The Jungle Look

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BRT Wildlife Sanctuary - 16 to 19 March 2006

It was almost a year since I visited BR Hills. And since there were reports of Tiger sightings at BRT, I decided to spend the weekend at BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.

16 March 06
I started from Bangalore early morning and took the Kanakapura-Malavalli-Kollegal route, a mistake which I realized during the drive from Kanakapura to Malavalli. The road is bad to the core and took more than an hour to cover this stretch. Finally I reached the forest check post after Kollegal by around noon. This stretch from the check post to K.Gudi goes through the forest for about 25km and this is the reason for me to take the Kanakapura road. Its lush green and birds were in plenty. I enjoyed every bit of driving and was always on the lookout for something to happen. The flowering trees were in bloom and birds were frequenting these. I spent some time enjoying the songs of these chirping birds and continued towards K Gudi. I checked into Jungle Lodges and Resorts camp by 1pm and was greeted by Mandanna who had apparently seen 4 Tiger Cubs a few days back. I took some rest and got ready for the Safari by 4pm.

This was my first forest safari after I upgraded my lens to 500mm. It was quite challenging to carry the lens in the safari jeep with all the jerks and bumps on the road. It was quite a pain to hold on to the lens and also to the jeep to make sure I didn’t damage my equipment. I could not use the tripod and had to relay on my bean bag, which came in very hand through out the trip. My eyes were all open, looking everywhere, hoping to see a glimpse of the king. Through my 9+ years of wildlife outings, I have never seen a Tiger, forget about photographing one. So, was more than curious to sight a tiger. I had heard of this person who waited for 72 years to see a tiger. He finally saw a Tiger at Kabini a few years back. Oh man! I surely didn’t want to be in that list.

Though the sightings were good with the regular mammals like Spotted Deer, Wild bore, Sambar Deer, Langurs, Barking Deer, Gaur (Indian Bison) etc etc, there were no sign of any predators. We came across a Sambar Kill and saw a pair of Stripped Mongoose feeding on the carcass. Then a pair of Wild bore came and who took over the carcass. Nothing in the forest goes waste, as we saw the wild bore dig through the carcass. We then drove to the point where Mandanna had seen the 4 cubs. A rosewood tree had fallen down there and because of the insects around, there was a White Bellied Drongo and a Fan Tailed Flycatcher feeding on them. I was able to get some decent shots of them.

While we waited there, I saw a pair of Eurasian Black Birds on a tree top, and waited for them to come close. But then suddenly, I saw a Shikra fly down and knock off one of the blackbird down to the ground. It pressed the bird hard against the ground and sat on it for sometime. I quickly got some shots and waited for the Shikra to perch on a tree. But unfortunately another Jeep from the opposite direction came and the Shikra took off with the bird.

After coming across some Gaurs and Deers, we were heading out when we saw around 6 Wild Dogs at the entrance of the 3tf road inside the forest. We spent some time with them and since it was getting late and there was not light, we decided to head back to K.Gudi. The first day safari was quite eventful with so many sightings.

17 March 06 (The day I can never forget in my life)

The next morning, I was up by 5:30am and got ready for the morning Safari. I got to see a lot of birds, but not any wildlife. This is expected as you normally get to see a lot of animals during evenings rather than morning. We were back at the camp by breakfast and I headed out in my car for a short drive to shoot some birds on the road side. After Lunch, I was relaxing and viewing the images which I had shot so far.

By 2:45pm, I took Mandana and Narayana to shoot the changeable Hawk Eagle, which is normally found near the temple at the entrance of the park. While we were heading down the hill, we heard alarm calls of a barking deer and the Langurs. We stopped the jeep and waited for some time. We knew it had to be a Tiger, as we were in Tiger territory and Mandanna along with JLR manager Sourav had seen a tiger in the same area on more then one occasion. We then decided to head down the road closer to the calls. We were close to a stream, where we stopped the vehicle and waited. It was not a long wait, as Mandanna waved his hands towards me and pointed in the direction where the king made his appearance. I just had a glimpse of the Tiger moving majestically in woods. The bright coloured stripe’s against the dark background was a sight which I can never forget. I have been roaming the forests for more then 9 years and had never seen a tiger so far, until now! I know my turn will come when I will capture him on my camera. I have plans for a trip to Kabini and I know I will get him there.

It was 4pm by the time I recovered from this unforgettable moment and we headed back to the camp as it was time for the safari. Well, I had already seen what I had come for and was more than happy that I made this trip. It is said that you will always see your first sighting of a particular species in your favorite place. And BR Hills was the place where I had seen my first Leopard and now the Tiger. Of course, my first sighting of a lot of the nocturnal species like Palm Civet cat, Mouse Deer , Atlas Moth (worlds largest moth) etc etc were at BR Hills. I call it as my second home.

The evening safari was fruitful with a lot of animals and good birds. We again went back to the waterhole where the Sambar Deer carcass was lying. And the same two wild bore were there. This time I saw the Brown Fish Owl there, perched on a lone bare tree at the far end of the pond. After some photography, we returned to the camp.

18 March 06
The next morning safari yielded us just some Gaurs and a few Spotted Deer. Though the bird life was good, photography was limited by the distance of these birds. During the safari’s, though you know you may not get any good sightings, it’s the experience you have in the forests which makes you go back to the jungle again and again. It’s not what you get in the safaris; it’s what you may get at the next corner and the anticipation with which you wait to see a glimpse of the jungle creatures. It cannot be jotted down here, it has to be experienced.

Anyways, we headed back to the camp only to hear that we missed a Leopard which was sleeping on a tree at the park exit. On hearing this, I took Raghav (work as a naturalist at the camp) and the driver Nagesh back in the forest. But, it was gone. Since we had come back to the forest, we decided to visit the anti poaching camp on the way to Dodda Sampige tree. On the way, we came across a heard of elephants which had a small baby calf. We knew the elephants would charge at us if we stopped. We did not want to disturb or aggravate them by stopping there. So, we continued after taking some snaps from a far distance (advantage of a 500mm lens). At the camp we met up with forest watchers Nagraj and Mahesha. Nagaraj was explaining about the difficulties they face at the camp regarding the basic amenities. I did talk to them about the good job they are doing in protecting the forests and in turn helping us conserve the environment. He was pleased to hear my praise about his job, but at the end of the day, he said that money is what matters to him, as he has to take care of his family and with a mere Rs 2000 per month , there’s not much he can do. So, I gave him whatever I could and spent some time with them hearing about their experience in the forest. Their anti poaching camp is basically a small home where Veerappan was kept after being captured by the forest officer Srinivasan.

Later, came back to the camp and had lunch. Yathin and Sourav (Manager at JLR, K.Gudi) came from Bangalore and we headed to the forest in the evening. We came across a large heard of Gaur which had two male bulls. And one of them challenged the other Bull and we did witness a small fight between them. These are the incidents we wait to see in the wild. And we were fortunate to see it. Later we herd the alarm call, from the same place where 4 tiger cubs were sighted. We assumed it must be because of their mother. We waited at some distance to get a glimpse of the tiger, but it did not show up. We then visited the waterhole to see the Sambar Deer carcass. Though we saw the same two Wild bore, they had finished up with the remains. We also saw the two stripped neck mongoose which I had photographed the first day and had seen them the next day.

19 March 06
We got up early as usual and headed out for the safari. It was the usual birding trip in some good lighting with a few sightings of the mammals. Not much sighting this time. Later back at the camp we had breakfast and left for Bangalore, after a good long weekend break away from the concrete jungle. Back at office, I am thinking of my next jungle trip, this time to Kabini, hoping to capture the king.