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Can you find me a Tiger if we go to India?


Galana
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Not a particularly snappy title but it was the question I was asked when discussing “where to go next year” at the end of our 2014 Christmas visit to Kenya. I don't think it was just the Waragi that made me reply “Of course! Guaranteed!” So like the Pig and the Bacon in the Sandwich, I was committed.

First up. Who are we? Well just some close friends who like birds and beasts mixed with travel. The group's unifying factor is that we have all been arrested at some time or other for minor transgressions in pursuit of our wildlife hobby. “Looking at things without a permit” in Tanzania, “Being in the wrong area of the reserve” in India. So whilst anyone is welcome to come along on our trips we do wish to see the Police Report first. Our names are immaterial so we can go by the birdy pseudonyms of Albert Ross, Rosy B Eater and Cliff Chat.

The Nitty Gritty.

We selected the locations to be visited and sent the itinerary to our very capable Ground Agent Vinod Goswami who had done such sterling service for previous trips. In short order he had booked the lodges of our choice or made suggestions of his own which we readily accepted. He made re-location transfers by plane train or car for us and provided guides as required. Money changed hands and we bought the international flights ourselves direct through the airlines own websites.

We were good to go and all that remained was a patient wait until the time to apply for the new and useful eTourist Visa arrived. Such a boon after the farcical effort of previous trips.

The Kit. We travel light. Binoculars and Cameras. Rosy has her own camera but by coincidence Cliff and Albert have exactly the same make and model of Fuji EXR30 Bridge. This has led to some “moments” when in error one of us has grabbed the 'wrong' camera and then wondered why the settings were wrong. Or even funnier, on replay, wondering when the heck we had taken that shot of which we had no recall. We never carry a scope and rarely miss one. If we cannot get close enough with Binoculars we just try harder.

Reference book was both editions of Grimmet & the Inskipps “Birds of India”. My 2nd edition preferred for the location maps. No book on mammals was carried. We all figured that we could figure out an elephant from a rhino and could remember tigers had stripes and leopards were smaller with spots. Cliff had a good book on Butterflies to keep us busy with them.

Medical matters. Being winter and heading mainly north we made a decision to dispense with Malaria Prophylactics. Our personal decision and we do not advocate that others emulate us. A few Immodium pills were in stock just in case of need on any long transit, they weren't and came home with us. A few sticking plasters and Zambuk and we were packed and ready.

So enough of this foreplay. Let's get on with the report.

Trying to avoid the blow by blow, day by day, bird by bird format we shall go stage by stage from location to location. It may work, it may not but it is a start:-

Arrival in Delhi. Days 1-3.

We all met up in Manchester, England, the evening before our Qatar flights would transport us, via Doha, to Delhi where despite an anti social arrival time of 3 a.m. we cleared Immigration, were re-united with our luggage, phew, and met by the ever helpful Vinod and taken to our choice of Hotel. This was “The Uppal” where we had stayed previously and one of the few locations where we had over ridden Vinod's choice. Very convenient for the airport and with nice grounds to explore once our eyelids no longer needed matchsticks to be kept open. Birds seen in the grounds included various Bulbuls, Rufous Treepie, Jungle Babblers, Bank Mynahs, the ubiquitous Rose-ringed Parakeet and Common Tailorbird.

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Red-whiskered Bulbul. Uppal.

As we had two nights booked here we also decided to visit the Okla Barrage to get our respective eyes in with some birds. We had reckoned without the chaotic Delhi traffic and changes at the barrage since we had last been there. Ho hum!

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Striped Squirrels get everywhere.

Birds seen at Okla included several Bluethroats, Greylag and Bar-headed Geese, Swamphens, Ibis and Egrets. post-14856-0-42535100-1452902437_thumb.jpg

Bluethroat at Okla.

Perhaps time to re-assure non birders that this tale will not include long lists of all birds. Anyone really keen to know each and every species will be given an opportunity to read the species list at the end of the report. (If I can figure out by then how to do it.)

I think that is enough for now. Don't you?

To follow is our visit to Bharatpur and two days in Keoladeo Ghana National Park.

Edited by Galana
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~ @@Galana

 

I'm interested in your sighting of the Red-whiskered Bulbul.

