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Creepy creatures of Amboli

Creepy creatures of Amboli

Amboli is a hill station in Maharashtra about 350 km from Pune. It records 3000 mm of rains in the monsoons and hence is a home to many creepy creatures and insects which thrive in monsoons.

Amboli Water fall is a major attraction for Mumbaikars and Puneites who throng this place in thousands during the monsoons. Visiting during week ends is not advisable.

 

If you want to enjoy nature this is a great place to visit.

A visit to this place was on our bucket list for some time and it fructified this monsoon ( July 2018). Apart from visitng the waterfalls my main interest was trying my hand at photographing the creepy creatures of Amboli. To do that one has to venture out in the night as spotting them in daylight is near impossible. You need to be geared up to face heavy rains. A good raincoat, gum boots and a flash light to light up the creatures will be handy.

During the night nature walk in the Amboli Wildlife Park you can expect to see various kinds of frogs, snakes, Geckos and insects. For me it was fun searching for these reptiles and frogs, though the incessant rain was annoying. Sharing few phots taken during the trip.

Amboli Toad

Amboli Bush Frog

Bull Frog

Fungoid Frog

Leaping Frog

Marble Frog ?

Banded Gecko

Wrinkled Frog

Glow worm, this thing glows as if it has head and tail light

Woolly Caterpillar

Identity ?

Malabar Pit Viper. Malabar Pit Viper is a venomous snake mostly found in southern and western India. They are nocturnal and found on the ground,rocks and trees near streams of the Western Ghats region of India. The don’t hunt but just sit in ambush, waiting for the prey to come by.

Green Vine Snake. The green vine snake is diurnal and mildly venomous. The reptile normally feeds on frogs and lizards using its binocular vision to hunt. They are slow moving, relying on camouflaging as a vine in foliage. The snake expands its body when disturbed to show a black and white scale marking. Also, they may open their mouth in threat display and point their head in the direction of the perceived threat.

Stick insect. The stick insect (as its name suggests) is an insect that looks like a twig on a branch, bush or tree. This unique identity means that stick insects can be extremely difficult for predators to spot. Amazing nature….

Malabar Gliding Frog. The Malabar gliding frog or Malabar flying frog tree frog species found in the Western Ghats of India.

The term “gliding” frog refers to its ability to break its fall by stretching the webbing between its toes when making leaps down from the treetops. It can make gliding jumps of 9–12 m, a maximum of about 115 times its length. These stole the show for me.

Beautiful creeps, aren’t they ?

I was informed that Amboli has some beautiful species of butterflies and insects which are seen around end of September and that’s the reason I plan to be there again this September.

 

Wildlife at Kanha National Park

Wildlife at Kanha National Park

During our road trip in February 2018 we visited Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Park. As we arrived at Bandhavgarh we were greeted with thunder showers which continued throughout our stay. We braved the rains and did two safaris but the animals remained elusive. They obviously had gone into hiding to avoid the heavy downpour.

Our next stop was Kanha, the rains followed us here too but we did manage a clear day. Many species animals  did oblige us as they had come out to bask in the sun but the tiger remained elusive.

Kanha National Park is famous for the Barasingha also known as the Swamp Deer. Once almost at the verge of extinction Kanha now has a large number of these. We were lucky to spot a large herd during our safari.

These animals look majestic in the wild. The barasingha, also called swamp deer, is a deer species distributed in the Indian subcontinent. Populations in northern and central India are fragmented, and two isolated populations occur in southwestern Nepal.

During the safari we also saw many Gaur’s (Indian Bison).

The Kanha Forest is extremely beautiful. I enjoyed the ever changing  landscape.

 

The Peacocks add color to the verdant green forest.

…..and then off course the spotted deer were all over.

We also came across few Black Bucks which are not very common in this forest.

The langurs sitting around quietly was a clear indication that the tiger was not very close by, but then this was just one part of the forest.

We sited few wild dogs. The guide informed us that there numbers were dwindling and that we were lucky to have spotted them.

Off and on we came across the wild boars who were busy digging the ground.

…..and then we came across this pair of jackals.

The forest has large number of sambhar deer which are known to raise alarm when they sense the tiger in close vicinity.

Kanha is famous for birds too and we did come across few of them.

