Peahens at the Annaikatti foothills

I recently shot a wedding at the foothills of the annaikatti hills near coimbatore. The morning after the wedding, I had a couple of hours to kill and took a stroll around the foothills. There were a lot of shy peahen, fairly large herds of deer and lots of other bird life too. I have heard of considerable elephant and leopard activity here though I didn't experience any that time.

Here are a few images from that quick stroll.

RSP-20140613-070209-0092

Sitting still under the tamarind tree...

At your workplace you *have to stand out* from the rest to be successful. But in the jungle, you *have to blend in* with the surroundings and be almost invisible to be successful. I spent some time at a watering hole near sathyamangalam last week. On the first day, a few researchers & I reached the watering hole around near Sathyamangalam at around 3:30pm. A couple of minutes later 4 elephants(2 Adult females and 2 calves) came to the hole for a drink. Although very close to the highway, this is the only water source for mos of the animals in that area. The sun was a bit harsh, we hadn't settled down in a vantage point yet, being a Sunday there was a lot of traffic on the highway (visitors to the nearby Bannari temple) and the elephants were aware of our presence. With all this the chances of getting good pictures were quite slim. I did shoot a few picture but wasnt very happy with the results. The herd left quite soon and we waited for another 30 minutes before deciding to move on. We had to reach another village by nightfall. I'll write about that experience in another post.

A couple of days later I came back to the watering hole at around 1 in the afternoon. The sun was up and the temperature rising, and I was pretty sure the animals would need some hydration. I found a huge tamarind tree and sat under it. I was wearing camaflouge clothing and had seated my self on the ground facing the pond. But the most important thing is I sat *still*, for the next 4 1/2 hours. My back started to hurt, I had pins and needles in my foot, my neck and shoulders started to get a bit sore but it was all worth it. The experience was amazing.

It was like reading one of Kenneth Anderson's stories. The entire jungle was almost oblivious to my presence, there were birds, insect, mammals (small and larger ones) all of them at peace doing what they wanted to do and totally undisturbed by my presence. I saw some paradise flycathers, jungle fowls, bablers, flamebacks, mynas, caucals and a whole lot of other birds along with elephants, deer and monkeys.

A short while after I settled down under the tree, a herd of cheetal came for a drink. They are one of the most sensitive and shy animals in the south indian jungles. So wary of surroundings and ready to call alarms and flee at the slightest sound. They pay so much attention to detail and are always on high alert. When a herd of deer move across the jungle, they first check for signs of their predators and man is not a natural predator of these animals. So when a herd some, they dont explicitly check to see if man is present there. But then again, anything they cant recognise as safe is considered unsafe. So that's where humans scare them. Coming back to the pond, a herd of spotted deer or cheetal very cautiously approached the water with a couple of stags standing guard on either side while the other members move to the water. The stags came in last and kept watch while rest of the herd quenched their thirst.

The strain in sitting like a statue really paid off at that time, the deer was completely unaware of my presence and got really comfortable in the water. They came in groups every 15-20 minutes and I had the time of my life sitting under the tamarind tree. Each deer had such a distinct personality, some of them curious, some extra cautious, some responsible leaders, some playful kids etc.

Spotted Deer

Spotted by the Spotted

Finally came the elephants and since they dont have very great eyesight, they didn't mind me stretching my muscles once in a while. As long as they were thirsty and I didn't make much sound they stuck around.

Family Drink

They came they drank they left. They left me a memory of a lifetime experience. So close with wildlife, it was unbelievable. I had a chance to observe these magnificiant animals from just a few metres away. I really wish these forests and animals last for future generations. Let our children not learn about these animals the way we did about dinosaurs. Save forests & wildlife.

2010 Jallikattu - Palamedu & Alanganallur

Most photographers (freelancers and press) come to the jallikattu hoping to get "action" shots. They mostly want pictures of bulls throwing the players up or stabbing them with their horns. A lot of people don't realise there's a *lot* more to jallikattu than just bulls throwing people up...A few interesting (and out of the usual) pictures from this year's jallikattu in Palamedu & Alanganallur. Hope you enjoy them & let me know your thoughts and comments :)

As I upload more pictures, they will be added to this post itself. So please keep coming back to view more (they wont show up in RSS readers).

Lineup at Palamedu

The Good Luck Charm

Palamedil parisu mazhai pozhigirathu Pazhanganatham Kalai

Vaadi Vasal Vadi Vasal

at the Vaadi Vasal The Trail

Unfair Contestants

If you face you are predator, if you turn away you are prey Everyone likes to watch

The blindfolded run Agitate the bull

Palamedu Jallikattu Alanganallur Jallikattu The champ

A dozen hands trying to stop it but The blur

The blur No match for the bull

Jallikattu

Better late than never :) For over 5 years now, I have been wanting to watch the jallikattu. This year I finally made it. If you want to read more about the jallikattu go here.

