Monday, December 27, 2010

The future of the Lions in Africa ?

My favourite Lion picture....

But what is the future of Lions in Africa? Alas, it is quite bleak and a cause of great concern. According to an IUCN study by Bauer and Van Der Merwe (2004), the Lion population in Africa stands at around 23,000..(must be down further in these 6 years) which is down from about 1,50,000-180,000 in the 1980's...a steep decline of nearly 90% in just about 25 years !

We think only the Tiger is on the decline..and somehow ignore the fate of the all the 'amazing sightings' one gets in the Masai Mara are sadly not reflective of the true picture of the status of these magnificent Cats...such a sobering thought..

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Lions of Masai Mara !!

Masai Mara has one of the highest densities of Lions anywhere in World..some experts say it is indeed the highest..there are between 450 to 500 Lions in it's 1510 Sq kms! According to a recent IUCN study, the density of Lion population in Masai Mara is 30 Lions per 100 sq kms!
I had some amazing sightings in the blissful 3 weeks i spent in August 2010. We saw a total of 30 different adult Lions (most likely different)...over 40 adult Lioness...many sub-adults..about 5 actual hunts..9 attempts...these are a sample of my best Lion pictures....

A pair or a 'coalition' of young Lions we saw one early fact we heard them roaring very close to our tents that night..i was camping in the middle of the Mara with a photographer friend, Michael. You can make out by their sparse manes that they are yet to fully mature..they were quite tentative and tense as it was not their territory...

One of the young Lions looking back at his partner...i love his auburn colour in the golden glow of the morning sun..

One of the several Lions we saw..this one was walking at a steady pace one early morning..not even pausing to glance at us..notice the high grass one can see at this time of the year...

We came across this Lion on a Topi kill..well hidden in a 'nallah'...i barely managed to get a picture through the thick, thorny bushes...

One of the two beautiful males in another coalition of Lions..we came across several of these male-only coalitions...the biggest one was five in number !

He was looking worried at some Vultures swooping down to their Buffalo kill...

One of the three males in another coalition...notice the spray as he is marking a fallen tree..

His two partners..walking close by...they had a determined walk at a good if they a distant territory in mind...

Another handsome dark-maned Lion.....

One early morning we came across this big male trying to drag a young Buffalo kill...

He was trying to get a good bite at the Buffalo..this is a full-frame shot..we were really close!!

This Lion is nick-named 'Notch' and is made famous by the BBC film 'Big Cat Diary'

'Notch' is indeed a very handsome, Black-maned Lion..notice the scars on his face..and all over his body..he is a veteran of the Mara Plains..and heads a coalition of five strong male Lions!!

A 'cat nap' in progress..Lions are champion sleepers!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More wildlife from the Bale Mountains !

The other side of the Sanetti plateau is the Harenna forest..look at these moss and lichen laden trees which are dominated by Juniper and Hagenia species.

The birds you see here are all very special..and almost every bird you see are either 'endemic' or 'near endemic' to the this picture is a Thick-billed Raven.

Chestnut-naped Francolin

The handsome Guereza Colobus monkey (Colobus guereza)..the highland form has much thicker and longer fur.

The Endemic Spot-breasted Plover

The shy and rarely seen Giant Hog ( Hylochoerus meinertzhageni)

Another Endemic - the Blue-winged Goose

Bohor Reedbuck (Redunca redunca)

Another special-the Rouget's Rail

Menelik's Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni)..not closely related to the Nyala of Southern Africa..but probably to the Greater antelope which is endemic to Ethiopia.

The guard was most reluctant to take a picture with me!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ethiopian Wolf !!

The Sanetti Plateau of the Bale Mountain National Park (2,200 sq km), which is located in the highlands of Ethiopia. This is the secretive habitat of one of most enigmatic predators in the world-the Ethiopian Wolf !! So secretive and unexplored is this habitat...that the Wolf population of Bale Mountains was first known to science as recently as 1959!!

This is one of the most surreal wildlife habitats i have ever set my foot's beauty and desolateness made my mind go was as if i was no longer a part of this did not matter anymore if i do not see an Ethiopian Wolf...for which i came on a quest from thousands of miles away...and i only have a day to explore and seek it...

Endless miles of such scenery..notice the Augur Buzzard perched high...the Sanetti Plateau is cited as the world's largest expanse of Afro-alpine moorland, a montane habitat confined to altitudes of 3,500 to 4,500 meters on East Africa's tallest mountains...

And suddenly a Wolf !! I just could not believe my eyes !!

It gave me a quick glance...and scampered away!!
I was so have set me eyes on this rare, mysterious and beautiful animal..a stuff of dreams for any wild lifer...

The Ethiopian Wolf ('Canis simensis'), which was formerly known as the 'Simien fox', is an intriguing animal by itself. DNA analysis suggests that Ethiopian wolves share a recent common ancestry with the Eurasian wolf ('Canis lupus'). In spite of the restricted range (mainly Afro-alpine meadows and moorlands in Ethiopia), small habitat and rodent-catching behaviour of the Ethiopian species, it's specialisation appears to be a relative recent adaptation. These highly endangered (IUCN Status) hunters are entirely dependent on rodents, mainly the Giant mole-rats, which comprise of nearly 40% of their diet. Less than 500 animals are believed to be remain in the Bale mountains, which is their last retreat and even less in the Simien mountains in N.Ethiopia.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back from an amazing trip !!

