Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trip to Mayureshwar

After a long while, I was able to travel to a Wildlife Sanctuary with my camera. I have been to a proper wildlife sanctuary twice before. The first time was when I was a child and we had all gone out (family and a large group of friends) to the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. The second was when I went with my wife, eldest son and my parents to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary down South in Kerala. While in the first case I was too young to notice and appreciate the beauty of nature, in the second I was in awe of Nature and found my gear (a Nikon Coolpix L9 and a Canon Rebel 2000 film camera) completely inadequate.

From the time I invested in my D90 and its lenses, I have been dying to head out. I did go out to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary but could get absolutely nothing to shoot. Hence when one of my friends told me that he was heading out to Mayureshwar, I could not resist.

About Mayureshwar
Mayureshwar is situated about 70-80 kilometers from Pune. To get there you would need to drive up the Sholapur highway and then ask about a bit for a place called Supe (Soo-pay). I did not need to do too much of that because I had my friends with me. Heh heh ...

To get into the Sanctuary one would need to be accompanied by a forest guide. One would also require to make an entry at the office of the Forest Department. The good thing is that vehicles can be driven into the Park along whatever passes for a road over there. And what do you get to see?

Mayureshwar is one of the few places where you can see the Chinkara or Indian Gazelle out in the open. Within this park I do not think there exist more than 40-50 individuals, but this is the first time I have been on foot and passing by within 300 yards of wild life. With a camera in hand. I got just about four hours in the park and did see a lot though I could not get too many good shots. Blame it on the shortage of time, my experience, my equipment or all of it together.

Beware, the roads leading to and within the place as they are not smooth as butter. We were in a Scorpio which saved us a lot from a scraped underbody, spent shocks etc. I shuddered to think what would have happened in case I got my beloved Vento along.

Animals
I shot pictures of Chinkara from within the vehicle and on foot. In the only case where the animal was close enough, I had to shoot through the windshield leading to poor quality of the image. In other cases, the Chinkara would either be in flight, between the trees or both. In one of the pictures you would be able to see them outlined against the sky at about 500 metres distant just before they trotted out of view behind the hill.

Chinkara in flight, this was the only good shot I got. Maybe because of the sunlight.
Chinkara - shot through the windshield of the vehicle. Note the general haziness.
Chinkara outlined against the sky shortly before they disappeared behind the hill.

Birds
As the four legged creatures were a bit shy, birds became my natural target. Again, the limitations of the lens and my inexperience played spoilsport in most of the cases. I saw the Serpent Eagle, the Green Bee Eater, the Grey Shrike and another bird which I have not been able to identify as of now. Of all the shots, I was most pleased with the shot of Green Bee Eater. And the reason I was able to get that shot is because I could get to within eight to ten feet of the bird before it flew away. And also because, all its disadvantages aside, the Sigma can focus from a close enough distance.

Serpent Eagle in flight. Taken at 500mm and hence the softness.

Serpent Eagle in flight. At 500mm and in harsh light.

Green Bee Eater

Green Bee Eater - This was the shot of the day

Grey Shrike

Unidentified bird


Butterflies / Insects
Frankly, I did not see any, nor was I equipped to photograph them. I am waiting for the Tamron 180mm Macro that I have ordered from Flipkart. The dratted thing is delayed by 2-3 days now.

Landscape
Mayureshwar is about six square kilometers of open grassland and shrub. Poor governmental control means that there is a quarry / dump within the park which is heart rending. I did not get a chance to do any sceneries, but there was a nice play of light and cloud as the sun set. This I was able to capture with the Sigma pretty well, a sample of which is produced below.

Setting sun seen through the clouds

Flowers
Again, as the focus was primarily on the wildlife, and because I was not carrying the right equipment, I did not shoot any flowers till the time I reached the Forest Department again where my friends signed out. These flowers are some variety of cactus flowers and looked pretty good. I was able to change to the Tokina which is why the picture is so sharp.

Unknown cactus flowers
Other things to know
If you are visiting Mayureshwar, please note the following:
It is better to get in by 0700-0800 hrs otherwise the light can get pretty harsh
There is no restaurant close by except for the 'Diamond' dhaba which is outside the park
The place shuts down by 1700 hrs.
Please do not litter or enter the park without the knowledge of the Forest officials as it is an offence.
The place is pretty dusty so, ideally do not change your DSLR lenses without proper precautions.

Now that my appetite is whetted, I am waiting for the next trip which I hope is going to be to a place called Bhigwan.

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