A unique Tiger sighting in Kanha National Park

Tiger sighting in Mukki
Tiger Safari in Kanha
Tiger sighting in Mukki
Sun setting in Mukki zone

Kanha National Park is very special and a Tiger sighting in Mukki will compel you to think, what is more beautiful Kanha as a park, or Tiger in Kanha?

I was doing an evening safari in Mukki zone in Kanha National Park on 12th December 2015. Habitually, I am the first to enter the park. Reason behind this is simple, i rather compromise on 15 minutes of sleep and be the first one to enter the park, as it opens more possibilities of some unique Tiger sighting in Mukki.

We entered and in about 15 minutes reached the spot on the main road between Chotta and Bada Chattapatra. Naren stopped the vehicle for a moment to hear some alarm calls, nothing. Took a turn towards Chotta Chattapatra (CC). We turned and saw fresh pug marks of a Tigress. The pug marks were so fresh that we thought we will see her walking ahead of us on the road.

Slowly and silently we followed. A Jungle fowl alarm call ensued, and the pug marks disappeared to one side. The alarm call continued. We thought the Tiger had heard us and had moved into the bush. We switched off the engine and waited. A Jeep coming from behind had a very ecstatic guide, Umesh, who said the Tigress is on the main road behind us, the area from where we had turned left, she was on the right curve. We turned swiftly. I ensured my camera was on.

We reached the spot and heard lot of alarm calls of Spotted Deers, and Sambar as well calling. The Tigress was on the move. Hearing the calls few more Jeeps assembled in the area. Two Jeeps before us had seen the tail of the Tigress before she moved in. We moved on to the Bada Chattapatra (BC). The alarm calls were coming from the valley on our right, we continued to move with a hope of seeing her emerge from the bush somewhere.

Then, suddenly a very loud, “Aaaaooooooommmm”. Distance wasn’t more than 20 metres. People who have heard a Tiger in the wild will understand what goes through the mind, heart and soul when they hear the Tiger roar. Before I could turn around and tell my daughter to keep her camera ready, she roared again, much closer, closer than I expected. Suddenly I heard the crushing of the dry leaves by her walk. The sound of crushed dry leaves was getting closer, and our heart beats faster.

Three Jeeps in the area, all silent. But anxiety got the better of one driver, he switched on the engine, wanting to go ahead of us. Hearing this the Tigress changed course. I sensed it as i heard the crushing of leaves sound go away. She turned into the valley. She stopped roaring. The alarm calls continued, but now they had started to fade away signaling that she was moving away, she had changed course. Tiger sighting in Mukki did not happen on this occasion.

My daughter’s face fell, Naren and me were disappointed as she had moved away. But the important aspect about experienced naturalists like Naren is that this disappointment lasts only moments. Yes, we missed one opportunity but safari was not over. Tigers had not left Kanha and gone away. Now we decided to move towards Duke road where we anticipated she would come out from.

We reached Duke road, and in no time the alarm calls of the Sambar deer started. The movement of the Tigress was on, and she was again coming towards us. I lifted my camera as I anticipated her to make an appearance in the fire line in front of us. It would have been a great image of the Tigress walking in the fire line. Then suddenly again a very loud, “Aaaaaooooooommmm”, and it was clear that she is heading straight towards us, still in the deep, the roar resonated. It was not clear from where she will emerge, but emerge she will for sure. And again, another “Aaaaaooooommmm”.

She was about to come out, any second, any moment, my heart was racing, and so was the time to exit the park. It was time to start the journey back to the exit gate. Her roaring continued, how desperately i wanted time to stop for a few minutes…alas, it does not, would not, and did not.

This time we had to start our engine, to exit towards the gate. While we changed gears, my head kept looking in the direction from where the Tigress was roaring. My eyes kept on searching for those majestic stripes which I hoped to see maybe just for a fraction of a second, but it was not to be. A momentary sadness engulfed me. Sat down in the Jeep, put my camera to rest, closed my eyes, and in my imagination saw the Tigress emerge out of the tall grass into the open.

I wanted to stop the vehicle right there, turn back again, go back to the spot, for I knew she had made an entry, but did not due to lack of time. One deep breath, I opened my eyes, and smiled looking at the sky. Yes, I did not see the Tigress physically today, but I did hear her roar, I saw her fresh pug marks, she was close, very close, and yes, I saw her clearly in my imagination. Oh, what a super Tiger safari it was.

This is what is special about Tiger sighting in Mukki. This zone always keeps you on the edge, you know Tigers are all around you. There is enough of evidence, enough of pug marks, growls etc. Tiger sighting in Mukki has been the highlight of Kanha National Park for the last two years.

Returned to the Lodge, the first question from everyone is, ‘Sir how was the safari”, I smiled, and they knew that I had seen a Tiger.

Sharad Vats

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spiritual and a Birding tour in Rajasthan

Birding Tour in Rajasthan
Black Buch in Tal Chhaper Sanctuary
Birding tour in Rajasthan
Demoiselle Cranes in Kheechan, Phallodi

I had heard a lot about the efforts of a man named Ratan Lal, in the village of #Kheechan (Rajasthan. Apparently he had started conserving the #Demoiselle #Cranes. To keep himself busy he would feed the pigeons and peacocks. Once he noticed some Demoiselle cranes come on the feed. He continued the feed regularly over the years. Gradually their numbers increased to hundreds, then thousands, and today more than 20000 Demoiselle cranes come to this village.

