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Old 8th October 2019, 18:27   #1
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Default Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

I was up at 5am, that too without an alarm! Forests can do things to you, and surprisingly our 'civilized' bodies somehow adapt very soon. It took me a second to realize where I was, waking up to the sounds of birds is pure bliss.

I was at our camp bordering the Panna Tiger Reserve. I stepped out of the cottage and took a massive breath, could feel the difference, deep cleansing.

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I just closed my eyes to listen to the morning news, a peacock was calling out in the distance while the Savannah Nightjars were ready to call it a day, spreading the news of the night before they would become invisible to the naked eye.

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Half a dozen Green Bea-Eaters were already setting their industries running and Woodpeckers were already up and about.

There are 2 ways of living, one can step out and not hear or see a thing or one can experience all this. Of course it needs re-learning, I say re-learning because we have and yet had all these senses but over the period spent in our civilized world and our concrete jungles, we become opaque to the beauty around us.

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But once we learn how to see and listen again - we can truly enjoy what we have been missing.

This is where I usually head out to whenever I need to find myself. Mukesh was walking towards the cottage with my morning cuppa, by now I had moved to the hitherto empty platform looking out for any signs of travelers going back home.

Today there was only one, a lone Egyptian Vulture who had decided to spend the night next to our camp, maybe it had a late evening party.

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As I sipped my tea, I informed Mukesh that I would be going out now and asked him to let our Naturalist know, he nodded. He knew my schedule well, that I would now head out to catch the early morning action.

We crossed the temple and headed out towards the river bank, my aim was to capture raptors which are usually active near water bodies. A trio of Pied Kingfishers were busy in indulgence making plenty of noise taking turns swooping down and diving, touch n go.

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A lone Painted Stork stood in deep meditation, Open Billed Storks had started circling the water body, a few Purple Herons here and there. A band of Cattle Egrets in full breeding plumage seemed to be sitting in an ice skating rink – for a second I almost forgot that they were on water.

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As we trudged along, treading carefully not to disturb the peace and quiet with clumsy steps, here we reached a tree where another neighbor had signed an autograph.
True wonders of nature, these sloth bears - I mused to myself. A reluctant species which totally likes solitude and prefers to be left alone, in case disturbed will not shy to even attack tigers, and tigers in return do respect them, any guesses why? Just look at the signature - will erase any doubts.

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And there it was a majestic Crested Serpent Eagle, sitting high amongst the cluster of Neem, Sagwan, Mahua, Tendu and Tamarind. It had seen me long before I did and before I could think of getting some closer shots it flew away deeper.

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Now I was in stealth mode, being very careful so as not to make too much noise and not looking in the direction of the bird.

And that’s when we heard it - a distinct Khokhorrr by the Langur, we stopped in our tracks. The alarm was repeated consistently, I had identified the location of the sound and now I could see it.

It was looking down at the forest floor, all my thoughts about the Eagle flew away with it for here was a situation which needed every bit of senses to be on high alert. In the rocky riverbed where we were, there was a distance of around 150-200 mtrs between us and the langur and whatever it was that it was looking at, was in this patch. Luckily for us, we had a big Arjun tree for cover and we stared back into the cluster of dried leaves, rocks and trees ,trying to pick up any movement, a slight flick of the tail, a corner of the ear …something at least. I had my camera ready. So far we had not seen anything, but the calls continued and since there was nothing else except the monkeys and us, it meant only one thing - we were being watched.

I totally believe and depend upon intuition, many a times we get a feeling of being watched and you look around and you will find someone staring at you. I know this a little too well and I get uncomfortable and I could feel that now.

There are times when you are excited about doing some things and then are times when you regret having ever thought about doing something like that - this was the moment. Thoughts racing in my mind on what should or can be our next step.

I was thinking and telling myself, that of course it was observing and probably waiting for us to leave, but the fear of the unknown and the unseen is the highest.
We kept looking in the direction of the call and still couldn’t see anything, just then we heard some loud flaps coming from the river bed and there flew 2 Greater Adjutant Storks and King Vulture, their presence was guarantee that there was a kill in the river bed.

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And then it was over, the bad feeling went away and the Langurs stopped their alarm calls.

