flycatcher caught my attention. Before we could train our lenses on him, he gave us the slip! Dhasmana Ji suggested we follow pug marks of a tiger seen on the track earlier on the drive. As he reversed the jeep, my dear friend Subbu (who was standing on the back seat) excited called out Tiger! Tiger! In a nullah (dry rivulet) and under a huge log lay a sleeping tiger. It would have been impossible to spot the tiger if Subbu wasn’t standing atop the seat.

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Spot the tiger | Bijrani, Corbett Tiger Reserve

A zoomed out picture for one to visualise the distance from the nullah and the angle too.

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Closer view of the tiger with a 500mm telephoto lens | Bijrani, Corbett Tiger Reserve

Our exclusive rights to the tiger sighting did not last long. Soon a horde of day visitor jeeps were lined up in whatever space they could manage. Dhasmana Ji suggested we stick around for he was sure she would get up later in the evening and we would have our opportunity to make images.

After almost 1.5 hours, and all day visitor jeeps leaving, we stopped on the safari track which cuts the rivulet….envisioning some images with the habitat and the tiger walking towards us, time flew by. With the waiting time a quarter short of an hour, we moved to another rivulet crossing to see if the tiger had been spotted there. Negative there too.

As we reversed our vehicle back to the original spot, we spotted the tiger walking on the rivulet. By the time we got there, she had already reached the edge of the safari track! She stopped and then made herself comfortable in a small puddle. Minutes later, she decided it was time to get up and make it our money’s worth 🙂

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Wet and walking | Bijrani, Corbett Tiger Reserve

With just three jeeps in the forest, we followed the tiger as she walked on the safari track, up a hilly area, mock charged a herd of sambar deer to our utter astonishment. And finally sat on the safari track as we were nearing the end of our jungle drive.

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Poise | Queen of Bijrani, Corbett Tiger Reserve

The above picture summarises that exciting evening drive with an ageing tiger who once ruled a large part of Bijrani reminiscing her glory days. Someday I shall have it printed and put up on my wall reminiscing the Corbett days.

Photos were made using the following equipment: Canon – 70-200 IS, 500 f4 IS, 1D Mark 4, 6D