When visiting the Hong Kong Wetland Park, they're ubiquitous.

I had no idea that they were also found in India.

The bluethroat is a lovely species. This is the first time that I've seen a photo of one.

Thank you for sharing this trip report!

Tom K.

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@@Galana looking forward to reading this TR and especially some recent details on Bharatpur/Keoladeo.

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great start, looking forward to more. Where is Okla Barrage? Is it in New Delhi proper?

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Tantalizing start, looking forward to the rest.

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Looking forward to more! You will have to elaborate on your previous transgressions!

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@Tom Red-whiskered is "widespread" in India, the book says but we found it patchy. The first time you have seen a photo of a Bluethroat? Not hard to beleive. Having seen lots of them in Europe and Asia this was the first one I have ever managed to photograph. They seemed quite confiding in India. Possibly newly arrived migrants from where they have no fear of man. Just for you to see you on your flight.post-14856-0-87640400-1452935604_thumb.jpg

 

@@janzin. Well Okla is in theory just a short drive north of Delhi but it took us ages. I am not sure it is worth going now as access is quite restricted by fencing. But if you have the time why not?

 

@@Treepol. Keoladeo is next.

 

@ Kittycat. The transgressions would fill a thread in themselves. (There's a thought Bwana Gameranger.)

 

Thanks all for their comments. I hope you stay with me.

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The transgressions would fill a thread in themselves

 

Thats ok with us. Go ahead and don't spare the sordid details.

Edited by Earthian
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What I thought was a question turned out to be a clever report title!

 

I hope there were no arrests on this trip, and that your past transgressions were inadvertent.

 

Bar-headed Geese = one of my favorite for both their distinctive appearance and their high flying capabilities.

 

Along with that bird list at the end, your police reports would be a hoot as well.

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@@Galana

 

So the post the image lessons worked?! Good!!

 

I look forward to read your trip report, although, to be honest, to have better knowledge of British humour and language would surely increase the amusement factor :rolleyes: !

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I will stay with you, promise. ;-)

 

Great start, and very interested here in finding out if you managed to get through this trip without getting arrested.

Edited by michael-ibk
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Thanks everyone for your patience and understanding.

Travellynn. The transgressions? Well most took place in Africa where I am more "relaxed" in the company of "Authority" although Cliff's arrest was in Periyar. I shall keep those tales for another time.

Glad you liked the title. I did consider "Please can I have a tiger for Christmas" but the muse was not upon me for long.

Xelas. Yes your tuition has borne fruit. Thanks again. See next installment I hope!

Thanks michael. I hope my language does not confuse either you or xelas in telling the tales.

 

On to part two threatened/promised.

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Part two.


Days 4-7. Early next morning we had breakfasted and driven off through Delhi's crazy traffic. We took the Agra Highway which was choked but we persevered south. Lots of roadworks and unofficial “Indian style” detours made progress slow. Our driver, Powan, evidently knew the dimensions of his car down to the thickness of the paint. We never hit anything but the miles passed by so very slowly. Eventually we turned off the Agra highway towards Bharatpur and whilst the road improved the driving did not although happily there was less of it. We stopped for a break by some flooded paddies and scanned for a few water birds. (This location we estimate is about 20km short of Bharatpur just by the State boundary. Probably worth a look over if in the area.) We added both Pheasant-Tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas as well as the only Goliath heron of our trip at this location.


Then after a poorly marked 'diversion' we entered Bharatur city and made our way to our lodgings at “The Bagh” where we have stayed before. Quietly situated in its own grounds in the style of an old palace. http://www.thebagh.com/ After being shown to our rooms we were taking lunch prior to a restful afternoon when a waiter advised us that our Guide was waiting. What?? Is there no peace for the wicked birders? No! Not when your bird guide is the redoubtable Sohan Lal.


On our last trip we had had the pleasure of his son Jakdish but this time his father had decided to test drive us. Prior to his retirement Mr. Lal was the Head Ranger at Keoladeo and his vast knowledge and experience has made him an excellent guide and companion. For this afternoon's impromptu excursion he took us into some remote agricultural area where the local river had created lagoons which were rich in bird and mammal life.


