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Tadoba National Park - Part IV

Great afternoon birding


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On the way to the park gate this afternoon, we stop to see the cotton fields and women collecting grass for their cattle.

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Black Shouldered Kite

This afternoon it has been decided that for a bit of variety, we will enter a different part of Tadoba Tiger Reserve, the Agarzari Buffer Zone.

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Seeing leopard paw prints just inside the gate, gets us off to a promising start.

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We see lots of beautiful and colourful butterflies around a particular meadow, but they are so hard to photograph when they are on the move.

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Purple heron

We head for some wetlands and spend most of the rest of the afternoon in and around this area.

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There are lots of birds around, but mammals are sadly lacking.

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Purple heron

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Little Cormorant

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Black Ibis

The fickle Asian Open-Billed Stork

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I'm coming in to land... get off my perch!

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Ooh! Changed my mind... I think I will find somewhere else to sit.

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Nah, you can keep your rock.

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Well.... actually, I think I prefer it over this side anyway.

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Perhaps this wasn't such a bad place after all.

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Intermediate Egret

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Black Headed Ibis

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Lesser Adjutant

The first mammal we see this afternoon is this sambar hiding in the tall grass.

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Oriental Magpie Robin

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White Fronted Water Hen

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White Fronted Water Hen

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Asian Open Billed Stork

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Little Cormorant spreading his wings to dry them out

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Our fickle Openbill is back, with a snail in her beak.

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Sunset over the marshland.

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The light is fading really fast now, as we make our way back to the park gate.

We see one more animal on our way out, in the near darkness.

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Gaur

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He is eyeing us suspiciously from behind the grass.

And that brings a very abrupt end to my blog from our 2017 India trip. For some reason I did not take any photos after this. To be fair, I had an upset tummy in the evening and the next day for our long journey home (Tadoba - Jabalpur-Delhi-London-Bristol (including a stop in Delhi during their awful smog problem when schools and offices were closed).

For my birding friends: We ended up with a trip count of 71, 31 of which were lifers. That is what I consider a successful birding trip! And, of course, we did see FIVE tigers, so all in all it was a very good safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:46 Archived in India Tagged sunset india kite safari birding butterfly cotton wetlands heron egret stork ibis cormorant gaur tadoba sambar bird_watching tiger_park adjutant buffer_zone agarzari_zone openbill open_bill magpie_robin water_hen Comments (2)

Tadoba National Park - Part I

Yay! Tigers!


View Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright - India 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Before we left home, our agent in India contacted me and said the lodge were really concerned about the lack of English speaking guides in Tadoba. I assured him that as long as the guide could find us the birds and animals, we are not too worried about the amount of English he speaks.

I am therefore very surprised when our allocated guide greets us in English at the park gate this morning. In fact, he speaks a lot of (what I assume is) English, most of which I can't understand. He is enthusiastic and gregarious, chattering away non-stop.

There is a queue at the gate as usual

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I am interested to see that there is an equipment hire place right by the gate. What a great idea!

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Soon after we get inside the park, we see a number of vehicles parked up, looking across a pond to the bank the other side. Apparently we just missed a tigress with her two cubs. A girl in one of the other cars shows me the preview on her camera. What a shame, just a couple of minutes too late.

We do see our first crocodile on this trip, however.

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The lake is home to lots of birds too:

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Intermediate Egret

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Pond Herons

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Little Egrets

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Spotted Dove

We move on to another pond.

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Chital

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Open Billed Stork

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Common Sandpiper

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Pond heron - I love the reflections in the lake

Something spooked this chital.

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Our guide, whose name I didn't manage to catch despite asking three times, tells us there is a 50% change the mother and cub will come here to drink, so we sit and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

So are a few other vehicles.

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While we wait (some more), we watch a Pied Kingfisher in the far, far distance, doing what kingfishers do best: fishing.

