The Miracle Clutch: Part Two

With the eggs safely buried, it was time to return to our base camp at Kalagarh and let nature take its course. The weeks ahead would be vital in knowing if this clutch had been fertilized or not …...and if our efforts were worth our while.

As we surveyed other areas of Corbett over the next few weeks for signs of nesting, my mind remained on the clutch at Kakdi Dhang. The forest staff in the area were informed about the clutch and they promised to keep an eye on it whenever they passed by on their patrols.

Having planned to return to Kakdi Dhang in about a month , I eagerly made preparations for our next visit there. Reports suggested that the reservoir had receded by a few kilometers and it would take a days trek through the forests to reach here.

On the 21st of May, a small team consisting of Nandan Singh Rawat, Subedar Ali...who knew these forests like the back of his hand, my helper Arjun and myself made our way towards Kakdi Dhang. As the boat could not go right upto the site this time, Nandan dropped us of in the middle of nowhere and we made our way through the thick forests of Corbett towards Kakdi Dhang.

The low water levels of the Palain made approaching Kakdi Dhang by boat near impossible.....!!!!
The trek was quite tough and we often encountered tiger pugmarks on the way. Making good time we final reached Kakdi Dhang late in the evening…..and after a quiet dinner of 'Dhal Chawal' cooked by the friendly Van Gujjar family here we hit the sack eager to visit the eggs the next day… we slept under the stars like logs, Subedar stayed up the entire night keeping watch as a tiger was nearby and his roars and growls though music to our ears reminded us that we were just visitors here……

Up at dawn, the three of us headed of to inspect the nest with our hearts in our mouths. Many questions plagued my mind…..was the clutch fertile?.....if so, had the embryos started developing?.....had they developed upto a certain stage and then stopped?.....was the temperature of the sand alright?....we were soon to find out.

We reached the spot to find the nest intact and as we had left it. There were no signs of any attempt to predate the nest by jackals and other animals….

I first recorded the temperature of the nest which was approximately 28 degrees celsius..a bit lower than what I thought it should have been ..and as I slowly removed the sand that covered the eggs, I waited with baited breath.....was the clutch fertile and were the embryos developing....I would soon find out. Careful not to disturb the eggs I removed the sand above them....smiles broke out on our faces followed by loud yells of bands could be seen at the poles of the eggs known as 'banding'......a sure sign that the clutch was fertile and developing........!!!

Recording the temperature of the egg clutch with a mercury thermometer.....!!!

The eggs showing black bands near their poles.....confirming that they were fertile and developing....!!!
(To Be Continued....)