‘Sentinel’ – Nilgai

A solitary Nilgai stands on an island in the centre of an expansive wetland. (SS – 1/1250s, ISO – 1000, f/10 @ 700mm)

While Bharatpur is well-known for its accessibility to wildlife, especially along the park’s main roadway, I find that very little is said about some of its smaller, untraveled trails. They truly are worlds of their own, pristine and untouched. I photographed this young male Nilgai while walking along one such unnamed trail.

Let’s rewind a bit. I was actually trying to photograph a Knob-billed duck against the reflection of this stunning, slant tree. At the edge of my peripheral vision, however, I spotted a slight movement. As I panned my lens upward, my attention immediately shifted to the muscular frame of a massive antelope standing on an island in the middle of this vast, seemingly unending wetland. Veiled by the early morning mist and anchored by the leaning tree, the scene was just too good to pass up.

Slip-up.

In an attempt to get a low perspective, I gingerly crouched on a slope along the water’s edge, wary of the dangers of loose mud and slippery aquatic plants. In spite of my best efforts, though, my right foot slipped into a pocket of what I can only describe as a mixture of freshly-laid cow dung, wet mud, and some weird green stuff. Ewww. Who says wildlife photography is glamorous?

Anyways, let’s try to move on from that disgusting mental image. There was little I had to do in the way of composing this shot; going vertical was a no-brainer given the tree’s inclination. I also wanted a touch more depth of field on the heronry in the background so I stopped my lens down to f/10. I just had to point and shoot, really; no fancy-schmancy backstory this time 😀

In all seriousness, I was really glad to have chanced upon this beautiful animal. I spent around 5 minutes photographing this Nilgai before it bounded off further into the wetland. This encounter really opened my eye into the significance of the numerous trails within the park. Given the low human traffic in these parts, there’s a treasure trove of wildlife to be found and discovered. Oh, and have I mentioned how amazing the habitats are?

I knew Bharatpur was special, but this experience just took that perception to a whole new level. Nothing beats sitting down on the cold grass, watching the mist dissipate as the landscape comes to life. What a gorgeous place to be!

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