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Satpura After Dark

Satpura National Park is always a special place for me. The leopard and sloth bear infected forest has always been a great location for documenting their behaviour. Night in Satpura makes the forest more special as a lot of nocturnal species can be observed in the fringe areas of the park. In May 2019, I spent a week exploring Satpura after dark. The target was the worlds smallest wild cat – Rusty Spotted Cat but every night was an element of surprise with some unique and fresh perspectives of Wild India.

Here are some images from Satpura… after dark!

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Dazzling Keoladeo

We kickstarted 2019 with our first photography tour in Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur. The park has the apt quantity of water this year and flocks of pelicans are back in the park after a long gap of 4-5 years. The darters and cormorants were busy in their daily fishing chores and the ever charismatic Saras Cranes have been raising their young with utmost care and love. The winter mist added a special flavour to the images.

Here is how we began our 2019 this week.

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Remembering the Mighty Elephants

It is World Elephant Day today and I take this opportunity to showcase to beauty of these magnificent creatures of Mother Nature. They are symbolic from various aspects – be it culture, mythology, religion or just their sheer presence in our forests. The Asiatic Elephants are one of the many shining jewels of wild India.

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Tiger Showers – Summers 2017

Have been constantly on the field of the past couple of months and haven’t had much time to sort images. Just back from back to back Corbett and Bandhavgarh photography tours and I must say both locations are teaming with wildlife action. While Paro – the river mermaid of Corbett – has been enthralling photographers with a consistent appearances in majestic Himalayan backdrops, Bandhavgarh has had some outstanding action with tiger cubs as Spotty – the reigning heartthrob of Tala – is in command with her young battalion of cubs who have made the grasslands their playground this summer. In the other areas of the part Bamera’s son (T37) has been displaying his affection for his offsprings as the 3 cubs of Kankati Jr. have been keeping shutters busy in the lone water body of the area.

 

Here is a quick preview for April and May 2017:

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Tiger Diaries – June 2016

It has been a hectic but productive June till now. We started our work in Ranthambhore working on T60 and cubs when a news from Bandhavgarh caught our attention. A tigress called Spotty in the Tala zone of Bandhavgarh had given birth to her first litter. Weighing various pros and cons we changed gears and rushed to Bandhavgarh to start some extensive tracking for the newly seen cubs. A 7 day project resulted in some brilliant images of 2 month old tiger cubs for our guest who showed remarkable patience and perseverance in extreme weather conditions.

Monsoons showers have started hitting tiger parks and as we enter the last 10 days of the season lets wish the wild denizens of India a safe monsoon.

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Summers @ Tadoba

Experienced Tadoba summers after a gap of 4 years. May 2012 was the last I spent a fortnight in the blazing sun and scorching heat of Tadoba. 4 years down the line, I led a small group of photographers who braved the heat to spend hours with the Sonam and Maya family – the current heartthrobs of Tadoba. The cubs have been shaping up quite well since I last saw them in December 2015. It was also a first experience for me with the majestic Bajrang male who is fathering Sonam cubs. He for sure is a charismatic tiger and would be instrumental in propelling the dynasty of tigers in Tadoba.

Recharging at home after a hectic 45 day travel schedule. Stay tuned for June diaries as we enter into the last month of the tiger season in India before the monsoons…

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And the rhododendrons blooms…

A74I4150_V5C8629A74I3165-low res18_V5C8809A74I3398_V5C8879It is mid March and the green canopies of Eastern Himalayas are slowly gaining some more colors. Amidst this changing dynamics we spent another fortnight with the red jewels of the forests and some sessions were very productive for photography.

The highlight was a new individual red panda we tracked and followed. He has lost his one eye due to reasons we could not decipher but he was bold and agile in sprinting through the rhododendron and moss trees. We called him ‘The Pirate’…

Presenting a few images and memoirs from the March edition of The Red Panda Expedition.

 

 

 


December Marathon with Tigers

Winter photography in tiger parks is always special. The magical morning mist and the soft light filtering through the forest canopies makes you as a photographers look of images rather than tigers. I just completed a 1800 km marathon in central India covering various parks of Madhya Pradesh. The experience was not just about the Rajbehra cubs in Bandhavgarh or the Baghin Nala cubs in Pench but creating some awesome images in the stunning winter backdrops of central Indian forests.

A lot of work is yet to be seen and processed… sharing some of the images. This would probably be my last post for the year 2015. Wishing you all a very happy new year and great luck and light for 2016!

