This morning started by returning to the very cold weather, with frost on the ground by the trackside. We found ourselves driving along the route taken on the first morning, and were soon rewarded with a pair of Indian Scops Owls which were pointed out by the guide – the third of 4 species of owls seen in both parks which had known roosting sites. They were sitting side by side in a hole within a dead tree. As we traversed one of the clearings, the large pug marks of a male Tiger were followed – it had probably been along that road early morning. Red-breasted Flycatcher preceded the alarm calls of Spotted Deer, and we found ourselves as one of 4 jeeps lined up loosely peering into the forest in the direction of the calls. We were rewarded with the distant sight of a Tigress moving through the forest, although views were quite brief and a little distant. We continued on to the area of the previous day’s sighting of one of the cubs, but there was again no joy this morning, and in no time, it was time to visit the Central Point for a cup of tea.
Following this, we returned to one of the familiar tracks, where 2 of the other jeeps were parked up at the intersection, listening to some alarm calls from Spotted Deer. While waiting, Ultramarine Flycatcher and Greenish Warbler were in bushes nearby. As we travelled on, we picked up a few decent birds, including a couple of Grey-headed Canary-Flycatchers and a pair of Indian Grey Hornbills overhead. Plum-headed Parakeets seemed to be the most common parakeet this morning, with at least one Alexandrine showing itself. The jeep stopped a little further on to try to pick out a pair of Painted Spurfowl, which peered out of the undergrowth intermittently. A third bird was a little closer as we departed the scene. A male Oriental Magpie Robin was at the edge of the track, and a pair of Northern Palm Squirrels fed on the soon to be dying bamboo. Langurs seemed to be in lower numbers this morning, although we did pass a small posse of Rhesus Macaques, with the more aggressive expressions as we studied them than their more passive Langur relatives. A trio of owl species for the day was totted up when we passed a single Jungle Owlet near to the Mottled Wood Owls which were present as usual near to the gate.
This afternoon’s treat was to be taken into the reserve through gate #2. Each previous session had been through gate #1, which is the main gate. The apparent reason is that a maximum of 32 jeeps are allowed through the latter, and this is on some sort of rotational basis, leaving the overspill to go through the former. This took us initially along the poorly maintained main road which is tarmac (or at least some of it is!) to the smaller gate #2. This then covers some new tracks, although there is some sharing of the earlier routes. After passing Large Cuckooshrike and Green Bee-eaters, the sharing of routes was obvious when we again followed the same pug marks as this earlier. Not long after, we heard the alarm call of a Sambar Deer, just inside the bush from where we were stationed. We waited from some time, and another jeep (the “National Geographic Jeep”) reported seeing a Tiger briefly crossing the fire line in the direction of the water hole. We doubled back to watch over the water hole for a short time, before deciding to go back to where the deer had been calling. Good decision – a male Tiger appeared on the track in front of us, reportedly being the father of the male seen on the first afternoon here. It took a brief look at is before entering the thick bushes. We pushed the jeep forward to this spot, and managed to locate him resting in the dense undergrowth only yards inside. After about 10 minutes, he yawned a few times and then moved further into the forest. We stayed here for a while longer – he didn’t reappear, but we did have Indian Vulture and Short-toed Eagle overhead.
We then ventured into a new part of the reserve (to us), which can only be accessed via gate #2. This brought us to an open area in the warmth of the evening light, which hosted a couple of Black Drongos and White-eyed Buzzard, which was prowling on the ground looking for insects. Black-hooded Oriole flew over. We then found ourselves at the main gate #2 entrance, which is apparently a little too far from the village of Tala and gate #1 (where the entry sheets are distributed) to be used in practice. When we were just about to admire a Yellow-wattled Plover in the field, a pair of Golden Jackals crossed the track in front of us, and meandered through the forest to the side, where the trees were quite thinly spaced. Two small groups of Peafowl and a couple of Black Drongos preceded a White-bellied Drongo. Time was once more against us, but as we neared the location of the earlier Tiger, there was a loud and close alarm call from a Sambar Deer. We loitered for the 5 minutes or so that we could spare, and while we didn’t see the Tiger again, it was an experience to leave the park listening to the trademark alarm calls of its prey as we left for the last time.