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Towlersonsafari

what a wonderful sighting @TonyQ

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We then headed into the forest. We picked up a Forest Guide at the gate, checked a few areas and then headed to a waterhole. We sat very quietly and waited for quite a while. Two other jeeps were also

Delhi (1) After an overnight flight, we had a few hours in Delhi, so visited Hauz Khas – a large park area – for a little birding and relaxation. We didn't go sightseeing as we had been in Delhi

@janzin @offshorebirder @xelas  thank you for following. It is a fascinating destination.   Twilight/Night Drive Number 2   This drive headed off in a different direction to the fi

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Treepol

@TonyQ I’m so pleased that you decided to write a TR of your visit to Satpura and Kazaranga. I am intrigued by the variety of activities offered at Forsyth especially the canoe trip and the drive in the buffer zone. Dare I hope that our sightings next February will be as varied as yours?

 

How wonderful to see tiger in Satpura which I believe is a rare privilege as well as that other Bollywood Safari heavyweight the sloth bear. The birds and herbivores compliment these sightings very nicely. 

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TonyQ

@Botswanadreams  thank you for posting that. What a treat to see the two cubs when they were so small. They have grown a lot since then!

@Pamshelton3932 @Towlersonsafari thank you

@Treepol thank you - we loved Satpura (and Forsyth Lodge) so I am sure you will have a good time!

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TonyQ

Walking in the National Park (Walk No.1)

 

A big attraction of Satpura is the ability to walk in the National Park. When this first became a protected area, walking safaris were available before jeep safaris.

 

So woken with tea and biscuits, we set off early, pick up a walking guide and an assistant (who carries an air horn, pepper spray, and a stick). We cross the bridge and head into the National Park.

 

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Up a hill, the track leads through tall grass, over our heads. Sidanthe tells us that a Leopard has been seen in the area and we will try to track it. Our guides listen carefully for alarm calls and look for signs of disturbance amongst other wildlife

 

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A Spotted Deer keeps a careful eye on us as we walk past. We can smell the grass beginning to warm up.

 

Small gullies that you wouldn’t notice in a jeep take on extra interest as they are big enough to hide a leopard. Small hills involve physical effort, long grass could hide anything.

I had this feeling when walking in Zambia – when you are walking you have much more empathy with prey animals.

 

Our walking guide crept up a hill, lowered himself and peered over a ridge. He signalled to join him as rapidly as we could.  Just as we reached the top and looked over, there was a leopard – what a beautiful animal. At the sound or sight of us it ran forward into a gully, disappearing. No time for a photo, all over in a few seconds. We didn’t care as we (and our guides!) were delighted, and all of us were buzzing with excitement.

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TonyQ

The rest of the walk is relaxing and enjoyable. The scenery is beautiful, the small details fascinating.

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We (well Sidanthe!) see a bird up a fairly distant tree. We walk to try to get a clearer view. It takes time, but you appreciate the surroundings. In a jeep it would take seconds (although you could not leave the track in a jeep). We try to get a good angle

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Black-winged Kite

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As we walk down a hill, we get a glimpse ofanother bird. We recognise the spot as the one where we saw the same bird in a game drive. We spend time looking at it with our binoculars. We study the tree and the plants around it. A jeep pulls up, stops for a few seconds to take a photo and drives on. In and out of our world in seconds.

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Brown Fish Owl

 

We walk through a variety of environments

 

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Sambar

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Black Stork

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Knob-billed Duck flies by

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A herd of Spotted Deer

 

 

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TonyQ

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As it comes towards the end of the walk, we had to the river and then walk along the bank

 

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Spotted Deer

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River Tern

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Tourists returning from their game drives

 

We pick up our jeep on the other side of the bridge and head back to the lodge. We see a couple of interesting birds

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Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark

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Green Bee-eater

 

As we get out of our jeep, we say to Sidanthe that we would like to do another walk on our last morning at Satpura.