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Red Wattled Lapwing

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Indian Peafowl

When a group of chital turn up to drink, there is a fairly sure thing that there isn't a tiger in the vicinity – the early warning system is pretty good in these parts. So we move on.

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Tadoba is very different to the other two parks we have visited on this trip, in that the main road leading through the park is actually tarmaced. I know it means you can travel faster, with less dust, but I can't help but to feel that it somewhat detracts from the 'jungle experience'.

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This road used to be the main thoroughfare to Nagpur from Tadoba and was used by the local king in the 17th century, who constructed a number of pillars to show the way.

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Tiger

I am not complaining though; we see a few vehicles gathered on the side of the road, and just as we pull up, a young tiger appears in a clearing in the forest.

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Then we spot another one behind. These are two youngsters, probably brother and sister, around two years old.

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They stand there, looking at us for a while; and it does appear that they are going to be coming across the open plains and hopefully cross the road in front of us.

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Unfortunately, the children in the next vehicle get a little overexcited and noisy, and the tigers turn around and disappear into the forest from whence they came.

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We can see the occasional orange flash moving around behind the trees, but they do not come out again.

We move on.

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Hanuman Langur

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Brown Fish Owl

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Indian Roller

Sambar
We see a gypsy ahead with everyone pointing their weapons (cameras) into the bush. It is unusual to see a sambar this close to the road. He seems quite unperturbed by our presence, even briefly looking up from his breakfast.

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Yet again it is time to leave the park and head back to camp.

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Irai Safari Retreat welcomes us back with a full buffet breakfast: puri and sambal, mashed potato, spicy beans and a masala omelette with chilli.

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Time to chill for a few hours before this afternoon's safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:14 Archived in India Tagged india holiday safari trip national_park journey tadoba tiger_park tadoba_national_park Comments (3)

Pench National Park - Part II

A very exciting afternoon Safari


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After a lovely rest this lunchtime (apparently I missed a fabulous lunch by having a siesta instead of eating), I feel ready to take on more adventures on this afternoon's safari.

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The Gypsy arriving at the lodge for the afternoon safari. I love the misspelling of the word 'seat'.

We drive through a couple of villages to get to the park, with the usual daily activities

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Gaur
The first animals we see this afternoon are the gaur, AKA Indian bison, the world's biggest wild cow.

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Giant Wood Spider
These things are enormous! They measure about the size of your palm with even more gigantic webs. Every arachnophobe's worst nightmare.

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Pench is a pretty park, with some beautiful scenery and attractive features.

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Rose Ringed Parakeets

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Indian Grey Hornbill from underneath

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Hanuman Langur

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Indian Pond Heron

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Red Wattled Lapwing

Back at the same wetlands we visited this morning, we see some sambar deer lying down.

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And in the background a White Throated Kingfisher.

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Lilac Breasted Roller

Chital Chase

On our right we see a few spotted deer sprinting along at great speed, followed behind by a huge herd of them, all looking like they are running for their lives.

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They just keep on coming, more and more and more.

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Something must have really spooked them.

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Then we see the reason for their panic: a couple of wild dogs! How exciting!

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As the hounds close in on the chital, I begin to fear for this little girl's life – I really do think she is going to become dinner.

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But she gets away and joins her friend. Phew.

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The two dogs soon become seven as other dholes (Indian wild dogs) join the pack.

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Then a Golden jackal turns up.

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To be joined by two others.

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I am hoping for an angry stand-off with the Wild Dogs.

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But nothing happens unfortunately. The spotted deer survives for another day; and the dhole and jackal go hungry for a bit longer. We eventually and reluctantly move on.

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Hanuman Langurs
We arrive back at the wetlands area where we were before; and the light there now is fabulous.

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The shoreline is also full of langurs, drinking, preening and playing.

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We spend some time watching their antics

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As we are sitting on the only dry ground that leads from one side of the lake to the other, the langurs are having to jump across the water, providing us with a perfect photo opportunity.

