Though I am a Doctor, wildlife & animals are as much close to my heart as are the humans. That’s why I often pave my way to National Parks like Tadoba, Kaziranga or just few yards secluded, Yeoor. Every jungle is unique and different than the other. They are rich in their bountiful wildlife and experiences they offer are varied. I am wandering in forests for photography since last three or more years and I could sense the power of Nature through many noteworthy experiences. A few months ago, I visited famous bird Sanctuary, Bharatpur for bird photography. I was keenly observing for any movement in the foliage. Suddenly, I got a glimpse of white, silver colored grey heron by a waterbed. I quickly began setting up my equipment. Just then I saw its brood, drowned in blood, heart slashed. It was a fresh kill. While I was busy observing this situation, a white throated Kingfisher arrived and perched next to the grey Heron. We were thrilled to see it & I was about to click when; the Heron grabbed the Kingfisher by it’s neck, twitching it. It was killer shot and obviously without any warning! This is pretty unusual for a grey Heron. He began to dip the Kingfisher in water, like we deep our food in tomato sauce. He was trying to gulp the kingfisher. Kingfisher’s defence was subtle. Heron made 4-5 rounds between the water & ground pursuing his prey. In the end, since he couldn’t gulp the kingfisher fully, Heron shred him into pieces & munched on his feast. This is very mystifying behavior for a Heron. There were many reviews & recapitulations of this behavior, but nevertheless, we couldn’t reach an agreeable conclusion. This unsolved puzzle still haunts me.
While in the jungles, being careless as a photographer and lack of knowledge of camera technicalities can prove to be extremely dangerous and sometimes life threatening. I realized this in the Nagarhole jungle of Rajeev Gandhi National Park when we were on jungle safari in two jeeps. Soon as we entered the jungle, we could see an elephant herd about 25 meters away. We stopped our vehicles and started to click. It was sheer luck that we were observing this herd closely. But just then there was a camera flash fired! A little girl in our group, unaware of the automatic flash settings of her point & shoot camera had clicked and the herd got disturbed. A female elephant began to rush towards our vehicle. We saw her calf just behind her. Knowing the reason of her furious advance, our driver drove us in the jungle hastily; but nevertheless she followed us and later entered the woods suddenly. Regardless of knowing her reason to enter the woods, we kept moving forward to meet a dead-end of the driveway. Before us was dense, thick forest. Since it was safari, getting out of the vehicle was out of question. And then the driver realized why she entered the woods. He turned the jeep and rushed us to the main entrance gate of the forest. If we hadn’t made this, the elephant might have crushed us at the dead-end. It is a heart-throbbing experience for all of us, of an angry mother trying to protect her calf even at a hint of any danger.
In Tadoba, yet another mystic encounter was awaiting us to witness. While on the safari, in the forest, we saw a Cheetah on his way to a pond. Though he looked casual, he was glancing around cautiously. Suddenly a pack of wild dogs started its chivvy. The Cheetah mounted up high on a tree, about 20 feet from the ground & resided in a fissure of its branches. Once he was safe, he began to growl and roar. After some time, being relived of sense of danger, he started to descend down slowly. But then he sensed the trap laid by the pack and returned to his position. To his misfortune, irate monkeys started to throw twigs and branches at him. He got aggravated & started roaring toward the monkeys as well. He was caught up in that eerie situation for a long time. Staying in the jungles after dark is strictly prohibited, so our safari was about to end by the sunset. We had to turn back towards our base. The next day, one of the forest officers brought us the news. Cheetah successfully ran away, unharmed and safe. We were relived. As a matter of fact it was his intense survival instinct that helped him escape.
Like we are anxious about an unknown interception in our area, so are the animals. They mark their territories and an outlandish encounter awaits any intruder. During Tadoba safari, I saw a bear walking down vigilantly towards the road. I focused my camera & began clicking, unaware of a tigress sitting just below the cleft. When our guide Anil spotted her for me, I was stumped. As soon as the bear crossed the road, and entered her territory, she got up & began scheming on how to charge on bear. The bear made a direct eye contact with tigress & within a blink of an eye he stood up holding a tree. He was showing off his gigantism and power. Tigress soon realized that she is no match for his might. Disappointed, she threw us a prickly look & walked away. Our guide told us that she was pregnant & that’s why she circumvented the risks of an attack. These actions transpire almost every day in Jungles. One can experience such pervasiveness if he has a hunter’s vision. There are so many breathtaking, thrilling moments which get us perplexed. Every moment in the jungle is precious and every click is priceless. As a photographer, it is our responsibility to click such a sighting swiftly.