Monday, October 26, 2009

Every little flying thing

My garden is resonating to the beat of a zillion little wings.
The October heat is still here but the hint of cooler times to come is also zinging up the air. The slightest of nips in the morning make it a joy to wake up early. Luxuriating in the coolness also means butterfly season in Mumbai. For not only do we get the usual flutter-bugs like the Common Crow above, but a whole swarm of them seem to be riding the cool winds and have reached here just in time.

By the way, have you noticed what a rich dark-chocolate and cream can do for you? Especially when it's teamed with black and white polka dots?

I suspect the hornets have a lot to do with this sudden appearance of so many of the winged kind in my garden. Remember them and their annual tea-party? Well, they've started preparing for this year's bash.
So far only the Common Evening Browns have shown up. They're all over the Pink Cassia tree. Them, and about a million flies.

And, of course, the Common Baron.

The Thunbergia grandiflora has been seeing a lot of activity too. I saw this gold-specked bee getting very possessive about them and decided to leave it to him. Cowardly of me, I know, but that stinger obviously means business!

The Common Wanderer wisely decided to stay with the flowers. I love the way these very common-place Vincas are the biggest magnets for so many butterflies.

And high up in the teak tree, this parrot kept a good watch over everything that was going on and kept shouting down advice and instructions.

The dragonflies are all over the place too. Some like this Blue Percher seem to prefer perching on low-growing weeds and I don't notice them until they fly up from almost underfoot.

This Wandering Glider (or Globe Skimmer) was a beauty, though. It was perched on a Dendrobium orchid spike and was so comfortable that I could walk all around, taking photos and he still didn't budge.
I liked this photo because it shows up his shimmery wings so well.
And the back of his head. Have you ever really noticed a dragonfly's neck before?

Something else that I noticed ... the rippling effect on the Common Evening Brown's wing. Brown is not exactly my favourite colour but on this butterfly, it looks like crushed raw silk, doesn't it?

The damselflies came out to play too. I was a bit taken aback when this Coromandel Marsh Dart jumped out to shout "Boo!"

They followed me to my apartment too. Amazing! My apartment building is on a very busy road and I was surprised to find that all that dust and traffic and noise haven't put them off.
I found this Blue Grass Dartlet trying to find a perch on a wall. I love that colour!

I didn't find out who was responsible for this half-eaten bird's-eye chilli, though. I suspect the bulbuls , but going by the pungency levels of these chillies, the culprit may have just hit the stratosphere by now!

(Amila, thanks for helping me out with the names of the dragonflies)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Diwali lights

Happy Diwali, everyone!

I found this begonia which seemed to mirror the look and mood of the festive season so well that I decided to make her the star of this post. Is it just me or do you see the fireworks in the first photo and the diya in the second one too?

I know, this post is a bit late and I should've wished you a couple of days ago but the struggle of Good over Evil was literally taking place in me . I was completely being slammed around the place by the most pestilential flu virus there ever was and as many fireworks as were being lit outside, I could feel ten times that number flashing and burning in my head.
(Which is why I'm checking whether I'm still in the grip of fevered imaginations regarding those first 2 photos )

And for being so nice about it, I'll leave you with a couple of photos of the real thing which I saw outside. By the way, kids are still in the fireworks mood all over Mumbai. I love the colourful ones but totally hate the noisy ones that leave me with a ringing zzzzing in my ears.
With all the fancy fireworks being invented each year, I wish they would bend their creativity a little bit to come up with some non-polluting ones soon.

But aren't they just happy-making beautiful?
sigh... ! I love festivals!
Any festival. Of any religion, state or nation. Something which brings joy and celebration is always a good thing, isn't it?
And the sweets aren't half bad, either.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A tree falls over

Tragedy struck for our little community today. A magnificent old Portia tree (Thespesia populnea, also known as Indian Tulip Tree or Pacific Rosewood) which was growing outside our apartment building toppled over. It was tall and like all Portia trees, it had a wide canopy. Wonderful to pause under in the blistering hot summer days!

