Jim Corbett….A Wild Heaven…
First of all I apologize to all the blog readers for not updating the blog for such a long time. The time which has gone by between my Odisha trip and Jim Corbett was a transition phase for me in all the senses. I was going to tie marital knot in January with my long time friend Priyanka, I was happy for that but on the other hand I had resigned from my job in HDFC Bank and was about to leave one of the best boss, who happens to be a true mentor, friend and a great human being Animesh boss. Also I would be moving away from my beloved town of Kolhapur. It was a period of mixed emotions for me. It’s not that I have stopped going in to wild, but for some reason or other failed to update the blog.
Usually I live my life only on weekends or holidays, but during this period I was enjoying even in weekdays, being with family, wild and along with that coping up with all these transitions...
Jim Corbett could really have been a tricky trip as we had no clue about the place, but thanks to an old time friend of my wife Mr. Rajesh Panwar, who happens to run an NGO in rural tourism around Jim Corbett I was not that worried. I knew Rajesh through my wife as he also happens to be a wildlife enthusiast and photographer and that to a brilliant one and a keen bird watcher. It took just a few phone calls between us to be friends.
We opted to stay in Corbett village itself as it’s a place which has name of hunter turned conservationist legendary Jim Corbett all over it. And trust me it was not at all a bad choice. In January the place was freezing cold, but thanks to the warmth provided by the Mohan and his wife who work in Rajesh’s team, it was giving us a cozy feeling. We reached the Corbett village in noon and post having our lunch, decided to give our backs a bit of rest. During the lunch with Rajesh it was decided that we will go for a small trek and bird watching tour in the evening along with him. We left the resort at around 4 PM for bird watching tour and initial sightings to go by I knew this promised to be a thrilling trip. Just a few steps in to the trek we watched Jungle Owlet sitting over a barren tree bark. The Owlet gave us some patient shots. But the main attraction of this trip was to get a few glimpses of endangered Vultures. Rajesh informed us that they have been feasting on a buffalo carcass for last two days on the banks of river. We could see them flying in the sky and with the silhouette formed in the sky we could confirm that these are vultures only. A walk few more meters in the forest we came across a vulture couple sitting on a tree, but the distance was too much to get a good shot. We continued our walk towards the carcass, and as soon as we reached there the alert vultures started flying away and thanks to this I got some amazing clicks. A few more cautious and silent steps towards the river bed gave me sighting of a juvenile vulture sitting still. Vulture sighting now days is as rare as a tiger sighting. These large scavengers are getting extinct at a very rapid pace. With rapid urbanization, irresponsible disposal of waste and high usage of fertilizers, insecticides are resulting in to extinction of these scavengers. From an estimated population of 40 Million vultures in 1980’s to a few 60,000 in 2006, the drop in population has been the fastest in natural history. Vultures are natures own waste disposal machines and ensure that the dead bodies do not kept on rotting the environment.
Long billed Vulture
Long billed Vulture- Flight
Then we went to another bird watching trail, this time deeper in to forest and Rajesh told us that, the patch we were going in to is frequented by tigers and Sloth beers. As we went for the Dhikala trail the beauty of Jim Corbett’s forest kept on unfolding itself. From Stork billed Kingfisher to White Capped red start, many birds kept on coming and going. From the pink breasted Parakeets sitting on Sandal wood trees to the forest treppie. The time just flew by and we realized that its sun set time and an alarm bell for us to leave the forest as for past 2 days there was a news doing rounds that a man eater tiger is on the prowl in the area. Also we had booked Jungle safari for the entire day starting from the early morning next day.
Long tailed Shrike
Brown Headed Barbet
Rufous Treppie (Indian Treppie)
After an authentic Kumaouni dinner prepared at the resort it was time for us to sleep and ensure that we get up early in the morning. In the morning we left the Corbett village at 5 AM in the morning and even on the way to park we could see glittering eyes in the forest around the highway and this made my conviction more strong that this a wildlife sanctuary containing serious wildlife.