Fish Eagle Owl

Sirkeer Malkoha

Indian Roller

Crested Serpent Eagle

The Jungle Patrol

The trip was interesting though the tiger remained elusive.

Birds of the Western Ghats

Birds of the Western Ghats

Each year we visit various bird sanctuaries towards the end of December as this is the best period to sight both migratory and resident birds. In the last week of December 2017 we visited the Western Ghats to include Dandeli in Karnataka and Tamdi Surla and Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary in North Goa. The trip was rewarding as we saw many species of birds from close quarters.

In Dandeli we stayed at The Old Magazine House, a resort run by Karnataka Tourism. This place is a favorite with birders as they have put some bird baths in this area which attracts birds. The birds keep coming through out the day to have a bath and have a sip of water.

Grey Headed Fulvetta

The Old Magazine House has few good rooms and cottages which can be hired online from www.junglelodges.com

This is a place where you can literally do arm chair bird watching and photography.

Oriental White Eye

Grey Headed Fulvetta

Yellow Cheeked Black Lored Tit

You can also observe the Giant Malabar Squirrel feeding and playing around on the trees in this area.

I saw many Blacked Necked Munia here through out my stay.

Also this is place is full of Black Headed Warblers

Asian Paradise Fly Catcher – These are winter visitors to this place.

Grey Horn Bill

Yellow Bulbul

The Emerald Dove is a regular visitor here.

Grey Headed Fulvetta

Orange thrush

Play this video to see an orange thrush enjoying the bath.

White Bellied Blue Fly Catcher

We spotted this Rock Thrush at the timber depot at Dandeli. The timber depot is about half an hours drive from the Old Magazine House.

A Leaf Bird at the timber depot

We saw many Malabar Pied Horn bills at the timber depot.

An orange minivet (female) at timber depot. While at the timber depot take a walk around and you will get to see many species of birds.

Nut Hatch at timber depot

We also saw many Hill Myna’s

An Oriental Magpie at Ganeshgudi

Black Naped Monarch

Tickell’s Blue Fly Catcher

Oriental White Eye

Emerald Dove (female)

Puff Throated Warbler

Orange Breasted Fly Catcher

Asian Paradise Fly Catcher (female)

White Bellied Blue Fly Catcher

White Rumped Shama at Old Magazine House

For the next phase of our birding we moved on to North Goa. We stayed at Natures Nest Resort near Tambdi Surla.

Mahadev Temple at Tambdi Surla. Most of the birding is done in and around here. We heard the call of Malabar Trogan but could not site it. Next day we went to the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary and did manage few snaps.

Asian Koel (female)

Bay Backed Shryke

Indian Robin

Shikra (female) – We spotted this at Bondla Wildlife Sanctury.

Ruby Throated Bulbul – State bird of Goa

White Cheeked Bulbul

Purple Sun Bird

Golden Oriole

Brown Winged Green Pigeon

….and yet another year end birding session came to an end. God willing we will be there this year end too, looking for more.

 

 

 

Kaziranga : The Rhino Land

Kaziranga : The Rhino Land

Kaziranga spread over 425 square kilometeres or so is home to about 2400 one horned rhinos (10/12/2017).

You can see these majestic animals every where in Kaziranga, though sighting these is better in the Western Range. Kaziranga also hosts the elephants, wild water buffalo and the tiger. You can also see the swamp deers (Barasingha), hog deers, wild boars and few more species of mammals.

I arrived at Gauhati by Jetairawys flight form Pune. Jetairways runs a direct flight via Kolkota to Gauhati. At Gauhati I was recieved by Mr Hazarika who was to drive me to Nature Hunt Eco Camp where I was to stay. The camp management had tied up the safaris for the next few days. During the safaris which were spread over the next few days, I sighted a number of species of mammals and birds. I managed to get some nice pictures of these which I am sharing with you in this blog.

We were driving in the Eastern Range and then I spotted this Rhino approaching the banks of this seasonal lake which gets formed in monsoons due to the flooding of the flat plains. We stopped and waited till the Rhino bent down to drink water, this was the moment which I wanted to snap.

….and then it entered the lake.

We spotted the Rhino’s each and every day during all are safaris but more so in the western range.

Nature has it’s own way. The egrets help in getting rid of insects on the rhino’s body.

