Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Butterflying day, back at school!

Had been a long time since I'd met my old school pals... I mean, the Baronets, the Common Jays, the Crimson roses and many more amazing friends I'd made during my last year in school. I was missing them a whole lot now that I'm in college. So I decided to give my friends a brief visit.

A sunny, almost cloudless day. Blue skies. Perfect. The day began with a few Grass Yellows and Mormons.... met all those I was familiar with. Then later, caught up with a Common Nawab, who was very busy shooing away other butterflies in his territory. Struggled to capture a glimpse of him, was very close to hurting myself as well.

Common Nawabs are very territorial, and the chase away any other butterfly that enters one's territory. No wonder its called "Nawab" ... It wants to reign supreme! But one thing is for sure, he was the king of my attention that day! I did everything I can to make an image that would do some small amount of justice to its beauty. And this is all I got...

After I was done with meeting my winged friends, just hung around the school and had a great time. My lovely school and its lovely campus!

The Incredible Hulk!

Gaurs are one of my favorite animals ever. The strength, the muscle, the power. Wow, lovely.
This one was taken in Bandipur few weeks ago...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My first leopard !

It had been solid two years since I'd visited Bandipur... and this trip definitely made it up for the two years! :D
Avi, Suma and I started off from Bangalore at around 3 in the morning, and after three and a half hours of a peaceful drive, we reached Bandipur National Park! I had no expectations, no wish lists, no nothing. Thanks to Avi and Suma, I had a brand new Canon 55-250mm IS lens in my hand, and I couldn't wait to experiment with it. This was the best birthday gift ever, thanks loads Avi, Chumi :) As I said, no expectations. As we reached there, we enjoyed the morning safari. Gaurs, Spotted deer and some peafowls. After that, we got back to the car and took a drive down Bandipur main road...

Fifteen minutes after we started, Suma casually looked outside her window and said "Spotted deer... leopard..." Then a second later, realizing what she'd said, "LEOPARD!" she exclaimed :D I was thrilled and super excited. This was my first ever leopard. Looking at where she pointed, I spotted the leopard. WOW.... it was SO CLOSE! It gave me a 5 second eye-to-eye look. Must have been not more than ten feet away... for a moment there I forgot about my Canon 500d and my new 55-250mm lens. I was simply stunned by this super amazing leopard. Coming back to my senses, I pointed my lens at the lovely animal and clicked. Didn't realize that my image stabilizer was in the 'off' position..... seconds later, the leopard darted into the bushes.
I looked at my cam LCD screen "Oh damn! The image is too shaky! :("

We waited there for around 20 minutes, hoping that the leopard would cross the road again. And Avinash's calculations came true (as usual) and the leopard leapt across the road and got to the other side of the road. This was definitely the most glorious leopard sighting I could have had, and it happened to be the first one, which made it all the more glorious! :) A good image would have definitely bettered the overall experience. But nevertheless, it was absolutely enchanting. Here's the shaky early morning image of the awesome leopard:

Later on, I got to photograph and observe some butterflies in the Jungle Lodges campus. Some healthy pictures from my new lens...
Striped Tiger:

Three spot grass yellow:
Common Five Ring:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aberrant colour form of Dark Grass Blue (Zizeeria karsandra)

Noticed this unusually marked specimen this month - 8th July to be precise. I couldn't identify it at first. After Krushnamegh sir's id confirmation, I came to know that this is an aberrant colour form of the Dark Grass Blue (Zizeeria karsandra)

Monday, June 28, 2010

White orange tip (Ixias marianne)

White orange tip (Ixias marianne)

Grass Jewel - India's smallest butterfly

Grass Jewel (Freyeria putli) India's smallest butterfly. This specimen measured around a centimetre wide...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermenstra) - Mating

Quite a rare sight, glad to have photographed it :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Common leopard (Phalanta phalantha), Bangalore

Here's a Common Leopard (Phalanta phalantha) butterfly trying to lay eggs:
Courtship display:
Common Leopard (Phalanta phalantha) a profile shot:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More about migratory butterflies

Migration of insects based on distance covered can be classified into three categories.

-Short distance migration or local migration: like that of the Emigrants and Blue Tigers… this could simply be because the newly emerged caterpillars exhaust all the host plants in a given area. So, the next generation moves to a near by area in search of host plants. It can be seasonal or sporadic. Distance covered range from 50-100kms.

