Saturday, September 27, 2008

Magic of Kathlekan!

Western Ghats are always refreshing...
Its after quite a long while since I had been to my native! As I dint have a single monsoon photography trip this time [ I had planned for at least two this season! :( ] I decided to take some break and head towards Sagar - Sirsi region and explore some new places which I haven't visited before. Incidentally I had met Ashok T.Hegde on India Nature Watch (INW) and he was forcing me to visit his place in the monsoons when the place will be at its best. He is located in a beautiful place - Mavinagundi which is very near to the renowned Jog falls. The place is very near to the pristine forests of Kathlekan where some new species of frogs and plants are still being discovered!

I was very much excited to visit the place just to enjoy the feel of the dense forest of Kathlekan region. The word Kathlekan means 'the dark forest' and why not it should be called so? It is a perfect name for the forest region over there. Such a lovely vegetation! You should be there to feel and enjoy it. To reach Kathlekan region you need to take the road from Sagar which heads towards Jog Falls and then towards Honnavara. The first checkpost that you encounter will be the place Mavinagundi. There is a high mobile transmission tower just beside the check post and the beautiful home that you see just behind that tower is where Ashok T.Hegde lives with his wife. It is such a lovely place!
The morning that I landed there infront of their gate, I was on my toes right from that moment as I had decided not to waste any time in taking rest. The light was fantastic outside.

After a small breakfast we started to head towards Kathlekan region. My friend Adithya U.N. had also joined us for the day and we are hoping for some good time. I went very curious when Ashokji mentioned that there are really large number of Lion Tailed Macaques(LTM) in that region. I remember hearing that some people have sighted LTMs from that region but I dint know that it is so much big population. Later when we met Mr.Sunil who is studying the behavioral ecology of Primates in that region we come to know that there are minimum of 630 LTMs in the region, which makes it the largest population region in the world! But as their territory is very big and they are canopy lovers it is tough to find them and very tough to photograph them from that region. But I want to give a try.... let me see when that time comes....
Till the afternoon there were no sightings of either LTM of any interesting bird species. Only couple of sightings of Yellow Browed Bulbuls were the only thing that we got. Then headed towards Gerusoppa to have some lunch. On the way you will see a beautiful falls at a distant mountain. The view was fantastic. Decided to spend some time while coming back to make some good image of the falls, hoping that it wont rain then... :) and it didn't...!

The day went in shotting some landscapes and other attempts and no interesting sightings. Adi disappointed a bit as his gun was sleeping almost idle without any bird for food! :) He had to satisfy the camera and himself with some landscape images which I have absolutely no idea if he enjoyed of not... ;)
While coming back I had decided that we will go the same view point where we went in the afternoon, the next morning as well as I was expecting to get some good moody images in the morning when the forest is covered with clouds and the heat from the canopy forms a fantastic scenery. I was visualizing something like that and I never know when I got asleep!

The next day Sun was welcomed by the calls of the Malabar Gery Hornbils and a thin line of cloud in the sky! I was happy with the first one but the second one disappointed me a bit. Hoping for a good light in the time to come, we had a good cup of coffee and headed towards the place. I must admire the enthu of Ashokji and his encouragement towards the nature and nature photography!

When we reached the place.... it was almost no change.... as clear as the last day afternoon... no mist.... no clouds!! Disappointed big time! Plan flopped! What else?? Then we planned to go the same place where we had seen Yellow Browed Bulbul last day. That is a small hilltop kind of place where there is a half constructed temple and a watch tower for the sight seeing. But the place is abandoned as the accessibility is a bit tough and the road is horrible! So it forms a nice open space around the thick forest and ideal for the bird activity. So we just went around the temple and I sighted one White Bellied Blue Flycather. Second time for me after my sighting in Kodachadri region. Then saw couple of Velvet Fronted Nuthatches and Scarlet Minivets.

The luck began to change when a pair of Scarlet Minivets decided to spend their time around the canopy of a tree which was at very close to the place where we were standing. I rushed to have a place where I can get a good view and started burning the images! The view was fantastic and so was the atmosphere around. Made some good images and then it was time of the Nuthatches to perform the show. They are one lovely cute birds. The red beak and the blue wings give a very very cute outlook to their appearance. After spending quite some time at that place, I was happy, so as Ashokji! So, we decided to head back and try our luck to see if we get any luck with LTMs!

While we were driving back I was glued to the window and was enjoying the distant calls of Whistling thrushes. It is so fantastic to listen to them. You tend to think that there is surely some one out there in the woods who is whistling so beautifully! They generally whistle in the early mornings . Because of its melodious song in the breeding time, they are popularly called as 'Idle Schoolboy'! :) Salim Ali says so! Absolutely true! So, as I was totally into that pleasant mood Ashokji took a bend on the road which was having a beautiful stream beside. I just noticed something perching on the rock beside the stream and screamed "STOP STOP!!".

