It was a cloudy evening at Masinagudi, just after a light monsoon shower. Peaks of the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains) around the Mudumalai forests appeared as a floating island surrounded by mist. I was at our resort, which is situated close to the Mudumalai National Park and the Bandipur National Park, enjoying the gentle breeze accompanied by a drizzle blow over my face. That’s when I heard the distant call of pea fowl, it was around 5.00 pm, when a group of around five hundred deer slowly came out of the shade and started grazing freely on the open grasslands. And was I in for a “Jumbo” surprise… 🙂
While it is a common sight to find close to six to eight hundred spotted deer on our resort premises at night, when dawn breaks these deer separate themselves into four to five groups and move in different directions. Two of these groups usually gather under the shade of the coffee plants on the southern side of our property which lies on the borders of the Mudumalai forest. Spotted deer form such smaller groups not only to avoid competition among themselves but is also an excellent anti-predatory strategy. Like black bucks the spotted deer too are open ground species seen in large groups that disappear into the woods during peak temperatures.
Around 5 pm, I viewed from the Machan, deer coming in from different directions and forming one large group. While the adults engaged in grazing, the fawns enjoyed their union merrily jumping and running around. Sometimes the young adult males engage in mock antler lock too, but am yet to see any fierce antler fight. The harmony of this herd of deer was disturbed though by a group of red wattle lapwing, making calls at their top pitch “did he do it”. Like a disciplined battalion receiving orders from their top hierarchy, all the deer lifted their head and looked in the western direction from where the call had come, but surprisingly without an alarm, this forced me to turn my attention toward the object that stole the attention of hundreds of deer.
This turned out to be a “jumbo” bonus view from the Machan. A giant tusker slowly made his way out of a fully bloomed Cenna torra forest with yellow flowers. From behind the hundreds of spotted deer, here comes a tusker out of the beautiful yellow background. But something struck me, I had forgotten to take my camera. I had to quickly decide, do I run to fetch my camera or will I miss the sight? I could not ask for help with fetching my camera, since I had the room key! Anyway I decided to take a chance since in the jungle, everything is by chance. I ran down the Machan trying not to cause any disturbance, rushed to my room and returned in about five minutes. I quickly got back to my spot at the Machan, but was left with only a few seconds to capture the sight before the tusker vanished into the thick Mudumalai jungle on the northern side of the lake on our resort. The deer continued to graze as if nothing unusual had happened, and the forest fell back into silence. I sat back and clicked the preview. I had managed to get a few snaps before the gentle giant walked back into the jungle. The picture is a little out of focus but the sight is something I will always cherish.