Sunday, August 31, 2008

I've got tigers in my garden!

Striped ones and Blue too.

This Striped Tiger butterfly was dancing in the Myrobalan tree which is in bloom now. While his dancing partner flew away, he paused on this fading Dendrobium orchid to catch his breath.

Or perhaps to let it know that he hasnt forgotten how beautiful she had been a few days ago and how he had danced for her. I'm sure Den. Emma White appreciated the thought!

The Myrobalan tree is covered with a cloud of butterflies.... all coveting the precious nectar that its fragrance seems to be promising.

The myrobalan trees are native to Mumbai and is growing wild here. ( Frankly I was a bit uncertain about naming this tree because I'm not too sure but I checked up on a number of sites and it seemed to be a toss up between the myrobalan and the mahua, But,everything seems to point to it being a Myrobalan. If anyone knows better, please let me know so I can correct it here)

It is a pretty innocuous tree with even more innocuous flowers. But beauty seems to be in the nose (or proboscis) of the sniffer. It has definitely snared this Striped Tiger! (The flash of pink that you see in the photo above is just a wild morning glory that has just wandered over uninvited).

I have read about wild animals acting drunk when the myrobalan is in bloom. She seems to be a more accomplished seductress than she appears! Cunning little tree ... she's got them the old, old way. The way to any creature's heart seems to be through their stomach, after all.

As if not to be left out of all the fun, the Blue Tigers are very much in the scene too. Dipping and darting about to make sure the light falls just so on their wings so as to show up the pale blue markings that gave them their name.

Going back to visit old friends seems to be a habit with butterflies because I caught this Blue Tiger pausing on the dried up old flower stalk of last season's cashew. There were no flowers on this tree to lure the Tiger here yet it stopped here long enough for me to click it from various angles.

Can you see the flash of pale blue on the left wing which looks like white on the other?

You can see the Tiger and the cashew flower stalk more clearly in this photo.

The sunny interval in the monsoon season is the perfect time to watch butterflies at play in Mumbai. Usually photographing them requires quick reflexes and luck but by mid-day they grow lethargic in the sun and slow down a bit.

Having host plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants where the grown-ups can hang out and get a quick drink, increases the chances of getting one to pose for you.

The Lantana bush seems to be their favourite tipple joint. I think they like my wild lantana because its got no chemicals on it. And, of course, for all the other usual reasons too. I've left this clump of lantana only for the birds who love the berries, and for the butterflies who love the flowers. And for me ... who loves watching all of them!

Cosmos and Zinnia are other favourites with the flying rainbows. But, the strangest sight I ever saw was on a hole drilled by a couple of big wasps on my Pink Cassia tree. The two wasps drilled the hole and then hung around seemingly licking (if you can call it that) at the sap or whatever was coming out of the hole. Soon the whole tree was filled with butterflies, all trying to get at the sap too.

Even stranger was the fact that while feasting, they seemed oblivious to everything else. I could have brushed one with my hand and it would have just shuffled a step aside and then come right back again!

Every once in a while the wasps would fly off and the butterflies would jump in and feast. This even brought in butterflies I'd never seen before in my garden. I wonder if this a migratory one. I've never seen its picture in any of the sites about butterflies of Mumbai. (these two photos were from my pre-digital camera days and were taken with the camera on my cell phone so the quality is terrible, I think)

All those white string-like things on the tree trunk are just the roots of a Dendrobium orchid that I have mounted on to the tree. I wonder if that had anything to do with this strange phenomenon. But, I have another Pink Cassia tree in my garden with orchids mounted on that one too but that was not treated like an object of desire by any butterfly or wasp.

Nature has too many mysteries. Just when you think you've got one thing figured out, there comes the next puzzle. But as long as the puzzles are as beautiful as these , I dont mind. : )


  1. A lovely post with great observations. The blue tiger is a very pretty one and quite accomodating.Butterflies are such treasures in the garden I am always thrilled when I can watch the butterfly dance.

  2. Thanks, Trudi. Its such a pity that the really colourful ones always seem to come around when I dont have my camera with me. But I agree with you, I could watch them for hours.