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Rajbehra cub – Bandhavgarh

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Bandhavgarh

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Leopard – Bandhavgarh

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Baghin Nala cub – Pench

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Rajbehra cub- Bandhavgarh

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Spotty (female in Tala zone) – Bandhavgarh


Updates from the Mangrove World

Wrapping up my annual Sundarbans photography expeditions. Sundarbans has been one of the toughest photographic terrains of India. The challenges of creating images in the mangrove forest are immense but despite the fact the mysticism of the mangrove forest continues to fascinate me. The sparkling kingfisher species continued to give some superb photographic opportunities and so did the breathtaking mangrove formations. Here is a brief photographic brief from Sundarbans 2015 Photographic Tour by Canon India and Nature Wanderers


Bandhavgarh & Panna June 2015 – field report

My focus on T19 (Krishna) in Ranthambhore kept me away from one of my favorite hunting grounds in central India. I am very found of Bandhavgarh for its habitat, tiger photography potential and the people… working in this central Indian tiger heartland is always great fun. Made up for the entire season in the last 10 days as I was escorting my photographer guest from the UK. Our focus was the Patiha female and her three 8 month old cubs. Working on tiger cubs outside the Tala zone was a challenge and a different experience from my past Bandhavgarh endeavors. However we got 3 exclusive photo opportunities with the family over the 9 day period which were good enough for an excellent portfolio. More than the images tracking the family in the Patiha area and understanding some new areas of the park was a great learning experience.

Post Bandhavgarh, we spent a few days in Panna National Park and it was awesome to witness the success story of Panna. T1 – the queen of Panna – is in great shape with her 4th litter of 2 cubs. The park has some tremendous potential and is an excellent tiger habitat. Photographers should watch out for Panna – another excellent location with great photographic potential.

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Canon EOS 7D Mark II : A Field Review

T28 (star male)

It is Christmas today and in case you shutterbugs want to present yourself with the aspiration and much talked about Canon 7D Mark 2, here is a brief field report of my experience with this latest APSC launch by Canon. I had the privilege to rough out a demo Canon 7D Mark2 provided by Canon India over a period of 15 days in Ranthambhore and Kanha in varied light conditions and shooting scenarios. This review is by no means a detailed technical review which has already been done by a host of online forums and portals. It should purely be considered as a field review of my experience using this body and since I deal with varied photographers on a daily basis, I would also attempt to suggest the need of a Canon 7D Mark2 for different strata of lensmen.

5 years back the Canon 7D had taken the market by storm. A robust, well built magnesium alloy body with 19 AF points, the Canon 7D which shot at 8fps was built for wildlife and sports photography. Priced at around USD 1699 in September 2009, Canon literally captured the amateur market as the Canon 7D had become an obvious choice of enthusiasts wishing to pick up their maiden camera for wildlife. Along with the Canon 100-400mm and the Canon 300mm f4, the amateurs and serious amateurs swore by this combination for years. At times I was amazed to see the rapid uptake of this combination during my safaris in various parts of India and I certainly believe that this affordable combo played an instrumental role in the uptake of wildlife and nature photography in India in the last 5 years. The Canon 7D also acted as a great back up body for the Canon 1D Mark4 and Canon 5D Mark2 users of those times.

However the Canon 7D had its own pain points in the form of low light performance, loss of details, color rendering etc. It was also said that Canon has essentially given this camera the look and feel of a pro body but the performance is way below standard and the ISO performance of the Canon 7D was always a subject of debate. Some photographers believed that being a cropped sensor Canon could have reduced the megapixels of the Canon 7D to around 12mp which would have improved the noise performance in low light situations. Over the time, Canon 7D – despite of its limitations – had become like an essential element of your camera kit.

A lot of hopes were pegged on the Canon 7D Mark2 which is expecting to wipe off the Canon 7D woes and having used the 7D extensively during the 2009-2011 period, I was also eager to unfold the 7D Mark2 mystery as I grabbed hold of this light weight body in early December in 2 of India’s leading tiger reserves – Kanha and Ranthambhore.

My first impressions of the Canon 7D Mark2 were positive.

