Smile please, you're on candid camera!

Smile please, you're on candid camera!

animal kingdom

Smile please, you're on candid camera!

Yes, I saw the tiger at Ranthambore National Park. I have pictures to prove it too. But my main focus through the day was on other attractions. There was the sambar, a magnificent creature, the largest, five-foot Indian deer with the grandest of horns. We got to photograph the sambar “in velvet.”

The stags cast their antlers around mid-April and we were there in May, when the horns had started to grow and had a velvet covering.

The female sambar has no horns and is lighter in tone. There was one sambar, looking coyly at the camera with one myna on her left ear, and another myna on the right ear, picking insects. Her expression was that of a Bollywood starlet at a makeup session prior to a photo shoot.

Then, there was the tigers’ toothbrush — the treepie — a chestnut-brown bird with a foot-long tail tipped black. He helps the tiger clean its teeth by pecking off bits of fibre and meat. What a friendly creature, this bird! One sat on the front windshield of our jeep, mouth agape as if in question: “Took enough pictures of me? Do I have to look right or left this time?” And what intriguing calls: sometimes loud and harsh, sometimes melodious, sounding like bob-o-link. Other tree pies landed on our colleagues’ hands, looking for handouts.

The number of bird species viewed in the four days that we were there was 49, including the honey buzzard, kingfisher, parakeet, heron, painted stork, ibis, black drongo, bush quail, cormorant, spoonbill, and of course, the peacock, our national bird, with its gorgeous ocellated tail, three to four feet long. (No one wanted to photograph the poor peahen, crested like the cock, but lacking the ornamental train.)

Back to the icing on the cake — the tiger. Both tigresses caught on camera were by the side of a water hole. Strangely enough, both tigresses had the front parts of their bodies dry while the hind portions, including the tail, were covered in mud.

Leopards at Ranthambore were way up on the mountainside, where the Aravallis and Vindhyas form a junction. Wild boar, hyena, jackal, fox, caracal, monitor lizard, crocodile and spotted deer were seen. We took pictures of the pug marks of a sloth bear and the hoof marks of a deer. They put paid to the notion that Rajasthan is a barren desert land, with the only animal being the tall, yellow, hairy camel.