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offshorebirder

I am just discovering this excellent trip report @TonyQ - thanks for posting it.  And thanks to @Thursday's Child for urging you to do it.

 

Congrats on the Sloth Bear family - what a super treat!     And a Tiger sighting and great birds as well.

 

 

 

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TonyQ

Thank you @offshorebirder

 

Overnight Trip to Churna

 

We opted to do an overnight at Churna Forest Rest House in a more distant part of the park.

It takes an afternoon to drive there, overnight stay in basic accommodation (absolutely fine), and the following morning is a drive back. So after lunch at the lodge, we headed off

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Oriental Magpie Robin

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Macaque

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Spotted Deer

 

Sidanthe said they had heard that there was a tiger around, a little off the direct route – would we like to try to see it? We said yes, and we did manage to find it

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Tiger

It was fairly distant, and obviously very settled in the mouth of a cave – so we didn’t stay long.

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Indian Roller

As we crossed a river, we sat and watched

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Elephant and youngster playing

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These are captive elephants, used for work in the forest. It was fun seeing them play and behaving as elephants, but also with a sad feeling about their captivity. Wild elephants do not occur in the park because there is not enough water. The park used to offer elephant rides but I believe that this has been stopped.

855022769_IndiaTRSatCH-8.jpg.8db6d8622375d12cb2daccb846827baa.jpg

 

 

 

India TR Sat CH-4.jpg

Edited by TonyQ
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TonyQ

1325009646_IndiaTRSatCH-9.jpg.c2679b6cf4f8d9bd4a63682547944b43.jpg

Stork-billed Kingfisher

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Indian Muntjac – the only one we saw on the trip

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As we drove along the track we had a glimpse of a Sloth Bear at the edge of the track. As soon as it saw us it ran incredibly quickly through bushes into dense undergrowth

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Prize winning photo! We were astonished at how fast this animal could run

The number of visitors to this part of the park is low, so this bear is not comfortable with people and vehicles.

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Sambar

 

As I said, the accommodation is fairly basic (but we have stayed in much more basic). Sidanthe and the Forest Guide insisted on preparing the room for us before we entered and were concerned we would not like it – but it was fine.

A simple meal was prepared by a local cook – it was delicious and it was very pleasant sitting outside eating it.

 

We did search for Giant Squirrel with a spotlight – saw a touch of eye shine but nothing more.

 

Next morning, cup of tea, simple breakfast and a drive back

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Nilgai

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Sambar

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Spotted Deer

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Peacock by lake

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TonyQ

We stopped at a Forest Ranger rest camp, had a cup of tea and picked out a few birds, including

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White-naped Woodpecker

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Lesser Goldenback

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Golden-fronted Leafbird

 

Finally we headed back to the main park

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Langur

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Macaque – youngster

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Macaque – adult

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Sambar

 

and back to the Lodge.

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janzin

Fascinating report, it is great to see the variety of activities at Satpura. The ability to canoe...without paddling yourself...and no hippos to worry about ;) and walks is very enticing! Now I wish I'd added it to my upcoming India trip. Oh well, next time :)

 

That Golden-fronted Leafbird is a stunner--and would be a life bird for me!

 

I look forward to the Kaziranga section too...

 

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offshorebirder

The Oriental Magpie-Robin is also a stunning bird!

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xelas

Each TR from India is showing what a great destination it is, and yours is no exception, @TonyQ! Plus all the colourful birds ... India is very much on my mind :).

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TonyQ

@janzin @offshorebirder @xelas  thank you for following. It is a fascinating destination.

 

Twilight/Night Drive Number 2

 

This drive headed off in a different direction to the first drive. We drove through different villages, woodland and open patches of ground. We stopped at the ranger station to pick up a forest guide. All of the guides at this station wore smarter uniforms than our previous forest guides.

A good sign?

 

We headed through wooded areas, checking side tracks, checking by the river, listening for calls. There was good interaction between our driver and Sidanthe – the forest guide was silent.

 

We did see a few birds but generally it was quiet. We came across a group of Nilgai.

