Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

In the jungles of central India

Yesterday afternoon and early morning today I went on Safari drives at the Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh. I really enjoyed being at the jungle seeing the animals and birds in their natural habitat. Pench is a birdwatcher's paradise. Pench is home to as many as 270 species of birds. Naturalist Dipu Sasi drove down from Panna to accompany and guide me through the wildlife sanctuary and make my trip a memorable one.
The Pench jungles are basically deciduous forests. Nearly 40 per cent of the trees in forests are various varieties of teak. These trees shed leaves and remain leafless for nearly four months. Mahua and Indian ebony, also called the tendu tree, are among the numerous other species that are found in abundance. Tendu leaves are used for making biris and is a major source of livelihood for the local populace.
Also saw the huge ghost tree or the Karaya gum tree (sterculia urens) which is also known as the Indian tragacanth. This tree changes colours to pink, white and green and has a very weird branch structure. The tree is white during the summers. It's strange branch structure gives it an eerie look and hence its bizarre name.
I spotted groups of jackals, monkeys, sambhars, spotted dear, nilgai and also had glimpses of the gaur - a wild cattle that weighs up to a 1000 kg and is a major source of food for the tiger. I followed pugmarks of the tiger and the leopard for quite a distance but missed seeing the large cats as the trail vanished into another region of the jungle.
About three weeks back, one of the tigers had killed another in a territorial face off. I also saw a jackal sleeping off its kill after a meal while other members feasted, relaxed and stood guard in a relay, taking turns. Wow! It seemed that they too have their own code of conduct and behaviour.
I saw different kinds of birds like the black rumpet flambeck, black drango, Indian roller and above all the rocket tailed drango which is also called the super star bird for its ability to mimic more than 20 different sounds including that of motor bikes, cellphone ringtones etc.
The black rumpet flambeck belongs to the common woodpecker family found in central India. The red crown makes it look beautiful and majestic. The black drango is not a hard core forest dweller but is sighted in and around the forest areas. The Indian roller is the most common bird of the grassland forests of central India.
While coming out of jungle my naturalist, who is an expert on birds, suddenly stopped the jeep to show me an eagle. I think he said it was the crested hawk eagle which is called tiger in sky. The spotted deer and monkeys alert other animals of the presence of tigers and leopards in the vicinity. Likewise, the peacock sounds out alarm calls against eagles and other birds of prey that hunt other birds apart from them and rodents.
I have much to say and even more to learn from these jungles.
ess bee

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