Spring Wilderness 2023

We conducted the 4th Wilderness Training Program at Vanghat from 14th to 19th February, 2023 – this program was full of many sightings, great trails, and some wonderful discussions on topics around wildlife, laws, and conservation.

 

The first trail was held in the afternoon on the 14th. While examining animal tracks in the sand by the river, we found a spider sitting over an egg sac, sheltering in a Sambar hoofprint!

 

A pair of goral, usually spotted from a distance on a cliff-face, had descended to the river in the golden evening light, and were partaking in a saltlick alongside a troupe of rhesus macaques!

Spider with egg sac. Photo by Doli Borah
Hair-crested Drongo perching on a flowering Bombax ceiba. Photo by Karan Awasthi.

The Palash or Flame of the Forest (Butea monosperma) was flowering, and several bird species were drinking nectar from the flowers, and eating the buds – slaty-headed and plum-headed parakeets, a Lesser Whitethroat, several warbler species (don’t ask us to ID them!) and bulbuls.

Asian Barred Owlet. Photo by Karan Awasthi.

As we returned from the trail, a flock of jungle babblers had raised a cacophony near the kitchens – an Asian Barred Owlet was perched nearby! The poor owl was mobbed by the babblers and forced to flee, but not before we got a close-up look at the tiny predator. In the evening, RewildEd coordinator Kushagra introduced the Corbett landscape, and spoke about conservation history in India.

Long-tailed Broadbill. Photo by Karan Awasthi.

The next morning dawned early with a forest trail, with a focus on identifying plants and trees like the Peepli or Ficus arnotiana, flowering Semal (Bombax ceiba) full of birds – barbets, a leafbird, bulbuls, drongos and woodpeckers – Haldu (Haldina cordifolia) and Tiger’s Milk Spruce (Falconeria insignis). As we entered a patch of forest with dense canopy, a whistling call took up – a flock of ten Long-tailed Broadbills! These helmeted-looking birds are a dense forest species, and a lifer for most of us!

Tawny Fish Owl. Photo by Kushagra M.

The trail descended down to the river, which we crossed on foot. As we waded through the thigh-deep cold water, we heard a familiar ‘tok…tok’ sound, and a pair of Great Hornbills flew overhead!

 

After returning from the trail, RewildEd coordinator Bhavya gave a talk on animal signs, and then another on nature writing. Kushagra then spoke on forests and their unending connections. In the evening, Kushagra spoke on forest policies in India, and then one of the participants, Nivedita, a lawyer, gave a talk on the Forest Rights Act.

 

The next morning, on the 16th, we crossed the river to hike a trail to a waterfall, and got to spot a Tawny Fish Owl!

Epiphytes on a Haldina cordifolia tree. Photo by Bhavya.

That evening, we placed a camera trap by the watering hole, and participants were taught about how camera traps are placed and how they are used in wildlife research.

 

On the 17th, participants got a taste of what it is to walk through a forest in the presence of a large carnivore. We had crossed the river again to trek a new trail, which was rather dense. Soon after we started, a pair of startled barking deer ran right through the group, possible scared by a predator! Even the birds were silent, until a peafowl started up an alarm call, probably sighting a leopard or a tiger. We walked cautiously through the forest with alarm calls ringing around us, mostly sambar and barking deer.

Camera Trap image of a Sambar stag. Photo by RewildEd.

That evening, RewildEd coordinator Doli, freshly returned from South Africa where she was the Project Manager of the Kalahari Meerkat Project, spoke about studying animal behaviour, and her own research on Asiatic Lions and Meerkats.

 

The next day we removed the camera trap and went through the photos captured. There were many captures of a sambar stag in rut, with a group of females.

 

Overall it was an eventful program full of fascinating insights, and we look forward to the next!


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