Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary - Collection

If anyone asks me how many times have I visited Ranganathittu bird sanctuary, I really won't be able to answer because it is innumerable. My visits to this place have always been for a purpose of bird watching and photography, of course! Situated at around 125 KM from Bengaluru and 3 KM from historical Sri Ranganapattan, Ranganathittu is a small bird sanctuary along the river of Kaveri (since 1940). The islets formed out of the Kaveri river (after the KRS dam was built) form an important nesting grounds for birds. The sanctuary attracts lot of migrants throughout the year. Though the best time to visit the place is said to be from March to May, I would say throughout the year you will be able to spot lot of birds (except some migrants which are seasonal). Early morning would be the best time to visit, because either you will find only nature lovers along with you or you will be the lonely visitor in the early morning. Otherwise, rest of the day you would find the place chaotic(most of the times), with people screaming and shouting or playing in the lawns.

Bird Life in Ranganathittu:
Common Kingfishers, Pied king fisher, White Ibis, Openbilled and Painted Storks, Wagtails, Magpie Robin, Red Whiskered bulbul, Pelican, Paradise Fly Catchers, Grey hornbills, Night heron and Pond herons, Little Cormorant, Indian Peacocks.. (the list goes on)

The photographs will keep on piling up on top of the archives, because my visits to this place are going to continue as long as I am around Bengaluru. I hope the readers/visitors of the blog like this collection and hope this adds to your love for nature and bird life. 

Most of these shots are taken with following equipments:

Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras  Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black)   Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

1. A beautiful winter Morning, covers the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary and the fields around with a thick fog; when the Sun rises above the horizon the fields get a golden bathing

2. The fields along side the river provide a good habitat for lot of birds which are seen throughout the year

3. The early morning mist dripping down as a droplet 

4. Morning is the best time to visit the sanctuary as there will be less visitors giving you an opportunity to go around and take a lot of pics patiently. Also boating (250rs for a 8 seater) would help you go close to the habitats of migrant birds
5. Commonly found bird at the sanctuary; River Tern rests on a rock in an islet of the Kaveri river, on an early morning

6. Pelican in flight; these Pelicans are huge in size and when they fly you can actually hear the sound of their wings pulling the wind back
7. Little Cormorant: It is always such a delight to see this bird's flight, and it flies tangential to the water looking for fishes

8. Eurasian Spoonbill in flight

9. Eurasian Openbilled Storks sitting on a tree, seen cuddling each other

10. Eurasian Spoonbill in flight

11. Common Kingfisher on a dried up branch

12. Night Heron waits for it's prey while making sure it is getting shade

13. Magpie Robin, not a very shy bird; gives enough opportunities for a photographer

14. King of the sanctuary: Pied Kingfisher waits for a fish hunt on a broken tree branch

15. Birds: Great Thick Knee

16. River Tern, turning its head before scratching it's back ;-)
17. Painted Stork in flight

18. Indian Grey Hornbill; Hornibills are very beautiful birds to watch; a  number of species of hornbills are threatened with extinction
19. A small birdie (may be a Sun bird or yellow wagtail?), in a cultivated field; I somehow feel very happy seeing this picture though there is nothing great in it. I love the bird in its solitude and there is a whitish grass over the bird's head as if it is an umbrella.

20. How can I forget this picture which won me a consolation prize at Canon Go Green competition Bangalore; A tiny droplet shows the green landscape along side the bird sanctuary

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tiger Census - Jan 25th to Jan 27th 2010 - NagarahoLe

The Tiger (Panthera Tigris) is one of the most endangered species in the world today as everyone knows. And it is one of the things that are making news nowadays when it comes to wildlife. Destruction of the habitats and poaching for fur of the Tigers has left approximately 2000 Tigers in the world as per the recent survey as opposed to an estimation of over 100,000 of tigers at the start of 20th century. India is home to the world’s largest population of tigers in the wild. Project Tiger started way back in 1973 led by Indira Gandhi, was a major initiative towards conservation efforts. The program received accolades when the Bengal Tigers population was tripled from 1200 in 1973 to over 3500 in the 1990s. However a tiger census carried out in 2007 (report published on Feb 12, 2008) startled the nature lovers which stated the Tiger population in India has declined by 60% approximately 1411, the number which you have been hearing from famous Sportsmen and Actors on TV channels everyday now. Also, the number might be lesser than 1411 by now.

