At dawn, when your vehicle enters the reserve, a gush of cold breeze jolts you out of your sleep alerting you to the sights and sounds of the jungle. You first notice the golden hued grasslands swaying gently from side to side. Then you start to pick up the songs of the birds, the calls of peacocks, barking deer and the occasional trumpets of the elephants. As you pass by the meandering Ram Ganga river and gaze at the mountain ridges that seem to extend into the horizon, you realize that you have come to a special place, a place where animal takes precedence over man , a place that leaves you wanting more even after 6 glorious safaris; a place that will beckon you to go back again and again. It took me more than two weeks to get over the hangover of Corbett. The intoxicating smells and sounds and sights just refuse to leave you.
The forest was absolutely beautiful! Some deciduous trees had shed their leaves giving the place a very autumn-y look. Driving through the forest and seeing scenery such as this makes me miss fall in the US. All I wanted to do was to go inside a New England coffee shop, sit by the fireplace and eat a nice piece of pumpkin pie a la mode. Ummm...nothing like a warm pie with ice cream to lift your spirits!! Sigh!
A loud high pitched ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-kee call alerted us to the presence of a changeable hawk eagle. We all took good pictures and Uma was ready with her camera to record the call, but the bird refused to oblige. It started calling only AFTER our jeep moved ahead! Check out the picture below to see this majestic raptor.
We went back to the grasslands for one last time before we exited the park. A huge herd of Cheetal were grazing. There is a very healthy population of Cheetal in the Indian jungles (over 35,000), so multiple sightings are almost guaranteed. Because of this most people don't usually care about them, but I think these are the prettiest of all deer, and am happy to see it any number of times. We then stopped at the reservoir to look for waders and turned back.
Green Bee Eater
The next day we woke up early for our last birding session. The morning started a little slow but picked up later. I was able to get great photographs of some common birds and not so great photographs of rare birds! I took a picture of a white throat kingfisher from a distance and kept inching towards it. To my surprise, it let me come very close for a great shot.
A number of people in the group were photographers and each had a different style of approaching a bird. Some were direct, some would sneak behind and snap pictures of the unsuspecting bird while some would photograph the birders instead of the bird:) Nobody and I mean NOBODY was like Uma. Her strategy was amazing! She TALKED to the birds!! Well....that's not so strange - my mom talks to birds.
"Don't poop on my daughter's balconies"
She told the pigeons in my building and I swear I am not kidding, the shit on my balcony went down by half. My maid was very pleased and keeps asking me when my mom would visit again!
Uma was different, she tried to fool the bird and here is how:
"Oh...you chweet chweet bird! You are cho cute.....gundu!! Don't worry....this is not a camera. I am not taking your picture. See....there is no film in the camera. Sit there and I won't take your picture!!
"I am coming closer, but won't take your picture. Please sit there....gundu:)
Convincing the bird that she was not taking a picture while clicking the camera furiously was laugh-out-loud hilarious. One evening at dinner, Captain mimicked the whole scene and had us all in splits!
We stopped at a spot where we took some pictures of the oriental white eye. I love the mischievous look of the bird and cannot resist posting these three pictures. Look how it twists its body in the last shot.
This was a wonderful trip and I hope to return back next year. Our guides Adesh and Manoj were simply the best.