Big Game Hunting in India - p 2 of 5

 

Barking Deer

 

 

 

Three days into our safari, the signs of tiger are everywhere. We see their tracks, or pugmarks, on the road where they walk at night or at dawn.  However, they usually retreat into the forest when rangers come patrolling on bicycles.

We also hear the alarm calls of muntjac, the aptly named barking deer. The frequency of their barks tells us how close is the tiger, and whether or not he is approaching or moving away. But we see no tiger.

 

25 Nov 2013

At last tiger.  Sort of.  Three were found in a dense thicket of bamboo after they’d had a sambar deer for breakfast. Mad dash, amid clouds of dust, as a dozen safari jeeps converge on the scene (the guides call each other on cell phones). Occasionally one of the tigers raises up, but photography is impossible because of the bamboo stems.

Somehow the felines snooze on despite all the human commotion a short distance away. The only things needed to make this a circus are the calliope and a popcorn vendor..

In late afternoon we must leave the park. So we have to be content with views of tiger and Indian Fox today. After sundown out come the male Indian Peafowls, in fact a fairly common bird here.

Peacock
Bengal Tiger 26 Nov 2013

It’s possible to come upon a tiger out of the blue.   But any tiger near the road will likely be found by a ranger who then stays nearby. Alternatively, the Park’s “off-road-vehicle,” an Asian elephant ridden by a mahout, will find and track them.

So it was this morning.  With two mahouts behind them and our safari jeep on the road, two tigers briefly came into view, providing several quick photo ops before moving on.

So we must be content with mediocre photos of tiger.   One soon learns that with keystone predators, whether or not you get a killer photo depends a great deal on luck.  If you find the tiger and he feels like being photographed that day, count yourself lucky.

But it takes effort too.  Talat says that to get the tiger, one must concentrate on that and nothing else.  But I'm happy to have seen a wild Bengal Tiger and all the other great wildlife in Bandhavgarh.

 

 

27 Nov 2013

Yesterday we flew back to Delhi and spent the night at the Almondz. Today we flew to Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, between Pakistan to the north and Mumbai to the south.

We continued on by car to Velavadar National Park, not far from the Gulf of Khambhat. Our target here is blackbuck, India’s only antelope and what a beauty he is.

We’ve put up at the Blackbuck Lodge. The setting could easily be East Africa - grassy plains with herds of grazing animals, a cozy lodge with superb service and cuisine. Unlike the wary tiger, you just drive out into the park and there’s your blackbuck posing like a champ.

male Blackbuck
Blackbuck herd in the evening  

 

For your blackbuck, it’s not a bad life. The dominant males have harems of as many as 17 females; there’s plenty of grass. Predators like Indian wolf and hyena lurk about. Blackbuck’s main predator, however, the Asiatic Cheetah, was exterminated over a century ago by maharajahs who captured and trained them as hunters. And of course shot them as well.

 

 

Blackbuck youngsters, though, take no chances. They bound away when our safari jeep gets too close.

young Blackbuck
Marsh-Harrier  

28 Nov 2013

For the birder, Velavadar’s main attraction is harriers. This time of year as many as 2000 can be found in the park’s 34 square km. And while we in North America have one species of harrier, the Northern, four species can be found here: Eurasian Marsh, Montagu’s, Hen, and Pallid.

 

 

Wherever you look, there's a harrier soaring over the grasslands with head down in search of locusts, which seem to be a staple of their diet. One could spend the entire day doing nothing but flight shots of harriers!

At dusk they settle onto the dirt tracks.  We usually see 15 or more along each km of road as we leave the park.

Montagu's-Harrier

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