Monday, October 14, 2013

Misssssssssssed the cat! By a whisker!

Brown Hawk Owl
Leaf Bird - Tirath Singh

Langur - Tirath Singh
The discovery of Brown Hawk Owl (Ninox Scutulata) a Northern Taxa was exciting. We were on the spot at Dumna Nature Reserve in Jabalpur on usual Sunday birding. We could not see the owl that day but were satisfied by images taken by Prayut and Aishwaray Mandal. These two young guys have a knack for locating birds not check listed earlier in Jabalpur in MP State. They have discovered Bar headed Geese, Whimbrel and a group of Ruff(?) besides this owl.   

Leopard - Tirath Singh
We spent a lot of time searching for avian species in the nature reserve. Dumna Nature Reserve is named after the Dumna Airport since it is on the way. The nature reserve encompasses 200 hundred hectare of mixed forest along with the Khandari Reservoir. The water body is large and is meant to supply water to some areas of Jabalpur City. But there are forests and small water bodies all around. 

The Khandari Reservoir is home to fresh water crocodiles, turtles and various species of fish. In winters it is visited by many wintering and resident water fowl. About five hundred Gray Lag Geese can be seen here alongside, wigeon, red crested pochard, lesser whistling teal, nakta, northern pintail, common pochard, gargeny, spot bill duck and Eurasian wigeon. 

The surrounding forests are natural and once formed an intact ecosystem that was home to leopards and tigers. These forests formed a contiguous patch around the extant of the city. This is no more the case since the forests are badly denuded. The Dumna forests are subject to rapid construction hence another protected area for deer park has been earmarked for conservation. The fate of the forests now reside upon humans with greed for the land. The creation of triple IT or IIIT has denuded lot of land and continues to do so. There is a five star hotel proposed for development by MPTDC? If true than it will be a further blow for the wildlife in the area. An immediate stop to all construction activity is a must in all green patches of Jabalpur.     

This is a stretch of about ten km and leads to the Dumna Aiport. There are some water bodies surrounding the airport as well as the reserve forests. This area is in the news for the regular sighting of the leopards. A leopard has been filmed on the airport road by some enthusiasts. On numerous occasions we have seen crocodiles in tank, barking deer, wild boar, spotted deer, langurs and rhesus macaque. In spite of regularly frequenting the area we had not come across the big cat. Few year back I had seen a leopard with three cubs at Imzhar Ghati Forests near Pariyat Reservoir. 
Our birding trip led us to these forest tracts after we had a good look at the greenish warblers and an Eurasian Oriole family.  We came across several birds like shikra, white eyed buzzard, white eye, rufus treepie, gray hornbill and long tailed shrike. It was a dull birding day on eve of Dusshera and we were busy discussing things besides birding. On our way back we noticed a group of people standing near the restaurant being built for IIIT.  Ignoring the crowd we moved on till Prayut called us back using the mobile. " Some guys have seen a leopard pair near by" he informed excitedly. So we drove back to the spot but the big cats were no where in sight by then. 

The group was chattering excitedly and we could make out that they had seen the spots. "Just here, whence you passed us by. Look near the pole about hundred yards that was where the pair was idling," one of the guys informed us with baited breadth. Other people joined him in the confused chorus pointing to various directions where the big cats could have vanished. "You should have stopped upon seeing us," he spoke. "Your binoculars could have fetched them close."                          

We searched the canopy for some time and then gave up. We could not see the spots that day but there will be endless visits hence better luck awaits us I am sure. As we drove back in silence we traversed through huge buildings that are changing the landscape of this once pristine forests. Total disregard for our natural places is causing havoc and endangering prime forest animals in India.