Tiger Cubs in Madnapur
- With Nature Clicks
- March, 2020
We were standing on the path between Woods-1 and Woods-2 and the tigers were sighted in the woods-1 region. It had dense vegetation and a lot of dry driftwood making it difficult to see if there were any tigers (unless there was some movement).
After a struggle of 10-15 minutes (by then almost all gypsys had lined up on the road) finally someone spotted some yellow colors and corresponding movement. One-by-one everyone of us became aware of that location. It appeared to be more than 1 tiger and that’s when all the speculation started.
All experts (and some non-experts too!) started giving their opinions (not just from our gypsy but also from those near us). The various views were:
After coming on the scene, they stayed for a minute near the borewell and then moved towards the water stream. One by one all of them entered into the water. This area was a little dip and we could hardly see any of them (gypsy at the extreme left was able to at least view them, but because of the vegetation, photography was not possible).
We continued our wait (occasionally taking a few photos through the grass thickets). Luckily, the cubs decided to come in the open again after a few minutes in water. They played for a few minutes in the grass and then dashed again back to the area (Woods-1) from where they first came in. But before going deep inside, they stayed in the bushes (hiding) for a few minutes.
Coming out from stream
Siblings Coming out from stream
Siblings Coming out from stream
Looking thru vegetation
It appeared that they were very cautious all along. And it was natural since the mother was not with them. With their mother around, they would spend more time in the open, playing freely in the grass.
That was the end of the show. It was already 10 am and we had to move out of the park by 10:30.
Evening Safari – For the evening safari, we decided to again wait at the same water-hole. Before stopping, we had checked at the forest-outpost about the movements during the afternoon hours. What we came to know was the mother had been missing since morning and she was possibly gone away to mark her territory (apparently a new tigress was recently seen in this region and it was therefore necessary for the Zunabai tigress to stamp her authority – unseasonal rains in the last 2 days may have obscured the territory marks and hence she was on duty).
We continued our futile wait all thru. At one point, we heard some excitement as 1-2 gypsys saw some movement in the same Woods-1 area. The cubs were there inside but they chose not to come out at all.
We could barely notice their presence through the thick bushes and that was the only wildlife we could see during that safari. In photography terms, that was a total “dry safari”.
Images thru the Clutter
Images thru the Clutter
Afternoon was once again a dry safari. Only photography opportunity was a show by a few raptors. Before that we could also see a couple of sambar deer.
Alert Sambar deer
As there were no signs of the tigers, we were moving aimlessly on the roads (looking for possible pug-marks or calls but there were none). At one-point, Ajit asked us to stop as he had located one Oriental Honey Buzzard (OHB) on a nearby tree. It was oddly perched as the Sun was directly behind it. We asked the driver to take us a little further to change the angle. But in that process, we discovered another raptor, the Crested Hawk Eagle. And it was nearer to us than the OHB.
Oriental Honey Buzzard (OHB)
Being photographers, we were happy to get this opportunity as they were very close. Soon we realized that there was another OHB and both the OHBs were calling continuously as they disliked the presence of another raptor in their territory
Second OHB can be heard in Background
But the Eagle was completely nonchalant. It just went on with its preening activity. It changed its position once (from nearby tree to a farther one) but that might be attributed more to our presence than the OHB calls.
In all this melee, one Rufous Treepie also made an entry. It sat on a branch close to the Eagle and tried to unsettle it. The Eagle was already ignoring the buzzards, there was no way it could get any worried about the treepie.
OHB taking flight
Treepie with Eagle
OHB with Eagle
We were back at the hotel by 7 pm. It was 12th March and by now there was more news about the Corona virus and the possible impact in India. There was also one news about a foreigner in Tadoba being found positive. We were away from television but WhatsApp-sources were full of news (and rumors).
All of us were least bothered about any of these news items, our target was to roam the jungles and photograph the wildlife as much as possible. Luckily, there wasn’t any pressure from back home (at least on that day).
Photo with High ISO
This went on for about 10 minutes after which the cubs walked a little deep inside and were not visible. Suddenly we heard some excited voices from the oncoming gypsys. They had seen the male tiger (the Kankazari male) walking along and they had followed him till the Woods-3 (refer to the map included earlier) area. Suddenly all gypsys turned into that direction. No one was sure from where will the tiger emerge but there was a possibility that it may go to the water hole.
