Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer in Kabini - Part 2: In the Leopard's Lair

25th April, 2015

Link to Part 1 of this series is here

Summer vacation was the excuse for us to be in Kabini this year. Unfortunately for us, the summer showers were showing no respite. We were once again allotted seats in a mini bus, which in hindsight was a good thing. There were a lot of photographers with heavy gear and that would pose a problem if you wanted to move about and get a vantage shot. The mini bus was not full and I could move around wherever I wanted.

We were one vehicles getting out for the morning because the family that was to share the bus were completely ignorant about the importance of being the first out of the lodge. Anyway a steady drizzle wasn't an encouraging sign and we drove in at the rear of the early birds. It was early bird time too. Our first encounter for the morning was a stripe necked mongoose who was licking his lips after his breakfast.

Stripe necked mongoose

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The crested serpent eagle, one of the many we would encounter, gave a contemptuous look and turned away, as was passed by.

A jungle crow was busy coaxing the gaur to allow it to give them a pest control session!

"See, you have a lot of ticks on you"

"Shall I give you a cleaning job? Absolutely free!"

"Your mother told me to have a look at you too."
It was a quiet morning and looked like nothing would be stirring in the wet weather. As we drove slowly forward we saw a couple of jeeps parked and the driver of one trying to point at something in the trees. We were jolted out of our lethargy. It could only mean one thing; a leopard! And yonder, on a tree, was a spotted cat blissfully sleeping off the exertions of the previous night!

It suddenly lifted itself up as if to climb off and turned to look in the other direction. We thought it would climb off the tree and disappear after whatever disturbed its slumber.

It seemed that whatever caused it to wake up wasn't very interesting because it promptly dropped back in its old position and proceeded to catch up with its sleep!

One satisfied leopard, of the many that Nagarahole is so famous for.

We drove on thinking that it was a bonus for weather like that. A leopard in the rain was truly unexpected! More so, when a friend had just spent the previous three days bumping around without any luck, that he skipped the final day's morning safari and went off to Bandipur!

Despite the occasional bouts of rain we met more of the denizens of the forest attending their morning duties.

Another crested serpent eagle

Orange headed ground thrush

Malabar giant squirrel

Brown fish owl

It was a quarter to 9 and the last 15 minutes of our safari. Our driver said he'd just go back and check on our sleeping leopard. As we turned past a small tree our driver braked suddenly. There, not 20 meters from bus, at a salt lick was a magnificent male leopard.

He was lapping up the muddy water without a care in the world. It was his kingdom; we were the intruders.

Occasionally, he would lift up his head and give a sidelong glance to see what we were upto....

....... and revert back to his business of slaking his thirst.

Then something put him on alert. He sat upright and looked behind him......

.....then back at us, to see if we were also disturbed by what he heard.

He decided that he had had enough and turned to move off......

 ......then, perhaps realizing that he had admirers, looked up again!

We weren't moving. We were so transfixed by the beautiful creature in front of us, we were not thinking of moving and did not want the leopard to go away either!

He looked long and hard and after a moment's hesitation, wheeled to his left and walked off, avoiding any close encounter with us. He was a leopard and instinct made him distrust humans.

As he crossed the track in front of us he gave one final look as if to say, "Keep off my turf!"

 Without another glance he walked unhurriedly into the safety of his forest.

My knees were shaking and my heart was racing. This was as close as I would get to a leopard in the wild. 

I had my new lens the Zuiko 90-250 mm  f2.8 that Olympus had given to me as a replacement for the damaged 300mm f2.8! It seemed that my new girlfriend was proving lucky, even if the weather was all gloomy.

Wait for the next post on the dholes......


soumyajit nandy said...

I am yet to photograph a Leopard!

Rajesh Radhakrishnan said...

Perhaps you are too busy chasing the birds and tigers :P