-Long distance migration: like that of the Dark blue tigers, Double branded crows and Common Indian crows, that migrate 300-500kms in large numbers during particular seasons.

-Dispersal: like that of Painted Lady. Here the migrating butterflies will not have predestined place, so they randomly explore the new places looking for their host plants. Since its random they will have broader distribution and hence Painted Lady can be seen in many parts of the world.

Few migratory species of butterflies in India include Common Indian Crow, Double Branded Crow, Dark Blue Tiger, Lime Butterfly, Painted Lady, Large Blue Oakleaf, Common Emigrant, Mottled Emigrant, Common Albatross etc.,

Out of these, Dark blue tiger, Common crow and Double Branded crow are the ones that travel from the Western Ghats to Plains/Eastern Ghats and back. They cover 350-500km through their journey. This migration can be seen in Bangalore as well.

It happens twice a year. In March-April-May the direction is from the Western Ghats towards Eastern Ghats (SW-NE). In March-April-May, the weather in the Western Ghats gets oppressive for these butterflies. The rain sets off and the butterflies migrate towards the Plains\Eastern Ghats to avoid the same. The process of migration is paused if there is rain on the way. No migration is observed on cloudy days.

There is another migratory season in the months September-October-November. The direction of migration during this time of the year is from the Eastern Ghats towards Western Ghats (NE-SW) The individuals that have travelled SW to NE earlier in the year breed in the Eastern Ghats, and their progeny migrates back towards SW (Western Ghats). The back migration might be to overwinter at Western Ghats where the green thickets provides protection from the cold in the months of September to November.

Many a times, lots of Blue Tiger, Dark Blue Tiger, Common Indian Crow, Double Branded Crow and other such milkweed butterflies are seen in large numbers on plants such as Heliotropium sp. or Euphatorium sp. The male butterflies feed on the weathered parts of the plant for alkaloids. These alkaloids help the male butterflies to attract females during breeding season.

Long distance butterfly migration happens through four states in south India. The migratory paths vary each year as rain is an important factor that governs migration. As there are less people studying butterfly migration, there is less information known about the same. Since lakhs of butterflies migrate every year pollinating millions of plants on the way, they are of extreme use to the nature and also to the farmers. Hence it becomes to important to protect this fascinating migration. And this requires a huge network of people who can track the migration and take necessary actions to protect them from urbanization, traffic, pollution, pesticides, habitat destruction, etc.

Here's the difference between Blue tiger (Tirumala limniace) and Dark blue tiger (Tirumala septentrionis):
Dark blue tiger is the species which migrates SW to NE and back.

Here's the difference between Double branded crow (Euploea sylvester) and common crow (Euploea core). Both are migratory species that travel SW to NE and back. But common crow has resident populations as well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why am I so lonely?


A lonely stag at our side of Tadoba lake, while there are hundreds of spotted deer on the other side.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Butterfly watching at Mekedaatu

This was long overdue... I could somehow not put this up as soon as I came back from Mekedaatu. Its a brilliant place for butterflying and butterfly photography, provided you have three tons of patience with you (along with three tons spare). You should be willing enough to get sunburnt (like me LOL). And of course, in such a place, at the right time of the year, the excitement of seeing so many new butterflies will automatically make you forget hunger. :D Here's the landscape of Kaveri river from Mekedaatu:

Some of the pictures I clicked at Mekedaatu on May 6th and 7th 2010:

SMALL CUPID Chilades parrhasius:

INDIAN SKIPPER Spialia galba:

DANAID EGGFLY Hypolimnas misippus :


(FEMALE, Plain tiger mimic)

LIME BLUE Chilades laius:

GRAM BLUE Euchrysops cnejus:

CRIMSON TIP Colotis danae:


BLUE PANSY Junonia orithya:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My first Tiger... !!!

There’s nothing more special and nostalgic for a wildlife enthusiast than his/her FIRST tiger….. and I am no exception. Tadoba gave me my first wild Tiger sighting… and this was an experience I can never forget, EVER.