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The little one doesn't quite make it all the way across.

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It's getting late, so we start to make our way towards the gate again, grabbing what wildlife sightings we can on the way.

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Indian Grey Hornbill

Tigger woz 'ere
Just like domestic cats, tigers like their scratching posts too – this one has been used by a male tiger fairly recently.

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Banyan Tree
This single tree, part of the fig family, began its life as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on another plant, where a seed has germinated in a crack or crevice its host). The Banyan Tree is the national tree of India.

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Keelback Water Snake
We see a dead snake in the road, all shrivelled up, and I lean out of the car to try and get a better picture of it, when it suddenly raises its head, hisses furiously at me and slithers off. OK then...

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What an exciting afternoon we've had, we the chase and then the backlit jumping langurs!

The moon
As we leave the park and drive back to the lodge, I notice the moon is very bright tonight. It is full moon in a couple of day's time, so that makes sense.

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Dinner
Tonight's dinner is interesting, unusual and probably best described as a little staccato. First we are served a plate with fish fingers, pappad pakora and chick pea patties.

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Then a soup, followed by a plate of sprouted beans.

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When the waiter brings out bowls of roast potatoes, we assume it is as an accompaniment to the main course. It is not; it's a course in its own right. Oh well, I like roast potatoes.

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By the time the main course of grilled chicken, vegetables and garlic rice arrives, I am full up!

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I do manage to make room for the delicious strawberry delight dessert though.

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We linger with a drink after dinner as we don't have an early start tomorrow. Stay tuned for the next instalment as we move on to Tadoba.

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Posted by Grete Howard 04:19 Archived in India Tagged national_park pench tiger_park pench_tree_lodge pench_tiger_park pench_national_park Comments (1)

Pench National Park - Part I

A very rare and endangered sighting this afternoon


View Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright - India 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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.

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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.

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Seeing very fresh tiger pug marks is promising for a sighting this morning.

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The sun is just beginning to break through the mist as we make our way deeper into the forest.

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Dhole
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.

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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.

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We follow him as he makes his way through the forest.

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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.

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Rufous Treepie

Jungle Fowl

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The sun is slowly warming up the air, but the mist is still hanging over the lower ground, creating a mystical and eerie atmosphere.

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Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

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Spotted Dove

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Indian Peafowl

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Indian Pond Heron

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Indian Pond Heron

Changeable Hawk Eagle

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Another Peacock sunning himself

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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'.

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We pass a flooded area with a Green Sandpiper feeding in the shallows.

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Golden Jackals in the far distance

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Indian Roller

Breakfast
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.

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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.

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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.

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Indian Cormorant

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Bonelli's Eagle

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Green Sandpiper

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Little Ringed Plovers

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Painted Storks

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White Rumped Vulture

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Indian Pond Heron having a bad hair day

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Great Egret

There are also a couple of jackals around.

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We reluctantly leave the pond area behind to go in search of more wildlife.

Hanuman Langurs

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Red Wattled Lapwing

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Hoopoe

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Chital

Nilgai
This is the first nilgai we see on this trip, and then only for a few seconds as she disappears into the forest.

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Jungle Owlet

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Black Drongo

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.

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On the way we spot these two gorgeous Indian Rollers, one with his lunch.

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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.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:37 Archived in India Tagged animals birds india sunrise breakfast safari eagle mist birding picnic national_park pigeon peacock roller heron egret stork vulture dove langur gypsy owl cormorant jackal chital drongo bird_watching pench nilgai buzzard early_morning hanuman_langur owlet plover tiger_park breakfast_picnic pench_tiger_park pench-tree-lodge pench_national_park tiger_pug_marks dhole indian_wild_dog wild_dog ghost_tree indian_ghost_tree treepie jungle_fowl early_morning_mist mowgli sandpiper hoppoe snooze Comments (3)

Kanha National Park Part IV - Kisli Zone

A disppointing turnout of animals in the park


View Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright - India 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Having returned to Kipling Camp after this morning's game drive, we have time to take a little nap before lunch. David chooses to chill in a hammock while I snooze in a chair in the lovely shady courtyard.