1. On the verge of extinction; This shot was taken at Pilikula park, Mangalore; 
The Forest Department under the supervision of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the Central Government and Office of the Field Director of Project Tiger will carry out the Tiger Census in 2009/2010, in various states in India. Hopefully the results are announced soon about the population of Tigers as of now. With this background I will share my experience of Tiger Census conducted between Jan 22 and Jan 27th of 2010. I received a call from Hunsur Forest Division, to be a volunteer to help the officials to conduct Tiger Census for the second session starting from 25th Jan till 27th Jan 2010. Instantly I accepted the offer and planned my vacation.

*Note about the census conducted:
There is no guaranteed intervals or frequency at which Tiger (or any census) is conducted in the forests; The census usually will be done in all the forests throughout India; you will get such information through news paper or some online forums; you need to fill up an application form from Forest Office Division, fill it up and send it to the respective division to show your interest in volunteering. The govt officials will call you up and inform about your selection.

With so much of excitement, a little bit of fear whilst determination to sight a Tiger and capture that moment in my camera, I reached the check post of Veerana Hosa Halli range which is the starting point of Rajiv Gandhi National Park. After signing the bond paper few of the volunteers including me were taken to an Anti-Poaching camp inside the forest where we were supposed to spend our next 3 days and nights. I have always seen the jungle either through a safari which covers only a narrow part of the jungle or driving through the tar roads carved inside the national forests. This time, it was different. I was taken deep inside the jungle where anti-poaching camps are situated and where life can take any turn any moment. The excitement on the faces of all the volunteers was so evident! Few said "sigh, I can be away from all the tensions for 3 days" and few others cribbed "God, how am I going to spend 3 days!!"

As the jeep took the deviation from the main road and entered the jungle the excitement doubled and the eyes were searching for the wildlife as though all the animals will be waiting to welcome us (high hopes!!). We drove inside for a few KMs till we reached an anti-poaching camp. All I can say about the camp is that, it was a 4 walled construction which had an entrance but no door, and there was a trench surrounding the camp which could have been crossed only by elephants. A guard and two watchers are the residents of the camp. These people are responsible to guard certain amount of forest area that they are assigned with.

The entire forest in this region is divided into several ranges and each range is divided into Compartments (CPT). In each CPT, there was a straight line of 2 kms cut into the forest (basically a narrow path was created) where were supposed to walk in a group which included 2 volunteers, a guide, and a Guard. Census on 2 kms stretch was conducted on first and 3rd day which involved census on habitat, prey density, herbivore and carnivore count and the vulnerable areas. The second day involved a longer coverage of about 5 to 7 KM specifically for Tiger Census. The census happened from 6 AM in the morning for about 4 to 5 hours every day. The camera trapping method was used 2 weeks before the census. This method entailed transmitting infrared beam at the ground level and the instruments kept perpendicular to the tracks commonly used by Tigers. The invisible IR beam would break and in turn trigger the camouflaged cameras which would take close up pictures of the animal.

The 3 days spent in the forest came as the gifted days when I needed a break the most. Away from the traffic jams and monotonous work; away from the pollution; fresh air all 3 days; birds chirping round the clock, Nilgiris Langurs making noise and jumping from branch to branch; jungle Mynas always flying as a couple; lot of parakeets flying high over the trees; those jeep tracks and our search for pug marks; distant lake and a shelter on the tree branch on which we waited for hours to get the glimpse of an animal; a sighting of a Leopard at a distance of just 50 meters and in all the excitement forgetting to release the shutter at the right moment; Finding a herd of 15-20 elephants right in front of the eyes and running back in fear to climb a tree to escape; climbing the tamarind tree and spending hours together just to kill the time; asking the watcher to prepare tea several times a day; camp fire in the evenings; etc etc; So many things; small things but always pleasure enjoying these moments.

After 5 hours of search on the 3rd day too, I could not sight a Tiger other than hearing its roar and seeing its pugmarks which was such a disappointment for me when all other volunteers who stayed with me had spotted at least one Tiger.  I pray and hope that the Tigers’ population is maintained and probably increased in coming years. I just hope next time around when I do census, I sight several of these striped beauties and get a chance to capture them in my camera. I had a terrific 3 days in NagarahoLe national park which will be remembered for a longer time. I am waiting for another such journey because the zeal to participate in such events will never die in me!

Update 28th March 2011:
Just heard the news that tiger population is increased by 15%; what a good news!!

