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Forty Tigers…!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 posted by Bruce 4:42 PM

India’s amazing big cats

About 20 years ago when I began wildlife photography, I dreamed of going to India to photograph tigers. The rich biodiversity found on the sub-continent is without equal and boasts the largest population of the big striped cat in the world.

First tiger cub Tadoba

My first tiger in India; one of four cubs around ‘Telia Lake’ in Tadoba-Anhari-2013…!

Tiger sparring cubs Tadoba

Tiger cubs sparring in Telia Lake, Tadoba-Anhari..a once in a lifetime shot…!

The first photographic book in my library on wildlife is titled ‘Wild India’ by the renowned British photographer, Gerald Cubitt and published by New Holland in London. He traveled all over India capturing most of the wild animals on film including the majestic tiger. The urge to go after this big cat burned in me for many years.

Tadoba cub close-up

‘Telia lake’ cub up-close on my third morning in Tadoba…!

In late-2009, I photographed an Indochinese male tiger (though the lens) in Thailand from a blind which is a very difficult feat to accomplish. These carnivores are so smart and extremely wary, and tough to see in the wild let alone photograph. I also camera-trapped many tigers in several protected areas situated around the Kingdom.

Tadoba cub near the road

Tiger cub near the road in Tadoba…!

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve – Maharashtra State – Count: 11 tigers…!

Tadoba tiger cub hunting

Tiger cub hunting chital at Telia Lake…she was hesitant and missed the deer…!

But the desire to visit India burned in me until I finally made my first trip in April-2013 to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and National Park. I was with my good buddy Luke Stokes who is an up and coming photographer in his own right, and he lives in Thailand like me. We made the flight from Bangkok to Hyderabad, and then the 9-hour taxi ride to the park. I was finally in the ‘Land of the Tiger’…!

Old ‘Wagdoh’ (Scarface) at Telia Lake…he still is the dominant male in this area…!

At the time, Tadoba was one of the top reserves for tiger sightings in India with four tiger cub sisters growing up around Telia Lake. On our second morning, I managed to get a once in a lifetime shot of two sisters sparring in the water. I was certainly off to a good start.

Tadoba Wagdoh (Scarface)

‘Wagdoh’ on the third morning by the road…!

Tadoba Wagdoh at the lake

‘Wagdoh’ at the lake the next day,,,!

The next morning, we bumped into the dominant male and father of the four sisters; old Wagdoh (Scarface) out on the road, and a day later, photographed him at the lake. We also got the other two sisters around the lake during the week. Then, we got a breeding pair over in Tadoba National Park as they went about their natural business.

Tadoba tiger breeding pair

A breeding pair over in Tadoba National Park…!

On our next to the last day in the park, one of the sisters (the jumping tiger facing me) made an appearance near the road to say goodbye, and I got some wonderful close-up shots of her.

Tiger cub by the side of the road saying goodbye…she is the same tiger facing me in the sparring shot…!

Then in early-2015, I made a second trip to Tadoba and managed to get three tigers including Maya T12, Choti Tara T17 and finally, ‘Gabbar’ or ‘Leopard Face’ T42 that had been injured in a fight with another male tiger.

Tadoba 'Maya' tigress

‘Maya’ or T12, is a mature tigress in Tadoba, 2015…!

Tadoba 'Choti Tara'

‘Choti Tara’ or T17, another mature tigress on the road in Tadoba National Park…!

‘Gabbar’ or ‘Leopard Face’ or T42 with a radio collar cooling off in a pond in Tadoba National Park…he was badly injured fighting with another male…!

Ranthambore Tiger Reserve – Rajasthan State – Count: 6 tigers…!

In November-2014, I visited Ranthambore that is India’s most famous tiger reserve. On the third morning of my 7-day safari, I managed to photograph the very infamous dominant male tiger named ‘Ustad’ or T-24, and then later that day got another male named Zalim or T-25, and one of his cubs (he was looking after two cubs at that time).

Ustad2 - Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India

The infamous ‘Ustad’….I caught him in Zone 1 on my third day…!

Then the next day, I got Ustad’s son ‘Sultan’ or T-72 two days in a row. Finally, I snapped ‘Krishna’ or T-19, an equally legendary tigress. Shortly after that, ‘Ustad’ was thrown in a zoo (jail) on trumped-up charges of killing a forest guard. It became a world-class scandal. Poor ‘Ustad’ was out and never to be photographed in the wild again..!

Zalim in Ranthambore

‘Zalim’ out hunting…he had left his two cabs in the bush…!

Zalim's cub in Ranthambore

‘Zalim’s’ cub in thick bush. This was the only shot I got of this young tiger…!

Sultan portrait - Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India

‘Sultan’ looking bored in Zone 6…one of my favorite tiger shots….! A huge crowd of hundreds of Indian tourist had should up behind me…!

‘Sultan’, son of ‘Ustad’ the next morning, also in Zone 6…!

Sultan in Ranthambore3

Sultan’ saying goodbye in Zone 6…!