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After another delicious lunch of egg curry, spinach, pumpkin, dhal and curd, we go off for the last game drive here in Khana.

This afternoon we are allocated Kisli Zone, and Astrid (the manager at Kipling Camp) comes with us. Lyn and Chris, however, go off to spend the afternoon with Tara (more about that later).

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The first thing we see this afternoon is a dead baby chital, who most probably died during the birth.

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A few minutes later we see a female sambar with her offspring, and I can't help thinking about the poor chital who lost her baby.

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Maybe this is her?My heart breaks.

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Rahim stops the car to show us pug marks on the track – that looks promising.

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The sun is getting low now, and we haven't seen a great deal yet this afternoon.

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The spider's webs are enormous out here, maybe some 4ft across. While I don't mind spiders at all, I would hate to walk into that web!

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Oriental Turtle Dove

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Indian Peafowl

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Indian Grey Hornbill

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Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

All too soon it is time to leave the park behind, despite having seen no tigers this afternoon. We see the piglets again by entrance as we leave - it is almost pitch black now.

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When we get back to camp, we are eager to hear how Lyn and Chris' afternoon went.

Tara
Lyn and Chris debated long and hard whether to come out on safari this afternoon, or to stay in camp and go with Tara, the resident elephant, for her daily bath in the river. I persuaded them to do the latter, and am so glad I did, for several reasons, not least of all the fact that we saw very few animals in the park this afternoon.

Lyn and Chris, on the other hand, are full of it. “It was the stuff that dreams are made of” Chris enthuses when I ask him about it. Here is a brief resumé of their experience:

Tara led the way for them down to the river, and the mahout made sure she didn't go in the water until Lyn and Chris – who were unable to keep up the same speed as their much larger friend on the walk through the forest – arrived. Into the deep part of the river she went, splashing about to her heart's consent.

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

Tara then made her way to the shallow part near the bank where both Lyn and Chris were able to get into the water with the elephant, and even assist in washing her.

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

She gets a good scrub with a rough rock every day to ensure she gets all the grime and dirt off her skin.

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©Lyn Gowler

When her daily ablutions were over, she showed off to her new-found friends, before crossing her legs ready for her pedicure.

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

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©Lyn Gowler

For Lyn and Chris this was most definitely a highlight of the trip, and I am so glad they got to experience this.

After a lovely dinner and a few drinks in the bar, it is time to tuck in for our last night at Kipling Camp. I am sad to leave but excited to see what our next camp, Pench Tree Lodge is like.

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:25 Archived in India Tagged india elephant hammock spider tara pigeon kanha peacock dove chital sambar wild_boar kipling_camp kanha_national_park tiger_park cheetal piglets tiger_safari kisli_zone hotnbill pug_marks low_sun elephant_bathing Comments (3)

Kanha National Park Part I - Kanha Zone

Talk about "Beginner's Luck"!


View Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright - India 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After a restless night full of meflaquine dreams (nightmare-inducing malaria prophylaxis), I wake to a knock on the door. Thinking that Ahmed will leave our coffee on the table outside the door, I just shout out “thanks” to him. It is several minutes later that I realise he is still standing outside waiting for us to open the door, and I feel really guilty about leaving him there.

Kipling Camp has its own Gypsy (specially converted safari vehicle), driven by Rahim, who is not just an excellent driver, spotter and identifier, he speaks good English too and is a thoroughly nice person. This morning we are also accompanied by Jeswin, the resident naturalist at Kipling Camp, whose enthusiasm is highly contagious.

Rahim ensures we arrive first at the gate, in the pitch black, some 50 minutes before they open. As time goes on, a huge queue forms (but unusually for India, it remains orderly), and by the time we are allowed in (after having passports checked and tickets issued), there are dozens of Gypsies behind us.

