Here's where we went:
Two of the pics in the account following were taken by Anirudh, and two by Yathin; but do feel free to comment on the others, which were AMOW (all my own work) with a little help on settings from Anirudh!
I had been wanting to go back to the jungles for some time now, and as a proposed trip to BR Hills with KM and Kalyan fell through, I decided to go to Bandipur again. Chirdeep expressed his willingness to come along and said that another friend of his, Anirudh Chandrakant, would also like to join. So I booked for all of us at JLR Bandipur...and a big bonus thereafter was Yathin's (http://yathin.com ) saying that that he too would be able to come. Yathin (though he will dispute this statement of mine) is a seasoned wildlifer and an accomplished photographer, so I looked forward to a learning experience on many fronts.
On Thursday the 7th September, we set off at about 7.30 in the morning, and reached Bandipur at about 12.30. Manjunath had gone on leave to Bangalore, and Mr Gangaswamy had gone to Mysore, but we found Sunil (the official naturalist) there, and re-established contact with others like Basavanna, Bomma and Pradeep. all of whom are better naturalists than we will ever be!
I had the room with the unfinished mural of the Dhole, and Yathin had the one with the mural of the sloth bear. I do want to find out why this praiseworthy initiative of JLR seems to have run out of steam....
Our first news was about a tusker that had been electrocuted (by an illegal electric fence) nearby, and about the birth of a baby elephant that very morning...a birth and a death...that's the way of Nature!
We were very impressed by the new, quiet electric vans JLR has acquired as runabouts on the property. Wish it was possible to have that kind of silent engine in the jungles instead of the rumbling of the diesel jeeps.
Yathin went to take a much-needed nap while I wandered around with my camera, taking a snap of two toads and a millipede in the JLR property pond.
We piled into the safari jeep at 4.30 pm and off we went into the jungle, just past the Forest Checkpost, with herds of CHITAL grazing, passed the camp elephant,and sighted a COMMON MONGOOSE, almost immediately followed by the sight of a couple of DHOLE or wild dog.The sight of a YELLOW WAGTAIL on a rock had everyone snapping away, as did a PIED BUSHCHAT, a MAGPIE ROBIN, and a PURPLE-RUMPED SUNBIRD. As we went on, we sighted a TUSKER in musth, with the secretions leaking down his face, with a female elephant. Yathin told us that often the courting couple leaves the herd a little distance behind, to ensure their privacy. We also sighted some GAUR, and then decided to visit Bolgudda where there is a dilapidated watch tower.We were rewarded with beautiful views, and in the angle of the building, two of the DUSKY CRAG MARTINS swooping nearby had built a nest. I was neither inviting the attention of a predator, nor disturbing the nest, fledglings or the parents in any way, so I took a snap of the nest. From the hilltop, we heard what we felt was a tiger's growl...but after the "audio" component, the "video" component failed to oblige!</font></div>
At dinner, we exchanged a few wildlife stories. What would the wildlife experience be, without these anecdotes? It is so nice to live once again the moments of excitement, ignorance, stupidity or luck that each story illustrates! But of course, I am looking forward to the day when I can tell my own tiger and leopard stories instead of respectfully listening to others!
Early the next morning, we piled into the jeep and first of all, watched the newborn elephant calf once more, sighted some dhole, and some WILD BOAR mothers with their young. I must say, many of the animals seem to be used by humans; it was amazing that it was the large gaur that panicked and ran the most; the chital especially seemed quite comfortable with our nearness, merely pricking up their ears in alertness. Here's a pic of the baby, just 24 hours old, suckling:
Anirudh was trying to point out a raptor that he had seen, deep in the jungle, but in trying to locate it, Pradeep spotted a BROWN FISH OWL that was perched on a tree and out came the cameras in a hurry again! We also spotted a GREATER COUCAL in a tree nearby. After breakfast, we waited for Chirdeep's arrival and then headed over to the home of Sunita Dhairyam, one of the artists who have painted the murals in JLR, in Mangala village. She showed us the work she is doing with the local villagers, teaching them screen printing, in the hope of giving them a sustainable source of income. She introduced Mahesh, a young lad who has been painting very well indeed.