  • A 65 all cross type focusing grid through the view finder opens a world of compositional and framing opportunities for you. Specially helpful while showcasing the habitat and the environment of your subject
  • Toggling between focusing modes on high end machines like the Canon 5D MarkIII and Canon 1Dx is a task. It is normally a 2-3 step process. The smart nob provided next to the thumb joystick of  the Canon 7DM2 was a delight to use. It definitely helps a lot if you want to go from spot focusing to the various zone focusing (expand 4, 9 points) while looking through the view finder
  • The view finder console also enables you to see all your camera settings – WB, metering modes and a smart alignment scale on the top to ensure that your horizons are always in line.
Dissection of the Canon 7D Mark 2 view finder

Dissection of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II view finder

65 cross type AF grid through the view finder of the Canon 7D Mark 2

65 cross type AF grid through the view finder of the Canon EOS  7D Mark II

Winter wildlife photography in India is definitely a joy for photographers. The early morning mist mingles with the morning light to give some dramatic colors which make even the most common subjects look photogenic. However a lot depends on the camera you are using as the winter light in the morning is very soft and requires a camera with good low light performance. The Canon 7D Mark 2 was put to test to shoot barasinghas (swamp deer) in the open meadows of Kanha on day 1 and the results were at par with the Canon 5D Mark III which was used to shoot the same subject. However the light wasn’t very soft at this point of time and most of the images were shot at ISO 400-500. Here are some of the results.

Canon 7D Mark2, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 400, f6.3, 1/500)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II , Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 400, f6.3, 1/500)

Canon 7D Mark2, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 400, f7.1, 1/640)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 400, f7.1, 1/640)

The following evening, light in Kanha was superb. A jackal emerged from the dense saal canopies of Kanha towards an open patch of grasslands and the Canon 7D Mark2 was tested in routine good light conditions and the details and color rendering was spot on. I felt there wasn’t any comparison that could be drawn with the Canon 7D as till now the Canon 7D Mark 2 was performing at par with my high end bodies like the Canon 5D Mark3, Canon 1D Mark 4 and Canon 1Dx. Infact I was enjoying using the focus points toggling button and the view finder console more than the three top of the league machines lying in my bag. Here are the results:

Canon 7D Mark 2, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 100, f5.6, 1/500)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 100, f5.6, 1/500)

Close up of the image above. Canon 7D Mark2 details were spot on.

Close up of the image above. Canon EOS 7D MarkII details were spot on.

I am not in favor of excessive cropping of images as according to me framing and compositions need to be in-camera as much as possible, but in this era of digital photography when cameras are a part of this megapixel race, cropped composition is a trend followed by a lot of photographers. Packed with 20 MP, the Canon 7D Mark 2 retains sufficient image details when cropped by as much as 60 percent. Here is a cropped version of a spider’s web from Kanha National Park.

Cropped Composition - approx 50% cropped

Cropped Composition – approx 50% cropped

Giant wood spider web in Kanha - full frame on a Canon 7D Mark 2

Giant wood spider web in Kanha – full frame on a Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon 7DM2 – ISO performance

The above mentioned facts were some obvious improvements which were expected from a Canon 7D upgrade. The big question however still remained in my head : how will the Canon 7DM2 fare in a tricky light condition? Can it be trusted like the big brothers – 5DM3 and 1Dx when it comes to ISO performance?

As I was traversing through the saal tracks of Kanha National Park with this question pondering in my head, the opportunity I had been waiting for came on a platter. A full grown male Bengal Tiger was caught taking a nap in the middle of the road. The light conditions were poor and it was time for an acid test for the Canon 7D Mark2. Being attuned to a 1Dx and 5DM3, I started shooting at 3200 ISO straight away and the results were definitely not at par with the top of the line Canon bodies. I then slowly experimented with varied ISOs ranging from 800 to 1600. My lens was a combination of a Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 and a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS2. In all circumstances I was a bit skeptical going above 1600 ISO which according to me was the maximum threshold in the given light condition. The results were remarkable at 1000-1600 ISO specially among the entire gamut of cropped sensors available in the market till date.

Given below are some of the results:

Canon 7D Mark 2 and Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 1000, 1/320, f 3.5)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2
(ISO 1000, 1/320, f 3.5)

50% crop of the same image

50% crop of the same image (unedited RAW)

Drawing parallels for the Canon 7D Mark2 with heavyweights full frame sensors like the Canon 5D Mark3 and Canon 1Dx would be an unfair comparison as the latter do have a superior low light performance and definitely have an edge when used at ISO 2000-3200. However amongst the cropped sensors including its predecessor, the Canon 7D Mark2 does work brilliantly between ISO 1000-1600. I do recall that years back when I was on a Canon 7D, the brain was tuned not to boost the ISO above 800 (640 at times).

