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Old 10th June 2014, 23:47   #301
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

.....Near this bridge three Sambars - two male & one female were grazing peacefully. Rajesh again looked at me as if saying I told you so. I responded - "it is fine but let us go till the last point of Bhakola".

We slowly moved ahead and Rajesh croaked - "Tiger on the left. Tigress Laila". I slowly turned my head and some 20 feet away hidden behind dry bushes & twigs, this gorgeous mother was sitting. Her gaze was locked on to something else - and that something else were the Sambars. Was she on a hunt? Since there were no alarm calls the Sambars were not alert and when I checked the direction of the wind with my kerchief, Laila was downwind hence the Sambars could not even smell her. Smart Tigress.

Laila was hungry as she had to feed her cub as well and was on a hunt. ........

GD sir,
Awesome set of pictures capturing the whole sequence. It was like a coaching manual on how to hunt ...and also on what not to do!!!

I guess, the pleasure of having witnessed a near kill in detail masks the disappointment of not sighting the tiger for long..

Enjoyed the narrative totally.
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Old 11th June 2014, 10:43   #302
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Thank you so very much A_trekker. And indeed watching the hunt sequence live wiped out all bad memories.

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GD sir,
Awesome set of pictures capturing the whole sequence. It was like a coaching manual on how to hunt ...and also on what not to do!!!

I guess, the pleasure of having witnessed a near kill in detail masks the disappointment of not sighting the tiger for long..

Enjoyed the narrative totally.
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Old 15th June 2014, 12:48   #303
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28th May, 2014 - Morning

This was my last day at R'bore and the last safari as well - the fifth one. I had seen enough action in the previous safaris. This time I let it be; did not insist on a particular zone. I had told my guide Rajesh the previous evening that take whatever zone that comes on random allotment. Secretly, I was wishing for Zone 2...

The jeep came in the morning at the usual time and had 3 occupants.... Well, that is what happens when you are not pre-booked and pick-up tickets on the current. But the occupants seemed to be nice guys. So far so good. The Zone allotted was 5.

I readied myself for another back-breaking & bone-jarring session. Zone 5 has some of the very rough terrains and the previous two safaris were in the same zone. I was almost loosing sensation in the butt after being bounced around in the jeep so vigourously. Entered the zone and intently scanned the surroundings. Of the supposedly eight tigers, I had already seen five. Machchali (T 16), Dollar Male a.k.a Zaalim (T 25) & one of the biggest Romeo ( T 6) were left. Dollar male had not been sighted for the past some days and nothing was heard about him from other zones as well. It was very unlikely that he would pop-up this morning. Machchali was being sighted quite regularly near the hand-pump area but somehow I was unlucky. Romeo straddles part of two zones - Bhakola in zone 5 & the Semli/Bherda area in zone 4. So, if he was in zone 4, then sighting was out of question.

Hoping for the best we advanced further. A run to the last post in the zone, Anatpur chowki, brought disappointment. In any case we headed to Bhakola, and no. I did not insist neither did I have a hunch. We drew a blank there and while returning near a water hole saw this turtle bask in the sun.

North-Indian Flap Shelled Turtle

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The forest was as silent as it could be and at 7:30 am I could already feel the warmth in the atmosphere. Slowly came back scanning the Gudla Ghaati area and reached the Dhakda stream. Rajesh suggested that we should wait here for sometime. I thoroughly scanned the area through my 300mm but found nothing. Last evening Tigress T 73 was seen nearby by us sprawled on a cool patch. It could be nearby since she may come to drink water. And so could any of her brothers.

As I've mentioned many a times earlier, it is only when I do not sight a Tiger that I start noticing the other "lesser mortals" of the jungle.

The not so common - Common Kingfisher or Eurasian Kingfisher

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0591.jpg

Male Paradise Fly-catcher

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The good-luck charm - Ruddy or the Black-tailed Mongoose. An old jungle saying - if you happen to see a Mongoose first in your safari, then you are sure to sight a Tiger.

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And as if on cue, a lone Sambar called at a distance. We cocked up our ears to listen. A jeep arrived followed by a Canter and one of them quizzically asked if we had heard the Sambar. Rajesh replied in affirmative and the jeep & the Canter also parked there and lay in wait. The Sambar called again. This meant a predator was on the move. It could be T 73 or one of her brothers or a Leopard as well. I glanced at my watch and it showed 8:43 am. We had been waiting at this spot for almost an hour. It had become hot and I had almost finished my bottle of water.

