An Amazing Trip to Kaziranga: Part 2





We had decided against going for the elephant safari the next morning. One had to traverse around 40 kms from Agoratoli to Baguri range to embark on the safari. It was too cold to wake up at 4.30 am to be able to take the elephant safari which started at 5.00 am, although there were subsequent trips at 6.00 am and 7.00 am. Mainly, we worried that the baby might throw tantrums atop an elephant. We were not sure how we could handle the situation then!


So, the next morning we went on another Jeep safari at 8.00 am. Since the forest office was located just opposite the resort, not much time was wasted in completing the safari formalities. This time there were four more vehicles with us, comprising the other tourists. I wondered if that was a good idea, as not all of us may be equally enthusiastic about birds and animals. 

 Sohola Beel


The Jeep took the same route as in the previous trip and our first stop was Sohola Beel. Here we caught sight of the magnificent griffon vultures spreading out their wings to catch the morning sun rays. The forest guard accompanying us informed us that a tiger had killed a buffalo there and hence the presence of these endangered scavengers. We moved ahead and suddenly the Jeep ahead of us stopped. One of the persons in that vehicle pointed towards a tree and it took us a while to acknowledge that the yellow patches in the tree were not leaves but a couple of yellow footed green pigeon. We clicked away till the birds got bored and flew off. 

 Yellow footed Green Pigeon

 A wild buffalo and a Lesser Adjutant Stork

 Grey headed Lapwing


The wetlands were alive with the various species of birds, storks and herons having a field day in the morning sun. We noticed the same birds as in the previous evening but were able to appreciate their beauty more this time. The vehicles behind us were getting restless and we had to move on. We entered the forest leaving behind the water birds and a great hornbill flew overhead with a flutter. The air inside the forest was filled with the shrill screeches of parakeets. Some way into the forest, we heard the driver of the vehicle following us call out and stopped. It seemed the Jeep had developed some problem. While our driver and the forest guard tried to fix the snag, we spent time observing the various warblers and other smaller birds in the bushes. I was overjoyed to see the black hooded oriole make its appearance. The driver soon returned and we continued with our safari. 


Suddenly, a group of scarlet minivets flew past us, dazzling us with their bright red colours. Pity we could not take better pictures. In a few moments we again reached the point where we had seen the black-necked stork. The fellow was missing, but there were a number of other birds instead. There was a lone purple heron along with grey herons and sandpipers. A darter was sunning itself on a branch while a couple of common redshanks and sandpipers were wading about the water for their morning meal. The trees along the water were inhabited by kingfishers, cormorants and a few grey headed fishing eagles. A little further on, we came upon a family of lazy otters basking in the sun in a sort of grassy nest. They seemed oblivious to the world and we left them as they were.

 Scarlet Minivet

 Darter

 Lazy sunbathing Otters


The Jeep lurched forward towards the forest office, which served to be a break-point for us. Not far from the forest office we heard a peculiar but very loud cry. “Elephants,” our driver said. “There must be a tiger around. This is the defensive cry of mother elephants.” We remembered the herd of elephants with their calves on the previous evening.  A tiger! The husband and I silently exchanged excited glances. 


The resort had thoughtfully packed tea and coffee for us and it boosted up our hope to see a tiger. While we waited for the others to finish the refreshments we caught sight of several woolly necked storks whirling about overhead. They were being chased by a black necked stork. Now, who would have thought that the graceful creature would turn out to be so hostile? In the meantime, we were being observed by a crested serpent eagle, who was sitting quietly on a branch near the forest office, unperturbed by the chaos created by the children on the safari.

 Crested Serpent Eagle


We started off on the second leg of our safari and this time the vehicle took us deeper into the jungle. We passed by a water body where a rhino was waddling about without a care in the world. We stopped and waited till he came out of the water. Our mind was still fixed on getting those woolly necked storks and hence kept our sight on the trees. Many a times, we mistook ant-nests in the trees to be some birds. Just as we dismissed one such figure as an ant-nest, it showed slight movement. That figure turned out to be an adorable Asian barred owlet. 