1. Bisons crossing the road early in the morning; there will be more movement of wildlife early in the morning, and hence every day we used to start by 6 AM.

2. The Census included collecting data about vegetation in around 15 meters radius at every 400 meters for a stretch of 2 KM. The data includes the types of vegetation and density of each of the types in the given area.

3. While observing vegetation, the density of different types of leaves fallen off, and the affected leaves was also noted.

4. Dried up land and the left over pugmarks of a Bison; Very old pugmarks are not counted during herbivores census

5. Prey density is an important data to understand the Tiger population in an area. The lesser prey density alerts the officials of Tigers’ starvation and hence the deaths.
6. Pugmark of a Tiger on a jeep track inside the jungle printed just after our jeep has crossed this road a while before that. I missed to sight a Tiger by few minutes, in two incidents; once when there was a fresh dropping of the Tiger in the CPT where we conducted census; second one here on the jeep track.

7. When we were getting back from the census and walking towards the camp, we saw Pugmarks of a Leopard. After walking few steps on the same track we were stunned to see a Leopard marking its way down in the same direction. By the time I realized I had a camera and released the shutter, the Leopard fled the place and disappeared; disappointment for my camera but a sense of satisfaction to me that I sighted a Leopard on day 1.

The Anti-Poaching camp in Veerana Hosa halli range; They seem to guard the forest 24x7 without door, and with minimal facilities available.

8. The 2nd day too didn’t yield a Tiger sighting but full of pugmarks and rakes on the trees. I heard the roar too but couldn’t follow it.

9. Very old pug marks, as old as 3 months near the dried up lakes or water holes.

10. We found a herd or elephants right in front; they were all heading to this lake and hence we ran back, climbed a tree and waited for the elephants

11. Census included recording the data about how many trees are cut, how much of a tree is cut and natural damages around. This would provide an idea if there is a poaching in the region. The dried up leaves and fallen off trees are more vulnerable to take up fire. Last year around the same time, half of Veerana Hosa Halli forest was abolished because of the forest fire it seems; another reason for destruction of habitats of Tigers.

12. Umesh, our Guard, a brave officer who shot a poacher at his leg when a gang of 6 people were caught stealing the precious wood from the forest. Incident took place while the Census was on, two days before I reached. It is a message to the people complaining that our officials are not doing anything to save wildlife that there are few like Umesh who care for wildlife.
13. Elephants in the jungle are more threatening to the guards and watchers than Carnivores. There have been many instances where the elephants have charged down and chased these folks for several KMs.

14. A painting of a tiger from Chitrakala Parishat; I hope that the Tigers don’t remain just in photographs or paintings such as this one.

15. Will always remember this troop for giving such a wonderful experience of the jungle!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Silhouetted Couple

Silhouetted Couple, originally uploaded by kulliprashant.
Chandigarh was really humid and hot when we visited recently in Aug 2010. We spent a day wandering in Chandigarh, driving on beautifully carved and tarred roads, the gardens and a lake. This shot was taken near a lake during the sunset.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 4 of 12 days of North India Trip

We were back to Jaipur in wee hours of 25th September 2009 and later on finished few hours of much required sleep. It was the fourth day of the trip and we had set a new record in this trip for being together for more than 3 days on any of the trips so far in last 3 years. 4th day started with a little bit of heat. Already Jaipur was burning, and Lawrence lost his control after his routine breakfast time was slipped by 2 hours (it was 9 AM). All of us were tired of the previous night journey and still looked sleepy in the morning. However Lawrence did not appreciate me sitting quiet outside the lodge and doing nothing. He yelled at me terribly and just walked away for a KM  in search of a hotel though there was one very close to the lodge. Girish and I, then, followed the Mr Angry (and hungry) man and walked close to the bus stand. We were supposed to enquire about the bus to Delhi from Jaipur. Apparently there were no seats available for AC buses to DelhiThen a thought popped up  – “why not travel to Agra directly and ask Sriram to join us in Agra” – and it seemed like a better plan. We informed Sriram and decided to leave from Jaipur at around 11 PM to Agra. All set and we planned for one more day’s sight seeing in Jaipur. 

On a sunny day, this is one thing you can't miss noticing

Amber Fort was one of the places we wanted to visit and also Jal Mahal.  We negotiated with a Rickshaw driver for a good deal to and fro journey to Amber Fort. The driver also went on telling us the history about Jaipur and few forts. I don’t know whether he knew anything or he was bluffing because we idiots did not know anything. It was a great fun when the driver called Girish as Abhishek looking at his tall stature and the goggles.