Off and on there are cases of poaching. Rhinos are killed for there horns which is considered to be having medicinal values. I learnt later that this is a total fallacy as the biological composition of a rhino’s horn is same as that of the human nail. You will find the park being patrolled by armed guards quite frequently.

The only way to explore the park is by jeep safaris. The jeeps move on a designated path, so you only see what you come across during your safari. You cannot get off the jeep.

The next of the big four which we saw was the elephants, though in small numbers. The big four in this park are the rhino’s, elephants, wild water buffalo and the tiger which generally stays elusive. We could sense it but did not spot one.

I was told that only lucky one’s see a tusker as there numbers are few. Tuskers stay alone and do not form part of the herd.

We saw wild water buffaloes in large numbers, mostly in the Eastern Range.

It is the size of there horns which distinguishes them from the domestic ones.

Kaziranga National Forest mostly comprises of grasslands interspersed with few wooded areas. The grass here is called elephant grass, and rightly so as it is very difficult to spot the animals when inside the grass land.

Kaziranga also hosts a large number of wild boars. We did spot a few.

Kaziranga also has a healthy population of swamp deer also called Barasingha.

….and the hog deer were every where.

While on a safari you may also come across this hoary bellied squirrel.

Kaziranga is a fascinating place and attracts many foreign tourists and wildlife photographers who come here to see the one horned rhino.

A visit to Kaziranga is not complete without visiting the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary located at Mariani near Jorhat. It is about 100 km from Kaziranga.

Located around 20 km from Jorhat, this isolated wildlife sanctuary is famous for its hoolock gibbon population. Surrounded by the Brahmaputra river on one side and with tea gardens everywhere else, this is a good enclosure for the 26 or so families of hoolock gibbons that reside here.

Apart from the gibbon, one can see capped langur, stump-tailed macaque, pigtail macaque, Assamese macaque, rhesus macaque and slow loris here.

On our visit here the first one to greet us were the capped langurs.

….then after quite a walk we spotted a family of gibbons which were jumping around high up in the trees. We were informed by the guide that these never come down to the ground.

During our walk around the sanctuary we also saw many pig tailed monkeys.

For me this was a trip to remember and I am sure I will come here again for more and to find the elusive tiger. Kaziranga is also famous for birds, to know more read my blog on birding in Kaziranga on this very website.

That’s me (right) with my escort who accompanied us during the safaris. Best wishes.

KERALA : PERIYAR WILDLIFE SANCTURY

KERALA : PERIYAR WILDLIFE SANCTURY

As part of an eight day trip to Kerala, God’s own country, we visited Thekkaddy in April 2014 to see the Periyar Wildlife Sanctury.

The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady is one of the world’s most fascinating natural wildlife reserves. Spread across 777 sq.km, of which 360 sq.km is thick evergreen forest, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. This sanctuary attracts visitors from all over the world.

The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar adds to the charm of the park. This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake.

The greatest attraction of Periyar are the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake, however, you have to be lucky to see them.

We reached thekkady at about 1.30 pm on 06 April 2014 after a lovely and pictersque journey from Munnar. During this journey, we took in a visit to a spice garden,  where they showed us how they grew organic spices. It was so illuminating to see what  nature gives us if only we knew how to use it properly. Anyway, bought lot of spices for self and friends and freaked out at the thought of the difference in what we buy in the market and these organic spices.

After checking into a hotel called Ranger Woods just outside the gates of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, we freshened up and went into the sanctuary to catch the evening boat safari in the Periyar lake. We bought the tickets and were thrilled to find that we had seats right in front, on the upper deck.

I was entranced by the beauty of the surroundings. Prashant was going crazy clicking the various aspects and moods of the verdant surroundings, the people and even the monkeys which abound near the boat landing area.(the monkeys have become such scroungers here that they grab and pull food out of  the hands of unwary tourists).

We set off down the Periyar Lake and it’s back waters. It was breath taking to watch the changing deciduous forests on both sides with cormorants, little egrets and kingfishers flitting around. Then we spotted a herd of Sambhars.

Before we could really appreciate the beauty of these fleet footed animals, we spotted a herd of Gaurs ( Indian Bison). They were grazing without a worry in the world. The whole boat erupted in a cacophony of oohs and aahs !! Prashant was moving around in the boat trying to take as many snap shots of these wild creatures as he could.

