Black nape, crest and rosettes

I was home on a short break and thought I’ll head to Bandipur for a safari. For a change, I got a seat in the Jungle Lodges jeep as opposed to the customary canter. My companions for the drive were a pilot from Hong Kong and his girlfriend and a photographer from Bangalore. Exchanged pleasantries and we set off into the lush green jungles with our driver/guide Muddu and naturalist Nagendra.

It was the third week of August and presence of the monsoon very much there, though I hoped it wouldn’t rain during the drive.

The pilot, Jeff and his girlfriend were keen birders and naturalist and dear friend Nagendra was doing his best in showing them the variety that Bandipur has to offer.

We came across a black-naped hare, sitting out in the open. Strangely, this one didn’t bolt soon as the vehilce came in sight. The long ears and prominent black nape in display, perfect opportunity for portraits.

Black-naped Hare| Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

We must have driven maybe a kilometer from the hare, when Nagendra spotted rose-ringed parakeets on a tall tree beside the track. Jeff and the rest of us were looking at the birds when Muddu called out…leopard!

We saw a tail disappear into the lantana bushes. We got into position knowing well that the leopard would walk onto an open patch. Everyone held their cameras tightly. A minute later, boom, out walked the leopard! Ever so cautious, she took a few steps, stopped, looked towards our vehicle and then swiftly went into hiding. We moved further back anticipating her movement yet again, but in vain.

Leopard | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

By now a light drizzle had started. As we approached a waterhole, I spotted a crested hawk-eagle on a tree. The raptor seemed comfortable with our presence and posed for a long photo session. Drizzle in the background made for some nice images.

Crested Hawk-eagle | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

As we were exiting the park, a sloth bear also marked attendance. In all, a very pleasing safari.

All images made with Nikon D850 and 600mm F4 VR lens – August 2019

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!

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.

All roads led to Arrowhead

Around the same time last year, I was in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, as part of my backpacking trip which included Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur. It also happened to be my second visit to this picturesque tiger reserve.

Few drives into various zones in Ranthambhore had not yielded any big cat sighting yet. Knowing that we had good a chance of tiger sighting in the Rajbagh lake zone, we set out with renewed energy that morning. An ever enthusiastic Nagendra Ji kept our spirits high and at the same time was keeping watch for pug marks and tiger trails. Alarm calls, fresh pug marks and  exchanging information from other jeep drivers/guides led us nowhere!

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Awoken from a slumber | Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India

As Nagendra Ji instructed the driver to take a narrow track and drive along that route, I eased back into my seat and was soon lost in my own world. Halfway journey into my dreamworld, the jeep eased to a stop. While all the occupants were off their seats, my dreamy self tilted to the right inspecting what had caused this interruption! Yeh toh Arrowhead hai! An excited Nagendra Ji called out!

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For the next thirty minutes, she yawned, laid down, posed for the camera and also did a brief cat walk leaving us immensely satisfied. The rest of the day was spent only reminiscing the sighting.

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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