This morning the four jeeps, their passengers, guides and naturalists that made up the Bear group were on safari in Satpura’s Western Buffer Zone. After a slightly later wake up call at 5.30 a.m. we left at 6.00 a.m. in our jeep with Alf and Carol. The track led through villages full of cows, goats and chickens. Even at this early hour the women were busy. They were carrying water in the shiny pots on their heads, driving the cows into the fields and collecting the dried grass for animal bedding. In the sleeping platforms in the fields families were waking up and getting ready for the day.
West Buffer Zone
The West Buffer zone scenery was as spectacular as the National Park with ponds, ravines, sandstone hills, forest and marsh reed areas. As we drove we had good views of Brahminy Starlings, Green Bee eaters, Indian Grey Hornbills, Stonechat, Oriental Magpie Robin and Indian Robin. A herd of Gaur grazed and a Muntjac fled into the bushes. On a high branch a Crested Serpent Eagle gazed down at us as we drove past. We also had good sightings of an Oriental Honey Buzzard and a Common Kestrel.
We stopped for breakfast above a deep forested ravine. Walking to the edge we looked down as an Indian Eagle Owl took flight. Its large size and wingspan of 54cm made it an impressive sight as it flew over the trees and rocky wall faces of the ravine. When it was stationary on the tree branch its colouration made it very difficult to see. Unfortunately it was not possible to take a photograph.
After breakfast we headed towards a water hole. A Red-wattled lapwing strutted along the muddy shore, a Grey Heron stared into the water and on a bank a Ruddy Mongoose ran among the rocks
Indian Paradise Flycatcher
As we left the buffer zone heading back to the lodge we came to a halt just outside a village on a bridge. There was great excitement as all four jeeps blocked the road. We got out of the jeeps to get a closer look at a large tree beside the bridge. Effectively causing a road block we gazed at the beautiful Indian Paradise Flycatcher. It was a male, with its black head with the trailing crest, white body and white tail streamers which are twice the length of the body. This is the state bird of Madhya Pradesh and is certainly a beautiful sight.
After what was one of the highlights of our morning we returned to the lodge for a rest before lunch at 1.00 p.m. Following lunch we were heading back into Satpura National Park for an afternoon safari.
Afternoon Game Drive in Satpura National Park.
The weather was very hot 38 °C with a cloudless blue sky. We repeated Friday’s journey to the river in the lodges jeeps, then a walk across the floating bridge across the River Tawa before getting into the National Parks Jeeps. As it was so hot for the first hour there was not a lot of animal movement. We did see Nilgai, Samba, Spotted Deer and Gaur. Apparently herds of Spotted Deer had been moved from other parks to increase the prey base. We had noticed that compared with other parks the prey species were in far smaller numbers.
Further along the trail we stopped beneath a tree. After much carefully examination we were able to spot the three Mottled Wood Owls that were hidden among the branches. Our guide told us that it was the parents and a youngster from last year. The guides knew that these owls had nested nearby in a hollow dead tree and had laid two eggs. Unfortunately only one survived.
National Park Trees
The lack of animal movement gave us time to look more closely at the vegetation. Sid, our naturalist from the Reni Pani Lodge, told us about the Satinwood tree. Its leaves are small and when crushed and rubbed on the skin produce a fragrant smell which act as an insect repellent. When burnt its smoke keeps mosquitoes away. One of the striking trees that you commonly see is the Ghost Tree. This tree has three colours of bark, silver/white, pink/purple and brown. The sap from the tree was used as a setting agent in medicines and bakery goods. Most ghost trees have one black dead branch. This is where the toxins from the sap collect. The tree sacrifices one branch to keep the rest of the tree alive.
As the temperature started to cool down, the animals started to move about. We had good sightings of a Giant Malabar Squirrel moving along the branches of a tree and a Crested Serpent Eagle. On the river were Lesser Whistling Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Spot-billed and Knob-billed (Comb) Ducks. River Terns flew along the river, as an Indian Pond Heron crouched looking into the water. A very small Mugger crocodile lay on the muddy shore as River and Red Wattled Lapwings pecked in the mud.
Suddenly a call came through on the radio that a Leopard had been sighted. Leaving the river we headed at breakneck speed back along the track. Holding tight to the metal bars on the jeep we hurtled along meeting other jeeps intent on the same mission. Chocking on red dust, with poor visibility because of the dust and the fast approaching twilight, we eventually came to the area of the leopard sighting. Across the river, high on a bank there was a very distant view of a male leopard. A disappointing view, but at least we knew leopards were in the area. Leaving the leopard we charged out of the park in a trail of red dust to leave before the park closed at 6.30 p.m.
Black-naped Hare caught with the Trail Camera
When we got back to the lodge we checked the trail cam. It had taken images of Spotted deer, Langurs and a Black-naped Hare. Tomorrow was to be another early start with the wake up call at 4.45 a.m. leaving at 5.15 a.m. We were going back into Satpura National Park and then a night safari returning to the western Buffer Zone.
Sunday Morning Safari in Satpura