We started off to Chandrapur on 18th May. Avinash, Suma and I boarded Sanghamitra express at nine in the morning. It was a tedious journey – but was worth the treat we got once we reached Tadoba. On Wednesday morning, we reached Chandrapur. From there we travelled to Tadoba (Moharli main entrance) in a Tata sumo. Once we reached there, we met Shalik Jogwe – the one who would help us through our stay in Tadoba. We set off on our first safari as soon as we reached – we didn’t bother checking in or freshening up. Tadoba's landscape early that morning:

It was this first safari which helped us get a proper idea of what we will see in the next two days. Rufous treepies were everywhere – practically everywhere. They were one amongst the commonest stuff you find in Tadoba. Indian rollers – just too many of them. Sirkeer malkohas, Shikras, Oriental Honey Buzzarrds, Crested hawk eagles… all in the Moharli range. Our water bottles were empty, and we hadn’t had time to fill them up before setting off for the safari. Half way through, and we were DESPERATE for water… at least I was! We reached a point where we couldn’t proceed to the main road… the mud road was blocked, and there was no entry to the main road. It was in THIS VERY main road that a tiger was drinking water at a waterhole.

WHAT A FRUSTRATING MOMENT WAS THAT !!! We were so close to a tiger, yet so far from it! There was a village bus which ran through the road we were in front of. As the bus passed by, we could see the people in it pointing fingers at the waterhole we couldn’t see, saying - “sher dekho! Sher dekho!” (Hey look there’s a Tiger!) The bus passed, and then two people in bicycles turned up on the road. We asked one of them if he’d seen the tiger. “Haan woh sher abhi bhi wahin pe hai… bada hai.” (Yes, the tiger’s still there. He’s big) We waited there for around forty minutes, in the hope that the tiger will get up from the waterhole and come to the main road… but that didn’t happen. We decided to head back before more people come and tell us they’ve seen the tiger we couldn’t see. Why become prey to even more disappointment? The same evening at Moharli, we still didn’t find a tiger.

The next day we set off to Kholsa range of TATR. This range was comparatively greener, and it looked like there could be some hope for butterflies. We saw a couple of spotted owlets, spotted deer, and much of the common stuff (Rufous treepies, Indian rollers and drongos). But we didn’t find any butterflies. Later that evening we decided to head to Tadoba range, as Yuwaraj Gurjar and his team had missed a tiger sighting by just five minutes there, the same morning. Avinash had assured a tiger sighting saying his instincts rarely fail. I trusted his instinct, kept my eyes open for a tiger. Gradually the safari came to an end. Still no tiger. This was when we started getting desperate. We now NEEDED to see a TIGER. Forget the cubs and all the super-hyped stuff showcased on INW. .. we needed a TIGER… !!!

That evening Avinash had lost his mind… totally. I was very disappointed – one more day to go and still no tiger. We were all going mad – four safaris and not a single tiger… we were beginning to think that coming here was not worth, when tomorrow arrived.

The next day morning we set off for our next safari in Tadoba range. Yuwaraj Gurjar, Chaitanya Hirlekar and Vedwati Padwal joined us on our trip. It was good to have them with us, they made the trip more enjoyable. We travelled a while, and reached a waterhole in the middle of Tadoba range. There were four more vehicles in front of the waterhole other than ours. We could hear alarm calls of spotted deer and barking deer around us. There was a long interval between each call. This ‘interval’ kept reducing… and we were surrounded by more and more alarm calls. Everyone got excited. The other wildlife photographers who were waiting with us got ready with their cameras. Everyone strained their eyes for a tiger. In this excitement, an Indian cuckoo shrieking – ‘one more bottle! one more bottle!’ added some background music 

Then entered the queen… a little glimpse of her rump, then her ear, a little more of her stomach… in no time, there was a GORGEOUS tigress in front of us, approaching the waterhole. She entered the scene, settled in the water, graciously drank some. She gave us precious seven minutes… and I had videoed the entire sequence (with my Canon 500D and 18-55mm lens using the High definition video mode). After she had enough, she got up. She looked at the crowd staring at her. Without a care, she turned and walked away… into the shrubbery and out of sight. She left us enchanted. I was speechless. I closed my eyes and recalled her stunning beauty. Opened my eyes, and Shalik said - “congrats on your first tiger!” Avinash congratulated me with his big smile  I thanked him the same way. Click on the image to view full size:

Yuwaraj, Chaitanya and Veda looked at me and gave me their unique facial expressions that meant “congratulations!” I sat down on the seat, and told myself “Wow…. I just saw a tigress… a real wild tigress… just TEN FEET AWAY!!! And I videoed her!!!” We went back to our room, and watched the video like a hundred times (okay, I’m exaggerating) But we did watch it countless number of times.

