Butterflies are stepping in to fill the vacuum left behind by the birds. As for the birds, they seem to have upped and left in a huff. Not that I am surprised. Who wouldn’t when their favorite perching spots and residential areas have come under the axe of humans? The thickly growing bushes, close-knit vines and leafy branches of trees they favored have disappeared and the thingamabobs had no choice but to look for better and safer places. Unfortunately, those places are away from the reach of my camera. Hence the vacuum.
Earlier I only had to step out on the balcony to see the sunbirds and tailorbirds flitting about on the garlic vine below. “Leave it, leave it!” they used to scream outside my window, though I am not sure what exactly was the ‘it’they wanted me to ‘leave’! Now there is no garlic vine for them to do their acrobatics, just a bald roof, and it saddens my heart to know there will not be nests and young ones cautiously testing their wings.
One cannot entirely blame the humans for their actions. Come the dark rainy months they chop off branches of trees, prune thickly growing bushes, cut the vines lustily climbing wherever they can as if with hundreds of arms, so they, the humans, can have a little extra sunlight. They also have on their mind an undisturbed supply of electricity (on which their entire life depends) and the avoiding of untoward incidents. What if the wind brought a branch of the tree down and disrupted power supply, or worse still caused broken lines and inadvertent electrocution of humans and/or animals? Nonetheless, it is extremely sad that the birds have been displaced.
Woodpeckers and kingfishers are around still, but the sweet and familiar song of the oriental magpies seem to have moved further away and the naughty bulbuls no longer come knocking on the window panes annoying Luci in the bargain. I am afraid the forest wagtail is not going to want to visit where the trees have been shorn of their crowning glory. Maybe when the glory has grown back, but definitely not now. The same goes for white-cheeked barbets and other birds.
In the meantime the butterflies have stepped in to cheer me up. Well, not exactly. It is the lantanas that are bringing them in. Word seems to have spread that the lantanas I planted have bloomed. A good many butterflies are suckers for lantana (which is precisely why I have them planted).
Chocolate pansies are the regulars. I have been begging them not to be so clannish, and also not hog all the honey, they should bring other friends over too. But the cheeky whatchamacallits were seen being territorial and chasing off common mormons and also the common emigrants. In spite, other butterflies have been trickling in, the gray pansies, sahyadri rustics, bluebottles, jays, redeyes, ceruleans, apeflies and more (Honestly, I never knew there were so many variety of butterflies in my vicinity. Now I am into making a proper list!). Some of the butterflies do check out the other flowers too, but lantanas are still the star attraction.
What made my day was when I saw a monkey puzzle. Don’t be puzzled, it’s the name of a butterfly. The monkey puzzle has a weak flight and has to land after small bouts of flight which is good for me as I can photograph it comfortably. As soon as one lands, it turns around and waggles its tail filaments, also sidesteps for a while. Apparently all this is to confuse predators as to which side is the head. (Can you tell?) This is presumed to be the reason why the first naturalists named the butterfly ‘monkey puzzle’. Here’s a video I took of the monkey puzzle.
The day before, after a good haul, meaning a good many photographs, I was just about to get back to my chores when I saw a great eggfly. About to click, I realized with a start that I had stepped on an anthill! Ants were biting me like crazy. Heck, I was not about to give up on a great eggfly! Only when done with my shots did I let myself jump around going, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!”
Luci came running to investigate and give assistance, and was promptly rewarded with a bite on her royal Labradorean nose. The great eggfly was then spied posing on a different flower. Ants or no ants, I was not going to pass up the opportunity for a few more shots. And that’s just what I did (and was mercilessly mauled by the ants for my daring). Unstoppable, that’s me. Hmm… of course only as long as you don’t bring spiders into the conversation. And cockroaches. Plus snakes. Also lizards… and umm… Sigh. Who am I kidding? Truly speaking they and other creepy crawlies stop me right in my tracks. I guess I am more stoppable than unstoppable! 😦
©Shail Mohan 2016