Thursday, October 31, 2013

Great Eggfly

The Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina ) is a common Indian butterfly which loves living in forests, but does not mind visiting that occasional garden. 

Males of the Great eggfly are supposedly territorial and pugnacious. The above photograph is of the upperside of a male while the lower one is of the underside. Like many other butterflies this one too has subdued underside and brighter upper sides (the ovals are iridescent blue); butterflies have this for a reason.

When the wings are folded together at rest, the subdued colours provide a camouflage. When disturbed, they open their wings and fly off, flashing their brilliant upperwing colour that momentarily startles the predator. This also gives the butterfly an opportunity to fly away and disappear among dried foliage, leaving the predator to search for a colourful butterfly.

The below are the photographs of the Female, which is a excellent mimic of the Crow butterflies ( see my previous post, to know all about mimicry)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Grey Count

Another royal visitor to our garden, the Grey Count ( Tanaecia lepidea ). It's not very frequently found in south India and I was quite lucky to have found it perched among banana leaves. 

It was quite dark, and I had to use the on camera flash to illuminate it, despite using a 400 mm lens. The flash barely illuminated the butterfly, but was at least enough for a steady hand held shot.
The royal butterfly had a graceful poise and flight. I see it spending most of its time in the dark confines of the banana trees. Hoping for some more royals in the coming days.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Glassy Tiger

The thirteenth butterfly in the 'Butterflies from my garden' series is the Glassy Tiger (Parantica aglea ).

This is quite a common butterfly in India, and it is mimicked by many other butterflies like the Tiger Brown, Courtesan male, Siren, Great Blackvein and female of the Common Wanderer. So why do the butterflies have this mimicry? This was nicely explained by Peter Smetacek in his book "Butterflies on the roof of the world" but to summarise ; Certain butterflies during their caterpillar stage feed on plant poisons, which are then stored in their bodies. During its adult stage this distastefulness is advertised by bright warning colours and patterns. Predators who catch and eat such butterflies experience a lot of unpleasantness like strong heartbeat and vomiting. The predator learns to stay away from such butterflies.

Some butterflies cannot digest and store the plant poisons, so these butterflies mimic the patterns of the distasteful species and survive on their reputation. They even have flight patterns that mimic these butterflies. The glassy tiger had acquired the toxins from the milkweed plant during its caterpillar days, hence its distasteful. Hence so many other species mentioned above imitate it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Common Baron

Two butterflies that visit our garden are named after royal positions, but they mostly spend their time in our compost pit, and seem to enjoy the rotting garbage. One is featured today, the Common Baron ( Euthalia aconthea)

 The above and below photographs are of the female Common Baron and the last one is a male. The male resembles Chocolate Pansy featured a few post ago.

The Common Baron, loves places where crops are grown, enjoys basking in the sun and also our compost pit. 

The above photograph is of a male which is smaller than the female. Some  royals like the Common Nawab and the Tawny Rajah are enticed by rotting crabs and prawns. Lepidopterist's do have a sense of humour. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Common Evening Brown

Butterflies come with all kinds of quirks, some love a good hot sunbath, while some like these Common Evening Brown ( Melanitis leda ) love some darkness in their live's.  

This butterfly is active at dusk, and I have seen it come home attracted to the light at night. They spend their day in the undergrowth and in our garden they prefer the bamboo grove. This was photographed there, at about noon, with the overcast sky providing a nice diffused sunlight. They seem to prefer overripe fruits or tree sap and I have yet to spot one perched on flowers.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Commom Awl

The tenth butterfly in the series, is the Common Awl (Hasora badra). Not very common, but found thorough out India. 

This little butterfly, is active early in the morning and late in the evening. Hence, the flowers it perches on are covered with early morning dew- providing wonderful photo opportunities.
One of the quick way to identify this awl is by the spot, other awls have a white band instead of this spot.
This is one of the few butterflies that visits this lovely buttercup flower.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Angled Pierrot

In field, I struggle to quickly differentiate the butterfly I posted in the previous post (Common Pierrot) and the one I am posting today, the Angled Pierrot (Caleta caleta). Check the spots closely between this and previous post to notice the difference.

This butterfly prefers places with heavy rainfall and is seen in abundant numbers during rains. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Common Pierrot

The Common Pierrot ( Castalius rosimon) like its name suggests is another common butterfly in our garden. Keeps close to the ground and is pretty fearless of me. I routinely had Common Pierrot's sitting on plants right next to my feet and some times on my tripod too! 

This is one butterfly with whom I can comfortably use my macro lens.  Fond of basking in the sun, puddles of mud and visiting animal droppings.

If you closely see the hind wing, you will notice a tiny white tipped black tail that this butterfly has, a common feature of many Pierrot's.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Common Grass Yellow

The seventh butterfly in the series is the Common Grass Yellow ( Eurema hecabe). This is the most abundant of all butterflies in our garden. You can look anywhere and you will notice one of these. 

Since the butterfly is quite a busy one, constantly changing flowers; I felt it was the perfect subject for an inflight poise. So I found a bush which was well frequented by the yellow and kept following one of the butterfly. After more that 100 attempts and 1 hour of trying I managed to click the above photograph. Does it not look like a tiny fairy from one of Enid Blyton's stories ?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lime Blue

The sixth butterfly in the series is the tiny Lime Blue ( Chilades lajus ). We have many of these and when the sun is at the right angle, they look like little flash of light everywhere. 

