Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reptile luncheon

As a rule I have been more fascinated about mammals. Reptiles and bird haven't been sufficiently interesting for me to hold my attention for too long. But then, I had told you earlier, this Bandipur sojourn was different.

I was taking a nap after a heavy lunch, feeling rather like a well fed python. The children, my son and niece were ushered out and conveniently deposited on the hammock outside the cottage. Suddenly I was woken by yells of "Snake, snake", and I heard someone tell that it was in the process of swallowing it's prey. I grabbed my camera and rushed out, not remembering to switch to a longer lens.

There was a crowd below a silver oak, predominantly children, all craning their neck upwards. I too joined the mob and despite the hint of a crick looked upward. My jaw dropped as beheld a scene that I had only seen in pictures. A green vine snake was dangling from a branch with a garden lizard hanging out of its mouth. The head nad neck had already disappeared into the mouth and the rest of the lizard was following fast. I had no time to rush back to get another lens.

I had seen one green vine snake in my mango tree a few years ago. That was too high up and at night. Here was one dangling before my nose and I had almost ruined a golden opportunity. I had no choice but make do with the lens attached to the camera.

What a sequence it was? The lizard disappeared from view centimeter by centimeter........

.... till only the tail was left. The snake lay horizontally on the branch and drew the narrow tail inside like a noodle.

With a final twist like a spring uncoiled the snake moved off up into the tree.
The last of the lizard disappearing from view.

The only evidence of the event was the tell tale bulge just beyond the snake's neck. It would have probably laid up in some crook of a branch digesting it's meal. For the next week the snake would have had no thought of food.

Now. Just think about it. Eat a meal. Rest a week. What a great way to live. If only we could also eat & live like a reptile!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Of Dholes & a Gaur

May, in Bandipur, should have been hot. It meant dry grass and sparse undergrowth, which, in turn should mean good wildlife sighting. This May was different. It had been raining regularly all summer and my recent trips had all been under overcast skies.

As I drove into Bandipur I was having a niggling sense of disappointment. The grass was fresh and the lantana was dense. I had promised my sister a trip with a difference and I wasn't sure of it anymore. The upside of it was that forest fires would not happen. Wet weather would douse any enthusiasm a spark might have and that gave me some comfort.

Evening safari started on a dull note. The sky was overcast and stray droplets of an impending storm threatened to ruin our drive into the jungle. My only consolation was that the was that my gear was ready to take on the rain even if I was not. The only thing to do was to sit back a wait for the storm to blow over.

It was close to 6 PM. Light was failing rapidly as we crossed the highway into the eastern side of the park. Bomma braked suddenly because in front of the vehicle, on the left of the road were 8 dhole; pups & adults. Further on was a lone dog, perhaps that alpha male, being filmed from another vehicle. Not wanting to disturb the filming we halted on the track.
Suddenly the pups disappeared into the dense lantana. At first it appeared that it was our presence that disturbed the pack. Then it became apparent that the reason for the disturbance was not us but a huge male gaur.

At first as the bull advanced the dogs held their ground, even making mock attacks.

The bull wasn't deterred. It was intent on crossing over despite the snapping dogs.

He just charged through the pack scattering the dogs before him.

Once he had waded through the pack and reached the jeep track he halted as if to show that he had not run in fear.

After a minute he crossed the track towards the dense lantana bordering the road.

Just before he disappeared into the bush he halted for a moment with his rump towards us, exhibiting a wound just above his tail. Perhaps a legacy of another encounter with a pack like this some place elsewhere at another time.

Truly a majestic beast.

May his tribe increase...........

..... and may he live to fight and survive many more days in this in this paradise called Bandipur.


Finally I got my tiger.

After years of woodcrawling with an open mind nature relented.

I've been tiger tracking for awhile now and my luck hasn't been anything to write home about.
This May, everything changed. An extraordinary trip on the whole, with a gaur chasing dholes, a snake eating a lizard and the icing on the cake - my first tigress in Bandipur. (Follow the link to join me in tiger tracking)