Using the in-camera live view feature

In the middle of this testing phase for the Canon 7D Mark2, I shifted my workstation from Kanha to Ranthambhore and while I was still looking for a good opportunity to test the 10fps of this body, my first day in Ranthambhore gave me an opportunity to try something very interesting with the 7DM2 : The Live-view feature.

Using the live view for still photography is not something we regularly do since we are more comfortable shooting from the optical viewfinder. However, a DSLR live view feature is definitely useful when the subject is still and not in motion and you have the luxury of time to compose and frame in a manner that the subject lies beyond the reach of the focus points of your DSLR. Even in high end full frame bodies like the 5DM3 and 1Dx, using the live view can become a bit frustrating at times. You need to press the AF repeatedly to fine tune the focus and at times you need to focus manually as well after magnifying your subject to 100% to ensure the focus is precise. The Canon 7D Mark2 live view feature is an absolute delight as the camera is built to focus automatically. Even when the subject occupies a small part of the frame, you can just magnify by 50% or 100% and the camera will automatically focus on the subject. Ofcourse, this works brilliantly when you are shooting videos and unlike most of the DSLRs including the big Canon machines, the 7DM2 hooks on to the focus automatically.

Here is a tiger image shot on the Canon 7DM2 using this live view feature:

Canon 7DM2 on a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 1000, f5.6, 1/320). Shot using camera live-view (bean bag support)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II on a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 1000, f5.6, 1/320). Shot using camera live-view (bean bag support)

50% cropped view. The focus on the tiger was spot-on. Time taken to focus on the tiger using the live-view was just a few miliseconds.

50% cropped view. The focus on the tiger was spot-on. Time taken to focus on the tiger using the live-view was just a few milliseconds.

The Canon 7DM2 – 10fps test 

At 10fps, the Canon 7DM2 was slated to be a mini Canon 1DM4 (the 1Dx predecessor shot brilliantly at 10fps). I encountered a fast jackal fight sequence during my Ranthambhore field days. The situation was tricky because of the presence of foreground grass which I purposely did not want to avoid in order to check the AF of the 7DM2 specially on a burst mode. The subjects were back lit as well. It was an awesome experience shooting this action sequence with the 7DM2 and 400mm f2.8 combo. Of the 5-6 frames that I got, none of the images had soft focus. It was more like using a 1Dx which can be relied on blindly in case of fast action and precision when it comes to focusing.

Darter take off. Canon 7DM2, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1000)

Darter take off. Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 (ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1000)

Jackal fight - Ranthambhore National Park. Canon 7DM2 and Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2. ISO800, 1/1250. f6.3

Jackal fight – Ranthambhore National Park. Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2. ISO800, 1/1250. f6.3

So what’s my verdict on the Canon 7DM2?

I am not a tech or camera guru to give any verdict. I am just an artist who tries to create images from whatever equipments are around me. However here are my suggestions on the basis of which you can base your Canon 7D Mark2 purchase decision:

  • A fast DSLR which can perform well in low light is a basic pre-requisite for wildlife photography. In case you are planning to learn wildlife photography and want to pick up your maiden DSLR, the Canon 7D Mark2 is a must for your kit. It has some built in features of high end Canon cameras like the 5DM3 and 1Dx and given the price point Canon is marketing this product at, it would definitely aid your photographic visions.
  • For serious amateurs and pros who already have a range of Canon DSLRs in their kit, having the Canon 7DM2 in your kit is a good option. A lot of times we need range in order to create the exact frame we have visualized and instead of putting on a teleconverter which would impact your aperture as well, you can just swap bodies and use the 1.6x cropped sensor of the Canon 7DM2. In good light situations, you wouldn’t miss your top of the league bodies for sure.

My overall verdict for the Canon 7D Mark2 is a definite yes for all kind of nature photographers. Canon has carefully dealt with the issues of Canon 7D and am sure photography would be great fun for young amateurs wishing to step in the field of wildlife photography armed with this new Canon machine.


Vijaya – The Warrior Queen

(Obituary published in the November issue of Saevus Wildlife)

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4 year old Vijaya was a bold, buoyant and a beautiful tigress. Like all striped kings and queens of Bandhavgarh she was a favorite for lens-men who yearned for her 1 shot. It seemed all rosy till the summers of 2010 but as the monsoons approached Vijaya’s ambitions grew bigger and bigger. She wanted to own one of the most pristine areas of tiger estate of Bandhavgarh – the stretch ranging from Chorbehra, Chakradhara right up till the Bandhavgarh fort. She wanted to be crowned as the new queen of the Tala range of the forest.