After getting the routine formalities for entering the Park we were ready go inside the park. Vasant was the assigned guide for us through the Park. Also a bad news of tiger been shot by the local police greeted us at the entrance of the gate. The tiger was shot without consulting wildlife officials and not even being sure that the tiger they were shooting is a man eater or not?
It was still dim sun light in the park and temperature was freezing cold inside. It was so cold that even with multiple woolen wear we could feel the pinch of cold to our bones. As soon as we entered the park just few meters of drive inside the park and we were greeted with first the hunt of the night lying on the way. It was a mature Male spotted dear. Looking at the wounds of the carcass our guide Vasant informed us that it might have been killed by wolves but a leopard won over the hunt from the wolves and started eating it. This was concluded as the flesh was torn out of back part of the dear.
Kill in the Night
It was just a first few minutes in to the park and sunlight started increasing and creating magical scenes with the landscapes and meadows of the park.
A few more meters and a giant Sambhar Deer fully grown with gorgeous display of Horns greeted us on the banks of a dried river bed filled with moon white coloured with rock pebbles and rolling stones. Such was the contrast that it created a wonderful setting for a tremendous photograph.
Male Sambhar Deer
Just a few meters ahead as our Guide was putting pressure on him for showing us the glimpse of the main attraction of the park “Royal Bengal Tiger”, I observed a crested Hawk eagle sitting pretty on the perch of a tree and combing its wings. Early in the morning most of the mammals were moving through the park trails to identify warm and sunny spots for them. A group of wild boars crossed the park with young ones occupying the central positions and adults occupying the extreme positions. It was just a few minutes in to the park and we were getting our answers of why Jim Corbett national park stands tall amongst wildlife conservation success stories in India. What is the reason that it is amongst the very few tiger reserves which has increased its tiger population over last year and is now having over capacitated population of tigers. From landscapes containing meadows to tall and old Sal trees, healthy dense population of herbivores like Cheetal, Sambhar, Spotted Dears, Barking dears, wild boars, no human intervention, no freewheeling cattle/human movement inside the park. It’s a wildlife which is allowed to be growing up in a wild manner. Just a minor critique that I can make on park management is that there is too much pressure on “Tiger Sighting” on guides and that directly puts pressure on tigers and their natural instincts. There are so many birds in the sanctuary which almost go unnoticed in the search of much hyped tiger sighting. Concentrated efforts are taken by people like Rajesh Panwar and his team is doing their bit in direction of highlighting other colours of Jim Corbett as well. There are so many birds in and around park that are worth exploring more than just waiting for tigers are at few points.
Male Spotted Deer
Male Wild Boar
After some time in to the park a noise of “Cowoo…”, made the Vasant’s head turn around and immediately he asked our driver to turn the jeep and head it towards uphill. We crossed a small meadow and entered in to a small gorge like area. There we spotted a group of spotted dear with tail and ears in alert position. Vasant asked us to be dead silent as he was expecting tiger to be around as it was an alarm call by a spotted dear. We waited these for around 10 minutes and then moved ahead as there was no further activity and the group of dears started coming back to normalcy.
Tiger Pug Mark
Alert Spotted Deers by Tiger call
Even after our efforts in the first half we could only come across fresh pug marks of a male tiger and a few alarms calls by spotted dear which were near our territory. But the first half was full of Mammal sightings across the park. Also we got glimpse of Stripped woodpeckers, Crested and Himalayan bulbuls inside the park.
Short Legged Serpent Eagle
Woolly Necked Storks
After an exorbitantly costly yet an ordinary lunch inside the park we were ready for our second session inside the park. Our guide was still determined to show us sight of his majesty RBT, but we had to satisfy ourselves to the legends of tigers of Jim Corbett narrated by Vasant rather than the tiger itself. Second half had more birds in store for us from wooly necked storks to Short toed serpent eagle. Second sessions was more of and wait and watch session rather than an exploration in to the wild. Guides passing by each other kept on exchanging information from each other on their interpretations of tiger locations and movements. Slowly yet steadily a day in Legendary Jim Corbett was going by us, but we were not disappointed by without a tiger sighting but for me it’s a process of going in to nature and learning so much each and every time.
Long live Jim Corbett….