We had been approached by the guide the previous evening to discuss our interest in going on a “Tiger Show” this morning. This is where (not surprisingly) an extra 600 rupees each is paid to be ferried by jeep to a waiting mahout who has located a static Tiger, with a subsequent transfer to the elephant to get closer views. The mahouts will have been tracking Tigers since early morning, hopefully locate a Tiger, which would then be assessed to determine if it is sufficiently stationery, and then radio through to the park rangers, who would make the decision as to whether tourists could be brought in. 4-5 minutes views would then be made in turn. As it turned out, no Tigers were found by the mahouts this morning, which made their barren run lengthen to 3 days. The only view of a Tiger in the park this morning was a brief male across a narrow track minutes before we arrived at the scene.
Temperatures were a little higher than on the previous early morning, but didn’t subsequently reach the highs at midday. Mammal watching was fairly slow before the breakfast break, although we did have our best views yet of a trio of Sambar Deer next to the jeep - a fully grown female was chewing on what looked like the most unappetising of dry leaves, along with 2 fawns, the younger of which was very jumpy. Birding was quite good, and we did chance upon a decent bird wave, located in a fairly open area of the forest, consisting of a pair of Scarlet Minivets, Black-hooded Oriole, Large Cuckooshrike, singing Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (heard only), White-bellied Drongo, and a pair of Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers. We arrived at breakfast a little later than yesterday, since it appeared that the guides had put even more effort into seeing the elusive Tigers, yet it still proved to be a good session, nevertheless.
As we were finishing our breakfast, news filtered through of a pair of Dhole, or Wild Dogs, which were playing alongside the track not far from the Central Point. This is apparently an uncommon occurrence, and the guides seemed quite excited with the prospect. So we dutifully made haste into the jeep, drove the short distance, and were rewarded with a pair of Dhole relaxing in front of us for 10-15 minutes. They thoughtfully stayed next to the track (and sometimes on it) so we didn’t have to peer through vegetation to observe them. One of the pair was particularly playful, skipping around as we approached. Following this, the guide decided to go to an area of the park where Leopard was more likely, although they still remain very difficult to see here. We weren’t surprised not to find one, although we did come across a pair of Muntjac bounding across the road in front of us, and a brief Sirkeer Malkoha flew up into the canopy. Before leaving the park for lunch, a small troop of Langurs were seen playing in the soft light next to the track.
Having now covered much of the reserve, and seeing Tigers, Wild Dogs, etc, our guide wanted to do something slightly different this afternoon, so we were to finish the day on the plateau, which is the highest part of the park, offering a different mix of birds in particular, as well as a notable sunset. As usual, we began by slowly covering old tracks, although mammals were fairly few and far between (apart from a Ruddy Mongoose scuttling across the track, and a few Spotted Deer here and there). A mini bird wave at a bridge stop included Scaly-breasted & Tricoloured Munias. A fleeing Green Sandpiper was at a subsequent water stop. Jungle Babblers continued to be the predominant species, with occasional Greater Racket-tailed Drongos and Rufous Treepies. We started the ascent to the plateau about three quarters of an hour before sunset, taking a very steep red dust track up through enclosed forest. The habitat here was in contrast to below, with smaller trees more thinly scattered, in what was apparently a dry deciduous zone, which eventually opened out to a grassy plateau. Within the bushy area, we had very good views of 3 Sirkeer Malkohas, and a few pairs of Yellow-footed Green Pigeon. 2 White-eyed Buzzards were on flypast, with a Black-winged Kite perched on one of the bushes.
Once in the more open area, fleeting LBJ’s were most probably Zitting Cisticolas. It didn’t take long before we reached the lookout point, which was to be our homage to the setting of the sun. This provided a stunning view of the whole of the reserve, with one or two of the fire control areas standing out. There were good numbers of Bulbuls and Prinias here, many of which could be watched by visiting the usual outdoor urinal. The Bulbuls were mainly Red-vented, but did also include a trio of Red-whiskered, and the predominant Plain Prinias include at least 1 Rufous-fronted Prinia. Since the sunset brought the time to near 6pm – closing time – we had to exit via one of the alternative park gates. This opened on to a road used by public transport through the park itself, but with close monitoring of time spent by vehicles in the reserve, and also numbers of individuals contained therein. A benefit of this route back is that Tigers and Leopards can sometimes be seen in the waning light from the tarmac road on occasion, leaving our return progress slow enough for observation, while being passed by many buses, cars and bikes. We also stopped once or twice to look for this evenings non-existent felines.