Saturday, February 1, 2014

Remembering butterfly season

Winter is one of my favourite seasons in Mumbai. There's a delicious chill in the air, the migratory birds come calling, the garden is filled with the more exotic vegetables and cool-growing annuals, the mosquitoes go away on their annual break... and I feel absolutely, exultantly alive !
But there's just one thing missing. The butterflies.
In November, my garden is  brimful of them and my days are so filled with butterfly-watching that it is my official Butterfly Season. Then, December brings the cool winds from the north which turn into shivery cold stings. And, all of a sudden, the butterflies are nowhere to be seen!
Oh, I can still spot them in some of the city green spaces but not in my much-cooler garden (we are so surrounded by trees that our temperatures are easily at least 2-3*C cooler than the rest of the city ). And I have to wait for warmer days to get my butterfly-fix again. Until then, I'm going over my pics from Butterfly Season 2013 and reminiscing.

The lantana bush in the vegetable garden is the favourite hang-out for the winged rainbows. All the pics in this post were clicked within a couple of feet of it. In fact, I stood still for just a few extra minutes near it and this Common Sailor butterfly landed on my outstretched hand holding the camera and decided to check me out!
Ohhhh! Bliss!!!
Can you imagine the state I was in? I was ecstatic that I had a butterfly on my hand, and I was struggling to get my other camera out so I could click it (I usually have 3 cameras when I walk around. 1 DSLR on my shoulder and 2 point-and-shoots in my pockets... yeah, I'm quite a sight!) AND trying to stay still enough so I wouldn't scare it off.
I think the pic above is proof that I managed to pull it off long enough, isn't it?

There's something about the Wavy Common Palmfly that reminds me of rippling water and shimmering glass. Do you see what I mean?
And, for all its drab brown (chocolate brown, but still ...) exterior, this is a butterfly which believes in surprises. One flash of its wings and you'll see what I mean.
Take a look at this pic of the open-wing version here. Isn't it stunning? Especially the male. Electric blue, jet black and fiery orange ... imagine covering that up in drab brown !

Another butterfly that believes in covering itself up in drab brown is the Gram Blue. The hint of purple and blue is so pretty and all the more startling when it swishes its wings open and shut. You can get a peek of it here.
 This is such a tiny butterfly that I usually spot it only as flashes of blue flitting around. Another really easy way to find it is to look for it near any bean plants you may have growing in your garden . Grams - pulses- beans ... got the connection?

The Common Redeye has to be one of the most aptly named butterflies. I usually quibble over the names ascribed to our butterflies but this one will find no arguments from me. It has to be this butterfly's most noticeable feature, don't you think?
Its big brother, the Giant Redeye is a regular at my garden too but somehow I didn't spot it this time.


But if you ask me, this has to be one of our most under-rated butterflies. It is a very unassuming white but if you want to know where the Indian Sunbeam got its name from, you'll have to wait till it opens its wings. Isn't it magnificent?!
And I'm quite fascinated by its candy-striped legs too. So stylish!


The Grey Pansies are some of my favourite butterflies this season. They're large enough to spot easily, they're not skittish and will happily pose for me, and they have such a fun wardrobe! So many eyes on those wings. All the better to see you, darlin' !


And speaking of eyes ... take a good look at the Peacock Pansy! Now tell me that Ma Nature doesn't have a great sense of humour.
And isn't it pure genius?! Scary eyes on the top of its wings  to startle any would-be predator. So cool!

These are just a few of my regulars in the garden. I think I'll keep the others to post another day. Till then, stay warm and think of the butterflies...


Updating to add a link to a post on butterflies from November a couple of years ago Garden Tea-party: Butterflies invited
and this one posted later but about a much-loved November b'fly: Blue Oak-leaf on a Pink Cassia 
and lastly, this one, just because I love the butterflies in it : Of Tigers, Crows and Handmaidens


25 comments:

  1. What fantastic butterflies. I had never realised that the Common Palmfly was so colourful on the upper side of its wings. The same goes for the Indian Sunbeam. I was surprised to see bright orange, when I was expecting it to be white! It is lovely to see butterflies again. We have had a very long, grey winter. It hasn't been particularly cold, but just wet and dark! We have had the lights on all day in the house today. Thank you for sharing some of your Indian sunshine!

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    1. I know what you mean, Nick! Both, the Common Palmfly and the Indian Sunbeam are such fascinatingly surprising butterflies aren't they? I love it when I find little surprises like that.
      Hmmm.... I must see if I can add a bit more colour to your wintery days. Keep checking here, okay?
      (Oh and by the way, I added a couple more links to butterfly posts which you may enjoy. Take a look, Nick)

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  2. Isn't it the sweetest feeling having a butterfly hang out with you? I've had Monarchs and Black Swallowtails stick around with me. It's always such a grounding experience knowing how they've come to transform into those beautiful little beings.
    Spring is around the corner for us here in North Texas. We have one more cold blast coming this weekend and then I think it will be safe to plant my dill and rue for the swallowtails.
    Thanks for sharing your little visitors!