Tiger male3 in Ranthambore National Park - India

‘Krishna’, a tigress near the Ranthambore Lake…!

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 7 tigers…!

When I made my first trip to Bandhavgarh in November-2014, I was not lucky and did not see any tigers over a four-day visit except for some pug-marks. But in early-2015, I made a second trip to the park and on the finale day of my 4-day safari, got a sub-adult male in the morning and then in the afternoon, photographed ‘Dotty’, a very famous tigress in Zone 2.

Bandhavgarh 1st tiger

A sub-adult male tiger in Zone 2 in 2015…a lucky encounter after 4 days of no sightings….!

'Dotty' in Bandhavgarh

A tigress named ‘Dotty’ in the afternoon on day four…another lucky shot…!

In early March of this year (2017), I made my third visit and caught a sub-adult male in Zone 3 on the very first afternoon. The next morning, I bumped into ‘Spotty’ (sister of ‘Dotty’) and two of her cubs (8-9 months old) in Zone 1. On my next to the last safari, I bumped into ‘Solo’ in Zone 2, a mature female at distance for a nice tiger habitat shot as she sat in the morning sun looking for prey. 

Sub-adult male i Bandhavgarh web

A sub-adult male on my first day in late afternoon on March 2017 in Zone 3….!

Spotty in Bandhavgarh

 On my second day, we bumped into ‘Spotty’ (sister of ‘Dotty’) and her two cubs in Zone 2…!

Spotty's cub1 Bandhavgarh

‘Spotty’s’ cub on the road in Zone 2…!

Spotty's cub2 in Bandhavgarh

‘Spotty’s’ other cub following her sibling and mother….!

Solo in Bandhavgarh

A tigress named ‘Solo’ out in the morning sun waiting on prey….!

Kanha Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 1 tiger…!

In early-2015, I visited Kanha Tiger Reserve. Sightings were down at that time but I finally was able to catch the ‘Budbudi’ female tiger one morning as she walked, roared and scent marked looking for a mate. She came real close to our jeep and crossed in front of us, and then posed on the other side.

Female tiger in Kanha copy

‘Budbudi’ female tiger marking territory in Kanha…!

Kanha Budbudi female

‘Budbudi’ female on the other side of my jeep…!

Pench Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 8 tigers…!

In early-2015, I also traveled to Pench and on the very first morning, got the ‘Patdev’ female tigress and photographed her again in the afternoon. The next morning, I got a sub-adult male. On the third morning, I managed to get some great close-up shots of the very famous ‘Collarwali’, a female tigress with seven litters and 26 cubs to her name.

 Patdev-female-Pench1 web

‘Padtev’ tigress in Zone 1 on the first morning in the bush…!

Patdev female Pench1

‘Patdev’ tigress in Zone 1 in the afternoon (second sighting that day)…!

Collarwali cub2 in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016tev

Sub-adult male on my second morning…!

Collarwali in Pench

‘Collerwali’ on the road in 2015 early the third morning….!

In early-2016, I made a second trip to Pench and photographed ‘Collarwali’ and her two cubs. Then, I got the famous ’Raiyakassa’ male tiger the next afternoon.

Collarwali in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016

‘Collarwali’ still sporting a collar in the early morning on the first day in 2016…!

Collarwali2 in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016

‘Collarwali’ yawning out in the morning sun..

Collarwali cub in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016

‘Collarwali’s’ cub and mother resting in the morning…!

Raiyakassa male tiger in Pench T.R. Mar. 2016 M.P. State, India

‘Raiyakassa’ male tiger and ‘Collarwali’s’ mate in Pench near the lake on March. 2016

I just finished my third trip to Pench but after four days, I left empty-handed. The Forest Department had just burnt fallen leaves along all roads to create fire-breaks and I believe this pushed all the tigers into the interior. There were no sightings in the park at all since the burning.   

Panna Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 2 tigers…!

In early-2016, I also traveled to Panna Tiger Reserve. As most people know, Panna lost all their tigers due to poaching sometime in 2009. The Forest Department decided on a reintroduction program and moved several tigers including a female named T-1 from Bandhavgarh into Panna.

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

A female cub from the ‘T-1 female’ introduced from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve…!

On my very first afternoon, I was lucky and photographed T-1’s female cub at a waterhole. On my third and final day, I got T-1’s other female cub at another waterhole.

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

Another one of ‘T-1’s’ cubs. This was on my way out of the park…she said goodbye…!

Corbett Tiger Reserve – Utterakhand State – Count: 3 tigers…!

Of course, no trip to India would not be complete without visiting Corbett Tiger Reserve in Northern East India. This park is named after the very famous Jim Corbett (naturalist, photographer, author and hunter of many man-eating tigers and leopards in India).

In early-2015, I managed to catch a young female tigress chasing chital deer in the Dhikala grasslands not far from the camp. Throughout that day, we saw her several times.

A young tigress in the Dhikala grasslands chasing chital deer…2015…!

Corbett tiger female w-kill web

‘Parrwali’ tigress near the Ramgangar River with a chital fawn in her jaws…2016…!

Parwalie in Corbett..