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Drivers queuing for tickets

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Long line of Gypsies behind us

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We are finally let through the gate

Kanha National Park is divided into four zones, and visitors must drive the circuit stipulated on their tickets. This morning we have been allocated Kanha Zone, The first animals we spot, just inside the gate, are a pack of jackals and some cheetal (Indian spotted deer). It is still very dark, so the pictures are extremely grainy as a result of the high ISO (ISO 32,000 for my photography friends).

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Sunrise

And then the sun comes up, and what a sunrise it is, culminating in an elephant and mahout appearing out of the mist. Such a magical moment.

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We continue driving, seeing more animals and birds along the way.

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Cheetal (Indian Spotted Deer)

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Eurasian Golden Oriole

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Hanuman Langur

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Cheetal

Tiger

Before leaving the UK, I had warned Lyn and Chris that seeing tiger is not easy, and to expect maybe one tiger sighting for every five game drives. And here we are, before 07:30 on our very first drive when we spot a tiger in the undergrowth. Wow!

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The tigress strolls along, taking no notice of us whatsoever.

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She heads straight for us initially, then veers off to her left, pausing briefly to turn towards the elephant that has appeared behind her.

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As the tigress saunters down the path, Rahim manoeuvres the Gypsy to a better position, anticipating the she will cross the road right in front of us.

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He is right, of course.

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You can see from the fact that I have caught part of the car in the bottom corner of the photo, just how close she is.

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And then she's gone. After nearly four minutes of sheer adrenalin and excitement, we are left with just one word on our lips: “Wow!” “We can go home now” says Chris, “we've seen what we came to see.” What an amazing experience and such a clear and close encounter. What a beautiful animal!

How can you top that?

We continue on our game drive to see what else the park has to offer. At least the pressure is off now as far as finding tigers go.

We get quite excited seeing these Blackbucks, as they are a new species to us in the wild.

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The male is black, while the females are a more neutral fawn colour. Here seen with a male cheetal.

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Hanuman Langurs

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Red Wattled Lapwing

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Gaur (Indian Bison) sticking his head above the long grass

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At up to ten feet long and seven feet tall, the gaur is the world's biggest wild cow. They are HUUUUGE

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Scaly Breasted Munia

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Wild boar

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Indian Peafowl

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Jackal

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Jackal

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Cheetal - apparently there are some 22,000 of these spotted deer in the park

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Cattle egrets flying

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Stonechat

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Stonechat

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White Rumped Vulture

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Scaly Breasted Munia

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Paddyfield Pipit

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Indian Roller

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Common Kestrel

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Green Bee Eater

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Female Stonechat - very much more dull than her husband

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White Fronted Kingfisher

Breakfast picnic

At the Visitors Centre, we stop for a picnic. Kipling Camp made us some lovely scrambled egg wraps, plus fruit and juice - the best packed picnic on the whole trip.

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The monumental arch is made from antlers from cheetal, sambar and barashinga deer. Very impressive.

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Back on the road again for a little bit more game viewing before returning to the lodge for lunch. Unlike African safaris, Indian national parks only allow visitors to enter for a few hours in the morning and again late afternoon.

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Black Storks

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White Rumped Vulture

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Indian Roller

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Sambar

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Changeable Hawk Eagle

What an amazing morning's game viewing, not just a tiger, but also quite a few lifers (new birds to us) to add to our bird list. Well done Rahim and Kipling Camp.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:31 Archived in India Tagged india elephant sunrise safari mist birding tiger peacock bison stork vulture peafowl egrets langur gypsy kingfisher oriole jackal gaur indian_roller chital sambar blackbuck stonechat kestrel wild_boar lapwing kipling_camp kanha_national_park tiger_park breakfast_picnic cheetal pipit munia wild_cow Comments (8)

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