Having developed a serious interest in nature photography early last year, have always wanted to start a blog to share my experiences. Haven’t really been able to get it going. Finally, looks like the time has come… :)Just returned from a wonderful wildlife photography workshop at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, organized by Darter Photography, was thinking, what better way to kick start my first blog post than to do so by describing my experiences from this jaunt of mine. So, here it goes…., the Part I of the same……
Having visited Bhadra for the first time, in December last year, I had come to love that place for the sheer amount of natural diversity it has on offer. A great place, in a great location. So, when I came to know that Darterwas conducting a wildlife photography workshop at Bhadra, I signed up for it at the blink of an eye.A quickie about Bhadra…. ( Source: Wikipedia – Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary )
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary a protected area and a Project Tiger tiger reserve located 38 km (24 mi). northwest of Chikmagalur town in Karnataka state, India. Bhadra sanctuary has a wide range of flora and fauna and is a biodiversity hotspot.
The journey begins…….After initial discussions about Car pooling and stuff, it was agreed that hiring a Tempo Traveler would be a better option and so it was.
All packed up and ready, early morning, the 11th of May, Friday, got dropped by my father, at Mekhri Circle, my pick-up point.
As I sat there waiting for the TT, my birding instinct kicked off, watching the Asian Koels (male & female), Common Mynas and the White-cheeked Barbet playing around on the trees inside the IISC compound. Was resisting the temptation to pull out my camera,when,as if right on cue, the TT arrived.
Met Shreeram, one of the Darter experts on this tour, along with Radha. There were three other participants in this workshop already seated, Prasad, Neha and Raghavendra. After waiting for a couple of minutes for Manjula, one other participant to arrive,we were on our way.As usual,with no one to monitor and no signals, the traffic was very bad. Somehow, we squeezed our way through, till we reached the elevated toll road. There on the traffic eased out.
After hitting Dobbaspet,we took a pit stop at Kamat Upachar, treating ourselves to early morning breakfast of the standard and ever dependable, Idli and Vada with a cup of hot coffee/tea. Having broken our fast, we headed towards Bhadra.We reached the RiverTern Lodge(a part of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts), which was our place of stay for this workshop, at around 12-12:30pm.Quickly checked in,dumped our bags in our rooms and headed for lunch, a sumptuous one.After lunch, we got together in one of the rooms. A quick introduction by all the participants of the workshop and the Darter experts was followed by couple of very informative sessions on the different forms of wildlife, their various habitats and some of the things to keep in mind while we enjoy our wildlife photography, some ethics of wildlife photography.
As these sessions were underway, I couldn’t fail but notice that it had started to rain, with cloud cover all over. Got me a bit jittery about what was in store for us over the next couple of days.Following the sessions,we headed off to our first safari, a jeep drive into the Bhadra Tiger Reserve. As we entered the reserve, the impact of the changing climate was quite evident. Wildlife sense the changing climate well in advance, cutting down on their activities immensely. The safari chugged along quite uneventful. We did sight a Crested Serpent Eagle (CSE),sitting high up on a tree, but was so much in shade and back-lit,that photographing it was not an option. Further down, we sighted a Malabar Giant Squirrel and a few of us in the jeep who had a good angle tried some shots. We then went on to the backwater side of the reserve hoping to sight something. Though nothing much to sight per-Se, the lush green landscape allowed me to try out a few shots.
Take a bow to nature…!
We stayed put there for a few minutes and then moved on.
The safari was almost culminating when suddenly out of nowhere, a CSE, dived down in front of our vehicle and our driver had to brake hard, to avoid hitting the bird. It was swooping down on a hunt, may be.It then suddenly changed direction and went and sat among the bamboo branches next to us. We all pulled out our cameras and started trying to get some shots of the bird. The light was pretty low though and I had to bump up my ISO to get a decently sharp image.
Though uneventful, this was a good way to end the safari. Got back hoping that things would get better for tomorrow, but the rains were already there leaving us wondering….
Getting back to the room, which Shreeram and I shared, we saw that it was pouring heavily and there were lots of thunder and lightning all around. So, we thought, why not try to photograph lightning.
As soon as the thought hit upon us, Shreeram was getting his tripod and camera ready. We headed to the balcony and setup the gear.Unmindful of the huge ant infestation, with hundreds of ants that we were stomping over, with a few crawling over us, Shreeram was all focus on getting the right composition and right direction to point at, to get the lightning shot. After a few trials, he did get a nice shot, with a nice streak of lightning falling down. Worthy result for all the efforts put in.
It was now time to get down to the common room for the theory sessions. This time it was about different types of light in wildlife photography. Light, which was what we missed very much in our evening jeep safari. After this informative session, we headed to dinner, again a sumptuous one and then retired for the night hoping that things should better by morning.
It was a continuous and heavy rain all through the night and I could hear the hush and gush of the waves of the Bhadra reservoir hitting its banks through the silence of the night…..
Getting up early, at around 5:00am, went to the Gol Ghar (the restaurant at the lodge) for the morning cup of tea and biscuits.After which, we were down to the Boating area for our morning boat safari into the Bhadra reservoir. Unfortunately, the overnight rain had not cleared out as it was still cloudy and light was pretty bad.
As we neared the Rivertern island, called so as this and couple of other small islands nearby are the nesting grounds for Riverterns during this season, we were overawed by the number of birds and awesome amount of activity happening there.This island opens up during the summer, mostly from Jan to June, which is when the Riverterns flock here in their thousands to nest and lay their eggs. There are very aggressive, highly protective birds, and one can hear constant, loud, cackles of the birds, continuously flying about fishing to feed their young.
Just as monsoon sets in , they leave the place as these islands get inundated with water. Its a great sight to watch them in action.
Since the light was pretty bad, photographing the highly active terns was becoming a real challenge, so we decided to move on to try our luck at other sightings. Further down, we sighted a big herd of spotted deer.We spent some time observing their behavior. With locked horns and all…Another surprising thing was that there was a young Sambar deer among this herd of spotted ones….!
Find the odd one out…!
Having spent some time with this herd, we moved on and sighted an Osprey, which was quite far for a decent shot. Then we sighted a Grey headed fishing eagle (juvenile), which was a rare sighting, I got to know. This one was continuously being pestered by a Rivertern, a squabble over fishing territory, looked like. Managed to get a couple of decent shots before it took off.
Further down we spotted the last couple of things to bring a close to the morning boat safari, a very cooperative Brahminy Kite and Indian Cormorants…..
Overall a pretty satisfactory morning with some good sightings as we headed back….
How the rest of the day turned out, were things better in the evening boat safari and how did the workshop come to close ? For a very interesting read and more pics, please do come back for the Part – II of the post.