The Sambar called again and this it was followed by a Cheetal call. The predator was on the move and slowly coming towards the water. I mounted the 300mm on the monopod and lay in wait. The Cheetal called again and this time it was closer. The other jeep rushed ahead anticipating that the predator may appear there. Rajesh decided to stay here and I respected his judgement. And then Rajesh whispered - नाहर. I looked where he was pointing but could see nothing. Then when the eyes adjusted to the surroundings spotted the fella.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0611.jpg

From this distance it was difficult to identify. We waited for the Cat to approach closer. In the meanwhile the other jeep returned not finding anything. We pointed the Tiger to them. Slowly the decibel levels were increasing from the Canter occupants as they could not see. I asked Rajesh to silence them.

When the silence prevailed, the Cat got up and started walking towards the water. It was T 73 the Tigress and daughter of Sundari (T 17). Her stomach was bloated - she seemed to have had a very sumptuous meal sometime in the night.

T 73 - some call her चाँद

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By this time some more vehicles had arrived. T 73 stops near the anicut, turns her head and locks her eyes with me. Time stood still. Then she turned around and vanished back in the bushes.

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It was 9 am and by 9:30 we had to exit. I let out a sigh as the return journey would be rougher than before and some of my joints could become creaky. Somehow we made it in time to avoid penalisation and near Aade Balaji on the road high on the rock cliff, saw this pair of vultures for the first time. They were nesting & feeding.

Long-billed Vulture

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This was a very satisfying trip for me though a bit disappointed for not being able to see the cubs of either T 19 or T 39. Somehow cubs and I do not go together.

The final score - 7/5

Reached my resort, thanked Rajesh profusely and bid good-bye.

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I already was thinking about my June trip. I had bookings with my friend Aditya Singh between 15th & the 25th of June and was scheduled to visit. As I reached my room, the phone rang. It was my business partner from Delhi. He informed of a new project that was to commence from 10th June till the month end. My world came crashing down. The June trip looked totally jeopardised. All my euphoria vanished away.

Had my breakfast, did my packing and started getting ready. It was time to settle the accounts with Guddu Bhai. Seeing my long face Guddu Bhai asked if all was well. I informed him of my predicament. And voila, he came to my rescue. Guddu informed me that he had a group of four visiting and staying at the Resort from 3rd to 6th doing seven safaris. One of the four had dropped out at the last moment citing medical conditions. Guddu bhai said that I could join them as replacement, but they would want only four in the jeep. This meant my wife couldn't join me. I told Guddu Bhai to check with them and let me know finally and I would confirm after reaching home and seeing the office position. He said that he would let me know in a day or two.

I came back to room and told my wife about this new development. She immediately agreed and said that she would accompany me to R'bore and would stay in the room enjoying herself as she considered this Resort as her second home. This lifted my spirits a lot and in a happy frame of mind I left for home.

Thus ended my May safari of R'bore and hope you enjoyed. Wait for my next update to read what happened in June..
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Old 15th June 2014, 21:54   #304
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
The good-luck charm - Ruddy or the Black-tailed Mongoose. An old jungle saying - if you happen to see a Mongoose first in your safari, then you are sure to sight a Tiger.
Saw a couple of them in IIT-Madras campus two nights ago. Thankfully, they did not portend spotting tigers!
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Old 16th June 2014, 11:03   #305
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Ha ha ha ha.. maybe once upon a time the IIT-Mad campus was abode of the Tigers..

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Saw a couple of them in IIT-Madras campus two nights ago. Thankfully, they did not portend spotting tigers!
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Old 16th June 2014, 20:11   #306
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The campus is largely forest, and the wildlife is wonderful. It was a good day: I came closer to a spotted dear than I ever would even in a zoo! It came to both car windows, twitching its nose at us. The we realised the message: "Look, you humans, I'm here with my lady-friend, and we'd appreciate some privacy, please!"

All this in a parking place too.

No tigers, though.

But the authorities are trying to trap a leopard that has come close to Chennai Vandalur zoo. Apparently, one got into the zoo a few years ago and it had to be closed to the public for several weeks.
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Old 17th June 2014, 21:01   #307
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You shall recall the third last & the second last para of my previous post #: 303.

