We set off before sunrise on a jeep, properly covered in warm clothes from head to toe, with two layers of blankets on our knees. The cold morning was freezing our fingers. However, the sight of a beautiful bird makes you completely forget the fact!
We were going to visit the Bijrani zone of the Park. Since the area of Corbett National Park is so extensive, the habitat varies from grassland to forest. The Ramganga River is the lifeline of the park, along with a number of criss-crossing spring water/monsoon rivulets.
Crossing one such rivulet, we came across a Stork-billed Kingfisher perched very close to our vehicle. Along the way we saw the Common Stonechat and the Black-winged Kite. Although when you start the drive you tell yourself to enjoy all aspects of the park but sub-consciously your eyes and ears are alert to the sight and sound of the Big Cat!
Driving up another rivulet, we spotted a Sambar Deer. There was a Changeable Hawk Eagle next to its’ nest on a tall tree. The driver thought he heard a ‘call’ – deer call, a sign of perhaps the tiger being close by. We waited for a bit, taking pictures of the Sambar Deer, till the driver decided to go further up the road.
Suddenly, in a hushed yet excited tone he said, “Tiger, tiger!!”. We jumped to our feet and couldn’t believe our eyes…..there were two tigers!! Majestically, with not a care in the world, they walked in front of us into the wooded area. At such times, one is so conflicted – should I absorb it with my eyes or capture it for posterity? Well, we did both! Although the images were not perfect, at least we had some! The driver told us the tigers were called Pandit and Virat.
Quickly calls were made to other jeeps in the vicinity, in the hope that we may see them again. Unfortunately, the tigers decided they had done their bit for us. While watiting we managed to see the Black-hooded Oriole and the Grey Bushchat.
Since it was getting close to the closing time, we started our return drive to the gate, content and relieved. Although the driver was blazing his trail back to the gate, we brought him to a halt as we saw a Jungle Owlet basking in the sun on a dry branch. the screeching tyres didn’t bother him one bit!
Back at the hotel, after a lovely lunch in the sun, we set off for the Kosi river bed. Right outside the hotel we saw a Shikra but it was going to be a kingfisher show that evening! The river bed is expansive and beautifully nestled between low hills.
We walked along the river and saw the Crested Kingfisher, Plumbeous Water Redstart and the Yellow-bellied Fantail. Exploring the shrubs along the river, we came across a Common Kingfisher making a meal of the small fish in the water. It hopped from stone to stone, eating off the fish buffet in the river. Someone remarked, ‘A Pied Kingfisher would complete the variety one can see in these parts’. Not to disappoint us, a Pied Kingfisher came swooping down!