 Asian Barred Owlet


Our driver on that day was quite knowledgeable and he kept on informing us about various birds and animals in the area as well as some gossips on tourist habits and their strange ways. He showed us the pug marks of a tiger on the road, which were made some 3-4 months back during the monsoons. Suddenly, he sat back rigidly. “There are very recent pug marks on the ground. I had not seen them yesterday,” He said. I could almost hear the tiger roar! 

 Old tiger pug marks


The husband and I kept our eyes peeled out while the Jeep barged through the jungle. Every shadow and bush seemed like a tiger to us. The last time a tiger was witnessed in these parts were two weeks back. We had seen the picture posted on Facebook. Were we going to be the lucky ones? Apparently not. This we realized after driving around for more than an hour. We had missed seeing the tiger once in Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary during a boat safari.  I hope our luck turns.


It was around 11.30 am and the birds had almost disappeared. We passed through tall elephant grasses on our return journey and caught sight of a large family of wild buffaloes. Just as we were about to reach the gates of the National Park, we heard the beautiful strain of the oriental honey buzzard bidding us adieu.  What a fitting goodbye! And so, we set out of Kaziranga with a number of precious memories stored in our minds.





 Now, let me share with you a few important pointers and links:

1.      The National Park is open to the public only during November to March. It remains closed in the other months due to monsoon and the ensuing heavy floods.

2.       It is extremely dusty inside the jungle due to the mud tracks. So, take care of your photography equipment and wear some kind of a windcheater. 

3.       The drive is very, very bumpy. In case you are prone to severe back aches or suffer from some other related ailments you may want to re-think.

 4.       The afternoon Jeep safari is best for spotting animals while the morning safaris work out well for birding. 

5.       Some links you may want to look up on the internet:

·         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaziranga_National_Park

·         http://www.kolkatabirds.com/kaziranga.htm

·         http://www.kaziranga-national-park.com/




Areas of concern:


Proliferation of illegal settlers in the National Park. No menace is greater than the menace posed by humans. Pessimistic as I may sound, but there is no solution to this problem.


Rampant poaching and killing of rhinos. Every morning there is a report of at least 2 rhinos killed within 24 hours. My dad, who spent more than 20 years of his life in conserving wildlife, has given up all hope. Before we left for Kaziranga, he looked at our excited faces and warned that we may not like what we see there. “The animals have become aggressive. They sense danger everywhere, they are hungry and they have nowhere to turn to. These animals and birds have no future here. Nobody can save them - it is a lost cause.” I sensed his bitterness, his angst in seeing his beloved birds, animals and forests getting depleted and killed everyday. But is there really no hope? I leave that to you to decide.

Complete list of birds sighted in Kaziranga (could not identify many):

Greater Spotted Eagle, Grey headed Fishing Eagle, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Black-necked Stork, Woolly necked Stork, Yellow footed Green Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Long tailed Shrike, Common Kingfisher, Stork billed Kingfisher, Rufous Treepie, Ruddy Kingfisher, White breasted Kingfisher, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Darter, Little Cormorant, Mallard, Bar headed Geese, Gadwall, Eurasian Widgeon, Rudy Shelduck, Northern Pintail, Spot billed Pelican, Black hooded Oriole, Scarlet Minivet, Chestnut Tailed Starling, Red vented Bulbul, Jungle Mynah, Crested Serpent Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Rose ringed Parakeet, Warblers (could not identify), Asian Barred Owlet, Northern Lapwing, Grey headed Lapwing, White Wagtail, White browed Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Great Hornbill, Open billed Stork.

Animals sighted in Kaziranga:

Great One-horned Rhinoceros, Hog Deer, Sambar Deer, Wild Buffalo, Indian River Otter (?), Elephants, Capped Langur.

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