Continuing from there, I returned home and started thinking about the June trip. I was going to be the replacement for somebody who had dropped out due to unknown reasons. The team was from South India and according to Guddu Bhai, they were organised by my friend Anurag Sharma of Nature Wanderers who are into Tiger Tourism. What intrigued me was while Anurag had his own contacts & network in Ranthambore, he chose to put them up with Guddu Bhai. I called Anurag and enquired about the team leader - Hariharan Jagannathan.

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HJ is an ex-L&T having retired and roaming the jungles for the last two decades. I connected with him on Facebook and we got chatting. Discussed the cost sharing and then I confirmed. Called Guddu Bhai and asked him to ready Room #: 1 for my wife & I. HJ had booked his 7 safaris two months in advance with a full jeep & a fixed guide - Hansraj Gurjar. Hansraj is Anurag's regular guide. So far so good.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-hansraj.jpg

Checked about him also from Anurag and was satisfied. I had thought that the person who dropped out too would be from the South but that was not to be. In fact it was a pleasant surprise when I got to know who he was. He was Vinod a friend of mine from TBHP who stays in Gurgaon. I felt bad for him. Rather with me joining, this became a total South-Indian team..

The dates were from 3rd June to 6th June and the safari was to start from the afternoon of 3rd and end with the afternoon safari on the 6th. In total 7 safaris. My excitement levels were peaking up. Just 5 days back I had returned from Ranthambore and now going back again.

Since the safari was in the afternoon, I had a good night's sleep, got-up at 4 am on 3rd morning and by 5:30 we were rolling. I had enough time with me and drove sedately keeping the speedo needle around 90-95 kmph with the AC running on full blast. Probably I was one of those few who were rejoicing the rising mercury. The sightings would be great.

It was 11:30 am when I wheeled into Jungle View Resort. The AC in the room was already switched on about an hour back hence it was cool & refreshing. The mercury at that time showed 42 C. I called up Hansraj and told him to inform me in advance when he would arrive with the jeep. That would give me time to rest & organise. Set up my camera gear, had a light breakfast, set the alarm for 2:30 and went off to sleep.

At 2:45 HJ walked into my room and we met physically for the first time. Along with him were his friend and wildlife partner for the last 22 years - Anand & his nephew Rajesh. Jolly good fellows. I was comfortable with this team now. Having exchanged pleasantries,we now waited for the jeep to come..

to be continued.../-
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Old 18th June 2014, 21:59   #308
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3rd June, 2014 - Evening

Guddu Bhai had told me that it was a photographer team from Chennai and I was elated. But it turned out to be otherwise. HJ was the one wielding the DSLR, Anand had a Handycam & Rajesh was assisting HJ with his other camera. HJ carried a Canon 7D with a 400mm mirror lens and also had a Nikon DSLR with the 18~55 kit lens.

The jeep arrived around 3:30 and to my dismay HJ & Anand occupied the middle seat with HJ sitting on the left. The middle seat left position is what I normally and always occupy and it has been lucky to me. But beggars can't be choosers. So I settled for the rear seat and sat on the left. I didn't have the luxury of the B pillar where I could rest my huge lens hence I readied the monopod. It was very hot and coming out of the room it felt like walking into a blast furnace. We had been allotted Zone 5. When I enquired from Hansraj, he said that in the morning there had been no sighting in any of the zones. Incidentally, Zones 5 & 2 were rocking with some great sightings.

Proceeded deep in the zone scanning all around but I knew in that heat nothing would stir and if we were extremely lucky then maybe find some Tiger cooling in the water. Hot air hitting on the face was causing dryness and also made me thirsty. I had carried one bottle of water and was sipping from it. Crossing Handpump area, Dhakda & Kachida we found nothing. Stopped at Anatpur Post to make entries and headed towards Bhakola.

As we neared Bhakola, saw a Canter standing and its occupants excited and looking towards the water. Surely there was a Tiger there and it appeared it was sitting in the water. We speeded up and when we reached we saw already 4 jeeps were parked occupying prized slots. But that was not worrying. They too did not have a ringside view. We managed to park at a decent spot and then I spotted the fella. It was 5:30 pm and the light conditions were not good and deteriorating by the minute.

On the opposite bank of the water body, in a cool shade, was sleeping the Gentle Giant - T 6 or Romeo or the Bherda Male; one of the biggest of R'bore. He wasn't least bothered by the noisy presence of us humans and was enjoying his siesta. He was also one of the laziest Cats around and I knew that he wouldn't get up from that position till after 7 pm. Took a couple of photographs and then left the place to look for other Tigers in the zone.