This is an interesting conservation story which i wanted to see with my eyes. One fine day I set out by car to discover this spot, and do birding tour in Rajasthan. The drive was long hence we planned a small detour to include another birding spot, namely #Tal #Chhapar in the district of Churu.

It was a fogged out December morning, so could drive only at a speed of about 20kms per hour. We stopped at a small dhaba for breakfast. Here we were told of a holy spot of Salasar Balaji Dham, a temple of the Monkey God Hanuman. It was en route so we decided to stop at this place.

Balaji Dham is located in a small town of Salasar near Sujangarh in Churu district. It is considered to be a Shakti Sthal (seat of power). There are 51 Shakti peeths in India. Thus it attracts millions of worshippers round the year. A very peaceful place with strong vibrations, how one hour went by at this spot we did not even realize.

Tal Chappar

Then we drove onwards for 45 minutes to Tal Chhapar. Located on the fringes of Thar dessert, it is a flat saline depression. The nearby village is named Chhapar and the flat sanctuary is known as Tal, hence Tal Chhapar. We entered the sanctuary within minutes of reaching there.

The beautiful flat grasslands of the Tal are picturesque, and some visible horns of the walking blackbuck added to this painting like surroundings. We drove inside the sanctuary in our car, and soon realized why it was not a good idea to have an open vehicle for a #safari here. The dry sand covers you and the vehicle in minutes of entering this sanctuary. Hence a closed car is advisable. So when you spot something, stop, roll down the windows, and silently observe or photograph quietly.

The blackbucks and the birds here very shy due to lack of human presence. You stop and they walk. Open flat grasslands with some trees interspersed give a feeling of a savanna.

Though the size of this sanctuary is small, but the complete eco-system it houses is amazing. The main attraction here is the Black buck. It is also a passage for the migratory birds, which come here in October and stay until March. The Marsh Harriers, Lager Falcon, Common Krestel, Tawny Eagle, Short toed Eagle are amongst many birds that you can spot here. Best time to spot these birds is late evening, just before sunset and sunrise. This is the time when they are less active and seen mostly on the ground, or at times perched on the trees. As the sun comes up, these birds become active, and the action begins.

Morning in Tal Chappar

Next day we were woken up by a loud chanting on a loud speaker at 4am, coming from the nearby village, the first reaction is not so positive, but soon we started to enjoy it. Mahendra told us that the entire village gets up at 4am, visits the local temple, then they all go and feed the birds, and start their day. They have these fixed places around the village, some 3 feet tall platforms surrounded by iron grill, and they leave the grains for the birds to come and feed. Every family in the village does that daily. The love and concern for mother nature could not be better seen.

After a quick breakfast we went to #Gaushala, (Cow shelter). We were told that this is the place where one can find the Spotted Creeper if lucky. Our luck was not with us that day. The place is called Gaushala as in monsoons when the rains flood the entire village, the cattle of the area gather here as it is a bit high, and here they have a lot of grass to feed. Currently we saw lot of Buck here, some #Egyptian #Vultures and some #Harriers.

Then we went and saw the Salt area close by. Some #Pied #Avocets, #stilts, and an Eagle Owl with the young ones was a welcome site. Mahendra was very happy to see the young ones and he said that now their population will increase from about 10 to 13, and in few years he sees this area as the most favorite place to see the Eagle Owls.

Demoiselle Cranes in Kheechan Phalodi.

We hit out for our next destination, #Kheechan in #Phalodi district to see the most spectacular avian sites for last 40 years. Started by Ratan Lal by feeding a couple of dozen cranes, today over 20 thousand Demoiselle Cranes visit the area. A local Ngo has been formed where people donate to get the grains for the cranes.

Today almost 2.5 quintals of grain is being fed to these birds daily. I would recommend every birder visiting the area to donate towards this cause. While standing there suddenly all the cranes took to flight. We noticed a stray dog had come close to the water hole. One villager came running towards the area and drove the dog away. Gradually the birds settled down again near the lake. This was one of the most beautiful birding sites I have seen in India.

Brahma Temple, Pushkar, and Dargah of Gareeb Nazaz in Ajmer

Having spent a couple of hours here, it was time to hit the road again. We decided to visit the Brahma Temple in Pushkar. Reached Pushkar by late evening. Next day morning, we explored this clean city of Pushkar. Every November there is a big cattle fair here, and the entire city is packed with foreign tourists and photographers. Colors on display are seen to be believed.

Visit to the Brahma Temple was a transcending experience. Hardly any tourists or pilgrims, the place was peaceful and levitating. Moved on the 2nd most popular pilgrimage of Muslims, the Dargah of Gareeb Nawaz at Ajmer. My second visit to the Dargah in less than 6 months was an overwhelming experience. There is something special about this place that gets people of all religions and faiths. Having offered a chadar, we reluctantly moved on. Light heart, and heavy eyes is what one experiences when here.

