We were booked to stay one night at the Gairal Forest Lodge inside the Park. This area of the Park has more forestation with tall Sal trees. The temperature was definitely a couple of degrees lower than the Bijrani zone! On our way to the Lodge we saw Crested Serpent Eage, Blue-whistling Thrush, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Barking Deer, a Grey-winged Blackbird and the Long-tailed Minivet.
The Lodge was simple, built along the river, completely fenced from all sides. There was glorious sunshine after the cold morning drive. There were a couple of other visitors there as well. After unpacking, I stepped out of the room to find all the visitors running excitedly along the fence, camera, binoculars and all, trying to catch a glimpse of something in the river…..River Otters! There were two, diving in and out, going upstream!
Within the Lodge premises, we found a tree teeming with Barbets – the Lineated Barbet and the Blue-throated Barbet. Soon, a Coppersmith Barbet decided to join the party. Perhaps one of the prettiest birds I have seen is the Red-billed Leiothrix. There were quite a few merrily feeding under a tree.
The Dhikala Forest Lodge overlooks the Ramganga river. From the forested area one suddenly comes upon tall grass and the wide expanse of the river. A family of three elephants was heading, perhaps with a single-minded focus, to reach the river. On the dry area of the river bed, there were Spotted Deer and Hog Deer. The size, scale and beauty of the surroundings leaves quite an impression.
Driving away from the river, through the tall grass, we had the most amazing experience. As per our guide, Pratap Singh, he hasn’t in the past twenty years seen anything like it! On the road, in full view, was a Collared Falconet, feasting on a kill, which we figured might have been a Babbler. the Collared Falconet is the smallest raptor and a beautiful bird with glossy feathers. We watched and waited at some distance, while it was devouring its’ prey. Having taken quite a few pictures, we decided to test our luck and move somewhat closer. Clearly, the Falconet was very hungry, as the approaching vehicle didn’t deter it from finishing the meal. We didn’t mind! It was a stunning sight! Finally, it flew off holding the remains of the prey in its’ talons, probably to eat every bit of it that was left!
Along the same path, we saw the Black Francolin. A shy bird, kept popping in and out of the tall grass. What awaited us further ahead was a Golden Jackal, basking in the sun. Behind the Jackal, on some broken tree branches, a white-tailed fantail was dancing about fanning its’ tail. A team of Khalij Pheasants crossed our path. We also sighted the beautiful White-rumped Shama.
As we drove away from the park packed with wonderful memories, a bright blue butterfly floated alongside bidding adieu…..I think that encapsulates the experience in such a place. One should not visit Corbett with the sole intention of sighting tigers, instead the aim should be to appreciate all else the sanctuary has to offer…and there is plenty!