The thought was good for this has been the dream territory of any tiger of Bandhavgarh. Legends like Charger, Seeta and B2 owned this piece of land because of its abundant prey base, yearlong presence of water, superb hunting ground and lots of shady comforts for rest after a tiring day in the forest.

Kankati in 2011

Competition understandably was quite tough for young Vijaya as 10-year-old Lakshmi (Langadi as she was locally called) was the limping tigress of this area and despite her physical limitations she was managing to rule Vijaya’s dreamlands. Lakshmi’s weakness apart from her sore leg were her young 10 month old cubs and since she relied on livestock kills her movement was restricted in the peripheral areas of the forest.

The rains of 2010 turned the fortunes of Chakradhara. Vijaya knew of the soft cords of Lakshmi and she advanced towards her in what seemed like a lost battle for Lakshmi. However the aging mother put up a fight and the beautiful looking Vijaya lost her eye in this fierce battle. Vijaya’s aggressive streak was evident from this battle as in her fury of anger she not only killed Lakshmi but consumed more than half of her body. It all happened in a dark night of Bandhavgarh and all the forest department could find the following morning were the mortal remains of Lakshmi. The orphaned cubs are still fighting to establish themselves in Bandhavgarh.

With just one eye and a huge territory that she won, survival for ambitious Vijaya seemed tough as tiger history across India has very few warriors who have been able to survive with such critical physical limitations. There was not a change in the attitude of lens-men too. The once beautiful female of Tala range was now being avoided because she wasn’t photogenic enough.

When love seems like war

Vijaya, however, had her strategy laid out. She knew that in order to survive and retain this estate she would need the company of a dominant male who could give her adequate protection. She hit the nail on its head by making the right choice as she eyed Shashi (Bamera male).

The dominant male of Bandhavgarh with genes of a legendary family in the form of Charger (his grandfather) and B2 (his father), Shashi (locally known as Bamera male) was expanding his territory at an astronomical rate. He cornered his dad in one area of the park and acquired his legacy and added more land which he acquired on his own to roam about freely in more than a 100 square kilometer area. His rule was unquestioned and he was already the king of Bandhavgarh National Park.

His frequent ventures in the Chakradhara and Chorbehra areas brought him close to Vijaya and in summer of April 2011 they were seen together for almost a week. Their 1 week honeymoon raised hopes for Vijaya’s legacy and she was set to be crowned as the next queen of Bandhavgarh.

The news of Vijaya’s pregnancy was eagerly awaited as the timing of mating was perfect and it seemed that she would deliver before the forest closes for monsoons. Surprisingly within a couple of months the couple was seen together again in first week of June 2011. Was the previous mating just a strategy by Vijaya to bide some more time with Shashi or did the April honeymoon end up into a failure? There are some mysteries in the mysterious world of tigers that are hard to solve.

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Post the mating in June the forest closed for monsoons and the forest season post the rains started with a lot of anticipation. As the days of October 2011 passed the search for Vijaya was on and it was a sheer delight to hear the news of Vijaya licking her small 2-month-old cub on the rocky area of Chorbehra. Rigorous elephant patrolling revealed that she was raising a family of 3.

Under the shadow of a father like Shashi the cubs had minimal risk of being killed by another male of the region. However tigers were not the only threat to these young siblings. Vijaya’s area had good movement of leopards and now the question was if Vijaya could see off the crucial period of the first few months when tiger cubs start exploring the world of tigers in the wild.

The cubs were mostly in the bamboo thickets around Chorbehra and their sighting was infrequent. Vijaya was again gaining popularity amongst lens-men who knew that she was another legend in the making. Summers of 2012 was a season everyone was looking forward to as by March 2012 the cubs were growing up well. Mom Vijaya was now the supreme ruler of Chakradhara and her efficiency of hunting was at par with any other fully fit tiger. From large sambhar stags to wild boars she was hunting every prey though with some amount of difficulty but her perseverance was unmatched.

My mommy is the strongest!

Through the month of April the cubs were seen more regularly. One of the cubs was already showing signs of less dependency and always used to be away from the siblings. At times all 3 were seen together but most of these times mom Vijaya was out for her hunting expeditions as satiating hunger of ever growing tiger cubs is a tough ask.

Finally in the first week of May 2012, Vijaya did something that is not a regular sight in Bandhavgarh. Early in the morning as the cubs were playing in Chakradhara grasslands, Vijaya made a deep throated growl and her entire family followed her. For the first time since they were born, Vijaya boldly displays all her cubs together as she marched alongside them. They marched like an army right up to the Vishnu statue and after seeking the divine intervention she climbed the hills of Bandhavgarh fort.