We went back to the same waterhole in the evening safari. There were around twelve gypsies (I think) around the waterhole this time. This was too large a number for any tiger to appear in front of the waterhole. There were spotted deer alarm calls here and there, but not enough to get excited about a tiger’s presence. I knew that there would be no sighting in this safari – there were people freaking out because of someone falling off a gypsy… there were people laughing (includes me too. But I was laughing really soft, no one could hear.) Many vehicles were revving up their engines and cooling them down again god knows for what. People were sneezing, babies were shouting… a tiger would definitely not come here now. We used this opportunity to click pictures of ourselves – exchanging cameras and clicking group photographs. This was quite fun….  There were some Red vented bulbuls, Orange headed thrushes and monarch flycatchers near the waterhole. They were all drinking water. Avinash borrowed Shalik’s 300mm lens and used my 500D body to video these birds. I had a few clicks with Shalik’s 300 f/4 too. Included this Black naped monarch flycatcher:

It was late in the evening by the time we reached the main entrance. We collected our stuff, said bye to everyone and set off to Chandrapur to catch Sanghamitra express back to Bangalore.

It was a wonderful trip altogether. It was great to meet Yuwaraj, Chaitanya and Veda. They really made the trip a lot more lively and fun. Thanks to Shalik Jogwe, he took us around and helped us throughout the trip.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Butterflies - Mudpuddling and Courtship

In order to acquire a mate, male butterflies have to make sure they are attractive enough. For this purpose, they have to gather certain resources. The resources include minerals from soil - salts mainly. Many a times we see male butterflies in large numbers on a patch of soil, animal dung or on such other surfaces. This is called 'mudpuddling'. The groups of mudpuddling butterflies mainly consist of males in search of their "resources". The salts they suck up are an essential requirement in the production of healthy eggs. These salts get concentrated as nutrients in compact capsules of 'spermatophores' which are passed on to the female while mating.

Here are some mudpuddling male Blue bottles with a Red helen as well :)

Sometimes, milkweed butterflies(like Plain tiger, Blue tiger, Common crow) are seen sucking from damaged parts of plants like Crotolaria or Heliotropium. The sap of these plants contain alkaloids that are essential for the production of mate-atttracting chemicals called 'pheromones'.

While searching for a mate, male butterflies strategically plan their outings, and often search around food plants to find newly emerged females. When a male finds his female, he tries to impress her with a series of wing displays and dispersal of pheromones. Then the male might touch the female and promt her to mate. At this point, the female might mate with the male, or might reject him by lifting her abdomen.

When I had been to Mekedaatu (approx 90km from Bangalore) I photographed this pair of crimson tips. They flew around for some time, and they were flying in circles. So I thought they were going to mate very soon. I got ready with the camera as they settled down. And right then, the female rejected him by lifting up her abdomen. This is the picture I could manage:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Migratory butterflies !

As amazing and unbelievable as it sounds, butterflies - the fragile beauties that adorn our gardens, migrate distances that are as huge as hundreds of kilometers. Some well known species of migratory butterflies include the Dark Blue Tiger, Double Branded Crow, Brown king crow, Common crow, Blue Tiger, Striped Tiger, Common Albatross, Painted Lady, and Common emigrant.
Out of these, Common crow, Double Branded Crow and Dark Blue Tiger butterflies travel from the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats sometime during may-june-july. Later, their progeny migrates back to the Western Ghats. The reason for this migration could be the rains - SW monsoon. During the months of May-June, the western ghats receive the first rainfall of the year. Then the rain gets oppressive and the butterflies migrate eastwards. Later between September and October, the next generation of these migrated butterflies return to the Western Ghats. So this time of the year (May-June) You may find these migratory butterflies right in your garden. Try and spot them !!! :)

From top to bottom: Double Branded crow, Common crow, Dark Blue tiger

"Dormitory pakka tiger machcha !!!"

Hm... this is one dialogue I hear very frequently these days. It comes in various forms and stories. "You know WHAT!!! I roamed around Nagarhole for three days in search of a tiger... NOT A SINGLE DAMN TIGER did I find! The fourth day I was disappointed enought to pack my stuff. JUST that evening, I saw a tigress roaming about so close to the dormitory itself!!! And yeah, I got my DREAM shots!" is one friend's way of putting it.
"My friends told me I would get to see a tiger in Nagarhole. I went there and stayed for one whole week. I never saw any. Just the next week of my return, the same friend spotted a tiger right next to the dormitory. He got amazing pictures too. Oh I'm so unlucky!" Is another friend's story. "Three hours in the core area, and one hour right next to the gate is equivalent. You get the same stuff... in fact, you have more chances near the gate than in the core area. Don't waste your time in the safari." Is a piece of advice one of my friends gave me.