All the gypsy guides used their logic/imagination and took positions accordingly. This time we were waiting on the road between Woods-3 and Woods-1. Fortunately, the tiger decided to take that path to cross the road. There were a couple of gypsys ahead of us but we could see parts of the tiger emerging from one side of the jungle and slowly walking towards the other side. What I understood from the experts is, seeing a male tiger in the jungle is not very common. Most of the time we either see the cubs or the mothers. Some of the male cubs could be of similar size as males but they won’t have established their territories yet (not entirely independent).
Kankazari male - Crossing the road
Kankazari male - Crossing the road
It then decided to stay put in the same area in Woods-1 where we had seen the cubs on day 1. He sat down in the thick bushes and for the remainder of our safari time, it didn’t move. Soon after its arrival, even the tigress came near it (possibly to show allegiance to the King). Since the male was the father of the cubs, they were safe anyway but they did not come near him.
The Zunabai tigress stayed with the male for a few minutes and then walked towards Woods-2 where the cubs were located. Zunabai’s movements were also from the same road, but we missed her crossing both times.
Kankazari in the clutter
We continued to wait on the same road (between Woods-1 and Woods-2) in the hope of the tiger movement but there was none. While we waited, we managed to see a pair of woodpeckers and also a white-bellied drongo.
In the evening safari, our first stop was the usual waterhole. And within the first half-hour, we again got to see the cubs. Once again, the mother was not with them. This time they spent hardly a few minutes in front of us and quickly moved out of sight.
Coming up from stream
Looking back for siblings
Watchful while going ahead
All the gypsys were waiting at the same waterhole and no one seem to be intent on moving. The gypsys that came late, did not have any place where they could see the grassland near the waterhole.
That day, the forest officers happened to be at the outpost. On seeing this, one of the officers came forward and asked the gypsys not to wait at one spot for more than 15 minutes. He ensured that none could stay there for long. Little reluctantly we moved out from there.
After about 15-20 minutes of roaming around the jungle, we were once again near the same road when we saw the tigress with the cubs.
Zunabai with cub
Waiting to cross the road
They were in Woods-1 and it looked like they were trying to cross over to Woods-2. We immediately reversed our gypsy making way for them (keeping 30-40 feet distance between the gypsys in front). The tigress did cross the road within the next 10 minutes but by that time 2 other gypsys positions themselves between us and the path of the tigress. We again managed to get a few shots through the available window. The tigress crossed first and the cubs were immediately behind her.
About to cross
Walking with cub in tow
Cub sped ahead
Laggards walking behind
We continued at the same spot for the next half hour. And during that period, we saw a fantastic camouflage by a hare. It must be hiding in the dry leaves for long and we had no clue about it till it made a move (small jump actually). Even after knowing that there was a hare, we took a long time to locate its position and take photos.
Hare raising its body
Before that during the morning safari, we managed to see a few spotted deer and also a group of monkeys playing happily.
Spotted deer - Synchronized moves
Will it rain today?
Catch me if you can...
Ringa ringa roses...
Ringa ringa roses...
By the time we were back in the hotel in the evening, we had to decide for tomorrow. I had a train to catch in the evening and Ajit had a night flight. Considering the travel time required to reach Nagpur, we decided to skip the evening safari. Abhay and others were anyway going back in their car. They planned to leave on the following morning.
But Abhay somehow convinced him to take us up and we held onto the gypsy tightly. Within 5 minutes (completely bumpy ride) we were on top and just at that moment the guide got a call saying the tiger pair was spotted at the place where we had seen the pugmarks. On hearing this we quickly turned back and took the same bumpy ride down. As we were approaching the earlier spot the guide kept getting more clarity about the location and to our utter dismay what we realized was that the tigers had taken exactly the same route (bumpy road) that we had taken and had got down to the other side of the jungle just 50 meters from where we returned back on the bumpy road. Had we just continued with our gut-feel, we may have gone closer to them but that was not to be.
This time, the driver took the longer route (shown in the map) to reach the same spot and drove further towards the location where the tigers got down. This road was very close to the Navegaon gate (another buffer gate of the tiger reserve and gypsys from either gate could drive here). At least 6 other gypsys by then had got the news and they were ahead of us in that narrow road.
From all the gypsys ahead of us, we could hardly see a glimpse of the tigress (Mayuri). The male was somewhere behind. So we decided to wait and take our chance but no luck!! We had to return empty-handed. On the way back we got to see a Crested Serpent Eagle and then a brown fish-owl. But that was all we could photograph.
Crested Serpent Eagle
Just as we were about to exit the gate, we heard a nice song of the Oriental Magpie Robin. Little further the Robin decided to perch very close to us and kept its song going. That seemed like a nice parting gift for us.
Oriental Magpie Robin - Singing