Dudhwa – an unforgettable 5 days: Day 3

Onwards to Kishanpur sanctuary which was across the Sharda river and 40 kms away from Dudhwa national park. Its famous for its large Barasingha herds that number upto 400-500 deer. We had obtained a special permit to go in as the area was closed to tourists after an unfortunate incident had happened a couple of days back. A dead tiger had been found lying in the middle of one of the main jungle tracks in Kishanpur, close to the nearby farms at the edge of the forest. Post mortem had revealed that it had died of a broken spine, its rear bones completely shattered. Speculation was it may been hit by a train while crossing and had then somehow dragged itself to the track where it died. This incident had come close on heels of 2 more tiger deaths reported in the Philibit district. Understandably the Forest department was on the edge and had closed Kishnapur for further investigations.

Before we hit the main road to Kishanpur we passed through 30 kms of the beautiful Sathiyana range, which we’d been spooked by last night. We saw this eagle barely a kilometer outside the FRH as soon as we entered the jungle. Request if someone can please help me in identifying it.

Entering the tall dense Sal forest beyond the bridge we were enthralled by the beauty of this range which was complimented by a pair of little scaly bellied green woodpeckers – a mother with a juvenile. Here we see the mother.

We were allowed just a couple of hours inside Kishanpur reserve. Driving up to the no 1 watchtower we saw a tree with

prominent tiger scratch marks.

On the watchtower, we saw a pair of pied kingfishers fishing and lots of teals, egrets and jacanas, however quite far away for my 70-300mm.

On the way to another watchtower we saw a spoonbill, busy wading and fishing.

We saw a large herd of barasingha after a while with 100+ deer in the herd. In the past such herds used to number more than 500 at times in certain areas of the reserve such as Kishanpur, Sathiyana and Kakraha Tal.

Classified as vulnerable in the IUCN red list, hunting, poaching and, more important, diversion of the bulk of grassland to agriculture, are considered the main causes of their reduced numbers. Tall grass is not only their food, but also provides security for young fawns during the birthing season.

George Schaller wrote in The Deer and The Tiger, “Most of these remnants have or soon will have reached the point of no return.” The warning, however, was heeded in time. Concerted efforts at saving this species from extinction were made and have now borne fruit.

However we were told that the barasingha’s habitat – the vast grasslands in the Terai were under threat and shrinking. The annual run offs from the Himalayas during the monsoons leads to flooding and over siltation. Over the past 2 decades Nepal has cut down large swathes of the Terai forests across the border and this has accelerated soil erosion and this run off. The silt gradually deteriorates the grassland and makes the grass coarse leading to habitat destruction. Apparently Nepal has been systematically cutting down the forests adjoining the Indian border to be able to effectively deal with an Indian attack should it ever happen!!

On our way back to Sathiyana FRH we got a good shot of a juvenile black necked stork.

In the evening a short distance from the FRH we came upon a chestnut headed bee eater that had caught a plain tiger butterfly. I waited to see if it would be able to eat it and it did in a neat swallow!

Up ahead we surprised a greater coucal scanning the heat hazed grasslands for food. Usually these shy and elusive cousins of the cuckoo are very difficult to catch in the open for a clean shot.

There were many bird species in a dense jungle stretch after the spot where we saw the coucal. This stretch of jungle roughly 2 kms out from the Sathiyana FRH  towards the Dudhwa range is an exceedingly dense, beautiful and different forest range, the likes of which we had not seen elsewhere. Apparently this was the current home range and base of a large adult male leopard which had been sighted often here from the FRH. Here we see a paradise flycatcher female and a red whiskered bulbul going about their business in the boiling evening heat!


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