So what caused the tigers to frequent human habitat? Human habitat in the sense - 'the gate', near the dormitory, close to the well... why are tigers spotted more often in such places than in natural habitats? I thought about this for a long time...

My observation is that, a lot of spotted deer wander around the dormitories of Bandipur-Nagarhole. In fact, you can find SO MANY spotted deer around the dormitory early in the morning that even the count in the safari can't beat it. These spotted deer are so bold, they just don't go away. What makes them come to this part of the forest?

What I think is - humans. Yes, the presence of humans gives confidence to the deer. Confidence enough to stay there, eat there, sleep there and even have babies there...
Where there are humans, there are less predators (such as tigers) and where there are less predators, there is more chance of survival for these deer. "Predators" are mainly the leopards and tigers. These are quite agile creatures, which do not tend to approach human habitation. The deer are intelligent enough to sense this fact, and thereby they prefer living close to humans.

But what if all deer start migrating towards human habitation? There will be little left for the tigers and leopards to hunt in the forests. Even the big felines are sensible enough to understand that there is a good chance of a deer catch near human habitation, and therefore they are seen near 'dormitories, wells and gates'.

Isn't this a valid point? Please correct me if I'm wrong, as this is only a hypothesis... not the reality that I can be 100% sure of... :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life cycle of Tailed jay

Host plant Michelia champaka...

To wildlife photographers, with love

I had just been to Bannerghatta with a few people I encountered recently. They were all, apparently, "Wildlife photographers"......

At first, we spotted an Oriental Honey Buzzard. Popularly known as OHB, this is a very majestic raptor. I have observed it many a times, but I had never till date seen it settled so well on a nearby perch. No sooner did one of us spot it, than someone started pointing their lenses at it. In no time, i was surrounded by people possesed by "The spirit of the shutter". There were shutter sounds all around me, and it somehow sounded like rain with hailstones. Hence, the OHB flew away... and only some lucky ones had managed a click or two.
Next, we spotted a group of mudpuddling common crow butterflies. Again, "it started raining".... many managed very good shots of the scene. Great.
A little later, I noticed a beautiful butterfly on a nearby bush. It was a spot swordtail. I hadn't seen it before, so i was EXTRA thrilled. I announced the find to my friends. One of them slowly moved towards the butterfly... slowly... slowly... by an inch, by another, and finally another. He achieved the right distance. Then started the rain - this was expected ! Even after thirty to forty clicks, the butterfly was still there. My friend looked at the LCD screen of his camera. "WOW !!" he jumped in excitement, and walked right through the bush the butterfly was sitting on..... obviously the poor bewildered butterfly flew away !

What I'd like to say here is - first of all, enjoy the beauty of the creature before clicking at it !
Suppose we see a butterfly, and want to photograph it. We approach it in a very soft, sweet way so as to not disturb it and cause it to fly away. This carefulness should exist even after getting the most amazing shot on earth.... we shouldn't be selfish enough to approach in a nice way only because we need a good photograph. We should do so because we don't want to disturb the living being.....
After all, we have BRAINS !!! :D LOL


Monday, May 10, 2010


As we all know, butterflies don't come from eggs. Unlike other insects that have semi or incomplete metamorphosis, butterflies have distinct phases of metamorphosis: Egg, larva, pupa and the adult.
Butterflies don't lay eggs on any available plant. Each species of butterfly has a particular host plant on which it lays its eggs. For example, the butterfly species 'Common Baron' lays it's eggs on Magnifera indica i.e., the common mango tree, 'Plain Tiger' lays it's eggs on Calotropis plant and so on.

Most butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. The eggs hatch, and the larvae grow to become caterpillars. The caterpillars, when done with eating, pupate. The pupa hatches and there we find a new adult butterfly.
There are certain peculiar cases of chrysalis, such as the Red pierrot butterfly, which lays its eggs in between the two layers of the thick leaves of Kalanchoe plant. The larvae hatch inside, consume the leaf from inside and then come out of the layers to pupate. Later, the butterfly hatches from the pupa.

Recently, I found caterpillars of 'Blue Tiger' butterfly on the plant Wattakaka volubilis. I have observed and photographed each stage in detail