Disappointment at dusk

It had been another futile day in Tadoba tiger reserve. We’d spent the whole afternoon looking for tigers. There’d been a single report of a sighting in a park full of people during a respite in the pandemic. As we trundled back to the gate, we passed a tree with a tribe of the near threatened Alexandrine parakeets (Psittacula eupatria). These had so amazed Alexander of Macedonia on his trip to India that he took many back with him, and seeded them through southern Europe. They are among the largest of parakeets, and their call is pretty distinctive. The closer one in the pair is a female, the one turned away is a male. You can tell that by the rosy band on the neck, and by a black stripe on its cheek which would have been visible if it had turned its head. The female lacks both markings.

The light was beginning to fail, and even the parakeets in the high branches could no longer catch a direct light. We continued driving slowly along the dirt track which skirted a big grassland just outside a thick forest. Across the grass was forest again. It was getting too dark to see things well. Suddenly our guide said “Stop. Tiger.” We stopped. We looked. “Where?” asked The Family. The guide pointed to a thicket on the far edge of the jungle. “I saw something red there.”

We scanned the area with our binoculars. Nothing. “I saw it move,” the guide insisted. We scanned again. “It must have sat down,” he said. We decided to wait. I’m used to that. Tigers are secretive. I’ve had some wonderful sightings after a wait of an hour or two. But this time I was not sure whether the guide had really seen anything. The light at dusk is deceptive, and disappointment can make you believe that you have seen what you would like to see. Nearby was an interesting sight: a four-petaled flower. There aren’t too many of them, and I’m sure if I look it up I’ll be able to identify it pretty easily.

I watched the sun go down. When you are waiting you notice little things to pass your time. Is there always such a wonderful transition from reds and oranges to blues in the sky at sunset? How is it that I’ve never seen the “green flash“? I wasn’t likely to see it today. Ah look, I can get a great silhouette of that tree as the sun falls behind it. You have to pass your time without fidgeting. Tigers have sharp hearing, and they know that at sunset all they have to do is to wait you out.

I had the time now to look around and try to take photos in a minimalistic style in this low light. You can get all kinds of experiments done while you wait. I think these blades of grass were a good subject. I only wished I could have moved to choose an angle for my shot. I was pretty sure there was no tiger around. But we must wait as long as we can, on the chance that we see one.

The sun had been down for a while already. The guide was sure that the tiger had hunkered down in a particular spot. Everyone else was skeptical, but you never know. We kept watching the spot. It is interesting to see the light change at this time: the colours change very rapidly. I could understand why Monet was enchanted by the change of colours in a haystack through the hours. Soon the light was too bad for human vision. If there was ever a tiger here then it was more patient than us. We moved on to a hot tea. At least I’d had a bit of practice in low-light photography.