My encounters with birds and animals, butterflies and trees, and anything else in nature…

Glorious Corbett – I

Please excuse the corny title. But like all clichés, this is also true. Corbett is magical. It has been over two months since our trip there, but I still haven’t gotten over it. And I can’t wait to go back there again.

This account will not include any routine details about the Park, which can be found on its official website. It will only cover my experiences, with pictures and videos.

The forest and its trees

One of the magical aspects of Corbett is its varied landscape. The trees making up the main forest are sal, and the primary experiences of a tourist in Corbett are endless jeep rides through the dappled shade of the sal forest.

The sal forest

The sal forest

There are many species of trees in the forest – but one that I find very interesting, and which is seen in many places, is the strangler fig. One associates trees with non-violence and peace, with the Buddha, with calmness and serenity. But the reality of the strangler fig belies that philosophical connection. What better example of Nature’s dark, silent forces than a tree that kills another!

The killer tree!
The killer tree!

A colourful feature of the forest that struck us as we drove along was a red tree that would suddenly pop up among the sea of varied green. We came across three trees that were red in colour – the kusum tree with red leaves, the Indian coral tree and the flame of the forest, both with red flowers.

A kusum tree
A kusum tree
Kusum leaves
Kusum leaves
Flame of the forest
Flame of the forest
Indian coral tree - this one always had spangled drongoes on it, but when I tried to take a pic, they all flew away :(
Indian coral tree – this one always had spangled drongoes on it, but when I tried to take a pic, they all flew away 😦

Another beautiful flowering tree we saw was the kachnaar. The tree was covered only in pink and white blooms, with several birds having a great time on it!

Kachnaar tree with a golden-fronted leafbird
Kachnaar tree with a golden-fronted leafbird

Nothing like green to soothe the eyes and the soul though – and the forest showed us several shades of green. Like this tree with a creeper around it, each with leaves in different greens. I wonder what they are…

What are these two?
What are these two?

Dhikala

 

And then there were the mountain trails that took us on roller-coaster drives to cliff-sides with wondrous vistas – one such sublime vista was the view from the observation deck at the Dhikala forest guesthouse.

View from the deck at Dhikala lodge
View from the deck at Dhikala lodge

The deck overlooked the Ramganga river and the grassland surrounding it, with hills in the background. Dhikala’s domesticated safari elephants were bathed in the river and left to graze there. I’m sure wild elephants also visit, though we didn’t see any. We did see a family of wild boars, a herd of chital, a flock of vultures feeding on a carcass (in the far distance) and several other birds. There are steps leading down from the deck to the river, barred now by an electric fence – apparently a tiger had climbed up the steps one night some years ago!

The deck also provided us with a really close encounter – a crested serpent eagle flew past just a few feet above us! All of us were too stunned to take a photograph!

Some of us were better prepared when a similar encounter occurred with a Pallas’ fish eagle on the guesthouse grounds while we were busy looking at this collared falconet.

 

Collared falconet

Collared falconet

Unfortunately I was not among those – I just watched open-mouthed as the eagle winged past a couple of metres above us. Here is Garima’s photograph of the eagle, along with those of other raptors we saw in Corbett.

Staying at Dhikala, in the heart of Corbett, is an experience that is difficult to describe. We awoke early in the morning while it was still dark, to the calls of at least three different nightjars. Flocks of rose-ringed and orange-breasted parakeets flew overhead as the sun rose. Around us in the trees and on the ground were lineated barbets, Oriental turtledoves, red collared and spotted doves, chestnut-tailed starlings, crested buntings, and of course, the collared falconet. Families of rhesus macaques gambolled about.

 

The chaur…

In stark contrast to the thickly wooded forest is the grassland, called chaur. This is the favourite haunt of elephants as well as deer such as chital and hog deer, and of course the tiger. It is also home to several species of grassland birds.