The cubs survived through the monsoons of 2012 but with the springs of 2013 some new challenges unfolded for Vijaya for her protector – Shashi – the king of Bandhavgarh started loosing his battles with males intruding in his territory and was gradually pushed out of Chakradhara. During the months of March-April 2013, Vijaya boldly stood her ground with her battalion of 3 beautiful looking sub-adult cubs and even tried to deceive this mysterious new male by mating with him and making an attempt to draw him out of the reach of the cubs. However this futile attempts to shield her family went in vain as in May 2013 one of Vijaya’s cubs was found dead in the fort area. This was followed by the death of another cub in the subsequent days.

Kankati cubs play sequence June 2012

A number of theories came into place post the death of the cubs. While the forest officials claimed that the cause of the death was the mystery male, another section of local naturalists believed that since the body of the cubs was partially consumed in the same fashion as Lakshmi a few years back, Vijaya – the brave mother – herself decided to sacrifice her family in order to retain her territory for she knew that survival would be tough outside this prime territory specially with her physical disability. The male cub from this litter who was also declared dead however separated from his mother and had set out on an independent journey in the adjoining areas of her mother’s territory.

The hysteria around Vijaya died down for a prolonged period post the monsoons of 2013. Her sighting statistics dropped drastically and the entire focus shifted towards Rajbehra where a female was raising a litter of 4 cubs across the hill.

As the saal bloom dried with the temperatures rising during the summers of 2014, Vijaya made a dramatic comeback by walking down the fort hills, with tiny little cubs. The scarcity of water in the upper areas of the fort forced her to come down to the low-lying areas with natural water bodies in order to beat the scorching heat of May 2014. The queen of Bandhavgarh had again fought her battles against all odds to come up with fresh blood for the park. The meadows of Chakradhara were looking forward to be the playground for yet another litter and Vijaya was all set to be etched as one of the legendary tigers of India at par with Machali because of her resilient spirit. As the park closed for monsoons in June 2014, she had a challenge to face a tough period of 3 months and feed the 3 little striped souls.

Kankati cubs 2nd litter May 2014

Tragedy struck again in Bandhavgarh when the forest department reported that a decomposed body of a tigress was found and a post mortem report revealed that Vijaya was declared dead. Post search operations by the forest department, 2 cubs were declared dead as well. While the entire wildlife fraternity of India mourns the death of Vijaya, her journey and her life showcases some of the true characteristics of this creation of God called The Tiger. A specie which has braved against all odds and continues to strive and survive amidst dwindling forest covers and increasing human habitation. A specie that can adapt brilliantly to changing environmental scenarios and has the grit and willingness to survive. Vijaya’s contribution to Bandhavgarh will be remembered for the longest time and stories of this one eyed queen would echo in my memories whenever I will be traversing through the woods of this tiger heartland of India.

Could her death be averted?

Though Vijaya died in a territorial fight with an intruding male but could her death been averted. For a minute if we close our one eye and try to live that minute with that partial blackout, we would probably want that minute to pass at the earliest. The warrior queen of Bandhavgarh spent 4 long years with this handicap. Tigers are killing machines but their hunting capability goes down drastically in case of any physical ailment. Physical limitations are the main cause of deaths of tigers in old age but in Vijaya’s case it was something she was living with these limitations every day. With the birth of cubs, the hunting pressure on a tigress increases as she has to feed the cubs on the regular basis and take care of her own dietary requirements as well. Having closely observed this tigress for the past so many years, hunting was definitely a painful process for her and there were days when she went without food for days and weeks. The family was going through this stress in the summers of 2014. When a 18 year of tigress in Ranthambhore can be fed and kept alive because she qualifies as an iconic tiger of the park, could partial baiting of Vijaya (specially in the initial months post the birth of the cubs) averted her death? Food for thought for Saevus readers…

© SHIVANG MEHTA

Shivang Mehta is a nature photographer and has spent more than 150 field days in Bandhavgarh documenting Vijaya’s journey since 2010.