It was now time to get back home, and we hit the road silently, but happily.

Sharad Vats

 

 

 

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Tracking Kingfisher, the dominant male Tiger in Kanha National Park

Tiger in Kanha National Park
Tiger Photography Safari
Tiger in Kanha National Park
Territory marking by a Tiger in Kanha

“Good Morning Sir, this is your wake up call”. It was 4.30am, my last safari of this visit to Kanha. After five blank safaris, a thought crossed should I just relax today as I have an evening flight to catch? But I put the mind over mattress and jumped out of the bed, and in some time was sitting in the Jeep. The focus of this entire visit was to see Kingfisher male, a huge dominating Tiger in Kanha National Park.

At the park gate I met a guide who said that last evening he had seen #pugmarks of a male #Tiger going from #Andh Kuan to #Gorella. I shared this with our guide today and moved towards the direction. Reached the Andh Kuan #Camp no signs of anything. Asked the guard at the camp if he had any information. He said, about half an hour back he had heard a Tiger calling. Excitement showed in the eyes of Naren, and the steering turned towards #Bahimarra road.

We had gone only 10 meters when another vehicle ahead of us, signaled us to stop, we did, and within moments we see a huge #Tiger walking towards us on the track. Both the vehicles started to reverse. It was about 7am. With mist in the background, and some dust of the vehicle in front of us, the Tiger walked fast, confidently, and with a purpose. We started to reverse. His speed only got us to reverse faster.

I settled at a spot in the Jeep to take some shots. Tiger’s hurried walk gave me a lesson on how to be ever ready in a Jeep. The shots taken in this 100 meters walk, are so representative of what Kanha is about, mist, sal, meandering trails, and peace. I will preserve these for eternity. It was now that Naren said, “Sir this is Kingfisher male”, my euphoria knew no bounds. This was the male Tiger I was trying to track for almost 6 months and get some head on shots. Finally, the moment had arrived. Perseverance pays as they say, sure it does.

He continued to walk with determination towards his destination. Seemed as if in search of something. From his gait we could make out that his tummy was almost full, and he surely did not seem to be in a hunting mode. It was now that he looked towards something in the bush and began to stalk. He entered the bush. We were a tad disappointed that he was gone, but not convinced that he was gone for long. Deep down the intuition said that he will be back. The eyes were yearning for him even more now.

We stopped, and waited. This is the most crucial time in any sighting. At times a wait for a few extra seconds can deprive you from another sighting. Suddenly the #Sambar #deer gave an alarm call from a distance, our hearts grieved. As the call was from a distance hence we thought that the Tiger had crossed over from the other side, and it was all over for the morning.

After about 30 minutes of waiting the guide Preetam suggested let us go and take a round of the area just in case he has come out from the other side. Reluctantly we started, hoping that he had not crossed, but one portion of the mind said, what if he comes out again and we are not there. This situation arises frequently during a safari. We decided to go ahead and check on the other side. We saw some pugmarks, fortunately they were of a Leopard, and we concluded that the distant Sambar deer call was for the Leopard in the area. But it was not long for us to guess that the Tiger most likely had moved into the bush as he had sensed, or smelled the Leopard perhaps.

We finished the round and almost reached the spot from where the Tiger had entered the bush. Suddenly we hear a Sambar alarm call, we braked, he called again, and then, the Tiger called, “Aaaaoooomm”. The excitement, the spirit, the energy was all back in fraction of a moment. When we reached the spot, the Tiger had just come out of the bush, and walking in front of us. T

he break of about 45 minutes or a bit more had slowed down the pace of his walk. And yet again, he did not want to leave the road, this time we were behind him. It was after almost 50 meters that he went to the side of the road to do his territorial marking, and that gave us an opportunity to move ahead of him. Now we were in front and he was behind us All was same except that the light was more now, it was about 8am, and the sun was behind Kingfisher.

By now, some more vehicles from the other zones had come, and they were behind us. He walked fearlessly. I left my camera and just looked into his eyes, and he into mine. There was unsaid truce, love, and affection exchanged. His eyes said, “Alright, I don’t mind your presence as you have been quiet, and tolerant.” The vehicles behind us were slow, which also slowed our movement, and the Tiger closed in the distance a bit too fast.

I was left with no option but to now take out a smaller lens, and started to take some images. We had reached a nullah, and my guide said, ‘Sir, ab yeh is puliya par latega”, Sir” he will now do a marking on this pipe”. How apt was that. The Tiger lied down on the pipe as if making love with the pipe. One of the most unique sights I have seen. He seemed to be in love with the pipe. The expressions were so innocent, as if saying that I have found something smooth and cool in this whole rugged Jungle.

Having done that, he moved into the bush and uphill. It was curtains on today’s show.

I write this article almost 50 hours after witnessing this magnificent male Tiger of Kanha. The hangover is far from over, and I see no withdrawal symptoms yet. All I can say after this episode is that of all the worldly, material, and sensory pleasure that I have experienced in this lifetime this one has lasted the longest, second only to the joyful experience of communion with the almighty.

Sharad Vats

 

 

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