March 04, 2016

MicroAdventure - February

Location: Jayamangali Black Buck Reserve, Tumkur
Plan: Spot some black buck and (hopefully) camp in the reserve. 

I had made two other plans for February's microadventure, and both completely flopped. One Sunday, my brother and Dad went out birding to Jayamangali and much to my delight, found out that with permission from the forest reserve, you can camp there.

The day before the trip, we got a reply from the forest department rejecting our request. I was quite grumpy at the thought of failing my yearly plan in month 2. Nevertheless, my optimistic family packed up the car with tents, sleeping bags, pillows, cameras, binoculars, 16 litres of water and plenty of food, and we left home at 3 in the morning.

We were in the park at dawn. We spent about 3 hours driving through the reserve in our not-a-four-wheel-drive car. The bird enthusiasts were quite enthralled by their sightings and even saw a few lifers (first sighting in their life). I learned a few new bird names which I've already forgotten. Most exciting of all were the black buck. Despite the open grasslands, they weren't easy to find. Camouflaged against the grass and with their ability to disappear behind bushes and rocks, it was quite a treat when we spotted them. We usually saw them in pairs or groups of females, a male and an immature male. They always saw us before we saw them and they watched us as intently.  

Black buck are not found in many regions of India. Being a near threatened species, Jaymangali is one reserve where they are found in abundance (about 150 of them). The males have stunning markings- the dark browns and whites, their curly antlers, eyes and ears. Even their butts are quite pretty! The females are quite plain in comparison and the immature males are sort of a cross between the two - female colours with the antlers (after some argument on the subject, we came to an agreement!)

Another bonus of the day was that, besides the forest ranger and some of the villagers passing through, we were the only people in the reserve. We found a lovely watch tower where we spent the hot hours of the day sleeping, eating, and watching the birds and more black buck from the higher vantage point. The best time for animal spotting in the wild is sunrise and sunset, so we spent the last hours of the daylight driving through the park again. 

Towards the end of the day, we went back and met the forest watchman to ask if we could stay. After a few phone calls to the forest range officer and lots of begging, we were given permission to camp there! 

The reserve had a few tent platforms and we had only a short time left before nightfall to pitch our tents. Before long, we were engulfed by darkness, lots of noisy crickets and cicadas, but thankfully no mosquitos. We relied on phone torches and starlight as we ate dinner since we forgot to bring the torches. We also only packed 2 spoons, so we had to take turns eating! The forest house had nice toilets, so our camping night didn't have to be completely wild. :) 

I sat out in the chair for a while on my own after the others went to sleep watching the stars and listening to some unidentifiable noises from trees and bushes. There were some lights on the hills in the horizon from the villages, so the night wasn't as dark as I had presumed it would be. The rest of the night went by with no wild visitors. 

We had an early start the next morning. After packing up and eating, we drove around a little more. Spotted more birds and more buck, and then it was back on the road and back to the city. All in all, it was such a restful trip (for me at least). A perfect way to spend the Sabbath. I caught up on all the lost sleep from the week, the fresh air cleared my lungs of all the city dust and smoke that I breath in on my commutes and the quiet time with family and wildlife was certainly rejuvenating. 

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