Aha, I hear a familiar voice. Let me see who has come..!

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Oh, is that you my friend?

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Lemme sit and have a good look at you. Oh my God, you have lost some hair and also gone thin. Stay with me for some week in my den. I shall serve you some fresh juicy leg piece; it will do good to your health....

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I very politely declined the King's invite without offending him and left. It was 6.10 pm and we had to be out by 7. From Bhakola to exit gate was more than an hour's drive. We raced and on the way saw this wise Old Man of the jungles.

Brown Fish Owl

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We barely managed to reach the exit gate just in time. Reached the cool confines of my room. A very auspicious start to the safari. Had a light dinner, emptied the memory cards in the hard disk and slept thinking about the next day.

to be continued.../-
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Old 20th June 2014, 21:15   #309
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4th June, 2014 - Morning

We were told to be ready and out by 5:30 am and so we did. The jeep came by 5:45 and Hansraj wasn't there. There was a different guide. HJ had fixed Hansraj for the entire 7 safaris, so what was this? It turned out that Hansraj's daughter took ill in the night and he was tending to her. Not a major issue but the comfort level came down. We were allotted Zone 4. This zone was not giving good sightings recently but since it housed the Semli/Bherda area, there were very good chances of spotting T 6 and his consort T 41 along with her 14 month old cub Bachchi ( बच्ची ).

Circled Malik Talao and found a few birds and a couple of Crocs. Waited at a spot to listen for any alarm calls but there were none. Headed towards Lakkardah that was Machcli's area till the last season before being pushed into Zone 5 by her own grandchildren - T 64 & 65. Lakkardah was silent.

It was time to head towards Bherda and wait. The Bherda water hole was peaceful and a few deer were grazing around peacefully. We waited, checked a few other water bodies, came back, waited some more but nothing. While returning saw this Little Cormorant drying its wings.

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Came back again to Malik Talao and waited. When I don't see a Tiger, then I start noticing other residents of the forest. Saw a group of Sambars behind my jeep very hesitatingly moving towards the water. They wanted to cool themselves and also eat the juicy underwater plants. The bolder male of the lot gingerly stepped into the water and then waded inside. The others followed.

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While a few of the lot munched on the plants, others ducked their head in the water to look for the underwater plants.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4131.jpg

What puzzled me was their state of alertness. What was the cause? Tiger is a powerful swimmer and inside the water these Sambars would be sitting ducks. If the Cat was around then they would not get into the water. Then I saw the cause of their alertness - two Crocs were in the vicinity. While focussing on one of the Sambars, I noticed from the corner of the eye one of the Crocs going underwater followed very silently by the second one. Were they going to attack the Deer?

The Crocs's disappearance was also noticed by the Sambars and they dispersed and hurriedly started to come out of the water.

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There was a bit of panic and the Sambars started running out.

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And then one of the Crocs launched an attack, resulting in one of the Sambars to leap high in the air to escape and escape she did.

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The others too ran out of water in leaps & bounds and were safe.

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Atleast some action did happen.. As we started to leave for exit saw this fellow scurrying across the hard rocks a few feet away from our jeep. A juvenile Monitor Lizard.

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At Singhdwar I was told that none of the zones had any sighting. Some consolation.. Returned to my room to find this Chameleon keeping a watch on my room & I. He was to keep guarding for the next three days I stayed here..!

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Thus ended the morning safari. The afternoon safari was to commence from 3:30 pm. Had my breakfast, emptied the memory cards, went off to sleep to get up at 2:30 to get ready for the safari.

Evening

Hansraj came with the jeep at the appointed time. I enquired about his daughter's health. She was better. The Zone was 5. I groaned internally.

While waiting for the jeep to come, spotted these two birds in my resort

Green Honey Bee-eater

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Purple Sun Bird

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Today also was a Wednesday and people in and around Sawai Madhopur would throng Ranthambore to visit the Ganesh temple. This was the scene at the Sherpur entrance gate to forest. Somehow I knew that there would be no sighting today.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4156.jpg

Returned back tired & exhausted due to heat & dust. Slept after a light dinner in the hope that the morning would bring better luck & a different zone.

The score - 1/3

to be continued.../-

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Old 20th June 2014, 21:29   #310
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The morning safari on the 5th turned out to be awesome. Actually I could not find any other superlative word to describe. I don't even remember clicking 400+ photographs at one go before.

I've not even started sorting & selecting the photographs, hence there would be some delay before the next update happens.