Pied Starling, Redshank, Ruff, Common Snipe and Stilts being there in good numbers. We also saw our first Indian Silverbills, Ashy Prinias, Citrine Wagtails and Hoopoes. On the way home we found a family of Spotted Owlets in a tree by the local bar that posed nicely for us.


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An immature Nilgai also put in an appearance.


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Next morning early we entered Keoladeo under Sohan's expert guidance. After a dry area where we saw Purple Sunbirds, Rosy Starlings and Brahminy Starlings


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We were taken 'off piste' to an area where our guide knew he could find Orange-headed Thrushes, Red-breasted Flycatchers, Yellow-footed Green Pigeons and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.


post-14856-0-13356600-1453030275_thumb.jpg Pied Starling.


post-14856-0-25081500-1453030321_thumb.jpg Red-breasted Flycatcher.


post-14856-0-21115400-1453030335_thumb.jpg Coppersmith Barbet.


post-14856-0-25776900-1453030379_thumb.jpg Ashy Prinia.


post-14856-0-67732900-1453030395_thumb.jpg Purple Heron. (Missed it!)


post-14856-0-85864300-1453030431_thumb.jpg Black Redstart.


post-14856-0-34934100-1453030471_thumb.jpg Rufous Tree-pie.


post-14856-0-58923800-1453030484_thumb.jpg and Purple Swamp Hen.



This is starting to read like a litany of birds so I will move on.


Keoladeo is a large area of natural and man made lakes which acts like a magnet for wintering waterfowl. Many thousands come here and many Eagles and other raptors are there to prey on them which makes it a mecca for birdwatchers.



post-14856-0-51972400-1453030502_thumb.jpg Booted Eagle soars overhead.


post-14856-0-12282500-1453030516_thumb.jpg Black-crowned Night Heron keeps watch.


post-14856-0-35727200-1453030530_thumb.jpg Plain Prinia.


post-14856-0-64590800-1453030582_thumb.jpg Crested Serpent Eagle.


Until recently the rare and endangered Siberian Crane over wintered but none have been seen for a few years now. The lovely Sarus Crane still comes however.


It was originally a shooting preserve for local dignitaries both before and during the Raj era. On one (now infamous) day a total of 4,273 birds were shot. Strange how attitudes have changed. Such a feat would now rightly be considered repugnant.


But the birds are still to be found in huge numbers as are the Raptors that feed upon them. And it is not just about Waterfowl. There are Nilgai and Blackbuck present in some numbers


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whilst the bushes and reeds are home to several species of birds not usually encountered easily.


post-14856-0-15865500-1453030611_thumb.jpg Isabelline Shrike.



A male tiger is rumoured to lurk in the remoter areas but sightings are very rare.


We visited the park on two consecutive days and such is the large area and net work of paths that apart from the initial entry road of around a mile we scarcely covered the same ground twice. Access is on foot or by Trishaw either by the hour or by the day.


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Mr Lal certainly kept up the pace and even as we left the park on our final afternoon he was calling out new birds for us including a lovely White-bellied Minivet. post-14856-0-67180200-1453030627_thumb.jpg


We left Bharatpur for a two hour drive to Agra in order to catch our overnight train to Jabalpur some 800km south but as we had time we felt we should visit the famous Taj Mahal once again. This is something even us paid up Philistines can never tire of. Entry is swift and secure these days and a pleasant couple of hours was spent immersed in the splendour of this famous shrine to one's man's love for his wife. (And of course we could not resist a bit of impromptu birding by adding in an Osprey and the nesting activity of Egyptian Vultures on the Taj itself. Well....!.)


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After a splendid late afternoon's lunch at The SaiKhandelaa Restaurant we went to the railway station and having bid our driver Powan a fond farewell we waited for our train. And waited, and waited some more. It eventually arrived 90 minutes late but we quickly found our compartment and settled in for the overnight trip. post-14856-0-52257200-1453030666_thumb.jpg


Instead of catching up on time the train lost a further 90 minutes overnight making us 3 hours late into Jabalpur where we were met by our next driver for the 4-5 hour drive to Kanha Tiger Reserve. He enquired part way if we required a comfort stop and tea and was unanimously told “No! We have a game drive booked for 14.00 so please keep the right foot firmly on the pedal.” He got us to our next bed in Chitvan Lodge in under 4 hours.