It probably took more time to type this than the sequence of events at that time, 5 seconds max is what we needed to look at those majestic birds and our quarry was gone, using the distraction to its full advantage.

This is how keen animals are in trying to stay away from us!

Now even the langurs joined us on the rocks and that gave a huge sense of security yet disappointment, that the animal in question was well beyond reach.

We took a few minutes here to relax our sprayed nerves, it was astonishing to experience how we both reacted to the situation - it is extremely important to keep calm quiet and focused because that will help you think clearly, a scared mind makes mistakes, unnecessary sound will prevent you from listening.
As we walked towards the source of the monkeys attention, it became all too clear - a Leopard.

We had come within 100mtrs on foot to one of the most elusive animals to be found in the wild and yet did not even see the tip of its tail.



A few moons ago,

It was 815pm and I was standing near the kitchen, about to leave for the village to pick up some supplies when I heard the distinct sound of a leopard sawing.

The deep throated saw can travel some distance, and I guessed the leopard to be close to around 750mts from our camp, where a forest trail popular with the jungle beings met the road to the village.
My then chowkidaar though having lived a life inside and close to the Forests, had never in fact ever seen any wild cat in his life, so asking what he thought about the sound was useless, for he thought it was just some sound.

Without wasting any further time, I hopped onto the Scorpio and asked if he was interested in finally seeing some cats in his life. In spite of the doubt, he obliged and joined in.
I exited the gate and turned right towards the village, this road is winding but as straight as might be possible in a forest area, now I just had to take one left turn and drive maybe a 100mts and I would reach the junction.

I crossed the junction - no one was there, but something told me it was close-by.
After the junction, the trail has a gradual climb and meets another trail near a rocky outcrop. I was about to reach the apex of the climb and then I noticed the movement, right next to road hiding behind one of the bushes next to the rock was a big male leopard, upon seeing the vehicle, he nonchalantly walked back inside the forest, sawing away to glory as he walked back in, totally thrilled but it was over by the time I finished saying Wow!

A little ahead from here is an open patch of land separating the jungle and the farm lands.
Now this spot is fairly wide maybe a little over half an acre with a few rocks in the center, the rock was straight in my line of sight and then totally unexpected, out came a female leopard, she tried to crouch down behind the rock but as it was not that big and anyways since her cover was blown, she made a beeline to the forest which was just a few bounds away for a leopard.

Now this was double whammy and a totally unexpected one at that, if I had bought a lottery ticket I would have probably won the Bumper draw tonight. The remaining route was uneventful and though I kept my eyes peeled on the way back, the romantic couple had either made their back to the forest, or had crossed over after we left.

It was then I realised that my chowkidaar had not said a word so far, I asked him how did he feel and asked him if he knew what he had seen, he said Sir 'Sher tha na who' (Sir it was a Tiger right) I explained to him the difference and showed him pics - needless to say he had a tale to tell at home.

In him not having seen a leopard in his life lies a very important lesson on peaceful coexistence. There are many villages which border our national parks and reserves, and there are many which are even inside or near to core zones, but yet these villagers don't go around looking for animals and are only busy trying to earn a living and unless in case of a conflict, most have never seen any apex predators. And the same holds true for animals too, who are only trying to survive and coexist peacefully.

I would now leave you with a few pictures from in and around the camp.


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Old 9th October 2019, 08:16   #2
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Excellent narration! Enjoyed reading the leopard sighting.
Wonderful pictures too!
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Old 9th October 2019, 16:17   #3
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

It is always special to be close to the roots i.e., Nature, from where we have grown. Your photographs do lend an absolute justice to the pristine environment which encapsulates the beauty of wildlife.

The photograph showing the ‘Autograph’ of the Sloth Bear, tends to give goose-bumps to me.

Thanks mate for sharing.
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Old 9th October 2019, 16:25   #4
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Excellent pics and narration. Felt so close to nature and the fresh air breathe to rejuvenate. Nothing like that !!

Would you help PM the cottage and stay, safari booking details etc. Please PM me if you feel free to or post. Which is the closest airport or railway station.

regards
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Old 9th October 2019, 17:09   #5
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trojan View Post
.

