Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright.......!

This morning’s jeep safari took us inside the Tiger Reserve, but minus the tigers! There were plenty of Spotted Deer and the odd Wild Boar, but no predators on offer. In truth, we spent the 3 hours or so birding rather than searching for mammals, but with tape playing not allowed this severely dented our ambitions. There was plenty to look at, such as Indian Cuckoo, Bronzed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Malabar Starlings, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, and Indian Pygmy Woodpecker.

 Lunch back at the ranch and a little time off in the heat of the day led to the first of two sightings of Jerdon’s Leafbird beside our cabins, and with a Short-toed Eagle and a dark-phase Booted Eagle soaring overhead just after we had been looking at a pair of Mottled Wood-owls in the gardens and we were flying! More birds here than in the reserve huh?

The afternoon jeep safari started off promisingly as we prompted the driver and park naturalist that we were primarily interested in tracking Tigers, which I think confused them a little after our protestations earlier today about only looking for birds. Well, we got a few miles inside the park and checked out a waterhole where there had been a sighting yesterday – but nothing. Then as we were driving away, we heard the alarm call of a Spotted Deer up ahead. And another. So we drove rapidly along the bumpy track and killed the engine. Waiting for more calls. And waited. Then another call moments later, so we sped off through the trees and up ahead was another jeep with all its occupants staring intently into the forest. They’d just had a Tiger walk in front of them and it melted away into the forest. Oh no! We waited and our guide and tracker looked forlorn. “Sorry” they said, as if it was all over. I was reluctant to go, so we waited a while in the forlorn hope of the beast returning. With a few glum faces in our jeep everything came sharply into focus; the responsibility mainly and having done 5 tiger tours in the past, I knew there was always a chance. So I asked the driver if there was a track running parallel to the one we were on and preferably in the direction the Tiger had gone. There was and we were off. 

Err it's a Tiger

And a few minutes later we were driving slowly along another track. Up ahead there was some movement between the trees and there it was….. a young male Tiger. I just couldn’t believe our luck. We slowly drove closer and stopped. And even though I’d seen maybe 30-40 before, seeing this majestic creature still got the pulse racing. We watched it walk on a bit further before sitting down in the middle of the track where it watched a herd of Gaur further along. It stayed for maybe ten minutes until another jeep came from the opposite direction, so it walked inside the forest and sat down again, this time partially concealed. Wow, what a sighting! To say we were buzzing afterwards is an understatement. Can’t really remember seeing anything else after that and we had a few beers to celebrate later…. 

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