 

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As it got darker Sidanthe said we would look in areas where cats are sometimes seen – so we were excited at the possibility of seeing some small cats!

 

After quite a lot of checking and spotlighting we were thrilled to see

 

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Jungle Cat

This is the most common of the smaller cats. It has a striped tail with a black tip – which we were able to see but not able to get a photo! It typically weighs 5-6Kg, so a bit bigger than a domestic cat.

890930651_JungleCat-2.jpg.e020f228157fb5b05a16046f1cf440f7.jpg

 

 (Photography was very difficult – focussing initially impossible, but pulling back the zoom turns my lens into an f4.5 instead of f5.6 and it was then able to focus – but these were still 1/25 of a second!)

 

We were thrilled to see this. The forest guide didn’t even look at it – he stared silently ahead.

 

We drove on and checked a number of different areas. Sidanthe was excited and tried to show us another cat, eventually we could see it hidden amongst the undergrowth. A little repositioning of the vehicle allowed us to see

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Rusty Spotted Cat

 

This cat is tiny (1-1.6kg), about the size of a domestic kitten. Our book says it is the smallest cat in the world. The face markings are very distinctive.

 

After a while we drove on, carrying on looking and saw

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Another Rusty Spotted Cat

So really pleased!

 

By this time the excitement led to the forest guide falling asleep! (All the other forest guides on the trip were good – this was the only one who did not get a tip)

 

We carried on searching but didn't see any other cats - but you cannot be too greedy.

We did see a couple of other species

 

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Jungle Nightjar

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Hare

 

The drive didn’t produce many species, but we were really pleased with what we did see. Two new species, two new cats, two happy customers!

Well worth doing.

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janzin

wow, Rusty Spotted Cat is very special to see!! And two of them! Jealous :lol:

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lmSA84

Wow! Great sightings....wish I’d gone to Satpura when we visited India. Forgive me if I missed this point but when you’re on these night drives are you outside the park? 

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  • 2 weeks later...
TonyQ

@janzin thank you

@lmSA84 thank you - the night drives are in the buffer zone which does not have all of the restrictions in the national park

 

Wildlife (mainly birds) around the lodge

 

Most of the time we were out of the lodge, but there tended to be a little time before and after lunch when we could take advantage of the grounds looking for birds. To the side of the track that runs between our room and the dining area there was a small pool which attracted many birds, and there were a number of other interesting areas. Sidanthe also took us round to see particular birds.

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Oriental White-eye

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Jungle Prinia

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Indian Yellow Tit

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Purple-rumped Sunbird

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Snake – in the roof of the entrance hall

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White-browed Bulbul

 

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TonyQ

809081068_IndiaTRSatlodgebirds-7.jpg.8fa9a540da372810f9c981435f7d8f94.jpg

Tawny-bellied Babbler

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Yellow-eyed Babbler (taken through our bathroom window)

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Tickell's Blue Flycatcher -- Sidanthe was very pleased to show us this

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Purple Sunbird – Sidanthe took us to see this at her nest. This was quite close to the staff quarters but the bird did not seem bothered by passing people.

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Citrine Wagtail

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Common Iora

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Langur

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Black-crowned Night Heron – roosting in a tree

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TonyQ

A Walk in the National Park (Number 2)

 

We had enjoyed our first walk so much that we asked Sidanthe if we could do another one on our last morning. The sun was just coming up as we started in to the park, up the slope of the river bank. We had a walking guide and another forest ranger (who carried a stick and an air-horn)

580776360_IndiaTRSatwalk2-21.jpg.9409e72adc137364f14dbaa85a2f442a.jpg

 

We came across a herd of Spotted Deer – huddled together for safety during the night.

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Sidanthe told us that a leopard had been seen in the “meadow” area, and we would try to track it. We listened for alarm calls and watched carefully. We came by a tree that was close to an area of long grass. Another pair of walkers and their guides also came to join us.