I was at our camp bordering the Panna Tiger Reserve. I stepped out of the cottage and took a massive breath, could feel the difference, deep cleansing.
A very unique style of narration, loved every bit of it.
Is this your Private Property or is this available for general wildlife enthusiasts ? If you don't mind sharing the details would request you to.
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Old 9th October 2019, 19:25   #6
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dhar's View Post
Excellent narration! Enjoyed reading the leopard sighting. Wonderful pictures too!
Thank you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by King_pin09 View Post
It is always special to be close to the roots i.e., Nature, from where we have grown. The photograph showing the ‘Autograph’ of the Sloth Bear, tends to give goose-bumps to me.
Thank you! Yes, that's the essence of being alive. More often than not, we lose track of this. Those 3-4 inch claws are certainly goose-bump worthy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by prsnck View Post
Would you help PM the cottage and stay, safari booking details etc. Please PM me if you feel free to or post. Which is the closest airport or railway station.
I think it will be prudent to add details on 'How to get to Panna Tiger Reserve', thanks for the suggestion, will do. Rest will PM you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soumobakshi View Post
A very unique style of narration, loved every bit of it.
Is this your Private Property or is this available for general wildlife enthusiasts ? If you don't mind sharing the details would request you to.
Thank you, will PM you the details.

There is so much more in a forest for one to learn and experience; every tiny thing happens for a reason and its pure poetry unfolding in front of you. Will keep updating this.

Cheers,
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Old 9th October 2019, 22:54   #7
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Reading a travelogue with some thrilling narration after quite some time. Lovely experience you have had there. Pics are top class
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Old 10th October 2019, 15:12   #8
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Beautiful photos OP!

Interesting fact: My father was the first & founding Director of Panna NP. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of this park. Good to see it portrayed so beautifully in your photos here.
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Old 11th October 2019, 13:19   #9
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trojan View Post

I would now leave you with a few pictures from in and around the camp.
What a coincidence, i am from that region and have been to national park and around 100+ times in day and night. You may know Ken River lodge
half a decade back big cats population was dwindling, how is the situation now?
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Old 11th October 2019, 13:30   #10
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Great Travelogue. The narration was very captivating. Which camera & lens did you use to capture the birds?
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Old 13th October 2019, 09:05   #11
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Default Re: Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve

Quote:
Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
Reading a travelogue with some thrilling narration after quite some time.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MBond007 View Post
Great Travelogue. The narration was very captivating. Which camera & lens did you use to capture the birds?
Thank you! I used a Nikon D7000 paired with Sigma 150-600 for these.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jagspabla View Post
Interesting fact: My father was the first & founding Director of Panna NP. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of this park.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shubhendra View Post
What a coincidence, i am from that region and have been to national park and around 100+ times in day and night. You may know Ken River lodge
half a decade back big cats population was dwindling, how is the situation now?

I have always believed that life is a circle and that belief is getting proven everyday that it is in fact a much smaller circle than one can imagine. What coincidences and certainly a privilege to know, this is crazy. If memory serves me right, Panna National Park was founded in 1981, and I can only but imagine what it must have been at that time.

@ Shubhendra - looks like we have a few things in common, Panna & Pune included. It would be great to catch up, will drop you a PM.

The situation has turned for the better and is a role model in its case of being one of the most successful turn-arounds for a Tiger reserve which was literally poached of all its glory. At present the numbers are over 40-45.

I will attach one of my favorite pics (posted on Tiger Day) which I had clicked of the Queen of Panna T-1 looking back at me, in one of my earlier visits. It had felt apt to add the poem from the movie The Grey - best describes the current state and battles that the pride of our country has to go through.

Our Wild Classroom - Panna Tiger Reserve-img_20181117_160753_602.jpg

T1 is one of the most successful Tigress' siring most of the cubs who now form the current population at Panna. I also do have a family pic of T1 with her fifth litter T151 & T152) of which T151 is now known as Rider - a very bold Tigress, definitely not pertrubed by vehicles.

For all readers,
Note: (T1 denoting that she was one of the first of the nine tigers to be relocated to Panna as part of the reintroduction plan
T151 denoting that, she is T1's 1st cub from her fifth litter, T152 would denote 2nd cub)

Cheers,
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