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What we saw there will be told another day and includes this Lemon Pansy.


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More work needed on the layout. How to 'wrap' the images so text runs alongside?



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90 minutes? Pah, that's nothing, we waited six hours for that train. :-)

 

Great shot of the Coppersmith Barbet. Heard them all the time but never had a clear sighting.

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@@Galana

 

"We were taken 'off piste'" - well, that phrase is well known to me, and by all account, also to @@michael-ibk

 

Somehow, your photos looks better on here than on the Shutterfly; well done!!

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Great start to the trip. And looking forward to revisiting kanha through your eyes.

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Thanks all. I am encouraged to go on.

Michael. It is a shame about Indian Railways time keeping these days. We used them a lot on our last trip. Very economical, the whole 1st class Compartment was IRP5,000. Your room and luggage moves to your next destination while you sleep and costs less than a Hotel bed. It should be a no brainer. But unless punctuality returns to its former level more and more folks are going to have to endure airports and the roads.

All Barbets are shy on occasion. Expect more to follow.

Xelas. <Somehow, your photos looks better on here than on the Shutterfly; well done!!>

Thanks for that. I don't know why that is other than Shutterfly are all reduced for ease of uploading to 640x480. It's all in the pixels.

Kit. Kanha. Here is a spoiler for you.

post-14856-0-42812100-1453038906_thumb.jpg

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You're doing great so far, and it's wonderful to see all the birds. Helps my studying. ;). And @@xelas is right, the photos do look much better here than on shutterfly. Sharper and brighter too.

 

Eagerly await the tiger tales.

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Thanks JZ.

"Eagerly await the tiger tales."

 

Or even Tails?

 

post-14856-0-28593600-1453062545_thumb.jpg

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True enough. I just thought that if anyone got bored with 'name that bird' they could try their hand at pinning the tail on the Cat which is an advanced version of the party game we played as children. :rolleyes:

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Part three.


Days 8 – 12. Kanha Tiger Reserve.


Of course we were hoping to enjoy a similar sighting to the one we had enjoyed on a previous visit when a lovely Tigress trotted with us for over 2km licking her lips. Here she is.


post-14856-0-59351600-1453211110_thumb.jpgpost-14856-0-02934400-1453211125_thumb.jpg


It would be nice if we could see her or a relative again? Licking her lips indeed. The Hussy! I never kiss on a first date.



We were based at the lovely Chitvan Jungle Camp for our time in Kanha. A lovely camp that is well run and managed. http://www.chitvan.com/ On arrival we were introduced to our driver/guide, and soon to be friend, Sanjay Thakre and taken on our first outing into Kanha. We did not really expect to find a tiger on our first entry but tis always better to travel with hope than just to travel. We did see a pug mark which was a start.


post-14856-0-79765500-1453211227_thumb.jpgpost-14856-0-02014500-1453211241_thumb.jpg


Our home at Chitvan. Fast Food for tigers. Cheetal or Spotted Deer.


post-14856-0-87643400-1453211269_thumb.jpg post-14856-0-44938700-1453211284_thumb.jpg


Barasingha Stag. Sign of a Tiger's presence.


Next morning a pre-dawn departure after a warming cup of tea had us at the Mukki gate once more. We saw more animals and birds including excellent views of the Dry land sub species of Barasingha that is restricted to Kanha.post-14856-0-01546100-1453211496_thumb.jpg


Nothing much to show for our efforts at first so we took our “Bush Breakfast” and comfort stop as the sun rose. We then resumed our search and after a while Sanjay mentioned he could hear alarm calls and he pulled up near where we saw a couple of other Gypsies. The calls were getting louder and whilst other cars moved further on Sanjay remained confident we were in the right place. Even I could detect the direction the Sambar alarms, and what was causing them, were taking. We got it right and out stepped a lovely male Tiger at first heading towards us.


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We had got Cliff his Tiger for Christmas and it was only the morning of 16th.



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Going!