We then saw a herd of wild boars on the other bank. It was entrancing to see little piglet’s all around their mother.

I went into a reverie of what it would feel like to live amongst all this when I suddenly heard a “Did you see that?” from hubby dear who had spotted an Osprey feeding on it’s fresh catch. He managed to get a good snap of this bird of prey

After two hours of visual delight we were back at the landing area.

Next morning we took a guided nature walk and as we entered the jungle, we spotted the Nilgiri Langur.

There after we walked around for quite sometime but did not spot any thing except the pug-marks of a tiger and few water birds in the lake.

Next evening we went for another boat safari and once again spotted different type of birds and animals, the tiger and the elephants remained elusive. We enjoyed the rugged landscape which itself is a visual delight.

Apart from the wildlife, Thekkady has a lot of local flavor to offer. Late in the evening we went for a Kalari show. Kalari is the ancient martial art of Kerala just like Judo or Karate and is presented in a dance form to entertain the tourists.

We followed this up with a Kathakali show. Kathakali is one of the most ancient dance forms of south India. The eyes and expressions emote so much that they can tell an entire story with minimal movement. The dress and make up is very elaborate

Next morning we left for Kumarakom, the enchanting backwaters of Kerala. Read about it in our next blog.

NAGARHOLE TIGER RESERVE : KABINI RIVER LODGE

NAGARHOLE TIGER RESERVE : KABINI RIVER LODGE

We visited Kabini in first week of June 2014. The road journey from Mysore to Kabini was comfortable and we reached the Kabini River Lodge by one o’clock. This resort started operations at Kabini over 30 yrs ago. Today, it is one of the famous wildlife resorts in the world. What is now the Kabini River Lodge was earlier the hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore and a favorite with his guests. The lodge is located in Karapura village on the back waters of the Kabini Dam. The sprawling premises are very aesthetically set with a plethora of interesting wildlife that delights the eyes. Besides the many species of trees, there are over 50 species of grasses on the property. Also seen are mammals, birds, butterflies, spiders, ants and chameleons.

Cottages at Kabini River Lodge

A Chameleon at the Kabini River Lodge

After checking in, we went in for lunch and were told the evening safari was leaving at 3.30 pm. As it was the first day we opted for the boat safari.

At the beginning of the safari, we were pretty disappointed as all we could see were small villages along the shore with domestic animals grazing. However, after about 15 mins, the landscape slowly changed and the forest of the Nagarhole National Park came into view. Water birds were a plenty and prashant managed to capture the killer moments in the life of an Osprey, with his camera. Oh! What a rush it gave us.

Then, came the elephants, the Gaur – the Indian version of the Bison, the spotted deer, the sambar and the wild boar grazing along both banks. Suddenly, the boatman took a detour towards a sandbank, on one side, and we spotted a crocodile sunning itself, without a care in the world.

Suddenly, the boatman took a detour towards a sandbank, on one side, and we spotted a crocodile sunning itself, without a care in the world.

Further ahead we spotted deer and sambar frolicking, grazing and even locking horns with each other.

Prashant suddenly spotted a wild dog – alone – trying to hunt a deer. It was awesome to see four Sambhars, take on the dog while, the rest of the herd continued grazing in peace. We got some good photographs of the face off.

 

The wild dog is at bottom left corner.

We went upstream for quite a distance and saw a colony of spoon – billed storks. PKG went crazy clicking away and I just admired them. They were sunning themselves and were totally unafraid of humans passing close by.

Spoon Billed Storks

Cormorants in Kabini Reservoir Backwaters

A Pond Heron

White Cheeked Wag Tail with it’s prey (above). In flight (below).

On the way back, the reflection of the setting sun from amidst clouds brought a lot of drama into the atmosphere. We managed to click a few good shots of the beautiful scenery. After a 3hr boat safari, we came back satisfied and satiated, having seen a lot of wild life.

The setting sun at Kabini

We now looked forward to the jeep safari next morning, hoping to see the bigger cats and other wild life.

We woke up at break of dawn, next morning, as we were scheduled to leave at 6.25am. The first animal we saw that morning was a Ruddy Mongoose – a beautiful, big, rust colored one – sunning itself on a rocky outcrop.