I just rushed out of the car and slowly approached the stream and found the beautiful fella - Malabar Whistling Thrush! What a beauty it was! So shiny blue and black and what a setting it was sitting in! I just could not take my eyes off the view finder and as I dint want to miss any moment to witness this bird from so close! That guy was having some food in its mouth and he must be having a nest nearby, may be under the pool where we were standing. After spending some good 15min with him he decided to go to his nest to feed his children and we decided to head back to feed ourselves too!

The morning was amazing and worth spending. My sincere thanks to Ashokji who took all the pain to take me to that place that too in the wee hours of the morning.

Came back to home by 9:30 and both were very happy. A morning well spent. After having breakfast we decided to try our luck with the Malabar Grey Hornbils which were having a party at the other side of the paddy field. The effort was not wasted as they allowed us to approach close and I got some decent images. Another good luck of the morning.

Time was over and it was the time to head ahead towards Sirsi for me. The time that I spent in Mavinagundi was something unforgettable and I would want to go back to the place again and again and I bet if you go there just once, you will not disagree with me.

That is the magic of Kathlekan...

Thanks once again Ashokji for all the help. Will see you soon... :)


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wide angle and Ranganatittu!

You may laugh but it was true, I had not visited Ranganatittu even once till all these years! Even though it is regarded as one of the very good places to shoot birds [ofcourse with camera!! :)] I somehow didn't make it there. I had seen plenty of images on various forums which were made in Ranganatittu. Even though it is a heronary what makes it special is the angle of light that you will get on mornings and evenings.

That was one such day, on our [Pramod, Ganesh and myself] way to INW meet at Mysore, we decided to visit Ranganatittu for sometime. The light was beautiful and the surroundings were looking great. After some failures to create some different images using my tele lens, I decided to go for wide angle view to capture the elegant morning. The cirrus clouds in the blue sky was adding to the drama. I started enjoying the wide angle perspectives and the blues and the cloud patterns were making me dumbfounded.

Even though we spent only 35-40 min on boat and covered a very little area, all of us enjoyed a lot and all of us have some unique images of Ranganatittu, which I personally have not seen anywhere earlier.

Views may differ! :-)


Tale of a hanging unfortunate!

Nature is so awful! It never seizes to amaze with its surprises! Its just that we need a bit of luck to be there at the right time at the right moment to be the witness for the same.
One such luck happened to be turn towards me when I visited Gudvi Bird Sanctuary last time. We were returning from bird shoot and I was looking for something interesting for macro on the ground! But not in my dreams I had thought that I would see anything like this! - A snake caught in spider web! I have no idea how it got stuck there! Thought of many possibilities - It might have fallen from any of the above branches and might have got stuck or any possibility of trying to catch the spider as a desperate attempt or by any other means??? I spent around 30 plus min to see what happens next!!! and... what I saw after that was another amazing story....

...I had a very close encounter (just 6 ft away) with the Crested Serpent Eagle[CSE] just couple of hours back at around the same place! As this snake would make a tasty lunch for CSE, I was damn curious to see if I would be a witness for anything like a mid air hunt infront of my eyes!!

There were almost 6-8 Giant Wood spiders high above the web where this fella was hanging. I bet they were also equally tensed and excited as we were! I imagined them to be discussing among themselves on how to get rid of this mid-air crisis! As the size of the snake is bigger compared to their usual (or rarely some unusual) pray they were not looking keen on building some strategy to sack this guy and celebrate their lunch! I was expecting for some hero among them to come forward and do some action! But the biggest question still remained.... Who will bell the cat??

... I looked around in the anxiety for CSE to see if I will be a lucky guy.l.. but no clues of it anywhere! My cousin was busy with his HDV camcorder filming the entire event!... It was silence all around... Then finally one brave guy (or gal, I swear I dont know!) came forward and proceeded towards the hanging unfortunate! He looked clever! He came near, observed the situation closely and took a very wise decision! He slowly cut four major, strong threads which were holding the snake and left some work for the snake to get rid of the rest! After cutting four threads he rushed back as he may be expecting the snake to make some brisk movements to get rid of the rest of the threads, and if he was not fast enough then he may also fall along with the snake... and who knows the next story!!

He was wise and quick and made himself positioned in a safe place to witness the next events.... Then after some trouble the snake finally managed to get back to ground and it must have thanked the spider and GOD (for not sending CSE till then) before it disappeared into the bamboo woods again.

...An unforgettable event for both of us and we looked each other with a silent 'wow' expression!!

Note: A friend Bharat Chedda from India Nature Watch told that the snake is Bronze back and it might have tried to glide from one branch to another and caught stuck in the web of Giant Wood Spider! - quite possible!!

Nature is Amazing....!