Parrwali on ‘Sambar Road’ not far from Dhikala camp…!

In early-2016, I photographed Corbett’s most famous female tiger at the moment named ‘Parrwali’ with a chital fawn kill in her jaws across the Ramgangar River. This is my best shot of a tiger in India so far; predation is tough to get and I was lucky. I then caught Parrwali and an un-named sub-adult male tiger on ‘Sambar Road’ the next two days.

Tiger in Corbett 'Sal' forest

A mature male tiger crossing the road not far from Dhikala camp…a habitat shot…2017…!

I have just returned from a trip to Corbett in Dhikala and Birjani areas. On the second morning in Dhikala, a male tiger crossed the main road through the ‘Sal forest’ in mid-morning not far from camp and I was able to get some nice shots in the morning sun. In Birjani, I did see the famous ‘Sarmilly’ female tiger in the afternoon on the second day but she stayed hidden for the most part and I did not get a photo.

Kaziranga National Park – Assam State – Count: 0 tigers…!

In Early-2015, I traveled to Kaziranga, one of India’s greatest wildlife reserves with some 2,400 Asian one-horned rhinos, 1,300 wild water buffalos and 1,000 Asian elephants. There are suppose to be about 200 tigers in the park. However, I did not get a tiger but only a set of pug-marks one morning.

Satpura Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 0 tigers…!

 In early-2015, I traveled to Satpura but did not see a tiger. They are very difficult to see here.

Vanghat (Private) Eco-lodge – Utterakhand State – Count: 1 tiger…!

I have always wanted to use camera traps in India but the Forest Department does not allow outsiders to do this in any of the tiger reserves, and for the most part is set aside for their own research teams. After some consultations with the owner of an eco-lodge near Corbett, it was decided to set a DSLR camera trap near the Ramgangar River up a mountain ridge line. I managed to get a great shot of a young female tiger on the second night.

Female tiger in Vanghat Private reserve

Young tigress camera trapped in the Corbett landscape up a ridge line near the Ramgangar River….2016…!

You can say I’m hooked on photographing tigers in India. I’ve just finished my sixth trip and got 6 tigers this time. I look forward to future visits to add more tiger shots to my files.

Note: This number is the actual tigers photographed with some duplication. Nikon D3s, Nikon D4s, D3oos bodies and Nikon 200-400  and Nikon 70-200 Telephoto lenses were used plus a Nikon D3000 for the camera trap shot…!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Asiatic Lions of Gir

Monday, March 27, 2017 posted by Bruce 1:22 PM

India’s remarkable conservation success story…!

Female lion portrait in Gir web

Hunting lioness close-up in Gir National Park and Sanctuary (buffer zone)….! 

Once upon a time, the Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) ranged from the Mediterranean through to the northeastern parts of the Indian sub-continent. The lion disappeared from all these areas due to reckless hunting and loss of habitat except for Gir forest where the last few individuals remained.

Chital and lioness in Gir web

Chital (spotted deer) buck passing close to a hunting lioness….!

In 1913, the Nawab of Junagadh and the government became aware that very few lions were left and outlawed all hunting, and began a conservation program to save the species from the threshold of extinction. Due to excellent management and conservation efforts by the Forest Department and immense support from the people of Saurashtra, this carnivore is surviving very well and some 523 individuals now roam in the Gir Asiatic Lion Conservation Area estimated at 22,000 square kilometers in Gujarat State.

Female lion yawning in Gir web

Hunting lioness yawning in a dry stream bed in the buffer zone of Gir National Park …!

I decided that it was time to visit Gir and on my finale safari for this year, I took the flight to Ahmedabad from Delhi and then an 8-hour taxi ride to the Asiatic Lion Lodge near to Sasan-Gir, a town close to the gate of Gir National Park & Sanctuary. Sightings of lions have been down but on my second morning, I got lucky.

Female lion in the treesnweb

Lioness coming through the trees following chital deer….!

I bumped into a hunting lioness in the ‘Buffer Zone’ very close to a village in a dry stream bed about 7.00am. She was sighted by the driver and was about a 100 meters away lying down waiting for some chital (spotted deer) but did not attack as the deer passed very close to her. She then got up, yawned and started moving towards us, and then crossed in front on my jeep at 5-6 meters staring right at me. She was in hunting mode and just kept going after the deer. I did not have much time at all and only got off a few shots shown here.

Asiatic lion male web

Lioness in Gir web

A male (above) and female lion (below) by Ramesh Sarvani….!

I would like to thank Karan Singh Chauhan, the resort manager and his staff for the great hospitality shown while I stayed at the ‘Asiatic Lion Lodge’ in Sasan-Gir. I would also like to thank Ramesh Sarvani for the use of his lion images for this post. Finally, special thanks goes to Anu Marwah, my agent in India. She has made this all possible and I look forward to future visits to this great country with some of the most amazing wildlife in the world.

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The Plight of the Indian Gharial

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 posted by Bruce 3:31 PM

A rare crocodilian under threat

Male gharial with fishnetweb

A male gharial with fishnet wrapped around it’s snout…!