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    1. Absolutely! It's the most amazing feeling, isn't it? This was the first time it has ever happened to me and I was over the moon.
      Here's hoping you get clouds of butterflies soon. Stay warm :)

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  3. Always a delight to see and hear about your butterflies in the garden. I remember the teaparty such an enchanting story. Some beautiful swallow tails visited the Bougs but they are so greedy and jittery they never sit still for me. I enjoyed your great variety of butterflies aptly described with a smile.

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    1. Thank you, Trudi! :)
      Oh that tea-party ...! I had never seen anything like it before and it sent me into such a state of whimsical nonsense :D
      It is so annoying that many butterflies are paparazzi-phobic, isn't it? If it were me, I would've preened all day long! Hope you have better luck with those swallow-tails soon.

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  4. Hello Sunita, Why has it been so many moons since you last post ? Hmmm....just kidding.
    I agree with Amy. The whole process of the coming to being of the butterfly is one of the most gripping of nature stories.
    I remember when in Class Four I stood up in what was then called Nature Studies class and offered as my one-line comment, "Butterflies are my favourite people. "
    They are coming back to my neck of the woods, after many years, gradually ,only to disappear with the extreme ( for Delhi) cold. But I can wait.
    I had known that they were partial to the Lantana and I also know that they love the undersides of the Curry Leaf Plant to lay their delicate eggs.
    Thank you for the butterflies.

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    1. lol! No particular reason , yet far too many reasons, Usha. Just a bit too much on my plate, that's all.
      But you were so perceptive even then, Usha. Butterflies are some of my favourite people too :)

      pssst! They love weeds. Yes, weeds! What a great reason to put off weeding, right?

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    2. never been right-er, Sunita !

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  5. A lovely post with beautiful photos! You must have lurked around purposefully for a LONG time to get those shots ! Can't wait for ours to show themselves again, here in the uk!

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    1. Thank you, Jane :)
      Actually, most of these photos were clicked within the same hour or so. That lantana-bush is such a butterfly magnet that it is thick with all kinds of them. (the difference in light is because I clicked some of them with my DSLR and the others with my P&S ).
      Do your butterflies have a favourite spot to hang out too?

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  6. Sunita, those are wonderful pictures of the butterflies. How nice to watch a lot of colors :)
    Have a nice week :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Ela. Yes, some of them are very colourful and some of the others hide their colours from the world. Love them all! :)

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  7. I miss our butterflies, and birds for that matter! That Peacock Pansy is a real beauty. I don't think we have many (any?) butterflies with eyespots like that but I know there are some moths. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Ah, but when they do come around, you have such colourful birds, don't you, Mark? Well worth waiting for :)
      Hmmm.... I didn't know that about the eye-spotted kind in your area. I thought it was a common tactic employed by butterflies (so effective, don't you think?)

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  8. Its nice to see so many butterflies in your garden.
    I suddenly realise that I don't find them anymore as I used to before years back.
    Guess they all are slowly fading off due to deforestation and home development.
    I hope the common ones fills in the gap - at least for pollination sake.

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    1. Thank you, James. I enjoy having them here :)
      I guess one way of encouraging them to return would be to grow the host plants and nectar plants in your garden. I'm sure they'll find their way back again then.

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  9. Sunita, these are lovely!!! Lucky butterflies!

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  10. Hi Sunita, i've seen the shots at the FB page, but the blogsite really makes a lot of difference. These are lovely butterflies and your shots are nice, but i kept smiling at the 3 cameras at the same time. I wonder why the 2 PnS? Whatever is useful for you, i love your writing skills! It keeps us glued to the end. By the way, we have that small Gram Blue too!

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    1. Thank you, Andrea. You say such nice things! :)

      It's the size of the pic which makes a difference I suppose. Or all that white space around it.
      3 cameras because I love my old Canon p&s which had a macro setting with 4x magnification. I love It! When that got damaged I actually paid close to the price of a new camera to replace its parts (none of the newer cameras had this kind of magnification in their macro setting). The other p&s is just a makeshift one. The guys at Canon seem to love it more but quite frankly I was very disappointed. In fact, if this had been my first camera, I would have switched loyalties from Canon! Then the 3rd camera is my DSLR which I'm still experimenting with. Still learning ... long way to go :)

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  11. Hi Sunita, these butterflies are gorgeous. I'm just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

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    1. Thank you so much, Chris. I enjoy hearing from my readers, especially when they're as nice as you are.
      Off to check your blog now...

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  12. Such a lovely post. I must remember to wait around in tje hope that a butterfly I spot opens its wings.. Who would have thought the browns hide such fascinating colours

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    1. Thank you, Arati. Yes, do look out for them. They're so pretty! The Common Palmfly is a real surprise. And so are so many more of the others too, including the Sunbeam.

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