More than anything, it gave a degree of privacy to the residents of the buildings around it. Like most Mumbai apartments they're too close for comfort and the thick leafy branches of the Portia tree curtained off each building from the other.
For me on my higher floor, I was on eye-level with all the birds that flitted in and out, drinking the nectar and eating the fruit of the Portia tree. It was a constant source of entertainment.
And the green! What a soothing wash of green to calm the eye and mind.

Some months ago the place where it was growing was the site of much redevelopment and the area around the tree had been claimed as a road. In an attempt to save the tree, a low wall was built up around it, filled in and finally concreted over. Whoever did it must've thought that would make it more firm.

For the last 2 days, Mumbai has been seeing a lot of rain and just as it petered out and the sky was clearing up, there was a loud crash. Everyone from all the buildings around ran out . What a sad sight! Our beloved tree was tilted over dangerously with the roots snapped off on one whole side, and the concrete slab propping it up like on of those leaning-boards you hear of actresses using between shots..

Is the redevelopment to be blamed? I'm more inclined to think that the fault lies in its branches. Since there was a building too close to its western side, the branches on that side were pruned more harshly than the others. As a result it got a slightly lop-sided effect. Shorter branches on one side and longer heavier branches on the other. And following 2 days of heavy rain, I think it just toppled over onto the heaver side.

I wonder whether it can be saved...
Maybe if the newer, thinner branches are pruned off, the tree will not be so top-heavy or lop-sided. Then if a big pit is dug the tree can be lowered into it and there is still hope for it?

What would you do? Keeping in mind, of course, that fancy tools and equipment are not an option...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

And the award goes to ...

The Blotanical Awards have been announced and I'm thrilled to find a lot of my favourite blogs winning major awards. Take a look at these excellent blogs.

First there's Frances from Faire Garden who's made an almost clean sweep of just about every award from Blotanist of the Year to Best Photography and a whole lot more. This is one blog I'll never tire of visiting. All those awards just go to show that I'm not alone in thinking so.

And Meems from Hoe And Shovel whose Best Florida Blog is so well deserved and which also explains how she came in as one of the best in the Best US Blog category. What I find particularly interesting in her blog is that we share almost identical gardening conditions despite living at opposite ends of the world, so I can relate so well to her posts.

Victoria at Victoria's Backyard who has a wonderful way with words won the Best UK Blog.
Trudi, from Yesterday Today Tomorrow In my Garden, who is a voice of encouragement to bloggers, both new and advanced, won Best Oceanic Blog. But then, I always knew she would!

And winning the Best South American Blog is my friend, Helen (who goes by the name of islandgal) from My Rustic Bajan Garden, who also found a place among the Best Landscaping Blog finalists. Way to go, Helen!

Bangchik from My Little Vegetable Garden had a dream run too, winning Best Asian Blog and a whole lot of other awards. I love the way he posts almost every day so there's always something new to look forward to.

Of course there were so many more categories and so many more wonderful blogs but somehow these stuck in my mind. If any of my friends who are among the Finalists don't find a mention here, it's not because I don't think highly of their blogs (oh, I do!) but because there are just too many to name.
And some blogs that I was so sure would win, did not. That was a little disappointing but that's the luck of the draw, I guess.

And what about The Urban Gardener? Well, we bagged First Runner-up in the Best Urban Gardening Blog category, which is so fantastic! I still can't believe it. The winner is The Patient Gardener , do go over and take a look.
The winner of Best Gardening for Wildlife Blog (another category that we were nominated for) is deservedly, Shirl's Gardenwatch . Again, do take a look at her blog. I went over and was horrified to read her exposé on what Strimmers do to the small creatures in the garden.

I've loved this whole Blotanical Award event purely because it has been encouraging to find myself unexpectedly among the top-five finalists in three categories, especially because I was placed there by my fellow garden-bloggers. Thank you!
And thank you to all those who voted for me in the finals.
May your tools never rust. And may it rain or shine just as your plants need it. And may your typing fingers dance more on the keyboard with each passing day!

Now, please do go over and check out the winning blogs. Believe me, you're really going to enjoy yourself!