I have just returned from a crocodile sanctuary in Northeast India where the common mugger and the rare gharial are found in fair numbers. The Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 400 square kilometers and was established in 1975. The protected area is in the Upper Gangetic plain situated in Uttar Pradesh State in Northeast India

Male gharial with fishnet2

A close-up of the male gharial with fishnet…!

The Katerniaghat Forest provides strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Its fragile Terai ecosystem comprises a mosaic of sal and teak forests, lush grasslands, numerous swamps and wetlands. It is home to a number of endangered species including the gharial, tiger, rhino, Gangetic dolphin, swamp deer, hispid hare, Bengal florican, the white-backed and long-billed vultures. 

Gharial with fishnet2web

A female gharial with fishnet…red-whistling ducks in the back…!

One of the best places in the world for seeing the gharial in its natural habitat is the Girwa River, where it is found sympatric with the mugger crocodile. The population of gharials in this stretch was one of the three that were still breeding, when the project to conserve this reptile from the verge of extinction was initiated in 1975. However, between the years of 2001 and 2005, almost all the gharial nests were raided by tribals who consider them a delicacy.

Gharial with fishnet1web

Another female gharial with fishnet…!

The sanctuary is under the Indian Forest Department’s responsibility, and breeding of the gharial is being carried out at the station next to the lake. This crocodilian was almost wiped out in India by poachers for the crocodile skin trade but was saved by concerted efforts not to loose this important crocodile species. They are breeding quite well here and have been released into the lake. There are about 200 gharial surviving with programs for future reintroduction.

Breeding gharial

A young gharial in the breeding center…!

Fishing is strictly prohibited but unfortunately, illegal fishing with nets is being carried out by local and Nepalese fisherman, probably at night when there are no patrolling boats around. I photographed quite a few gharials with fishnets wrapped around their snouts. This is of course is unacceptable and the Forest Department at Katarniaghat needs to abduct any people involved in these activities.

Gharial, mugger and whistling ducks

Gharials, mugger and whistling ducks…!

The gharials need to be captured and this nylon net material removed. It is the duty of the FD to see that these creatures live their life in harmony without any harm coming to them.

 

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Happy New Year 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017 posted by Bruce 1:14 PM

Hi all: Wishing everyone a wonderful New Year 2017……!!! I was extremely lucky to photograph a tiger cub (No: 2 born in the wild) from the first female tiger (T-1) reintroduce a couple years ago……it was absolutely some of my best tiger encounters in India during early 2016. I will be returning to India in late Feb-early March for one more trip after some particular shots to close out my next book project…hope that all of you will have a great year..!!

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

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My ‘Bucket List’ trip to the USA and Canada – 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016 posted by Bruce 3:49 PM

Places I wanted to see before kicking a bucket…so to speak…!!

grand-canyon-south-rim-1st-morning-web-copy

The ‘Grand Canyon’  in Arizona at the ‘South Rim’ in early morning light…!

When I was a kid in kindergarten, we were taught about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ and, the Grand Canyon in the USA was one of those places. Our teachers drummed it into our heads. They also talked about an old natural steam geyser in Yellowstone National Park named ‘Old Faithful’…!

old-faithful-blowing-web

This is the famous ‘Old Faithful Geyser’ in Yellowstone…!

yellowstone-waterfall-web

Lower Yellowstone Falls…!

This natural wonder is in Yellowstone, the world’s first protected area established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. As years past, I often read and saw pictures of these beautiful and great places in America, and wanted to visit as many as possible before I kicked the bucket, so to speak.

bucket-list-start-at-the-intercontinental-in-la-web

Me and my wife ‘Noi’ and the Dodge SUV at the Intercontinental Hotel close to LAX…!

For my first ‘Bucket List’ trip, no holds were barred. Last year, my wife broke her leg in a fall down some stairs in the house in Bangkok. As I wanted to take her along, I postponed my trip in 2015. But this year, I was bound and determined to do my ‘bucket list’ and we departed Bangkok on the 1st September, 2016. After a long grueling flight, we arrived in Los Angeles and went to the Intercontinental Hotel close to LAX spending two nights resting up.

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A rest-stop on the famous ‘Route 66’ in California…!

We then spent a few more days in LA visiting friends here and there, and then on 5th Sept., we headed off in a rental car (Dodge SUV) leaving early in the morning and traveling on Route 66 to the ‘South Rim’ of the Grand Canyon National Park run by the U.S. National Parks Service, and arriving in the late afternoon. We checked into the Yavapai Hotel for a two-night stay. The weather was cool and clear with no cloud cover – perfect for photography the next morning.

grand-canyon2-web

The ‘Grand Canyon’  further up the ‘South Rim’…!

My wife stayed in bed but I went to the ‘South Rim’ at 5am and waited for sunrise. It was scary out there for me, even with a barrier – many people have fallen into the canyon by being foolish and taking a risk getting too close to the edge which means certain death if you fall in. Eventually light filled the canyon and I got some spectacular shots.

grand-canyon-3-web

The ‘Grand Canyon’ 30 miles east of the ‘South Rim’…!