  3. Wonderful butterfly pictures Sunita. I love their vibrant colors, their like dancing flowers in the garden.

  4. Thanks PGL! I just wish they would sit still just once in a while so I could admire their colours better.

  5. A beautiful post and a beautiful garden! I love those butterflies. They are just gorgeous. Can't wait to read the rest of your blog!

  6. What patience you have shown - but such a rewarding experience. The first photo is the best of course, but hte others are not too far behind.

  7. Hi Rachel! Welcome, and thanks for the compliment. Take your time in browsing around my garden and blog. I think my blog may soon have an overload of butterfly photos. There're just too many of them in my garden now.

  8. Raji, the first photo was just sheer luck! The butterflies were in a fenced off portion of land and I was on the wrong side of the fence. Just as I was despairing of ever getting a decent photo of these restless creatures, the Striped Tiger Butterfly just drifted down to rest on the flower near me.
    And best of all, it stayed there long enough for me to compensate for umpteen blurred photos brought about by hands shaking with the sheer excitement of the moment.

  9. Enjoyed seeing your tigers! Those blue ones are fantastic. No blue ones flying around our garden in Charleston, SC.

  10. Hi CIMS, I'm glad you stopped by. Its surprising how many of my international blogging friends like the Blue Tigers. Here, their beauty is overshadowed by the vivid colours of their cousins, the Striped Tigers. What a pity, huh?

  11. Thank you! Also, lovely times chasing them with a camera : )

  12. Enjoyed your tigers!...the side profile photo is perfect! I don't blame them for choosing Lantana as a favorite... it is one of mine as well!

  13. Nature is fascinating, isn't it? I enjoyed seeing your beautiful butterflies and reading your interesting observations.
    Your Striped Tiger looks very much like our Monarch.
    Chasing butterflies is a fun way to flitter the time away. It flies when you're watching nature, doesn't it?

  14. Kim, those Lantana bushes have been growing wild there for centuries I think. I have my vegetable patch right next to it and I'm sure my veggies are benefitting from the attention of all those butterflies around all the time. That isnt why I saved the lantana bush from being cleared to make room for a bigger vegetable patch but it makes me feel rather smug when I think about it ; )
    Kerri, you're so right! The Striped Tiger is amazingly similar to the Monarch. Its funny how all these years I've just enjoyed watching the butterflies but its only after I started blogging about them that I took the trouble to learn their names. Long live the Internet!

  15. This is a class post, Sunita. The one I published on butterflies suffers in comparison. Keep up the good work.

  16. Thank you! Coming from you that means a lot to me!
    I'm so glad you joined me in my garden finally : )
    Hmmm... I dont think its a question of whether your post suffers or not (for your information, I dont think it does in anyway). Its just another perspective, isnt it?
    And I obviously am more jobless than you and so keep rambling on and on!

  17. Really enjoyed your post, and am glad I found your blog, via rajirules! You sure deserve the award she gave you!

    This butterfly post of mine, may interest you...

  18. Hi flowergirl! Thanks for dropping by. Your post was so interesting. I really enjoyed it.
    I still cant figure out the way-out naming of these pretty butterflies, either! : D

  19. You post is as lively and interesting as the butterflies that you are featuring. As you mentioned in the comment that you left on my blog, the Striped Tiger is very similar to our Monarch. How big are they?

    Blue butterflies are my favorite, and that Blue Tiger is absolutely stunning, and the unidentified butterfly at the end of your post is also very beautiful.

  20. Hi Carol! Great to see you here.
    The Striped Tiger is a medium sized butterfly, maybe about 4" from tip to tip (roughly). I just looked it up on wikipedia and found that it belongs to the same family as your Monarchs.
    The blue butterfly at the end of the post has been identified. A couple of them showed up again this year. Take a look at my November'08 post. One makes an appearance there. But I forgot to say, its called a Blue Oak Leaf (Kallima horsfieldi). What a plebian name for a truly gorgeous butterfly. Believe me, that photo just didnt do it justice. I managed to get some better photos this time. Check back soon, I'll be posting them soon.


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