Till then, this teaser should keep you all glued...

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0848.jpg

to be continued.../
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Old 25th June 2014, 21:08   #311
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5th June, 2014 - Morning

Till now out of the three safaris that we had done, through the computerised random allotment system we had got Zone 5 twice and Zone 4 once. Since Zone 3 was closed the only chance of sighting the cubs was on Zone 2 where Noor (T 39) had given birth to two cubs. I was also hearing of regular sightings at Zone 2. It was time to take control of the situation. I had called up Guddu Bhai the previous evening and requested him to manage Zone 2 for us on the 5th morning. He expressed his inability but said that if we pay Rs.1000/- to the forest department, then they would change the zone. It was daylight robbery. Ranthambore, Corbett, Kanha, Bandhavgarh are some of the sanctuaries that top the popularity charts, have an absolute commercial outlook and least tourist friendly. The department charges money for every little thing but in turn provides almost nil facilities.

In 2010, the random allotment system assigned me Zone 1 four times out of my 6 safaris. And the department knows that the serious Tiger loving tourist shall pay to get the zone of choice. This situation was explained to HJ and we all agreed to pay.

So it was Zone 2 in the morning. The news was exciting as we entered the forest. A female Leopard with two cubs was spotted by some just at the entrance to Zone 2. That certainly was awesome. We also hoped that we might be lucky. But that was not so.

As we went deeper in the zone, saw two jeeps standing near the Phuta Bandha stream. Tiger had been sighted. I assumed that the Tiger would be cooling off in the water. What I didn't know till I neared the place that it was a threesome. Before I go further, let me also mention about something funny & strange happenings in the Tiger world at R'bore.

Like an Arab's harem, a male Tiger lords over a big territory in which usually two to three females also reside with their own separate territories. The male generally mates with them producing litters till dethroned. Now a Tigress after getting pregnant & subsequently delivering cubs does not mate again for atleast two years as she is busy rearing up the cubs. Once the cubs are 2+ years old, they slowly drift away chalking out their fresh & new territories. And if any of the cubs is a male then the Papa male generally does not tolerate the Son's presence after he has grown up and become an adult.

Now coming back to the current scenario, Zone 2 is dominated over by T 24 or Ustaad and his consort is T 39 or Noor. Somewhere around late 2011 or early 2012, Noor gave birth to a single male cub sired by Ustaad. The cub was named Sultan and later assigned the number T 72. Since then these three cats have been regularly sighted together with a grown up Sultan playing with his father in a water hole and also sharing the family meal. This was a strange behaviour on part of Ustaad & Noor. And sometime in late December '13 or early Jan '14, people saw Ustaad mating with Noor again & Sultan sitting some distance away. This again was surprising.

Then Noor delivered her second litter. Generally the mother shall not tolerate anybody near her young till they grow up a bit, but Sultan was again found near her. This was quite intriguing.

As we neared the spot, what do I see? I see that Noor was feeding on a kill of Sambar, Ustaad was cooling off a little distance away in water with his stomach full and Sultan patiently waiting for his turn again some distance away. Strange, very very strange. Well, I banished all these thoughts from my mind and started clicking pictures.

Sultan sitting facing away from his mother. The look on his face said it all - he must have been scolded...!

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0716.jpg

Periodically he kept on looking at his mother to see if she had finished

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0722.jpg

Since Noor had not finished, he decided to doze

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0724.jpg

Meanwhile Noor was gorging on the kill. She was a lactating mother.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0730.jpg

Inbetween kept on checking on Sultan to see if he was behaving properly or not..

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0744.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0753.jpg

In the meanwhile Sultan changes his position & sat facing his mother. The guy was hungry..

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0774.jpg

Even the Tigers also know what our grandmothers practised when we were kids. If the lunch or dinner was late they would put us to sleep so that we don't create a ruckus and then wake us up when food was ready.

Sultan too did the same to tide over the hunger pangs

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0773.jpg

On a full stomach you want peace and some cool place to relax. The jungle telecom was at its best and slowly more vehicles started arriving. This was causing disturbance to Big Daddy. So he got up and ambled away to find a secluded spot to rest.

Ustaad leaving the show. Look at his full rounded stomach

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0785.jpg

Noor continued gorging

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0829.jpg

Lip smacking breakfast

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0835.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0866.jpg

After having her fill, Noor leaves to drink water

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0899.jpg

In a flash and with a growl, Sultan pounces on the kill or whatever is left

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0905.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0912.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0994.jpg

What did he bite? Something bitter?