There are many other areas at the ‘South Rim’ of the Grand Canyon to see but time was short and we had to move on. The next stop was the ‘North Rim’ but as we arrived at the turn-off, a big fire was raging and not wanting to be delayed, carried on to our next destination which was Zion National Park in Utah.

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At the ‘South Rim’ of the Grand Canyon in late morning…!

at-the-grand-canyon-hotel

At the ‘Yavapai Hotel’ in Grand Canyon-South Rim…!

We entered Zion and 10 minutes from the gate, were greeted by a herd of ‘Desert Big Horn’ sheep. They were breeding and several rams were only interested in the females and paid no attention to us. I got some great eye-level shots which are rare for this species; they are usually seen high up on the cliffs. I also managed to get some very nice landscape photos of some interesting geological formations sculpted over millions of years. Our trip to Zion was well worth the effort.

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desert-big-horn-ram-in-zion-web

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‘Desert Big Horn Sheep’ by the side of the road in Zion National Park – a lucky encounter….!

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 Some of the weird sandstone formations in Zion National Park, Utah…!

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Sunset at Zion….That is an eagle flying up near the cliff….!

I also managed a side trip to Bryce Canyon National Park near-by to see those natural formations but kept my visit to a minimum as there were many tourists and parking was near impossible. After two days, we left Zion for the long haul to Salt Lake City visiting with friends there and a needed rest stop for the next haul to Grand Teton National Park further north.

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah at mid-day…!

The next morning after we had breakfast, we headed out to the Grand Teton National Park. It’s a beautiful place in September with clear blue skies and crisp weather. The mountain range vista of the Tetons is absolutely stunning but I was not lucky, and it was socked in the next morning and so did not get any good photos of the mountain range. After two days, we had to move on to our next destination.

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Grand Teton mountain range in Wyoming during the late afternoon….!

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Having lunch in Grand Teton National Park: it was absolutely beautiful at this spot…!

Yellowstone National Park was not accessible from Grand Teton through the ‘Southern Gate’ due to a large forest fire there. We had to detour around and enter at the ‘Western Gate’ but as we were booked into a hotel there, it worked out OK.

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A common sight in Yellowstone National Park: An American bison or buffalo…!

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A ‘Rocky Mountain’ big horn ram blocking traffic over in east Yellowstone…!

However, it was raining and sleeting when we arrived late in the afternoon, and thought my photography would be washed out. But about mid-morning on the next day, it cleared up and I got some really nice shots of the landscape and buffalo (plenty of them). There were no bears (heading into the interior looking for a hibernation dens) or elk. I saw one bull elk early on the second morning bugling at a distance but no photos.

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Along one of the many tributaries of the Yellowstone River system…!

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Fresh snow laid the night before: elevation about 7,000 feet…!

We went to see ‘Old Faithful’, and ticked off another ‘bucket list’ checkbox. There were loads and loads of tourists (some 1500 plus people sitting around the old geyser) and traffic was bad; specially when someone saw a buffalo, big horn or bear in a tree.

us-at-old-faithful-web

My top ‘bucket list’ finally ticked off….!

In Yellowstone, there are a couple of areas along the road that was very narrow and just one slip-up meant going over the small curb and thousands of feet down to a certain death. The next day, we left Yellowstone and I look back on this segment of my ‘Bucket List’ trip and believe it came up to my expectations for the entire trip except for poor weather in Grand Teton. I will return to these beautiful places with my family again one day…!

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Our last morning in West Yellowstone: it was cold when we departed…!

I then sent my wife to Boseman, Montana so she could fly over to Seattle to see a Thai friend. I then headed north to a small town called ‘Malta’ for an over night stay at a little motel. The owner was a serious wildlife hunter and has the grand slam of North American Sheep (4 species) and a Rocky Mountain Goat trophy on his wall in the hotel office. We had a nice talk about the situation around Malta. It certainly is a small town on the way to Canada which I did the next day.

canadian-100-sign

The ‘100’ Canadian speed sign: a conspiracy for sure with no ‘kilometer per hour’ marking…!

Crossing the Canadian border into Saskatchewan was uneventful other then seeing a speed-100 sign and thinking it was miles per hour…it was sometime before I realized I was going in ‘miles-per-hour’…I did get stopped going 115 as the police woman RCMP was trailing a semi-tractor. Her lights went on after I passed her. She gave me warning but let me go.

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Driving into Calgary, Alberta, Canada: It was dark and forbidding…!

I finally found the ‘Kilometers per hour’ switch on the steering wheel column and slowed the heck down driving all the way across Alberta and British Columbia ending up in Vancouver Island to see a friend. After 4-days, I packed-up and made my way back to the U.S. at Port Angeles in Washington State for the drive to Seattle to pick up my wife. We then eventually found our way back to L.A. arriving on the 31st September for the end of this ‘bucket list’ trip. All and all, it was great to finally see and photograph some of the greatest places and most beautiful protected areas in the U.S., and the World for that matter…! Total Distance 4, 484 miles…!