Ranthambhore Post Monsoons

A week in Ranthambhore post a 3 months monsoon break is rejuvenating as usual. The forest is like a green book full of mysteries unfolding in every nook and corner and every day is a new chapter in this book. This year was particularly interesting because of the presence of cubs all around the park. The progress of the few key tiger families like the celebrated lady of the lakes  -T19 and her cubs and charismatic T39 (Noor) was particularly in question as everyone wanted to know how the little striped wonders of the park were doing post the monsoon break. Though monsoons is a tricky period for tiger sightings, the entire park (zone 1-10) flourished with sightings announcing Ranthambhore to be the place to look out for in 2014-2015.

Here are some of the key tiger moments captured in this first week of season 2014-2015 in Ranthambhore National Park – the tigerland of India.

Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

T39 (Noor) and cub

T39 (Noor) and cub

T24 (Ustaad) wading through the monsoon waters

T24 (Ustaad) wading through the monsoon waters

The future ruler of the lakes - T19 cub

The future ruler of the lakes – T19 cub

The handsome hunk Ustaad (T24)

The handsome hunk Ustaad (T24)

First Day... First Show (T39 in zone 2 on October 1st)

First Day… First Show (T39 in zone 2 on October 1st)


Photo Contest- Stripes

CNT Contest

Upload photographs of Tiger clicked in the wild in last 12 months. Please click ” JOIN ” on https://www.facebook.com/events/546568615470736/

Rules & Regulations-
1. Photo contest is hosted on Facebook, Twitter and WordPress.
2. Photo Contest starts from 9th August and will continue till Monday,18th August, 2014
3. Participants to follow handles @naturewanderers and @CNTIndia to be eliglible for the contest (on Twitter)
4. Participants to ‘LIKE’ Shivang Mehta (https://www.facebook..com/ShivangPhotography) and CNT India page on FB (https://www.facebook.com/cntravellerindia) to be eligible
5. Contest will also be shared on Naturewanders FB page-(https://www.facebook.com/naturewanderers)
6. Participants need to tag @naturewanderers and @CNTIndia on all twitter updates
7. Participants to upload best picture of tiger taken in the wild on Event Page in the last 12 months.
8. Each participant can share only one image
9. Image must be yours
10. Participants are required to give the location, date and EXIF details of the picture
11. All in all 3 winners will be declared
12. Each winner to get a year’s subscription of Conde Nast Traveller India
13. Final selection of winning images will be done by Shivang Mehta and Conde Nast Traveller India

 


Nature’s Touch – A Nature Wanderers Wildlife Photography Show (8th Dec – 13th Dec)

Lokayat Art Gallery, New Delhi

Lokayat Art Gallery, New Delhi

New Delhi, December 8, 2012 : Nature Wanderers – the leading wildlife photography training organisation – launches Nature’s Touch : A wildlife photography show that would showcase the work of a talented bunch of 25 photographers from across India at the Lokayat Art Gallery in New Delhi from December 8th to 13th, 2012.

The exhibition is the first of its kind to promote wildlife and nature photography in the capital city of India. The exhibitors are a mix of senior corporate executives, school kids and entrepreneurs who have seriously pursued wildlife photography as a passion and have worked really hard in creating these wonderful images across forests like Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhore, Corbett, Tadoba, Yala (Sri Lanka) and Masai Mara.

Leading wildlife film-maker Mike Pandey would be inaugurating this show in the presence of top notch nature photographers of India.

Venue : Lokayat Art Gallery

Opening Ceremony : Dec 8th at 5pm

Exhibition Timings : 11am to 8pm from Dec 9th to 13th

For Queries Please Contact

Kahini Ghosh Mehta – kahini@naturewanderers.com, +91 9871367945

Attika Jain – +91 9953240242


River Tern Hysteria @ Bhadra

A small island midst the calm backwaters of Bhadra Tiger Reserve was glowing white as I was approaching this piece of land in my small motor boat. The sky was deep blue with a painting of thin cloud layers that made a compelling formation. I was wondering what the whiteness was all about. As soon as the boat neared the shore, the clouds in the sky had some company for a cloud of river terns took off in all directions. Their numbers were in thousands. With a flurry of chicks around it was apparent that they were breeding out here. The backdrop was a carpet of fresh green grass with a mixture of rocky and muddy banks to add to beauty. Here are some of the images that I created during the River Tern fiesta at Bhadra Tiger Reserve this June.