Bale Mountain National Park-Ethiopia

I just got back from a most amazing trip to Masai Mara, where i spent 3 weeks and Ethiopia !!

The highlights were:
1. Camping in the middle of Masai Mara..with Lions calling close by at night and avoiding Hippos in the pre-dawn darkness, while walking to the Loo!
2. Fantastic sightings in the Mara-about 25 different Male Lions, many more Lioness with Cubs, several hunts with one photographed entirely! Superb Cheetah sightings, Black Rhino, Martial Eagle with a kill etc!!
3. Discovering a lovely new country, Ethiopia! And visiting the hauntingly beautiful Bale Mountain NP, where i was extremely fortunate to see the Ethiopian Wolf and also the endemic Mountain Nyala...also many endemic birds.

As soon as i landed, i had to travel to Kanha..where the connectivity is really bad..i managed to upload one picture! You will have to wait for some more days for more!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Masai Mara-here i come!!

The great plains of Masai Mara beckon me!! The site of the Great Migration-touted as the greatest Wildlife spectacle in the World is on right now!!
I am fortunate enough to spend 3 weeks in the Masai this year!! The first two weeks would be sheer host is a veteran wildlife photographer Michael, from S.Africa..he has a private land-cruiser and we camp out in the wild (a campsite on the fringe of the Park)..the whole day we are driving around watching and photographing animals and birds!! Then 12 photographers join me and Kalyan on a photo-safari!
Some photos from my last year's trip..which capture the magic of the great plains!

A male Ostrich in breeding can see how open the plains are...

One of my favourite birds in Africa- the incredible Secretary Bird!

A Lioness which just made a kill!

Then i have a side trip to Ethiopia-my first one to that lovely country,where i am trying to explore the Highlands--bye!
I am not sure if i will have the chance to post while i am there!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Monsoon Beauties!

Come Monsoon and i get very excited to snoop around with only my Macro lens on my camera..i found these beauties on two recent trips to Mudumalai and Nagarahole!

With such vibrant colours, i wonder why Cicadas need to sing for mates!!

Just gaze at this beauty !! A big orangish-red frog seen at Nagarahole! I believe it is a Bi-coloured Frog..any comments?

The ultimate stunner..the tiny Stream Ruby!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Young Bandhavgarh Cub

I saw this beautiful Sub-adult Tiger in Bandhavgarh on my last trip in June. He is about a year old..just look at his over-sized paws and that amazing innocence in his eyes..which all young creatures have ! I wonder if We can, as a Nation, live up to his hopes of a secure future?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kanha male-my last sighting of the season!

Two weeks before the Park closed for the monsoon, we drove to the Kanha guests..just me and my Naturalists. I was praying that i will have one last sighting (i was going away to other Parks in M.P) of my favourite Tiger..the majestic Kanha male!! And we got very lucky!! What a sighting we had!!

After hearing some distant Chital alarm calls..we saw the Tiger deep in the forest cover on the edge of the Kanha meadow. Then we watched him walk in the meadow in broad daylight...from almost a km away..and he walked straight to where we were waiting!! It was a perfectly planned position..plotted by Harsha...i was thrilled to watch his every move from my binoculars..which is such a luxury! I am normally clicking through a camera lens..What a sight he was!! I got goose pimples as he came so close to us...

He gave me one hard stare...and walked right past us..we could reach out and touch him if we wanted!! It was truly one of my most memorable Tiger encounters ever!! I was supremely lucky to end my last season in the Central Indian jungles with such a fantastic sighting of this most charismatic animal on the planet!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Peeping at my beautiful 'new' world!

A juvenile Monitor Lizard looking out from it's home, a tree hollow, at the world outside-in Kanha NP!

The next morning i found it a bit bolder!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Indian Pitta

One of my favourite birds, the Indian Pitta! I simply love their colours and calls!! This picture was taken last summer in Bandhavgarh.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dholes of Kanha !

Dholes are among my top favourite predators in the world ! There are so intelligent, good looking and charismatic...almost always up to some action !

I came across this beautiful pack one summer morning in Mukki. We first saw them sitting on the track..there were 15 of them...with 7-8 sub-adults, which were so cute and shy!!

This Alpha male came up very close to us..stretched it's body and muscles...before setting off for a hunt...

Just look at it's beautiful brick-red coloured coat..with a lot of the lovely early morning light...I did not notice so much white in the Dholes of Nagarahole-Bandipur, which is one good habitat for them.

They set off on a hunt ! In fact, we later saw the adults giving a high-speed chase and corner a Chital Stag...the actual kill we could not see as they moved into an area behind some rocks and bush on the edge of a meadow. Sadly, these amazing predators are getting increasingly rare..Kanha used to have a good we do not see them often.