Jungle Fowl

Then we saw spotted deer, gaurs, elephants and wild boar grazing right along the track. It was stupendous to see the animals from such close quarters. The animals seemed unaffected by human presence and only moved off when the jeep was too close to it.

Suddenly, the tracker got a message telling him that a tiger had been spotted by one of the jeeps. Hearing this the whole atmosphere got electrified and the chase was on! We drove at break neck speed to reach the spot on time, to see the tiger. But Alas! We were not in luck and he had disappeared into the forest, just before we reached. The adrenaline rush of the chase and the depths of disappointment of not reaching on time – An experience of a life time. After that we saw peacocks, the jungle fowl, chameleons and other varieties of birds but, the letdown of the near sighting remained with us.

I was still on such a high that I could neither eat nor drink and kept pacing up and down, willing the time to fly, till the afternoon safari. The prospect of a ride in a coracle – a round basket woven with bamboo and used as a boat – excited me and I decided to give it a try.

Prashant was not enthused at the idea and decided to stay on shore. It was great fun, though scary at times. The thought of the crocs lurking in the water, enhanced the fear factor. I was ready for the evening safari, way before time. The anticipation of the safari had me on pins and needles.

This time our guide was Afsar – the best tracker at Kabini. Regulars told us that he could actually sense where the cats would be. We took off at 3.30pm and kept visiting the various water holes and we saw every other animal but the big three – the tiger, leopard and the sloth bear. We saw the crested serpent eagle, yellow footed green pigeons, black faced langoors, bonnet macaques, a pair of Indian rollers, a pair of turtles and the gaur. The tiger still eluded us.

Yellow footed Pigeon

Black Faced Langur

Bonnet Macau

Indian Rollers

Black Shouldered Kyte

Ashy Headed Parakeet

Just as we were ready to call it a day, Afsar turned the jeep towards an area where he felt the tiger could be. The rest of us were down in the dumps and waiting to return to the resort. Lo and behold! Suddenly the jeep ground to a stop and Afsar asked us to look right ahead on the track – The Tiger – sitting right in the middle of the track, without a care in the world. We inched ahead to about 20 mtrs from it (it is the stipulated distance to be maintained from wild animals). Slowly other vehicles fetched up and we were about 50 – 60 people watching it and clicking snaps. The excitement all round was palpable and wow! The magnificence of its presence was over powering.

He just sat there looking around, lying down and then sitting up and glancing all round at us swishing its tail as if to say, “Come closer if you dare or admire me from afar”. We were all open mouthed at its sheer raw beauty. It is a totally different experience to see it in its own environment, where it is totally free and you are in near captivity. We were there for 45mins enjoying its presence, wanting to leave only after it vanished into the forest. However it was in no mood to oblige and the oncoming darkness forced us to move away, leaving it in peace.

My Spouse was elated as he had captured the tiger in all its glory, but I had become greedy for more. I wanted a glimpse of the leopard as well. I pestered Prashant to take a chance and take me for the morning safari next day. Though he was keen to check out early so that he could spend more time with his course mates – the CGT at Mysore beckoned – he capitulated and we decided to try our luck next morning. Just as we entered the game reserve, we were told someone had sighted a leopard. I bowed my head in thanksgiving as, the powers above had granted my wish. We rushed to the spot, with rain drops hitting us like pellets, in the open jeep. It was sitting on a branch of a tree, hidden by thick foliage. We could only get glimpses of it – a paw, its tail, its spots and its head.

After about 15 mins most of the jeeps got fed up of waiting as the leopard was showing no signs of moving. They left to try their luck somewhere else. However, Afsar refused to budge as he was sure it would come down from the tree. Suddenly, after 15 mins, it got up, stretched, slid down the tree and majestically came out of the undergrowth. It walked along the track for some distance then crossed over to the other side and disappeared into the forest. I was left open mouthed at the sheer elegance and feline grace of this cat. Wow! And Wow again, was all that came to mind.

Photo Shooters mesmerized by the sight of the leopard at stones throw away

I am at a loss of words to explain the sheer beauty of the animal. Ah! We were ecstatic and knew that we had been exceptionally lucky to have seen almost all the animals – except the sloth bear.
We checked out after breakfast, as we were now looking forward to meeting old friends at the CGT at Mysore. The afternoon and evening spent with old friends was like icing to the cake, making it a thoroughly memorable trip.