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Going! When disturbed by other cars arriving, he veered off and re-entered the bush.


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Gone away!



We tracked his passage by the amount of cars that were now pressing in as he progressed to another track but left him to the others.



Was this to be all?



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Has he gone? Is it safe to come out now?



At the start of this tale I promised to avoid a 'day by day journal'. I may have to relax that in order to describe our stay in Kanha.


Each day's routine was much the same and we noted and photographed other wildlife. We also spent time in the grounds of Chitvan Lodge looking at Butterflies and birds where a fruiting fig tree was drawing lots of attention. I am more than happy to be corrected by experts on these four.:-


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Commander.


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Baronet.


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Common Baron.


post-14856-0-90659400-1453212604_thumb.jpg


Golden Orb Spider



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Spotted Dove.



post-14856-0-75919400-1453212657_thumb.jpg


Common Hawk Cuckoo.



post-14856-0-73128300-1453212695_thumb.jpg


Asian Koel.



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Coppersmith Barbet.




Anyone who knows Chitvan will know the friendly “Guard Dogs” of Mr.Argaval. An amusing anecdote from one morning. There were tiger pug marks outside the fence from a night visitor. Why had the dogs not barked? Would you give away your position to a 500lb Cat that stood over a metre at the shoulder? Dogs are intelligent too.


Another morning, another bush breakfast. Only this time it was interrupted by a Tiger. A glimpse of a sleeping cat was not that interesting but any sighting is a good one. As we left her to turn the car round we noticed two Barasingha Stags walking in the direction of the sleeping beauty. This could get interesting and so the following sequence of photos showed. First I will try a collage.


post-14856-0-07557200-1453214436_thumb.jpg



and then details.



post-14856-0-40643700-1453213880_thumb.jpg


Napoleon once said "Let the sleeping Tiger lie for when he awakes the world will tremble!"



post-14856-0-79731300-1453214257_thumb.jpg


Obviously this Stag has never heard of Napoleon.



post-14856-0-43431300-1453214274_thumb.jpg


The Tiger awakes..



post-14856-0-82214200-1453214318_thumb.jpg


Eye contact is made.



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Well I had had a Sambar yesterday and wasn't hungry anyway!



Tiger number two. This was a female with a radio collar but we were never introduced to I don't have her name. She was in oestrus and there was a male close by but he never put in an appearance so we won't count him. Back to the lodge for lunch and a couple more birds enjoying the fig tree.



post-14856-0-11217800-1453214377_thumb.jpg


Plum-headed Parakeet. (females don't have the plum colours)



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Oriental White-eyes do have white eyes!



The afternoon drive was to provide some interest too.


Sufficient to leave for another instalment. Too much excitement in one episode would not be good for us.


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Great luck with Tiger sightings - the Sambar scene is especially cool. Were you given the Tigers´ names? The Big Male is looking like, well, "Big Male" (BadaMale) we saw in March, but I will have to compare with my photos. Good catch of the Koel, never seen that one. Glad you enjoyed Chitvan (and the dogs), I´m a fan. :)

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@@Galana

 

Are you producing tiger sightings to all your guests ... or only for their x-mas present :mellow: ??

 

Even on the photos that Big Boy looks impressive! And the Gypsy like a tiny can of anchovies ...

Edited by xelas
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Michael. I was given the tiger's names, Sanjay was good about this. It is just that my fading brain does not retain data like it used to. From what is left, I don't think it was "Big Male" (although he sure as heck deserved the soubriquet) but could be Chotah Munna from the lack of stripes on the shoulders. I think the lady with the Collar began with an M but could be wrong. Surely with a collar her name would be familiar? Do they have their names on them? I was not close enough to read it.

 

Xelas. A Gypsy with eager tourists. A can of Anchovies with the lid rolled back!! And yet, I have never felt uneasy when lucky to get close, or they get close to me.

Maybe I am too blase with Lions and should pay more heed to Tiger which is a way more active cat? I certainly get a bigger thrill with Tigers than I ever do with Lion..

As for the Christmas present. Well I am nothing if not a generous fellow to my 'guests'. Don't forget. This was the mission statement from the start. And being a good 'host' I just ensured both my guests were served first.

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