Sighting of Dholes at Bannerghatta National Park on 24 June
Text and photographs Copyright © Sudhir Shivaram
This trip for bird watching/photography around the fringes of Bannerghatta was decided at the last moment on Saturday afternoon. We arrived at around 4:30pm and met Ramki who had reached the place early that morning. We immediately decided to go to Doddi Betta as there was still some light for photography. We roamed around on the top for some time looking for birds. But it was too windy for any birds to hang around. Ramki was sitting on the cliff and enjoying the cool breeze from across the valley.
I was on the watch tower at the Doddi Betta looking out for raptors. Meanwhile, Giri who had joined Ramki at the cliff side saw some black dots far down below. He identified them as Gaurs. Neither of them had binocular's and so Giri went and got Ramki's 400mm lens from the vehicle parked near by. He then waved towards me and called me. Since I was carrying the 500mm with the 1.4x converter, I thought of getting some record shots. The amazing set of events which followed was for the first time ever (probably) captured on still camera, at Bannerghatta National Park.
Giri was looking through Ramki's camera and said he saw a Barking Deer along with the Gaurs. I searched that area through my camera and saw the brown colour looking mammal in that heard. When I saw the thick black tail tip, I shouted "Hey, I see Dholes". And I continued to search for the Barking Deer. I then realized that what they saw were Dholes and not Barking Deer. Giri was excited at the mention of Dholes. In his 10 years of visit to that area, he had never seen Dholes at the Park. This was a record moment in the history of Bannerghatta Park. And all these happening just 20 km away from one of the fastest growing IT cities in India, Bangalore.
In the series of images which follow, technology has a very important role to play.
See the image below. That's the view of the Park from Doddi Betta. The Rock which you see at the bottom of the image, that's where we were standing. And at the center of the other circle was where the action was happening. The view is as seen with Naked Eyes. Hats off to Giri for spotting the Gaurs from this distance. And a big thanks to technology of the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS and the Canon 1.4x converter mounted on the Canon 30D. The equivalent focal length for this combination comes close to 1200mm. And because of the 8.3MP 30D, I was able to do some heavy cropping and still retain the details to see the action happening miles away.
The below photograph is a full frame image shot with the Canon EF 500mm + 1.4X converter on Canon 30D using the Wimberly Gimbal head on the Gitzo 1410 Tripod. This is the amount of detail got from such a distance.
And this is a further crop of the above image. Here, we can see the 5 Dholes. I concluded and drew the circles around the Dholes after comparing this image with other images in which the Dholes were absent or at different location with in the frame. Hence I was able to identify them as Dholes and not some other things. There could have been more, but this is what the camera captured.
As we were watching, the Dholes surrounded the Gaurs. We were able to count around 15 Gaurs in this herd, which included a couple of calf's. The Dholes were probably eyeing the young ones.
The Dholes surrounded this Gaur which was in the pit. You can see two Dholes on top and two more through the tree below. I think the young one was also in this pit along with the adult Gaur.
This was the final moment of what we saw. All the Gaurs got together and ran towards the right, and the Dholes followed.
And the next moment, they all disappeared, and the place looked as if nothing had happened there.
And just to recapture, here's that view from the Cliff again. Can you imagine capturing all that drama unfold as it happened from miles away ? Thanks to today's technology, rare moments in nature such as these can be captured and documented from far away.