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The Canadian ‘100’ speed sign conspiracy…!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 posted by Bruce 12:28 AM

canadian-100-sign

If you ever cross the Canadian border in the State of Montana north of the town named Malta; BEWARE…! I recently was on my ‘bucket list’ travels in North America through this border crossing and was unaware that ‘kilometers per hour’ (kmh) is enforced….I saw the sign above and figured I was still in ‘miles per hour’ (mph)…and thought that the Canadians were crazy to go this fast. I traveled through some twenty small towns at about 80 mph (way over the limit) that are maned by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) going pretty fast thinking that I was OK….but on a long curve that was legal to pass with a semi-truck in front and two cars behind, I moved on out to pass and sure as Canada is ‘cold in the winter’, I passed a police car driven by a female officer.

Oh boy, I was in the poop now when her lights came on…I of course stopped immediately and handed her my ‘Texas’ drivers license with the ‘California’ (plate) rental car papers. She said I was going 115 and I thought that was not possible…I’ve never been 115 miles per hour in my life except on a jet plane and the ‘Japanese Bullet Train’. But I remained calm and was nice with ‘yes mam-no mam’ and she let me go….whew…that was a close one…an angel overhead was looking out for me….!!

The morale of this story:  watch yourself going into Canada from the U.S….there is a conspiracy to catch American drivers thinking (like me) that they are still driving in ‘miles per hour’ north of the border…the photo of the sign above tells the story….I was lucky and got off with a warning…it could have been a lot worse….!!

 

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Land of the Flying Antelope…!

Monday, May 2, 2016 posted by Bruce 12:02 PM

Beautiful herbivores with spiraled horns endemic to the Indian subcontinent…!

Blackbuck National Park – Velavadar

Blackbuck male 1 flying Blackbuck National Park - Veladavere

A young male blackbuck in mid-air over the grasslands at the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat State, western India…!

A dream ever since I saw my first pictures of an Indian blackbuck antelope was to photograph these magnificent creatures one day. It has taken me 20 years since I saw them in a book titled ‘Wild India’ by English photographer Gerald Cubitt published in 1985. This was actually my first book on wildlife photography where I got an inspiration to become a wildlife photographer.

Blackbuck male 1 Blackbuck National Park - Veladavere

A mature male blackbuck seeking a female in heat early the first morning of my safari…!

I have seen many photographs of blackbuck since then in many other books on India, and on Facebook. I decided that a trip to the blackbuck sanctuary in Gujarat, western India this time around would be part of my month-long safari through March and April, 2016.

Blackbuck female 1 Blackbuck National Park - Veladavere

A female blackbuck in mid-air on the second morning while on safari in Velavadar…!

I left Delhi by plane and arrived in the city Ahmedabad for an overnight stay at a nice hotel in the city. The next morning after breakfast, my taxi from the night before picked me up and we headed out.

Blackbuck females flying Blackbuck National Park - Veladavere, India

Female blackbuck antelopes in the air after crossing the road in front of our jeep…!

The drive took about 4 hours to the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, and I saw the herbivores crossing the road as we entered the national park. I knew then that I was in the right place.

Blackbucks on the run in Blackbuck National Park - Veladavor

Blackbuck males and females in the grasslands…this herd was several hundred strong…!

The hotel named ‘The Blackbuck Lodge’ is a great place to stay and I must congratulate Mr. Mickey Desai for his 6-star hotel in the middle of nowhere. He has made many trips to Africa and other places around the world, and brought those ideas incorporating them into his place. It was truly a comfortable stay and I rested up for the next morning’s safari into the park at 6am.

Blackbuck male 1 Blackbuck National Park, Veladavere, India

A male photographed by the ‘Blackbuck Lodge’ in the late afternoon on my last day…!

As we entered the gate the following morning, we immediately bumped into a large herd of blackbuck and I started shooting. I was looking for a particular shot but it didn’t happen the first day. I wanted these nimble herbivores in mid-air having seen many photographs on Facebook. My guide Mr. Siddharth Jhadav had been there for sometime and he told me the conditions had to be right. We also bumped into several animals like nilgai, striped hyena and Indian fox.

Nilgai Blue Bull antelope in Velavador, Gujarat, India

A Nilgai also known as ‘blue bull’ in the Blackbuck National Park…!

The next day, as we were motoring along, a large herd of a several hundred or more blackbuck on our left began to move across the road. Then the females began to jump and the rest of the herd followed. The older darker males however were lazy and only ran across. It was fun trying to catch them in mid-air and my dream to photograph this beautiful and amazing antelope has come true…!

 

 

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Eight tigers in two-weeks…!

Thursday, April 21, 2016 posted by Bruce 10:00 PM

A month long safari to the Indian sub-continent

Collarwali, the ‘Queen of Pench’ passing in front of my jeep; she has had 22 cubs and 6 litters and is one of my favorite tigers in India…!