Elephants in the chaur
Elephants in the chaur
Chaur around the Ramganga reservoir
Chaur around the Ramganga reservoir

…and its denizens

We visited two chaurs, Dhikala and the one around the Ramganga reservoir. At the latter, we saw a stone curlew and a jackal – both ran away, before the stone curlew decided to sit down, and remained there for a long time. The reservoir had several water birds and the chaur around it had a profusion of Oriental skylarks, many of the males busily displaying. The male skylark flies and sings at the same time for several minutes! Energetic bird indeed!

 

This paddyfield pipit posed very obligingly for quite some time.

Paddyfield pipit
Paddyfield pipit

The deer in Corbett seemed very shy, especially the hog deer. At the Dhikala chaur, this one took off at lightening speed as soon as our jeep approached, even though we were a fair distance away.

Hog deer
Hog deer

A herd of chital, much further away, seemed comparatively unconcerned by our presence.

Chital scape - look at that forest!
Chital scape – look at that forest!

Every stalk of grass seemed to have a bird on it – bright-headed and zitting cisticolas, drongoes, pied and Hodgson’s bushchats and common stonechats.

Common or Siberian stonechat
Common or Siberian stonechat
Full frame shot - this pied bushchat was really close to the jeep - could take a few shots before he realised how close we were!
Full frame shot – this pied bushchat was really close to the jeep – could take a few shots before he realised how close we were!
Hodgson's bushchat - really lucky to see this rare bird!
Hodgson’s bushchat – really lucky to see this rare bird!

And here is a pied bushchat with the most prominent occupants of the chaur…

Bushchat scape
Bushchat scape

…the elephants!

They are such a delight to watch, especially when the herd has little babies! All of us went berserk with our cameras!

Mommy and baby
Mommy and baby
Family of four
Family of four

Here they are indulging in their favourite activity.

 

Our jeeps were on a trail cutting across the middle of the chaur. A herd (or part of a herd) on the right side decided to cross over to the left. We stopped the jeeps to let them pass. First the matriarch came up to the path and sniffed the air in our direction.

"I'm not saluting!"
“I’m not saluting!”

Then the herd started to cross, a few elephants at a time.

"Last one across is a langur!"
“Last one across is a langur!”

 

There were a couple of babies that needed to get across. The bigger one was bolder, it walked across on its own. The tiny one was unsure, and waited till mum was alongside.

 

There were a couple of heart-in-the-mouth moments too. Here’s one of them…

Another such moment came when we were returning. A jeep (not one of ours) had stopped on the path as a nearby elephant kept charging when it tried to pass her. Our jeep quickly drove past, just missing the elephant as she charged again. She stopped just short of the stationary jeep, as she had done before – a mock charge!

A third such moment was when we encountered a group on the side of the road along the Ramganga. We came upon them quite suddenly, just as they were about to cross the road towards the river. We stopped. So did they. They watched us. The matriarch picked up a stick and started scratching her face. Then…

 

…all was well. They crossed the road and went into the river to have their fill of the cold, clear water.

 

There was a tiny baby in the herd, who found it difficult to maintain a foothold on the rocks in the river, and kept slipping and sliding…

 

Then baby fell down, and struggled to get back on its feet. Mommy and the others didn’t seem too concerned with baby’s plight.

 

Finally, one of the adults gave the baby a trunk-up, and they all went on their way.

 

 

Hope you liked this – please do leave a comment. Birds of Corbett in my next post…

 

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27 responses

  1. Sangita

    Wonderful, Uma!
    I loved the clips of the elephants. And the gorgeous poster-picture of the stangler. Nature can certainly be dark. It had to be, else dinosaurs would be roaming the earth now.
    Your blog is the cherry on the cake for the story which your pictures tell.

    June 4, 2009 at 23:41

  2. bonerpakhi

    You got some lovely landscapes… the Dhikala deck view is awesome! 🙂 I can’t believe it has been over two months… need to go back there soon!

    June 4, 2009 at 23:46

  3. HEy Uma ! congratulations on your blog. Lovely pictures and the videos of the little elephant is toooo cute! I hope my Corbett trip happens soooonn !! Keep up with the postings.

