Bhadra – a sky full of stars

The last time we stumbled on Bhadra Tiger Reserve was in 2011 where we did a lone safari through the forests, after paying one of their staff Rs. 500 each to accommodate 3 non-lodgers in their jeeps. It was fun. We saw Eagles, Gaurs and barking deer, and a fellow-guest told us about stranglers and showed us some in the forest. It was winter and the mist lifting off ponds in the early morning Sun was a sight to behold.

The last attempt to visit was to experience the Monsoons in 2015, and it got spectacularly screwed as every one of us or a parent of one of us was down with some health issue. This time, only S managed to not make it because of health issues at home.(I sometimes wonder if there’s a lurking non-serious health epidemic in our cities which no one is talking about. Far too many people keep falling sick the moment the Monsoons hit, or if they fail.)

This time, me and A drove down to JLR’s River Tern Lodge located on the banks of the Bhadra river. We had a choice between cottages and loghuts. We chose the latter, as the former was supposedly too far from the dining area. Having suffered a lot at K-Gudi, we decided to stay close to the main area for a change. It helped to not have to walk 300m after every round for a refill.

There was one jeep safari and one boat safari. The jeep was just about OK. We wanted to see a Malabar Pied Hornbill and we spotted one within seconds of entering the gate!
Malabar pied hornbill
One Crested Serpent Eagle graced us with her presence, this too within 5 minutes of the start.
Crested Serpent Eagle
And that was it. Barring one monitor lizard, there was absolutely nothing much to see. Of course, we kept ourselves entertained spotting spiders and all kinds of birds. A forest can never bore you as such. All you need to do is keep your eyes, ears and brains open.

The next morning, the boat safari was a total washout, with only cormorants, grey herons, and ashy woodswallows to show. Towards the end almost everyone was nodding heads trying to stay awake. The entertainment this time was looking around at the pristine beauty of the Western Ghats, the forests and the river.

The usual routine after the evening safari, before dinner, is to sit around and get drunk on either Scotch or beer. This time, since it was the only evening, we chose the former. But this time, we also had a room with a view over the river and it had dusked a glorious sunset!

Panorama from room


September 30th was Mahalya Amavasya, the new moon day. This made Oct 1st the first day of the Moon. You don’t see the Moon for much and am not sure which side. But I had carried along my tripod having read about the balcony opening into the river. What I wanted, was to capture a sky full of stars, and maybe take a peek into the milky way.

Nursing Scotches, the tripod was set up and we started clicking long-exposures. It was fairly cloudy and what we captured melted into the moving clouds making for interesting pics. The exposure was set at 30s which also didn’t get me as much.

Starry sky

Stars and clouds

We took a break after this as it was too cloudy and the second round of Scotch was had while chilling out. By the third round, the clouds had let up and the sky was clear.We decided to up the ante, and raised the time to 50s. This time I also caught what looked like some light from a city. Except that that place is actually the Western Ghats and its hills. Anand pointed out the next day from work, that what we saw was actually called “Zodiacal Light”, aka “false dawn” which is going to be seen for two weeks from Oct 1st dawn till Oct 15th. Talk about timing!
Night sky with Zodiacal light

Having got the idea by now that 30s was not really enough, we kept up the exposure to 45s and moved the camera further down to look up. And for the first time, we saw the Milky Way.
Clear skies and milkyway...

The rest, was easy after this. I have no clue what the line in the centre between two stars/planets is. Please let me know if you know. A faster moving planet is my guess.
Milky way

Of course, now that we had seen 45s, we wanted to see what 60s would look like. And you see a lot more stars!
Milky way

Camera details:
Make: Canon EOS 750D.
Lens: EF 18-200mm IS.
Focus: 18mm. Turn off AF, go MF and focus to Infinity.
Aperture: 4.0 (If you have a lens with a lower aperture, use that!)
ISO: 800 (any more and you get grains, if you can lower the aperture, you can set this to 400 even!)
Shutter speed/time: As mentioned above.

Rest of the album here:
Bhadra - Oct 2016

4 thoughts on “Bhadra – a sky full of stars

  1. As far as I can tell from stellarium that streak is not a planet. Also, when you look at that picture closely there are many streaks (i count 4) of the same length at different places which suggests some kind of artifact that crept in.

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