India is a spectacular wildlife paradise showcasing the magnificent Bengal tiger. There is about two thousand thriving on the sub-continent and it’s the largest population remaining on the planet. These big cats still thrive very well in many protected areas and even outside some parks and sanctuaries, and at times are quite easy to see. However, they can also be very elusive and it really depends on one’s luck.

I arrived in New Delhi on March 20th at noon from Bangkok, Thailand, which takes about three and half hours flying time. Air India is a great airline and allows 40 kilograms of check-in baggage on business class which I needed as I had two DSLR camera traps, two sensors and four flashes, plus other assorted photographic equipment like my tripod, boots and clothes, etc. My two bags were very close to that limit and I hate paying overweight…!

I stayed in Delhi for one night and then caught the train the next afternoon going north to Ramganga city arriving in the evening and staying at the Tiger Camp Lodge on the way to Corbett Tiger Reserve and National Park. I slept well after the four-hour train-ride that is hectic going through Old Delhi train station fighting thousands of people to get on board. It is a madhouse…!

 VANGHAT WILDLIFE RESERVE

Female tiger in Vanghat Private reserve

The Vanghat female tiger camera trapped with a Nikon D3000 trail cam…!

The next morning, my first stop was Vanghat Wildlife Reserve and Lodge (private land) situated on the Ramganga River which is reported to have tiger, leopard, crocodile and other creatures common to the Corbett Landscape in the lower-Himalayan Mountains. The owner, Mr. Sumanthn Ghosh is an avid nature lover and was eager to see what was roaming his forest and hills. Little did he or I know that a female tiger was around and tripped my Nikon D3000 camera trap on the night of March 28th up on a ridgeline. She turned out to be prime female living in her patch.

CORBETT TIGER RESERVE

Female tiger with a spotted deer kill in Corbett NP

‘Parwali’ female tiger in Corbet Tiger Reserve with a spotted deer (chital) fawn…! 

The next morning, I went into Corbett National Park to visit the grasslands at Dhikala Lodge run by the government where many tigers roam looking for prey. On the second morning, we bumped into a female that was hunting across the Ramganga River. Timing was perfect and she stepped on to the road with a spotted deer fawn in her mouth. It certainly was a once-in-a lifetime shot for me and I was pleased to say the least. Over the next few days, I saw her a few more times here and there. At that moment, Parwali (her name) is the most photographed tiger in Corbett and I feel lucky to have captured her with prey; behavior is tough with tigers..!

PANNA TIGER RESERVE

Panna tiger cub 1

Panna’s larger female cub of T-1 on my first afternoon safari…!

From Corbett, it was back to Delhi on the train followed by anther train ride going further south but this time it was an overnighter. At my age, sleeping on a train is almost impossible and it was a long night. The next morning, we arrived at Khajuraho station and a driver was there to pick me up and drive to the Ken River Lodge owned by Mr. Shyamendra Singh on the Ken River not far from the main gate into Panna Tiger Reserve.

Panna tiger cub 2

Panna’s smaller cub of T-1 on my last afternoon at a secluded waterhole by the road…!

That afternoon, Mr. Shukra, a very experienced guide and I entered the park at 3pm and in the late afternoon, saw a female cub from T-1 at a waterhole taking a drink. (Panna lost all their tigers in 2008 and she was the first reintroduced tiger). On my last safari, I bumped into T-1’s other smaller cub. Now that was some seriously good luck.

PENCH TIGER RESERVE

Collerwali yawning after a late morning slumber not far from the Pench River…!

Then after a long 8-hour taxi ride, I ended up in Pench Tiger Reserve southwest of Panna, and met up with my good friend Omeer (Omi) Choudhary, a guide, driver and naturalist for the Tuli Tiger Corridor Lodge. Over the next couple of days, he put me in front of Collerwali, the ‘Queen of Pench’ and the most famous tigress with 22-recorded cubs and 6 litters. I also saw two of her latest cubs, a male and female. And then Omi put me in the right place near closing time to catch Mr Big known as ‘Raiyakassa’ as he walked up from a mud bath. It was hot and he was cooling off.

Collarwali’s male cub watching the jeeps with the queen resting behind him…!

Collarwali’s female cub resting on a rock during a late morning safari…!

Raiyakassa, the male tiger and Collarwali’s mate just up from a mud-hole…!

That was it — eight tigers in two weeks. I guess I was lucky but I did pray to ‘Jim Corbett’s spirit plus the spirit of the Banyon Tree; Sitti Mama. She knew what I wanted and provided me with some amazing tiger shots… Overall, a successful trip and one that will be etched in memory for as long as I live…!!

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A trip to Chambal River in Agra, India

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 posted by Bruce 8:25 AM

Gharial crocodiles and the Sarus crane were the main objective…!

This was to be my last safari on this month long trip to India. The site is situated in Agra, east of Delhi where the famous Taj Mahal is located.

Gharial crocodile by the Chambal River

A female gharial regulating her body temperature early in the morning by the Chambal River in Agra…!

The Chambal River has some very interesting creatures and the main ones I was after were the gharial (thin-jawed fish eating crocodile) and the Sarus crane (the world’s tallest bird). Time was limited and I was lucky to photographed both species in one day.

