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