One of the thing that I have realised over the last few weeks is that I have been mostly using a telephoto lens to photograph the butterflies. Most of the books and websites on butterfly and insect photography generally recommend a dedicated macro lens for this kind of photography. But I found more joy with a telephoto lens rather than a macro lens.

With a macro lens, one can achieve beautiful closeups in never before seen viewpoints. Lovely eyes and scary mandibles all look beautiful. But what I enjoy is, photographing  the insect interacting with its environment. The way it flies, its graceful poise and its sometimes funny acrobatics all make a lovely image to me. It also gives me a chance to sit by at a distance and have photographs without stressing or scaring anything off. All this is possible with a telephoto, nicely fixed up on a tripod.
Hence I only use my macro lens to photograph really tiny insects or small butterflies and moths. Else 400mm is mostly my workhorse.

Friday, October 11, 2013


I saw this butterfly only once during the two weeks that I have spent photographing the garden butterflies. Nevertheless, since it landed and spent a few minutes on one of our plants, I will add it to the count. 

Aptly called Rustic (Cupha erymanthis), probably because of its colour, this is a common Indian butterfly. It prefers places with heavy rainfall and is quite restless. I see it spend a lot of time on the trees of our neighbours and spotted between 10 AM to about 1PM. Not sure where does it disappear after that. Male is quite territorial and are found of flowers. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chocolate Pansy

The fourth butterfly from our garden is the Chocolate Pansy (Junonia iphita ). This is a common Indian butterfly, that is fond of damp patches. 

One of the amazing thing about butterflies that I learnt from the book "Butterflies on the roof of the world" is that the butterflies change their colour and markings with season. The upper photograph was clicked before the rains set in and there is a clear difference in the colours when you compare it with the lower photographs; which were clicked during the rains. The colour tends to blend in with the foliage on the ground.

One thing I noticed about this butterfly is that it enjoys basking in the sun. When not feeding, I notice it perched on leaves, basking in the sun. When it settles down to bask, the wings always face the sun, like a solar panel.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dark Wanderer

The third butterfly in the series is the Dark Wanderer (Pareronica ceylanica). The butterfly closely resembles the Common Wanderer, and I guess it takes quite an experienced eye to identify it in the field. 

The female of this species mimics the Glassy Tiger and for me it will be a challenge to locate a female wanderer, considering the many Glassy tigers in the garden.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Common Mormon

The second butterfly in the series is Papilio polytes a.k.a Common Mormon. The females of this species occur in three forms. The form featured here is the 'romulus,' in which the butterfly imitates the 'Crimson Rose'

 This is a pretty common butterfly, but takes a bit of getting used to in the field, to separate it from the 'rose' species. One thing I noticed when photographing these butterflies was that the females fly quite slow and leisurely, while the males seem to be in some hurry. Hence I managed to photograph a few females during flight, but photographing a male even perched turned out to be quite a challenge.

One of the favourite flowers of these butterflies is the Lanterna flowers featured above.

Amazingly they seem to prefer the wild variety, giving the purple, yellow and white lanterna in our garden a complete miss.

The fast flying male, Common Mormon is featured above. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Common Rose

The first butterfly in the 'Butterfly from my garden" series is the Common Rose (Atrophaneura aristolochiae). This large, slow flying butterfly is also the most conspicuous in our garden. I used to see it every day, but it never seemed to perch on any of the plants that we had planted.   

So for a week I followed this butterfly and finally found it's favourite plant. A weed creeper, which gives purple flowers, and grows in a nondescript section of our garden. Once I discovered this secret spot, I set my tripod and spent an entire morning, photographing this beauty.

The Common Rose is a gentle flyer and though difficult I managed to get a two photographs of the butterfly in flight-it took more than 200 attempts to get  those two, one of which is the above.

This butterfly is pretty commonly found in India in open, cultivated areas, scrub and deciduous forests. This butterfly is mimicked by female common Mormon (will feature that in the next post).

Other than the female Common Mormon, the butterfly also resembles the Malabar Rose and Crimson rose.

The butterfly belongs to the Swallowtail family and has a red body. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Common Albatross

Inspired by the book "Butterflies on the roof of the world"  by Peter Smetacek, Ma, Wife and I decided to plant butterfly friendly plants in our backyard. We wanted to make our own mini butterfly garden. From today, I will be posting all the lovely butterflies that visit our garden. I don't how successful I will be in this endeavour, considering my holiday's are nearly over. I hope to get at least 15 species and hope you all enjoy the posts. Also a special thanks to Peter for a book, that opened up a window for me, into another pretty world.  

The above butterfly is not from our garden, this one infact does not even like sea level altitudes. This butterfly called the Common Albatross (Appias albina) was spotted in the hills of Coorg. I was plucking leeches from my feet, when the beauty gently landed nearby. I was confused between plucking leeches and photographing the beauty- I decided to do the latter and a few seconds later it disappeared.
I have been partial to the birds on this blog for a long time now- time for the butterflies to take the limelight.