Thursday 23 January 2014

A Spotted Leopard or a Leopard Spotted?

Mr Jules and I have been off on safari again! This time on another Toehold Wildlife & Photography tour to Kabini in Nagarhole National Park (Karnataka).  The trip was short but sweet and bit-by-bit, I was able to improve on the skills learnt on the last photography tour to Tadoba.  

The experience with Toehold was again, brilliant. Everything was perfectly executed. We stayed in simple tented accommodation (great fun!) at Kabini River Lodge - a government owned property which meant that all safaris into the park went directly from there (even for other people who were staying at nearby Orange County and Serai safari lodges).  All the paperwork was sorted out for us - and as Indian-tax-paying expats, Toehold even managed to get us in on Indian rates (about half the price of 'Foreigner' prices).

Crested Serpent Eagle at the foot of a tree

In all, we had four safaris (including one by boat on the Kabini Lake) which was perfect for our long weekend away. Again, because everything was organised by Toehold, there were only six of us in each of the spacious jeeps. I noticed that some of the other guests at the Lodge were being carted around in small bus-type vehicles (which was mostly OK as they were not wielding big lenses like us photographers).

We were primarily here in the hope of spotting a leopard - the chances are usually quite high in Kabini, especially as the leopards like to hang out in the tops of trees at this particular Reserve. But sadly, we were unlucky this time. However, we did have two sightings of a tiger...and the likelihood of that happening was minimal! Unfortunately I only managed to get a 'record' shot due to its fleeting appearance by the side of the road.  We were sooooo pleased to see him though.

Here is a selection of photos - I hired a Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens for my Nikon D7000 from Toehold.  I got quite a lot of blur from not holding it steady but it was a great experience to handle a more powerful lens. I will try the 500mm next time.  We did see a lot of other wildlife other than recorded below - Vultures, Gaur, Malabar Giant Squirrels, Mongoose, a White Bellied Sea-Eagle, and loads of birds - over 100 species as counted by Mr Jules!

The same eagle now sitting on a branch
I'm not keen on macaques but this baby one is quite cute (Bonnet Macaque)
Black Faced Langur

Black Faced Langur with tiny baby
A gaur (bovine) crosses the road...this pic is to show the beauty of the Kabini jungle in the early morning light.

Spotted stag

This one with his tongue out

Above & Below: exciting moment as a family of elephants cross the road and walk into the woods.

Streak-throated woodpecker - one of my favourite shots of the weekend
Large Cuckooshrike (heavily cropped, it was a bit far off for my 400mm zoom).

Attempting to get a perfect ring of light...but not quite there

Sambar Stag

Red-wattled Lapwing

OK, the composition is nothing to get over-excited about! However, it was thanks to our skipper Jayanth Sharma that we had the opportunity of seeing this wonderful creature.  Over the engine noise of the jeep, he was able to make out the piercing cries of a Jungle Fowl in the bushes and asked the driver to stop the jeep and wait.  We sat there for several minutes listening for further clues until we heard the warning 'hoot' of a chittal in the distance.  We rolled the jeep back up to a junction in the tracks and looked in all directions.  After ten minutes of patiently waiting in silence, Mr Jules was the first to spot the tiger out of the corner of his eye, exclaiming 'tiger tiger!' That's when I took the shot above. We then sped off in the direction of the sighting which unfortunately made the cat go back into the bushes.  So we stopped to listen and watch for more activity.  Ten minutes later we were rewarded when the tiger stepped out of the bush again (shown below).  Unfortunately - unlike the cats we saw at Tadoba, he was of a more nervous disposition and quickly crept back into the bush.  But what a treat to see him at all!
His second appearance a few minutes later.

Tree planted by Goldie Hawn "Holly Wood Actress"

One of the safaris was a river-boat trip - the following shots were taken from the lake.

It was amazing to see these smooth-coated otters - the first time they had been spotted on the lake in three months!

Chomping on a bit of fish, this otter has blood all around his mouth.

Not in focus due to the boat bobbing around but still pleased to get a shot of him holding his catch

Grey Heron

Cormorant (boooooring!)

 Cormorant hanging out to dry

Osprey on his perch in the middle of the lake - all the way from Scotland apparently!
Osprey spots something in the water.....
 I was amazed to find afterwards that I'd actually captured this Osprey flying! 

Cormorant Silhouette (thanks to the artistic input of Santosh, one of our skippers)

Peacock and his fuzzy reflection
Second Osprey I captured on the lake
Next time, I would love to get a shot of an Osprey plucking his dinner out of the water - the background sky is so uninteresting in this picture.

Painted Stork on a stack of old bamboo

Darter hanging himself out to dry (spotted deer in the background)

Cormorant in nest - wish I could have got a good closeup of the baby with its mouth wide open

Yellow-footed pigeon coming in to land.

On the way back to the airport, we stopped by Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Mysore (Srirangapatna). Unfortunately I'd handed back the lovely Nikkor 80-400mm lens by then so the pictures below were taken with my kit lens and cropped afterwards.  Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary was quite something - the tops of the trees were jam-packed with Pelicans and Storks.  We took a little boat trip around the lake and experienced Painted Storks and the Pelicans zooming in low to land on the water beside us.  Mr Jules was in his twitching element! 

Spot-billed Pelican
Mugger Crocodile

Blurred Painted Stork

Baby crocodile...cuuuuute!

Open Billed Stork.

We travelled with:
Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt. Ltd.
#359, 2nd Floor, 16th Main, 4th T Block, Jayanagar,
Bangalore-560041, India.
Fax: +91-80-22443211

+91 80 22442211

Information about Kabini/Nagarhole:

Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, is located near Mysore in Karnataka, India. It was once an exclusive hunting ground for the rulers of Mysore. In 1955, Nagarhole was set up as a wildlife sanctuary and later its area was increased to 643.39 sq km. It became a national park in 1988 and ten years later, in 1999, it was declared a Project Tiger reserve. Nagarhole National Park is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and is under consideration from USESCO to be declared a World Heritage Site. The Park is most famous for its tigers, Indian bison, and elephants. Nagarhole National Park is located 94kms away from Mysore, Karnataka in south India. The Park lies between the Kodagu and Mysore districts to the northwest of Bandipur National Park, with the Kabini reservoir separating the two Parks. Nagarhole has small streams, rich forest cover, valleys, and waterfalls. It also contains an abundance of vegetation. Along with the adjoining Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai National Park, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole National Park is part of the largest protected area in southern India, about 2,183 sq km of wilderness.


  1. Excellent pictorial report of your trip, Julia! You have done complete justice to the faunal wealth of Kabini!

    1. Thank you will note a link to Tigga Tales on my site now :)

    2. That's very kind of you, Julia; thanks a bunch! :-)

  2. Nice pictures and well written :)

  3. Having travelled with the group,it is exhilarating to relive the experience! Tks Julia ..tks toehold

    1. Hello - it was so lovely to meet you both - may you also have lots of luck with your future wildlife photography! Best wishes, Julia

  4. Julia......long time u didn`t posted anything on antiques......i really admire ur posts on antiques post something

    1. Hello - I am so sorry, since I had the dog, I have not been shopping as much. I am off on a hunt for a new desk chair soon (as my plastic one collapsed from beneath me a few days ago) so please watch this space!

  5. Nice pix Julia ! No wonder you had an amazing tour to see the wildlife !




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