Article by: Sushil Chikane

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

It was a winter morning of February 2016. We were at Dhundua falls in Panna Tiger Reserve, a place famous as the vulture nesting and roosting sight post monsoon. Dhundua falls is a waterfall in monsoons, which dries up later in the year providing numerous rock cliffs for vultures to nest and roost. When at Dhundua, we saw around 50 vultures belonging to two species- Indian Vulture and the Himalayan Griffon.

Later as we were driving past the dry stream that in monsoon pumped water into the waterfall, we spotted a dead Sambar deer in it. People had all sorts of assumptions as to who killed it, well my personal guess- death due to an accident where it crash landed, broke a limb and died due to internal injuries (reason- no puncture marks, no damage to body, not eaten at all). It was then that we decided to spend our entire safari time with the dead Sambar. Parked by the side of the safari track we waited for scavengers to arrive.  This was something most tourist fail to understand as they look out for the big cats by default when visiting a Tiger Reserve. Most tourist vehicles passing by hence found us weird. Afterall, we looked like a bunch of photographers waiting pointlessly near a dead deer.

Soon we got what we had expected, the arrival of the vultures. One after the other 6 species of vultures approached the dead Sambar- Indian vulture, Egyptian vulture, King vulture, Indian Griffion, Himalayan Griffon, Cinereous vulture. They visual in front of us then was perfect. We had multiple species at one place undisturbed that we could photograph. It then was a photographer’s delight to click all the action at the kill. Soon the next scavengers joined, pair of Jackals. The female feared the big birds, but the male was bold and determined on the priced kill in front of them. He waited only to eventually lose patience. He then finally charged at the vultures in frenzy. He managed to scare the birds away and claim the deer. He then fed on the Sambar along with his mate. After he had fed enough he walked to the vultures close by to guard them so the female could feed. It was then that I managed to compose a frame with four different scavengers in it.

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