Pench Perspectives

It was a dark and gloomy evening in the Mowgli land and with the onset of monsoons, the weather was looking great for a drive in the forest but unfortunately pleasant driving weather doesn’t go too well with photographers because of our over-dependency on light sources which keep our trigger fingers happy. To the naked eye (because of the absence of light) Pench which I feel is one of the most picturesque parks of Madhya Pradesh when it comes to landscapes was looking pale and colorless. So I decided to experiment with some monotone perspectives and fortunately the denizens obliged making a supposedly dry drive very productive and interesting. Here are few of the images created during the last 2 days in Pench:

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A Royal Walkabout

Tiger Diary – Published by Tiger Nation

BANDHAVGARH, MAY 2012: Vijaya, like all mother’s, has up till now taken a careful approach to bringing out her gangly 6 month old kids in any formal way. She has preferred to keep them off roads skirting forests and meadows in her bid to protect them.

Not anymore. She set out to lead her family on a distinct Royal tour, sauntering contentedly along the very road that she has watched thousands of pilgrims move on high days and holidays, as well as countless visitors every day.

Her merry band of youngsters followed her quite contentedly, often stopping to play with one another, bite each other tail, or sideling up to mum to complain that they are bored of walking.

Mum though was on a mission, and from the Chakradhara meadows, she proceeded up the hill towards the fort’s main entrance and then up the 10th century carved stairs at Vishnu’s temple before vanishing into the forested hills behind.

Vijaya’s Royal walkabout suggest that she is perfectly comfortable with her ‘Princess’ status in the Tala range.


The Ruler of the Ramganga

(June 2009)

Crocodile on the banks of the Ramganga

Nature gives signals… there are many times we ignore it but on that warm day of June it was hard to overlook them. As I was sipping a cup of tea in my camp in Corbett Tiger Reserve, a pair of white-backed vultures was displaying an extraordinary aerial combat. Moments later, a brown headed barbet perched itself on a tree next to me and was tossing small seeds and flower buds in the air as the food was landing straight in its mouth. As I was observing this pleasing moment, a crested serpent eagle flew and rested itself on a branch right over my head. I changed position to save my tea and saw that the magnificent raptor was feeding on a rat as the filtered sunrays were lighting up its fiery eyes.

“Seems to be a lucky day,” I thought and headed off for a short drive in the buffer zone of Corbett Tiger Reserve. For years, I had dreamt of a close encounter with one of the most ferocious and supreme rulers of the forest. Not a tiger, not an elephant but a reptile that rules the waters of Corbett. A reptile that on any given day can even give a tiger a run for its money when it comes to power. These seemingly lazy monsters can surprise you with their agility and their powerful jaws can crush the heaviest of preys like Sambhars in split seconds.

The mugger crocodiles and gharials have been ruling the sparkling waters of the Ramganga and can be frequently seen resting in the cosy banks of the river from various vantage points inside the national park. However, on multiple occasions, I tried my luck with them by visiting stretches of the Ramganga outside the national park. My attempts were to approach them carefully so as to get a close shot of these aquatic beauties. Most of these attempts failed as crocs are extremely sensitive to sound and they tend to disappear in the river with the slightest of disturbance.

Crocodile swimming in the Ramganga

As I was heading towards Marchula crossing the dense saal cover, I was wondering if the luck I was enjoying since morning would favour me. Forest superstitions plague your mind at times. “If I sight a cheetal somewhere in the next 2 minutes, this is certainly my day,” I told myself. I had hardly made this statement when a slight movement on the road bend caught my attention. A full grown cheetal stag walked out on the road looked straight at my vehicle and sprinted towards the other side. I was thrilled and marvelled at the signals that nature was giving me.

On reaching Marchula, I approached the river with anxiety and apprehensions. As I was descending from the hill, I saw something that seemed to be a log of wood. I inspected the area closely using my binoculars and the mighty jaws were wide open. A giant mugger croc was lying on the bank of the river… and luckily the bank was the same area I was approaching. I noticed that the beast was almost 20 meters away from the river.

Today was the chance for be face to face the monster of Ramganga – was the though as the distance was reducing while I was approaching the croc with steady and soft steps ensuring that I do not make a single sound. The slightest movement from his side and I would stop and stay still till I felt that the animal was comfortable with my presence.

I was now 20 meters away from the beautiful crocodile which was nearly of the same size as the distance I was maintaining. Sweat was dripping down my face and I could feel a cold shiver down my spine as those intoxicating green eyes were checking my every move. I don’t know whether it was because of fear or excitement… but I guess it was a mixture of feelings.

The handsome croc with its fiery eyes had now started give me the most nerve chilling experience in the wild as it started advancing towards me. I guess nature was now signalling that the time had come for the retreat and I slowly started backing off leaving behind the croc in that pristine valley that draws me back every time in search of the river prince!