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