Here she is:
After more than ten years working as an artist in Minneapolis, she decided to come back and settle near her beloved forests, and is helping the villagers set up a sustainable silk-screen printing unit to sell souvenirs to visitors. She has been training another young man called Mahesh and showed us his work too.
After lunch, we decided to visit the famous Gopalaswamy Temple,a small but beautiful temple set on a Betta (hillock) that Veerappan used to visit,and rushed up and back to be in time for the evening safari.
Here's the Gopuram of the temple:
We sighted a TAWNY-BELLIED BABBLER, and then, as we were driving along, heard the news of a chital having just that moment been killed by a pack of dhole, and rushed to the place...and for me, at least, it was a real NatGeo moment...a pack of dhole were tearing at a dead chital, with one of its eyes plucked out. Amazingly, in a matter of twenty minutes, the meat was polished off, with hardly a few scaps left for the jungle crows. NOT a sight for the squeamish...but we watched in awed silence! Apparently a similar sighting happened to Chirdeep on his last trip here, so we decided to ascribe this sighting to his luck!
We pulled away in silence,and went on further to see some BARKING DEER, and some "makana" elephants (males without tusks), and retruned to the resort. The evening was spent reliving the incident, and looking at each others' photographs (while the others politely refrained from commenting on the technical quality of mine, being very encouraging about what I had tried to photograph, instead.
And here's another one of a jungle crow with the scraps from the feast:
We set off in the morning, and soon spotted another mongoose running across the undergrowth and I managed to get a shot of it peeping out through the trees to see if we were leaving or not!
Wethen decided to see the Moyar Gorge and went to a vantage point from where we could see the Moyar river snaking its way far below, with the hills of Tamil Nadu on the other side. Yathin spotted a KESTREL and we watched it wheeling across, on the thermals. Yathin then asked Bomma to take us to a spot where a tiger had, earlier, been making claw marks to mark his territory. Stretched to his full height and with his hand above his head, Yathin was not able to reach the uppermost claw marks..an indication how large the tiger must have been! Here's a picture of the claw marks on the tree, beyond Yathin's hand as he showed us how the tiger would have made them:
We got back and checked out of the resort, having bid goodbye to Mr Gangaswamy and the others...we missed meeting Manjunath, who has gone to Bangalore on leave...and on the way back, Yathin suggested that we visit Ranganathittu as well, and Chirdeep, who woke up just in time to spot a signpost for Bangalore in the direction opposite to the one we were taking, wondered aloud where we were going!
There were a lot of BLACK IBIS at Ranganathittu, and we also managed to spot some NIGHT HERONS, both adult and juveniles, and some LITTLE EGRETS, LITTLE CORMORANTS and a few DARTERS. We saw two STONE PLOVERS up close, and talking of up close, out of the several CROCODILES we saw, one lazily swam up to a rock a couple of feet away from us and pulled himself up to bask in the hot sun, much to the delight of the others, and my disgust (I had left my camera, with its full CF card, behind...of course! Murphy!) Another floated at the edge on an island, hoping that lunch would, quite literally, drop in!
Throughout the trip, I found Yathin carefully stopping to warn motorists who had parked on the road, about the dangers from the elephants, even when they didn't seem too receptive about the warnings; when he found a piece of plastic, it would go immediately into the jeep to be disposed of later; and once, when a villager was struggling to take up a gas cylinder up the steep hairpin bends, took the cylinder into the jeep and delivered it at the shop at the Checkpost area for the grateful guy. I do wish we had more Yathins around...they set such a great example for everyone to follow.
We drove back to Bangalore well satisfied with what we had sighted on the trip, even though the first sight of a south Indian tiger had eluded Anirudh and me, and a first sighting of a leopard had eluded Yathin...perhaps,we will be lucky the next time!
(pic: Anirudh Chandrakant)
I will be retailing some more anecdotes and posting a few more pictures later; I realize that my pics of buildings and statues, which don't run off into the jungle, are OK, but I need INTENSE practice!
Feedback please...if you have had the patience to go through this entire epic! I will also post the link to the excellent pictures the others will be posting!