As soon as we reached the Amber fort there was a guide waiting for us. May be the driver had called up and told this guide “Bakra logon ko leke aa raha hun mein”. He did not charge us much though. It was really hot, and the place was burning. We had to walk  for some distance to avoid paying for the jeep. It was kind of a small trekking. The guide said us he made us walk to save 200rs from our pocket. 

Every bit of shade was occupied

The guide then started his typical history lecture on the fort and the King who built that. For a change the King (Jai Singh I guess) seemed to have only 2 wives. Maharaja Jai Singh completed the initial structure of the fort. Then Raja Man Singh, Senapati (Commander in chief) of Akbar enhanced it to palace complex. There was a nice interesting story that he told us about how Raja Man Singh made friendship with the neighboring lower cast people who troubled the rulers of the place before him; and then intelligently his Sena killed all those people (in thousands) on a holy day when the enemies didn't hold the weapons.

Confusing pathways inside the Amber fort

Stories apart… I know it is always boring…. Coming back to our gang, everyone in the group wanted some sort of shelter where we get to hide under shade.  We were in that place at a very wrong time of the day. The sun was right up above our heads.  Every few steps we walked we felt thirsty and the eyes searched for water source, or a shop. We reached interior part of the palace complex to see a beautiful building. The guide let us go inside and explore the place, take few pictures and asked us to come back in 15 minutes.

In desperate search for a way out

We went inside took few pictures, and then headed towards some basement to explore the place. The fun part was that the group was split and I lost touch with other people for a while. I then started searching for them; meanwhile I had crossed few pathways and lot of turns. I was totally confused where I was. I could hear other guys from some distance and managed to reach them. I asked “where is the way out” and they said “we are also searching for it” – Next 10 to 15 minutes were like real fun.  “Hey I guess this way” – there was a dead end..  “Hey I found it.. should be this way” – Again dead end.. It went on like that for sometime. The building seemed like a vicious circle. One of the ways we took, lead us to a dead end and there was Jail at the dead end. Amazing fun. We somehow managed to find a way out. The feeling was like “Oh God why did we find a way out?”

Ended up in a jail!!!!

Shashi was sitting out with the guide all this while; sharing a lot of stories. Once we came out, we were then taken to interior parts of the fort like Jail, Kitchen etc. Guide also showed us a place where recently released – “Jodha Akbar”- was shot and he also showed, with a lot of excitement, a vessel and said “Isee mein to Aishwrya Rai ne pakaya than Jodha Akbar movie mein”.. He then showed us a very huge and well built treasure box. We all attempted to open the heaviest of the opening for this box. It was very heavy and required a lot of effort to open with both the hands.

After spending some time and hearing few more stories, the guide took us down back to the place where our Rickshaw was waiting. And before that, like every other guide in Rajasthan he took us to a Rajasthani Emporium (where he surely gets some commission). Aunty, Chittra and Girish bought few materials from there. We thought we will have lunch there itself and then start back. We entered a hotel and for half an hour no one even bothered to take the orders. I don’t know why but they were just not turning up to our table even we called them several times. We decided to get out and we thought they will stop us but nothing of that sort happened. This is when you start missing a place like Bangalore where for food you don’t have to wait or don’t have to walk for kms.

Hungry souls eating junk food

We started back to Jalmahal; before that we went near a garden (didn’t enter though) and had snacks (remember, no lunch) like Pav Bhaji, Bhel puri and Lassi also. After a while we reached Jalmahal and there was nothing much for us to do there other than taking a picture of it from distance, and also group snap. 


We owed this auto driver something I guess, for which he took us to another shopping place and pushed us in. However Lawrence and I bought leather jackets. After coming out of this shop, we did nothing much other than rushing to the hotel rooms and packing our stuff; there was a late evening shopping done before leaving Jaipur.

Hawamahal, on a moon lit evening

Last evening in Jaipur

We hurried to the bus stand at around 10.30 pm. Lawrence and I did calculations of our Rajasthan trip; Shashi and Chittra sat together; Abhishesk and Karishma (Giri and Sangeetha I mean) seemed exchanging a lot of stories throughout the way to Agra. Only those 2 voices were heard while the entire world was sleeping. Next day early morning we opened our eyes to see the empty streets of Agra; we pulled ourselves out of the seat to hold the bags and search for hotels again.