    June 4, 2009 at 23:54

  4. Awesome!!!!!!

    June 5, 2009 at 01:58

  5. thoughtsinflight

    Lovely post Uma. Am glad you finally set this up. Looking forward to many more to come 🙂

    -Neelu

    June 5, 2009 at 09:45

  6. That was really fun to read Uma – nice pics too. Am sharing it with some nature loving friends. It’s great that you’ve started writing.

    June 5, 2009 at 09:50

  7. Dear Dr. Uma, Fantastic blog! With video and other very good shots, this is really a professional blog. Congrats. Your “talking” to the birds before they are shot, seems to be very effective as all of them posed for you! Capt Haridas

    June 5, 2009 at 10:43

  8. vibha

    The pics are awesome. So are the descriptions. Cpuldn’t see teh videos though. Will call for tuitions

    June 5, 2009 at 11:10

  9. Uma,
    You finally wrote your blog!! YAY! I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for reminding me about all those beautiful trees we saw in the forest.

    I love your elephant videos. The one with the baby elephant in the water is AWESOME!! I will send this to my friends.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:31

  10. Rajesh

    Wow ! xcellent write up and full of all details, seems I have missed out on almost everything. Your observations on the fauna and foliage is too good, in fact I got a better tour thru your blog. Congrtats and observing the Hodgesons Chat so minutely deserves a big THNX ! Waiting for the next in the series….

    June 5, 2009 at 11:44

  11. anand

    Very nice report! I really liked the view from the deck!

    June 5, 2009 at 17:13

  12. Anjula

    I just love the title of the blog!

    Enjoyed reading the details and you do take wonderful pictures too.

    June 5, 2009 at 19:44

  13. Manoj Sharma

    Hi Uma, Great blog……….keepitup!!!

    June 5, 2009 at 20:28

  14. Ravi Rajagopal

    Good blog Uma. Keep it up.

    June 5, 2009 at 22:09

  15. Sapna

    Out of the world pics girl !!

    I enjoyed readin ur comments too

    particularly liked the “Bushchat scape” 🙂

    June 6, 2009 at 14:42

  16. Anush Shetty

    Fantastic Report Uma. Apart from the pictures, I loved the videos. Awesome they are

    I want to do Corbett too 🙂

    June 6, 2009 at 19:11

  17. Oh, wow, Uma, fantastic post…I read every detail so happily! I am soooo India-wildlife-sick over here, but your post made me a little less so!

    Great pics and lovely account!

    June 6, 2009 at 20:41

  18. preeti

    hi, mud bath was toooo cool.

    June 8, 2009 at 16:38

  19. birdsonthebrainetc

    Thank you all for your very encouraging comments! I feel very motivated! Happy reading and birding!

    June 10, 2009 at 21:27

  20. Usha Shetty

    Fantsatic Uma, the writeups made enjoyable reading along with the pics, U’ve got some really excellent ones, videos too, great stuff

    June 11, 2009 at 23:56

  21. The baby elephant photograph is just amazing!

    Real good.

    June 12, 2009 at 22:32

  22. Anu

    Hi Uma,

    I really like the lovely pictures ofthe elephants… the last ones of the baby elephants were awesome too. How did the baby elephant finally get up, without the help of the parents ?

    June 20, 2009 at 15:56

  23. Even though very delayed, you have started your blog with a bang. Thanks for sharing your experiences and the images.

    June 25, 2009 at 11:10

  24. Some thing seems to be wrong with the still images. While the video links images are visible and can be run successfully, the still images are not visible.

    I have broadband connectivity; Therefore connectivity is not an issue.

    June 26, 2009 at 09:23

  25. Suma

    Great pictures and lovely presentation! Enjoyed every bit of it!

    June 26, 2009 at 12:44

  26. hi friend
    nice picture. where s it.

    August 31, 2009 at 13:15

  27. Bharath

    Wonderful! amazing pics and videos

    August 8, 2012 at 03:36

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