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1009.jpg

Meanwhile Noor reaches the water, has a drink and settles down to cool herself

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0947.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1050.jpg

The irritated look on her face said it all. She wanted to be with her cubs as early as possible as they too were hungry. Her taut nipples loaded with milk must be causing her pain.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1058.jpg

She was wary of Sultan as he may follow her. Noor looked at Sultan and seeing that he was busy eating, left to be with her cubs.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4161.jpg

Shadow of the Tigress

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4175.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4178.jpg

We had had our fill too and didn't want to follow her as we didn't want to disturb or irritate. While the other jeeps started tailing her, we returned. It was a highly successful & satisfying morning.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4196.jpg

While following Noor for a short distance, we had totally forgotten about Sultan who was on the kill. So while returning thought of looking at him once again. When we reached the spot, Sultan was nowhere to be seen and hardly anything of the kill was left behind. We scanned the water body but he was not to be seen. This meant he too had gone to rest in some cool shade. After the Royalty had finished their meals, it was the turn of the Royal Housekeepers/Cleaners to come in and clean the place.

Red-necked King Vulture

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1076.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1083.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1079.jpg

The score - 4/4

Returned to our rooms wondering what would evening have in store for us.

to be continued.../-
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Old 25th June 2014, 21:51   #312
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

5th June, 2014 - Evening

The random zone allotment system has a mind of its own it seems. When the jeep came in the afternoon, Hansraj informed me that we had been allotted Zone 2 - again. Actually I didn't want this zone because after what happened in the morning, all these three Tigers would be sleeping. And I was right.

As soon as we neared Zone 2, in a cave near the stepwell, Ustaad (T 24) was sleeping. Except his ears that twitched intermittently, nothing else was visible. I did not even lift my camera while others, including my co-passengers were simply going berserk.

As we moved ahead we saw many vehicles parked near the waterfall. On the other side of the water body in a cool shade Sultan was sleeping. Except the heave of his stomach, nothing else moved and he showed no inclination of getting up. Here too I did not lift my camera.

Leaving him sleeping there moved further ahead in the zone and at Maggar Deh found Noor sleeping on the cool banks of the water body. I, again did not touch my camera. Exhorted others to leave her there and move ahead in search of other Tigers and they agreed. Went straight to Guda Chowki to make entries and also to gather information. The guards at the post had heard Sambar alarm calls coming from the Gaandhra area. Headed straight to Gaandhra. This was the area of the second oldest Tigress of Ranthambore - T 22 or Gayatri. Mother of Ustaad (T 24) & Dollar (T 25) Male. Gayatri is a very shy & recluse Tigress and is seldom seen.

We circled Gaandhra area, reached a water hole and decided to wait. After some time heard a Sambar call and it was coming from the direction of the dry nullah that we had seen on the way. We went there and found three nervous Sambars looking in some direction. They had been alerted by the call. The call came again & then again. The predator was on the move. Was it T 22 or a Leopard? That we couldn't tell. We assumed that the predator was moving towards water. We again went to the water-hole and parked at a vantage point. Ours was the only jeep. If a predator appeared and came to the water, we would have undisturbed sighting.

While waiting saw this Kingfisher for the first time. There are so many varieties of Kingfishers. This one is rarely seen.

Stork-billed Kingfisher

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1087.jpg

We were at the fag end of the zone and it was 5:45 pm. By 7 pm we would have to exit to avoid penalties. We heard the Sambar call once again then it fell silent. We had to leave now. As we turned our jeep we saw this elusive and rarely seen animal. Its sighting is considered more prized than that of a Tiger. I could manage a record shot only as the excitement of this sighting was too much for my co-passengers and the vehicle shook as I pressed the shutter.

Jungle Cat

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1094.jpg

We moved towards exit and on the way back checked on the sleeping Cats. Both Noor & Sultan were at the same place and in the same position and vehicles were parked in the hope they would see some action. As for Ustaad, he had come out of the cave and was sleeping in the open but hidden by many twigs & branches. Only his rear paws & stomach was visible.

Came to our resort and retired for the day.

The score - 4/5

to be continued.../-
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Old 25th June 2014, 22:01   #313
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

Brillliant photos, wonderful descriptions --- as ever
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Old 26th June 2014, 15:55   #314
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

GD sir a big thank you for all the amazing pics from your recent visits.