Gharial crocodile by the Chambal River

Another female gharial and its tell-tale thin jaw for catching fish; they are an amazing crocodilian…!

I stayed at the Chambal Safari Hotel some 70 kilometers past the city of Agra. We left at 5am and arrived at the boat landing where a speed boat was waiting near dawn that was another 22 kilometers from the lodge.

Gharial crocodile by the Chambal River

And yet another female gharial before slipping into the Chambal River…! No males were photographed…!

Within no time at all, we bumped into gharial and I got several but they were all female. The males would slip into the river as soon as they spotted us.

Sarus cranes at Chambal River, Agra

A breeding pair of Sarus cranes feeding and dancing on Chambal; these wonderful birds mate for life…!

But I was happy to get some decent photographs and as the sun rose into the sky, it became dreadfully hot and light was very harsh so we returned to the hotel for lunch.

Sarus cranes at Chambal River, Agra

The Sarus crane is the tallest bird in the world and they are thriving very well in India at several locations….!

Other species captured were the mugger crocodile and Indian blue peafowl in full display mode. Many water birds are also found here.

Indian peafowl male in Chambal

A Indian peafowl male in full display. These birds thrive by the river and are absolutely beautiful…!

Back again at 3:30pm and we motored up the river once again. Shortly thereafter, two Sarus cranes were spotted feeding along a sandy bank. I was delighted and surprised to see how close we got to the tall birds.

Mugger crocodile by the Chambal River

A mugger or marsh crocodile basking in the morning sun. This reptile is estimated to be about 3 meters long…!

I will return in mid-March 2017 when the weather is much cooler and the crocs are a lot easier to see when they need to bask for long periods in the sun regulating their body temperature due to the very cold river. All in all, it was a quick but very satisfying trip to the Chambal River. Enjoy…!

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Pench Tiger Reserve: A fantastic trip with a close friend…!

Sunday, April 10, 2016 posted by Bruce 8:30 PM

An amazing forest in India’s Madhya Pradesh with some truly beautiful tigers…!

Collarwali on her way to the Pench River for an early morning drink…!

Being at the right place and right time always works. I arrived at the Tulie Tiger Corridor Resort close to Pench Tiger Reserve in the late evening of April 2nd and was greeted by my very good friend and naturalist, Omeer (Omi) Choudhary. As it was late and I was totally bushed from a long haul (airline flight from Ahmedabad in Gujarat visiting the Blackbuck-Velavadar National Park, and then a grueling 3-hour taxi ride from Nagpur), it was straight to bed for an early start the next morning.

Collarwali the next morning yawning after a long sleep…!

Up at five and after quick coffee and gate formalities, we entered the park at 6am and drove to the other side of the park (one hour drive) where the famous female tiger ‘Collarwali’ of Pench and her two cubs were being seen. That morning, I got a glimpse of ‘stripes in the grass’ and that was that. In the afternoon, one of her cubs was lying in the dense bush and I was able to get some good shots.

One of Collarwali cubs resting in the afternoon…!

The next morning however as we were sitting in the jeep waiting on some action, ‘Collarwali’ step out in front of us and walked down to the Pench River. It was great to see her again in lovely morning light. She is one of my favorite tigers in India…!

Collarwali’s other cub with mother in the back…!

The next morning and final day of my safari, I paid respects to the ‘Spirit of the Banyan Tree’ with a coconut and some joss sticks at the gate. After a 40-minute drive (short-cut), we found ‘Collarwali’ sleeping with a cub on a big rock and I got both of them together but at distance.

Raiyakassa, the dominant male tiger walking past the jeep all muddied up from a snooze in the big pond…!

In the afternoon very near closing time, we bumped into a leopard (rare for Pench) and I got a few shots. Then, as we were motoring back to the lodge just before the deadline of 6:30pm, we bumped into the dominant male (Collarwali’s mate Raiyakassa) walking towards us from the big pond. He was half covered in mud but still a magnificent creature and I was able to get a bunch of great images as he walked very close to our jeep. It was that good old ‘right time and right place’ and the ‘Spirit of the Banyan Tree’. What a fitting end to my second trip to Pench and I would like to thank Omi for his wonderful spirit and friendship…I will miss him..!

Raiyakassa caught head on…he is truly a beautiful male tiger and father of many of Collarwali’s cubs (22 cubs-6 litters)…!

As most people know now, Pench recently lost the Baghin Nala female and two of her cubs to poisoning on March 28th. This is very unfortunate for the park, Forest Department and people who love to see tigers. Fortunately, the other two cubs were saved and shifted to Kanha as they surely would have died too. It could take sometime for another big cat to fill this void and the danger will still be there of future poisonings.

On a good note, some of the poachers involved in this case have been apprehended and the others are being sought after. This incident plus others (27 tigers killed by poisoning and other circumstances in India since the Jan. 1st) is a growing trend and the ruthless Chinese tiger bone medicine devils are behind this. Somehow it must be stopped now or more tigers will be lost to this mindless draconian practice…!!

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