Sunday, May 17, 2015

Andamans - final part


Read the earlier post here...

In the last post, I had showcased images of some of the birds we could see on our trip. Continuing that in this post, I will few more images not only restricted to birds but also covering landscapes, butterflies and some generic.

Hope to have your attention :)

Also adding few notes to help the travelers out there who intend to explore the island for some birding and travel.

Notes:
> We traveled by Air from Chennai to Port Blair and return in the same way. Blr-Chennai was covered by Shatabdi express train. Taking a stopover flight from Blr-Portable would be ideal if a good airfare offer is on.

> Standard taxi fares in Port Blair (irrespective of vehicle size and make), so chose a bigger vehicle for space and flexibility. Rates are fixed for destinations and day long hires costs are also fixed, roughly about 2500/- when we went in 2013.

> We stayed at Hotel Aparupa that is a budget hotel and mind you budget hotel fares start only from about 1500+ tax for a small and simple double room. Food is extra.

> Only two (if I'm not wrong) 'vegetarian' hotels in Port Blair and are little expensive. In general, most of the decent hotels are expensive. Don't expect non-veg food to be cheap, they are equally expensive.

> Port Blair, being an island is very small and houses most of the facilities that you would need on your trip with the airport and the harbor.

> Rates compared to any other tourism places is on the higher side and you will definitely feel it if you are traveling on your own.

> Havelock Island is by far the most popular and the touristy island, renowned for its world famous Radhanagar beach, that we visited and sure is one of the best in the world.

> Havelock Island and Chidiyatapu are the locations for scuba diving, the former preferred more, but we did it in Chidiyatapu and enjoyed it. Read it here.

> Ross Island, Viper Island, Small Andamans, Neil island are some of the important islands on the tourist circuit.

> Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Caves at Ross Island, Sunset at Havelock are some of the places/activities not to be missed.

> Vikram Shil was our guide who is a localite and knows the locations very well and is the preferred person by any individual/group visiting. He is generally booked well in advance and can be reached on +91 9434262681

> Please remember, nature can play havoc anytime it wants to and could be in the form of cyclones, tsunami or dull, cloudy days. Any amount of planning or precaution may or may not work in your favor and keeping calm and having spare days on hand is ideal.

> Again, the airport / port functions if the weather is ideal, else you are 'stuck' there till the conditions turn favorable.

> Sun rises very early here and sets very early. So, at 6pm you are staring at pitch darkness and at 5am you have bright sunshine.

> Birding in general is difficult as the canopies are very high and light reaching the base is very less and in some places nil. The birding is mostly from the roads or near marshes and not many trails inside.

> You may see snakes, birds, butterflies but sighting the big mammals is very difficult considering how dense the forests are, in fact there are no big cats in the Islands.

> Narcondam Hornbill is a bird every birder would have on his wishlist, but unfortunately the island is a no-go with permissions not given to visit as it's a secured location. Nicobar islands hold many gems and again visiting them is practically difficult and permissions, very hard to obtain.

Below is a video of the nature's wrath we felt, cyclone Lehar unleashing its fury. Sadly, no news of Andaman & Nicobars is considered worth to be of national news importance and hardly shown in the mainstream media.


video

Below are other images that I was able to get through my visit to the islands.

(Light availability is difficult in many places)


(boundaries are only for man!)




(Andaman Tree Nymph, a very delicate butterfly that glides)


(Brown Shrike, this is a subspecies of the mainland visitor that visits this region)


(An un-id'd snake, found it crossing the road in the evening)


(Blue-tailed bee-eater, again a subspecies that visits this region)


(White-breasted Woodswallow, found only in the Havelock Island)


(Andaman Monitor Lizard, unexpected catch from the mangroves)


(Eastern Jungle Crow)


(A couple enjoying the sunset at Radhanagar beach, Havelock Island)



That's it from me folks for now :)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Capturing Wildlife moments - by Ashok Mahindra


Capturing Wildlife moments - A coffee table book by Ashok Mahindra

I have glanced through many books and quite a lot of them are either too monopolistic (focusing only on one subject like the tiger or the elephant) or too dramatic (some carry more photos of the people than wildlife itself)..., but this book caught my attention with varied subjects being showcased right from a common sparrow to the very elusive Malayan Giant Squirrel. This for me in itself speaks about the intent of this book that is aptly described by the author, Ashok Mahindra as below…





My endeavor as a photographer is to encourage people to care for all threatened species – from the smallest insects to the biggest cats – before it is too late.

Let me highlight some of the strong points from my viewpoint about this book…

1. Malayan Giant Squirrel, Himalayan Black Bear, Hoolock Gibbon, Wild Buffallo, Stump-tailed Macaque, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Gharials representation with descriptions is the winning point of this book.




2. Mangrove roots, Termite mounds, Trees of Kanha & Bandhavgarh along with some behavioral descriptions and illustrations caught my attention that emphasizes the importance of everything in the wild, be it big or small, be it flora or fauna.

3. The lesser fauna (to the large sect of people) representation such as the frogs, butterflies, spiders, gecko along with their behavioral description is sure to hold the reader’s attention providing them insights into many forms of life that they would have been ignorant about.

