Thursday, August 21, 2008

The birds and the bees.... and butterflies too!

My garden is a very busy place now. The monsoons have taken a break (to draw in a deep breath, I think) and all the insects in the world seem to be holding a convention in my garden. Everywhere I look, there are swarming, flying, buzzing creatures, eager to get on with their busy, busy lives.

This big carpenter bee seems to be determined to mine all the precious pollen from this Sky Flower (Thunbergia grandiflora). I had planted them to climb over my wire fence and to hopefully soften its harsh looks. What I had not anticipated was that it would become the happy hunting-ground not only for a whole bevy of very serious carpenter-bees but also for some gorgeous Purple Sunbirds.

The sunbirds are some of the most exquisite birds I've ever seen. "Tiny little darts of sunshine" is the closest I can get to describe them. The male is a dark purply-chocolate brown, capped with shiny emerald and amethyst on top, with a bright yellow stomach. With every movement of its perky head, the irridiscent green and jewel-purple feathers shimmer and sparkle in the light.

You can get a rough idea of what I mean from this photo of one perched on the root of my Vanda orchid. I'm sorry, it's such an atrocious photo but I was too excited on seeing him pose for me. They normally dart away faster than thought.

His girl-friend is a bird of a totally different colour. As drably dressed as any bird can get but still very watchable because she darts from one flower to the other, dipping her curving beak deep in to sip the nectar.

Can you see her wheeling away from the hibiscus flower she had just been feasting on? In this photo, though, she looks as if she were part of the flower, doesnt she? Go on, click on the photo and you can see a larger, clearer picture of milady Purple Sunbird (though there is nothing purple in her .... her boyfriend flaunts the royal colour !)

The start of the rainy season always sees the Zephyranthes in full bloom. These Rain lilies or Thunder lilies, as some call them, were a favourite in my childhood home. So much so that I made sure I planted a few bulbs in a corner of my garden here. Now the few bulbs are more like a dense carpet of flowers every monsoon.

I was too late to take photos of the Zephyranthes field this year (and I still havent got over that yet). But guess what I did get to record for posterity ...

(Yes, I do know there are weeds in there. Its the monsoon season ... what do you expect? Every year the rains wash off the lovely, rich top-soil, leaves behind the stones, and bring out all the weeds. Aaargh! )

Ma Nature's ingenious recycling project !

These white and orange spotted, chocolate-brown caterpillars were already fat and sleek from all those Zephyranthes leaves they had tucked into. I wonder what the grown-ups would look like. Could it possibly be a Common Mormon?

I cant see anything remotely common about them, though!

In another corner, some wild morning-glories had conveniently grown over my baby anthuriums and lent their dense foliage to shade them from our cruel summer sun . But a couple of days ago, I nearly leapt in fright to see a mob of orange, bristly, violent-looking caterpillars methodically stripping it of all the leaves.

Now just multiply that by about a 100 and you'll begin to get an idea of what is going on there. You think that is scary? Picture one of these bull-dozing its way straight you, letting nothing stop it, and shaking its bristles at you with every undulation.

I didnt see a single bird or animal even beginning to look as if it were interested in tasting it. In fact, my normally crowded garden was looking decidedly deserted when Bristly came out for his cross-country marathon. I'm simply not surprised !

So what stopped me from squishing him out of existence? The dream that some day he would look like this !

( click on photos to enlarge)


  1. A very beautiful post, Kanak. I love how you tell the stories about the creatures who come and visit "eat" your garden. It is also very interesting to see and hear about other exotic birds and butterflies etc; and like you said, if we want butterflies we have to accommodate the caterpillars even if they are bulldozers!

  2. Trudi, that was a very sweet apology in the post-script about your calling me Kanak. Dont worry... it happens to all of us. I sometimes call my daughter by the names of all my nieces and friends before my tongue finds her name.
    Thanks for the compliment. I really do appreciate it.
    I must admit that the lady who helps me in the garden thinks I'm absolutely eccentric , if not bonkers, for letting the caterpillars live to gobble another plant!

  3. Sunita, It's fun to see the 'creatures' that visit your garden. I don't think I've ever seen a violent looking caterpiller before :) I hope you discover what the butterfly looks like. You're very benevolent. I might have only let one or two live. :)
    I'm sure the photos not enlarging is not due to anything you did. Blogger has quirks, and this is something that just happens from time to time.
    Have you tried Picasa2? It's a free downloadable program from Google and lets you view and edit all the photos on your computer, and send them to you blog...among other things. It's wonderful. Just type Picasa2 into Google search to find it. I use it to send photos to my blog and rarely have a problem.

  4. It was all those bristles, I think, that got me all spooked. You should've seen it coming! It was either the most self-confident caterpillar or the dumbest and most short-sighted.
    Even so, if they had bothered to get among my anthuriums, I would've got out the neem oil. As it was, they seemed to prefer the morning-glory. So they got away with it : )
    Thanks for the tip about Picasa 2. Google informed me that all the photos I'm blogging automatically get stored in Picasaweb. Maybe the 2nd version has advanced features. I'll check it out. Thanks!

  5. Beautiful pictures! I love all the little caterpillars.

  6. Those caterpillars look dandy and good eye candy - nice of you to have let them be!
    I do enjoy your writing style.

  7. Thanks Eric! I'm having a great time running behind all the little creatures, clicking them from all angles, and generally invading their privacy. And occasionally, the roles are reversed as in the case of Bristly, the orange caterpillar... I ran for my life when he shook all those bristles at me !
    Raji, I do love compliments : ) It makes me feel like I'm doing something right if someone says they enjoy my writing.
    Anything bright orange, full of poky bristles, and which looks like an evil alien ... you bet I'm going to let it be ! LOL!


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