Our guides were convinced the leopard was in the long grass. On the far side of the grass there was a jeep, all binoculars trained on the grass.

 

There was a very loud roar (which I could feel vibrating my chest) and something burst explosively forth from the grass

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I am putting a short series of photos in even though they are all poor as I was not quick enough!  (In the first one, the leopard is between 18 and 24m away according to my software) (no cropping)

1430041802_IndiaTRSatwalk2-4.jpg.ab0f07439039aa9c8f78acf690ab09f9.jpg

 

158910133_IndiaTRSatwalk2-6.jpg.a0ad09e8cc213f7eef1c80079d14a8c1.jpg

 

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Very quickly it disappeared, but what a thrilling experience. No time to be scared, just excited. We were all buzzing – I think the guides were as excited as we were.

 

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TonyQ

We continued walking, through forest, more open areas, seeing a lot of birds. We were shown Tiger footprints, and places on trees where they had scratched to mark their territory.

1902540901_IndiaTRSatwalk2-16.jpg.2041414588a2bcc1dc3a967d9f7055a8.jpg

Two male Spotted Deer stop to watch us walk by

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And one decides to take advantage of our distraction

1432592143_IndiaTRSatwalk2-18.jpg.bfa698bc7176ba78d14021602fbba80b.jpg

 

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Sambar

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A pair of Bonneli’s Eagles fly overhead.

 

And finally back to the lodge. I think it is a real advantage of Satpura that you can walk in the National Park, and we were really glad that we had time to do it twice. Obviously seeing leopard while on foot is a highlight, but even without that the walks were thoroughly enjoyable

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Earthian

Absolutely first class report and photographs, Tony. Do thank Mrs Q on my behalf!:lol:

 

We drove down to Satpura last year but we spent only one night there. We bust a tyre and couldn't get it fixed at the small villages around there. We only had a 'baby' spare tyre and we had to drive 300 kms or so to Bhopal to get a new one. But it was fun.

 

So jealous that you could go to Churna Forest rest house and stay overnight. It was on our agenda, which we had to cancel. Seems you and Mrs Q had a fantastic time. Sidhante seems to be a committed naturalist and that makes all the difference. The last official guide seemed to be totally unprofessional! But to be fair, these 'guides' are paid about Rs 350/- (about £ 4 ) per trip and since there are more guides than the allowed vehicles, they would be lucky if they average 20 trips a month. I guess they work on secondary jobs to make ends meet. No excuse for his unprofessional behaviour, but just giving a perspective.

 

As you said, Satpura is a less popular destination amongst tourists ( no doubt since tiger sightings are not easy- and thank heavens for that!) and hence it is more enjoyable. Churna FRH, if i remember has only 3 rooms or so and hence you were pretty lucky to get one of them during your visit.

 

Great photographs and thank you for sharing. Would not like to divert the wonderful wildlife photos here and hence just sharing a sunset phototaken from the balcony of our room. Hope you don't mind.

 

 

DSC_8077.jpg

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Towlersonsafari

What a treat @TonyQ to see 2 species of small cat and then the leopard! Very impressed you had the presence of mind to get any shots of the leopard. I think I would have Benn more like  Corporal Jones!

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ForWildlife

I think Satpura climbed considerably on the places I like to visit. Great diversity and not crowded. The 2014 tiger report had 30 tigers of 1,5 years and older listed for Satpura. However, 3 were definitely younger and 7 were double-counted. That still left 20 sub-adult and adult tigers in that park, recorded on camera traps, so the true number probably a bit higher.

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pomkiwi

@TonyQ Lovely report and excellent photos (as always) - what a thrill to meet a leopard whilst out on foot!

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TonyQ

@Earthian thank you, that is a lovely photo. It is good that you point out the low pay of the forest guides. Most of them we thought were good - it was just this one that was such a contrast. All of the others were tipped by us

@Towlersonsafari the leopard running out of the grass happened so quickly that there was no time to panic!

@ForWildlife thank you for that information

@pomkiwi thank you, it was a thrill

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