However, the  jallikattu has changed a *lot* over the years. From a sport (with no rules) that used to be played by all those who even came to watch to a sport (strictly governed by rules) with a clear barrigade between the players and spectators and also very closely monitored by the supreme court and the local collectorate.

Here are some pictures from the 2009 jallikattu at palamedu and alanganallur. As and when I get some time to process the pictures I will post them here. So keep coming back (atleast once in a couple of days) and hope you enjoy the show :)

To view the pictures in good quality, go to the flickr page

Would love to hear your comments and critics...

Jungle Story - Forests, Trekking, Wildlife, a 4X4 and more... (Part 2)

It would be best if you read this first. After observing the herd for a while, we continued our walk discussing about the sighting. All of us a sudden a *massive* Feral Buffallo ran towards us. It was sleeping in the shade of a tree and we hadnt noticed it. Our movement had disturbed its sleep and the fellow was *pissed off* at us.

These are no doubt one of the most aggressive and dangerous animals in the entire forest. Worse then tigers and elephants. If this buffalo spots you alone, you are finished. The next thing he does is sneeze out loud and charge you. Imagine a 1 ton beast running towards you at 40-50 kmph. He gets you in between those horns and rips your intestines apart. When attacked by these animals, death is almost never immediate. The victim dies only of excessive blood loss or because his intestines and other organs have been ripped apart.

The moment he saw us (6 of us) he let out a sneeze (grunt) and ran around us. Our tracker tried scaring him off and threw stones at him. The bloody fellow did not budge. He continued to stare at us till we were out of sight.

Feral Buffalo

Soon after this adventure we saw another herd of elephants. It was a very short sighting, since the wind was not in our favor and the elephants very soon figured out they were being watched and moved away.

Migration...

This was immediately followed by a Bison sighting. The fellow initially didnot realise we were looking at him. The moment I lifted my camera up, he saw some movement and sprinted away.

Indian Gaur (Bison) sprints away

The highlight of this trek however was only at the end.

There is only one bus that comes to Thengumarada village. It comes to the village at around 1 in the afternoon and leaves at around 2. One of us had to catch that bus. There are no roads in these areas. Only mud paths and that too thru the jungle. We reached a point where we knew the bus would cross us and waited there. The bus came in a few minutes & he left. The rest of us rested for a while longer before we left for the village. About 15 minutes after the bus had passed, we started towards the village, and this is what we saw less than 30-50 feet from where we were resting. This is a pugmark of a tiger. And the best part - they were over the tire tracks of the bus that passed us. The tiger had actually come along, noticed us sitting nearby and moved away. All this less than 10-15 minutes ago :)

The Big Cat :-D

A perfect end to a wildlife trail!

This is not the end of the trip. Only the end of the trek. More adventures yet to be posted...

If you have anything to say/share, please feel free to drop a comment.

Jungle Story - Forests, Trekking, Wildlife, a 4X4 and more...

I just got back from a brilliant trip. One of my best jungle experiences so far. There was wildlife right from the word go & I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. Fantastic landscape, brilliant wildlife, awesome food, a 4X4 to drive around and lastly some excellent company; what better can a weekend be! Our trip started from the Forest Dept's rest house in Jeerahalli (Geerahalli), which is a small village about 30Km from Thalavadi and has around 80 families living there. There is small water hole that the forest dept has built right behind the rest house. We expected to see elephants there and it was a depressing start when I ended up with just 2 pictures. One of the Jeep we were traveling in and the other, a silhouette of the plant.

Mahindra Major Sunset at Geerahalli

Early the next morning, we jeeped to a nearby village Kettavadi and started our trek to Thengumarada. We had some hot idlis for breakfast and this tiny petty shop in the vicinity caught my attention for a for minutes.

Kettavadi - where the trek started

Six trekkers along with a few trackers and watchers from the Forest Dept set out on the 15Km walk to Thengumarada. The landscape in these areas is brilliant. There is an excellent prey base, many many animals. Overall an extremely healthy forest.

The feeling when you walk thru such forests is very hard to explain, almost like an ecstasy pill :-p!

A while later, we came across a herd of about 8 elephants that were resting in the shade in one of the slopes. Since the wind was against us (blowing from the elephants towards us) we knew it was safe to move in closer to the herd. Remember elephants have very very poor eyesight. They depend almost entirely on their sense of smell and since the wind was in the opposite direction, there is almost no chance that they spot us if we stay still. We soon sat on the ground and started observing the herd. I mounted my 500mm Manual lens and started firing at them. About 10-15 minutes later we herd a rustle in a nearby bush and out of nowhere a group of 3 elephants including a calf (from less than 40 feet away) starts walking towards us. We were taken by complete surprise and were not quite pleased with this. One of the watchers panicked and started to run. It was only now that the elephants realised we were there and the group of 3 quickly changed their path. We were very lucky that they decided not to charge.

To be continued...