Yet another weekend at Kabini, a true leopard country as we all know it as. Due to Dusshera holidays, as expected JLR Kabini was packed with nature lovers, family holiday makers and of course photographers. We started our evening game drive with two young upcoming blokes of JLR Kabini, our star naturalist Revanna and driver Salman Khan. We were driving on the mananthavady road and yet to make our entry into the park, I along with few friends kept a close watch on all the trees on the right while others on their left and as we were close to the mastigudi chain gate entry, I heard alarm calls by Malabar Giant Squirrel. The area was silent except for the noise of our moving vehicle, but calls heard were loud. To reconfirm, I requested Salman our driver to slow down and again heard the alarm calls by now even Revanna our naturalist too heard it and was even sharper to spot the much needed and the most elusive cat, “The Leopard”. Believe me he spotted it so quickly and that too from the main road, what an eye sight, and spotting skills this guy has picked up.
We quickly drove on to our right hardly 100 mts on the safari track and on our right side a young male leopard was perched on a small “V” shaped probably a dead tree. This was one of the fastest spotting I had in recent times. Upon seeing this handsome cat the firing with our camera began, we were 6 hardcore wildlife photographers in the jeep, so you can image the burst noise created by our professional cameras.
To me this leopard was just about 18-24 months old, not sure if he had got separated from his mother and was on his own or if the mother had gone out on a hunt. He seemed quite ok with our presence; however in about 5-6 mins he decided to climb down the tree and vanished in a flash, quite obvious for a juvenile leopard to be nervous during his progress towards adulthood.
What I liked about this sighting is the natural habitat as seen in the image; these cats are known to spend most of the time on trees. It was amazing to see this leopard keep a close watch on us even while climbing down, and the tail being maneuvered, the key balancing act for leopards climbing skills and finally amazing eye contact that I managed as seen in the image. A basic learning but very important for all of us is one needs to be focused, maintain silence all the time and of course try and pick such spotting skills. Had I not heard the alarm call, we would have missed this sighting big time. And it will be unfair if don’t give credit to Revanna to be even sharper to spot the cat in a fraction of second upon hearing the alarm call. And thanks to all my friends in our jeep to hold their excitement and maintain pin drop silence.
Overall an excellent team work that resulted in a prized catch of this handsome leopard, despite the sighting of this cat being brief, I have managed to make images at various ISO’s 400 800 and 1600, it will be interesting to view all images and discuss the comparison. Stay tuned more to come.
Camera – Canon 1D Mark IV, Canonf f4 500mm lens
EXIF – ISO 800 Av 4 Tv 1/320 sec EC -0.3, Cropped and bean bag support.