A very rare and endangered sighting this afternoon
02.11.2017 - 02.11.2017
There appears to be some sort of confusion about our park tickets for today. It seems our agent booked them for the wrong gate, some 60km away. Hence the very early start of 04:30. Rakesh (the driver who brought us down from Jabalpur) is picking us up and driving us to the gate in his car, where we will change into the open top safari vehicle (known as a 'gypsy'), so that we won't get frozen solid by taking the long journey in an open top car. Wise move.
4:30 comes and goes. No Rakesh. At 05:00 I ask the young receptionist what is happening. He wanders off to check with the manager. After a few minutes, he comes running back and continues on to the car park.
A short while later a Gypsy arrives for us. There has been a change of plan. We are going to the nearest gate just a few kilometres away after all; and will pay for a new ticket instead, saving all the hassle of the long journey. That sounds good to me, as it would take well in excess of an hour to travel 60 km on these roads.
We also have to pay for a (compulsory) park guide who will accompany us on this morning's safari. Once that is all in order, we can enter the park.
The first thing we spot, is an Oriental Honey Buzzard, another new tick on our life list.
Seeing very fresh tiger pug marks is promising for a sighting this morning.
The sun is just beginning to break through the mist as we make our way deeper into the forest.
We are very excited when our guide spots a rare and endangered dhole (Indian wild dog) in between the trees. Our very first sighting of this species in the wild.
There are thought to be fewer than 2500 of these animals left in the wild, so it is in fact even more rare than the tiger.
We follow him as he makes his way through the forest.
Indian Ghost Trees
Found all throughout the park (as well as being quite common elsewhere on the subcontinent), the bark of this very distinctive tree (Sterculia urens) exudes a gum that is used for laxatives.
The sun is slowly warming up the air, but the mist is still hanging over the lower ground, creating a mystical and eerie atmosphere.
Yellow Footed Green Pigeon
Indian Pond Heron
Indian Pond Heron
Changeable Hawk Eagle
Another Peacock sunning himself
Brown Fish Owl
The guide keeps telling us the name of this bird, but I just can't get what he is trying to say. It sounds something like 'ground peace owl'. It is not until very much later that I realise he is saying 'Brown Fish Owl'.
We pass a flooded area with a Green Sandpiper feeding in the shallows.
Golden Jackals in the far distance
We stop for breakfast in a dedicated picnic area. A structure has been created to provide shade or shelter you from the rain, but as the temperature this morning is still very much on the cool side, everyone remains outside to catch some warmth from the sun's rays.
The breakfast box is rather disappointing this morning, especially considering how superior the food was at the lodge yesterday.
A rather hideous plastic Mowgli adorns the site, which is appropriately called Mowgli Picnic Area.
We continue to a large wetlands area that is teeming with birds, and spend some time with binoculars picking out various species, many of which are new to us. It is all rather exciting.
Little Ringed Plovers
White Rumped Vulture
Indian Pond Heron having a bad hair day
There are also a couple of jackals around.
We reluctantly leave the pond area behind to go in search of more wildlife.
Red Wattled Lapwing
This is the first nilgai we see on this trip, and then only for a few seconds as she disappears into the forest.
Upon hearing loud warning calls, the driver stops the car and we sit and wait. There is obviously a predator in the vicinity, and a lot of very distressed langurs. We wait. And wait. And wait. As time is now getting on, we eventually have to move, despite not having seen any tigers.
It is time to leave the park and return to the Lodge as the park rules have very strict timings for just morning and evening safaris rather than the whole day as we are used to from Africa.
On the way we spot these two gorgeous Indian Rollers, one with his lunch.
As we were up so early this morning (plus I didn't sleep well last night), I decide to forego lunch and spend the time snoozing instead.
Stay tuned for the next entry.