Big Game Hunting in India - p 3 of 5

 

 

 

The other grazing animal here is nilgai, or blue bull (gray, actually), an antelope that looks and runs like a horse. The does are a pleasing tan. Most nilgai go about with a Cattle Egret or Black Drongo perched on them. Here the drongo seems to be checking for ectoparasites

 

 

Blue Bull with Drongo

 

 

The thing about luck is that it always changes. This afternoon our guide Ramzan spotted a Jungle Cat in the grass as it moved toward the road. To his and Talat’s surprise, the feline came out in the open and walked along the road despite our noisy jeep. Talat says that seeing a Jungle Cat in the open is much more rare than seeing a tiger. I would have preferred the tiger anyway. But you take what luck gives you.

Our naturalist Sterndale related in his magnum opus about Indian wildlife (1884) the following story about Jungle Cat, related to him by another naturalist, Jerdon:  "... quite recently I shot a pea fowl at the edge of a sugar-cane field when one of these cats sprang out, seized the pea fowl, and after a short struggle (for the bird was not dead) carried it off before my astonished eyes, and in spite of my running up, made good his escape with his booty."


Jungle Cat
Jungle Cat  

 

The Jungle Cat went across the road but came out again, still in the open. He was reluctant, however, to look our way. Then Charlotte cried, “Here, kitty, kitty!”

Just like that, problem solved.

 

 

29 Nov 2013

We’ve had quick distant looks at Indian wolf, and this morning, a Striped Hyena. Another hyena came closer and even onto the road this afternoon. Surely one of the strangest looking animals around.

Striped-Hyena
Indian Pond-Heron  

 

 

 

Velavadar’s tanks (ponds) hold wading birds like Painted Stork and Eurasian Spoonbill. Trees along the roadside harbor Common Hoopoe, Painted Sandgrouse, Long-tailed Shrike, and Green Bee-eater among others. Out in the grasslands you have those dun, look-alike pipits and larks.

A pond at the lodge always has White-throated Kingfisher and Indian Pond-Heron. The heron posed for a photo as we returned from our morning game drive today.

 

 

28 Nov 2013

We’ve moved on to Gir National Park, about 100 km southwest of Velavadar. Gir is the least attractive of the parks we’ve visited, its teak trees already losing their leaves as the dry season progresses. Dust is everywhere.  It covers the roadside vegetation, your clothes, your camera gear.

But Gir has Asiatic Lion, which once ranged from Iran to central India. Now about 400 survive in the wild at Gir and nowhere else. Unlike tiger, seeing lions here is pretty much a given. On our first game drive we waited for the cell phone to ring; then, joined eight other jeeps to watch a pride of two females and three cubs lazing around as cats do.

Rangers stood nearby to protect the lions from the humans and to move traffic along. We photographed this amiable cub until our time was up.

 

Asiatic Lion cub
 

 

We’re lodging at the boldly name Lion Safari Camp. In tents even. In a tent one gets to hear the sounds of nature (at four in the morning we heard a male lion roaring). But we also hear our neighbors in the next tent talking, as well as truck traffic in Sasan 3 km away.

Plum-headed Parakeet is common both at Bandhavgarh and Gir. Often they can be photographed as they check woodpecker holes in trees as potential nest sites. This was my best photo of a male.

Plum-headed Parakeet

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