4. The big mammals like the tigers, elephants, lions, leopards, rhino with some interesting facts and stories about them fill the dominant part of the book.




5. Pictorial representation of common species like the cormorant, sparrow, kingfisher, painted stork is sure a differentiator from many books that tend to overlook them.

6. Some of the images are stories by themselves like the couple of rich landscape photos or some of those individual tiger frames or the photos showcasing elephant behaviors.

7. The Thirteen ways forward conceptualized by Ashok Mahindra effectively summaries the current situation we are in and what needs to be done.

8. The author has covered a large portion of the wildlife inhabited areas in India ranging from Dachigam in Kashmir to Valapari in Tamil Nadu and from Gir in Gujarat to Kaziranga in Assam that speaks about the voluminous effort put in and it’s very likely this collection is over a period of many years of traveling the wild in India.



What I felt could have been better in the book was the layout formation and more emphasis on certain text (highlights in a paragraph) and inclusion of scientific names would have added more value.

For a nature lover, seeing wildlife is complete bliss and taking the effort to compile them and add substantial information about their status, behavior, distribution, threats is itself an accomplishment worth accolades.

Overall, a good coffee table book to read through that conveys a very strong message and hopes to inspire the young Indian generation in conserving what is left of the natural resources.



"This post is a part of the book review program of at Saevus Wildlife India in association with The Hemchand Mahindra Foundation for the book Capturing Wildlife Moments in India"

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Andamans birding


Day 1 - Scuba diving at Chidiyatapu
Day 2 - Jirkatang road birding
Day 3 - wash out due to Lehar cyclone
Day 4 - Chidiyatapu birding trails and local harbour
Day 5 - Chidiyatapur trails and Sippy ghat
Day 6 - Havelock Island
Day 7 - Jirkatang road birding
Day 8 - Corbyn's Cove and departure

In short, this was the summary of our week long birding and wildlife trip to the Andaman islands of which two full days were lost due to the Lehar cyclone that hampered the weather, our plans and made us miss quite a few species that were otherwise had to be seen.

Tsunami had a devastating effect on these islands and the proofs of that are still evident today with numerous localities lost and some tracts of land lost forever to the might of the sea/ocean. Lehar cyclone came in unexpected and hit with greater impact than expected (was expected to be a passing one with the impact being a gloomy half day with some showers) and Mount Harriet and Havelock islands bore most of the severity of the cyclone.

We thought of cancelling and pulling out mid way but when the cyclone hits the islands, all services are disrupted and importantly the air services are cancelled for the days till the impact reduces. So, in short we were stuck on the island and had to bear the gloomy days. Being positive thinkers and having planned and spent, we decided to complete our trip to the T and then return as per our schedule. Photography wise, it was not very fulfilling but sighting the species through your eyes and binoculars were rewarding enough.

Overall, birding in Andamans is no easy job, there are no definite trails as such and most of the forest birding happens from the road. Jirkatang trail is a traffic magnet as this road passes through the Jarawa reserve that has restricted timeline and the vehicles are always in a hurry to cover that stretch. Early mornings and early evenings are the order of the day which means early morning birding is the best bet and evening sessions would be short and a bit tricky. Darkness sets in very fast and you need to spend long evenings everyday.

Added to all the above, the vegetation in Andaman and Nicobar islands are tropical rain forests and the trees compete with each other in growing tall and at many places, the sun barely gets a chance to reach the ground that means light is quite tricky for birding. Species wise, almost all that you see in this region are either new for you (if you are visiting for the first time) or are subspecies of the mainland species. So, it's like you need to make a note of everything you see including the most common ones too as you never know for tomorrow they may be classified as a new species in itself.

For us, Chidiyatapu and Jirkatang was the best trails in terms of species seen as we got to see the Anadaman Woodpecker, Andaman Drongo, Andaman Bulbul, Andaman Serpent Eagle, Andaman Scops Owl, Andaman Cuckoo Dove, Violet Cuckoo, Andaman Nightjar, Andaman Shama, Andaman Hawk Owl, Andaman Treepie, Andaman Teal, Olive-backed Sunbird, White-headed Starling and many more species.

I'll add below a few species that I could document for you guys out there to see and enjoy from the Andaman islands. Please note they are nowhere close to good but yet want to showcase what we got to see.

(pair of Changeable Hawk Eagle)

(Andaman Coucal)

(Andaman Woodpecker, most commonly seen)

(Andaman Treepie, always prefers to be inside...)

(Red-breasted Parakeet and the moon)

(Crested Serpent Eagle, Andaman subspecies)

(Andaman / Sunda Teal, their numbers have gone down after the Tsunami)

(Collared Kingfisher, Andaman subspecies, the most common Kingfisher seen here)

(Hume's Hawk Owl, Andaman speciality)

(Andaman Hawk Owl, another Andaman speciality)

(Violet Cuckoo, one of the most colorful birds)

(Andaman Cuckoo Dove, another Andaman specialty)

(Blue-eared Kingfisher)
(this was being chased about by the bully Stork-billed Kingfisher)


I'll try and fit in shots of landscape, butterflies and few more birds in the next post.

Till then... Adios!

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