Have been keeping extremely busy with work and my wife informed me yesterday evening that there were lots of updates on your Ranthambore thread. Hence the visit. She too is an avid follower of your posts here as I am.

Amazing pics and looking forward to more from this trip of yours.

Cheers
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Old 27th June 2014, 00:43   #315
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

6th June, 2014 - Morning

The previous night before retiring to bed, HJ, Guddu Bhai & I had a discussion. We decided that we will take whatever zone is allotted randomly in the morning except Zone 1. We agreed to pay & change the zone only if 1 was allotted. Hansraj the guide called at 5:45 am in the morning to inform that he was on his way with the jeep and that we had got Zone 2. I didn't groan as in my heart I wanted this zone. Why?

It had been 24 hrs when Ustaad, Noor & Sultan had their meals and slept very well the whole of previous day. Today they would be active and I had great hopes that Noor would bring out her cubs. I desperately wanted to see the cubs. Zone 3 was closed so Krishna's cubs were out of question. T 8 had delivered but she resided in the non-tourist zone. Only Noor was left. But somehow I've a very bad luck with the cubs.

Anyway, with excitement & hope in the hearts we left for the forest. We decided to head straight towards Kissni Deh where Noor was currently nursing her cubs. Though that area had been closed for the tourists, we could wait at the dry nullah at Phoota Kot and that is what we did. There was one jeep parked already before us and the guide in that jeep asked us to maintain silence. This meant some action was to happen shortly.

In one of my previous posts I had mentioned strange happenings in the Tiger world. It seemed that Sultan went visiting his mother's home, but Noor apprehending danger to her cubs threw him out. There was a collective whisper from all of us - Tiger. At the far end of the dry nullah a forlorn Sultan came walking. Let the pictures speak.

Sultan coming towards us

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Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1098.jpg

Comes to the water-hole to drink

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1135.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1136.jpg

Sits in the water to cool

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1154.jpg

Gets up after a while & again starts walking towards us

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1173.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1191.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1210.jpg

Till now I was shooting with the 300mm and as he came closer I picked up my other camera body with the 70~200mm.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4210.jpg

Sultan crossed from behind my jeep and came on my right on the track. He was so close that at 70mm I could barely manage to capture him. Though I had the 24~70mm with me, there was no time to change the lenses. I rued the lack of a third camera body. Maybe for next time I might borrow one from one of my Nikonian friends.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4215.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4220.jpg

Then he came on the track and stopped at a bush to smell.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4223.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4224.jpg

And then he sat down in the open just 15 feet away from our jeep giving us one of the best and most vantage point to shoot. I instructed my driver not to budge from that position come what may and that included VIP & "sarkaari" jeeps. In fact one "sarkaari" jeep did come and he wanted us to move ahead a bit that I stoutly refused giving that driver a stern look. The matter ended there.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4245.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4252_bw.jpg

A couple of close-up head shots with the 300mm

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1227.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1234.jpg

By this time a lot more jeeps had converged at this place and the decibel levels were getting higher. While all this was going on, we heard a Sambar call and Sultan too got alert & fidgety. Who was coming - his father or the mother? It was Noor who had come to check on Sultan and to make sure he didn't venture close to her cubs. From the position where I was parked I couldn't see her.

Apparently Sultan got the message from the body language of her mother and got up to leave.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4273.jpg

Stretches & arches his body to loosen up

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4279.jpg

Turns to his right & walks

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4282.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4285.jpg

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Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4309.jpg

We waited here for some time hoping Sultan would sit in the water. When that did not happen, we moved ahead and encircled the Phoota Kot water hole thinking he would emerge there. But that too did not happen. He had settled for the day in some cool shade in the thick bushes near the water hole. We left him to rest and went ahead to Guda chowki to make entries. On the way met a couple of jeeps that were coming from Gaandhra. They had drawn a blank. We decided against going there and returned to see what was Noor upto.

We found Noor resting under the cool dark shade of a Banyan tree at Phoota Kot. The light was very low where she was sitting and she was too far. I could barely manage to capture her. A record shot.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-1251.jpg

We again waited in the hope that she would get up and come out in the open or go & get her cubs. But that was not to be. She seemed to be exhausted by the heat and kept on sitting there. It was time for us to leave the forest. This was the second last safari and it turned out to be very satisfying & exciting.

Returned to our rooms wondering what the last safari would be like.

The score - 5/6

to be continued.../-
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