Monday, February 23, 2009

Bishanpura Tigress!

At the heart of a healthy Tiger population are breeding Tigresses. This beautiful Tigress from the Bishanpura area of Mukki is a mother of three 10-month old Cubs now. She is quite big in size and this is her fourth known litter. We saw her from elephant-back this morning and she sat in the bush staring and occasionally growling at us. Notice her missing lower canine. She is indeed a very impressive looking animal and i was happy i went on elephant-back to have her 'darshan', which i usually avoid. There was a dead Langur not very far from her, totally intact. Maybe she hunted it for her Cubs?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sloth Bear at last !!

After almost three years and countless safari drives in the jungles of Central India..i see my Sloth Bear ('Melursus ursinus') today morning in Kanha!! And what an un-expected sighting it was!! I just showed my Guests, Jill and Pearse..a great couple from California very interested in everything the Jungle has to offer, some fresh Sloth Bear droppings and as i drove off..there was this Sloth Bear about 25 meters ahead of us and sniffing at a Sal Tree..i just froze..could'nt believe my eyes..i could'nt even utter a word for 10 secs or so..and then shouted, 'Look, Sloth Bear!'. The Bear did not even notice us before venturing back into the Sal forest casually! The time was 9.35 am..such an un-likely time to see a Bear!! What an exhilarating encounter with one of my top favourite animals in the Indian Jungles!! And i managed to get this quick shot of it!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

King with Crows

I saw this handsome Red Headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) or the Asian King un-common sighting these days Kanha the other day, being mobbed by 5 to 6 Jungle or Large-billed Crows. The Vulture was agressively defending itself and refused to give up it's shady perch,which it must have sought after a good meal. The time was about 10.30 am and it was already quite warm..this sighting was at Bishanpura meadow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rare Raptors in Kanha !

The truly magnificent Mountain Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus nipalensis) was sighted by us on the 24rth of Jan..soaring overhead at a small meadow called Belkundri. This Eagle was never a confirmed sighting till now and i think nobody ever photographed it in Kanha. It was a treat to watch this big and beautiful Eagle with such broad wings, soar over us and i was so fortunate to have photographed it! In fact, we could not exactly identify the bird..raptors are such a challenge! But an expert, Praveen, who came two days later could identify and confirm it from my photograph!

Another favourite Eagle of mine, the Rufous-belllied Eagle(Hieraaetus kienerii), is rarely seen in Kanha.We saw it only a couple of times in the past year and it was such a brief or a distant sighting that i never got a chance to photograph it. On 3rd Feb 2009, i got lucky..we came across two Rufous-bellied Eagles soaring overhead and even calling!! A courting pair?! What a superb sighting!!

This is another un-commonly seen winter visitor, the Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus)! We also saw other un-common Raptors like Besra, Crested Goshawk and Eurasian SparrowHawk, this winter. Last year we also saw an un-believable raptor...the Jerdon's Baza! Kanha is indeed a great place for rare Raptors! We always keep our eyes peeled at the sky for raptors, especially after 9 am, as they prefer to soar with the thermals. 'Raptor!', goes the excited one of the several keen pair of eyes spots one!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tetracerus quadricornis

This is an unique antelope whose scientific name fascinates means 'four horned four horn'!
(Tetra=four,keras=horn in Greek and quadri=four,cornu=horn in Latin!) Known as Chousingha in Hindi,it is a very shy animal and i was waiting to see it in Kanha for years! My chance came at last..last week..on the plateau of Bamhni Dadar,where the Park management had burnt grass as a preventive fire-fighting maesure..and the fresh flush of green shoots attracted these shy animals out. Some of my colleagues had seen a few and alerted me..two trips up to the plateau and i saw one male..and got this picture from a distance! The animal is about the size of a Muntjac and the males grow four small horns. They inhabit semi-open srub forest and prefer hilly areas, seldom away from a source of water. I was so lucky to see one..after a long wait!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beautiful Jungle Cat !

Look at this Beautiful Jungle Cat ('Felis chaus'), sitting so calmly and gazing at recent evening on a little used road of Kanha. We had seen it from some distance and stopped immediately and killed the engine..waited for the Cat to get comfortable before creeping up to get this picture! In the lovely evening light it's coat was glowing and it kept gazing at us for a long time. Look at it's ringed tail, markings on the upper-legs and it's pointed, black-tipped ears..the hall-mark features of a Jungle Cat! I simply love to observe these shy, lesser Cats and rarely get a chance to photograph them from such a close distance! Kanha's meadows offer good chances to sight these amazing Cats.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Peacock in courtship mood

Some early bird Peacocks have already developed their full courtship plumage and i caught this enthusiatic male probably rehearsing for the coming season..because i could not see any Peahens around!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sambar Stags in their winter best!

Winter is also the season for the handsome Sambar Stags to search, court and mate with the elusive females! Since they are Deer of the deep forest and essentially loners, they have to advertise their breeding condition and generally make theie presence felt to the receptive females. One of the ways the Stags do this is to wallow in mud and 'adorn' themselves in order to 'attract' and impress the females. Just look at this 'tall, dark and handsome' Kanha Stag!!

This young Stag actually does not have much of a chance among the big fellas..but why give up without trying at all, seems to be his policy!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sal metamorphosis

The magnificent Sal trees, which defne the whole character of Kanha, are in the throes of change..they are shedding their old can see in this image how the old leaves turn into delicate shades of ochre and yellow before they are shed. The whole forest is thus changing's so beautiful to watch and hear the gently sound of falling Sal leaves, which form a lovely carpet of yellow-brown leaves on the forest floor....

And new Sal leaves are alreday emerging from their's amazing to see the Sal forest in transformation and renewal..i am mesmerised by it's beauty..and am so fortunate to be here in Kanha...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Winter in Kanha National Park

The landscape in Kanha in winter is glorious, as evident in this image of a Chital herd resting under shade..with the different hues of the meadow merging into the Sal forest..and the Bahmni Dadar plateau in the background. I love the scenery of this amazing Park, which keeps changing almost every week.

Barasingha or Swamp Deer is the flagship species of Kanha and in winter one can see them in their best condition.This magnificent Barasingha stag seen one December morning is in it's prime rutting condition and the misty background is almost surreal...

The Barasingha Stags gather dry grasses in their antlers in their attempt to assume a larger profile, which allows them to gain dominance over other stags and therefore increase thier chances to mate with receptive females.

The Stags give out their amazing bugling calls to advertise their readiness to mate. For me, this is one of the most beautiful wild sounds in India and it resonates through the meadows of Kanha in winter.

Leopards are such beautiful Cats..with such long tails!! This lovely male Leopard was sighted one November evening in the Gorrela camp area of Mukki zone..and i was so lucky to get this hurried shot of this very shy animal!

Dholes are another favourite predators of mine and i never miss an opportunity to observe their behaviour. One November morning, we saw a pack on a hunt in Aurai maidan and got this lovely shot of one dog leaping amidst tall grass to get a better view of the hunt in progress!

Tigers are always such a treat to watch! We chanced upon this beautiful Tigress on a cold December morning..she gave us an indredible demonstration of how she marks her territory by spraying, scrap marking etc. What a heart-stopping, close encounter it was!!

It's also rutting time for the lovely Sambar and i photographed this handsome Stag, in beautiful, gentle, early morning November light!

Landscapes always fascinate me..this image is from a beauitful October Sunset!