Yeoor Hills - A Monsoon Trails Report


Yeoor Hills, 21st June '08
Yeoor Hills, the Eastern side of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a gateway to heaven, in your backyard. A place where people come to party, get drunk and fight. No, that's not what we're going to be talking 'bout here.
Yeoor Hills is approx. of 40 sq. km. Easily accessible, within city limits, and full of activities. Birders, insect lovers, all kinds of nature enthuziasts flock here for a treat. With about a 100 (and more) butterfly species recorded here, it is not less than an old forest that stands virgin.
For more information on Yeoor, visit - http://www.borivlinationalpark.com/y_profile.htm

I love going Yeoor, there's always something new that I come to see. It has been like a school to me, where I developed or rather discovered this interest in insects. The best thing about Yeoor is, it is easy to go, less time consuming, and one hell of a jungle!
Most of my trails to Yeoor, specifically, have been in the dry seasons, but those were fruitful too. I went Yeoor recently, and discovered a yet another face of nature... a chapter of Monsoon I'd say with those unique creatures you'll find in monsoon. And as I speak of it, you'll see what all I could capture through lens.

Maidens Hair Fern
Monsoon literally transforms the look of the landscape. Compared to the dry seasons, it is obviously very green but as much rich in the undergrowth as it is on top of the trees.
The rain drizzled down the leaves as we traversed on the path, hunting - literally - to shoot (photoshoot!) anything on the way. But our luck seemed to be a distant wish, and we could only see a few common species fluttering away. With Golden Fronted Chlorposis visiting trees to trees, Laughing Doves all 'round us and the Brain Fever bird - Common Hawk Cuckoo haunting us with its calls, we saw quite a few birds without pain in the butt. But, it was the life in the undergrowth that I was after, and was lucky enough to capture a glance of it.

Baronet - Euthalia nias

Baronet is a brightly coloured Nymphalid that is common throughout Yeoor. Here it was seen puddling, and excreting excess water. It is a highly territorial butterfly and will defend it's territory with power. It is fond of sitting on the ground with its wings wide open, and once it's bodily mechanisms are activated, it'll give you a run for your photo!
Within the thicket we saw many, many beetles. From Click Beetles (Elateridae) to Fire Flies (Lampyridae) and Leaf Beetles (Chrysomelidae) to the beetles that I have no idea where they belong.


An Unidentified Beetle


A Leaf Beetle
And their cousins, the Weevils (Curculionoidea), from the smaller spiny ones to these giants! It was like being out of this world!

Unidentified Weevils


Life was blooming here and the winged insects bejeweled every plant of it. An amazing moth, with an equally amazing name, the Upside Down Moth, Orudiza protheclaria - a Uraniid was seen sitting in a perfect position. You'll see why is it called an Upside Down moth!

Upside Down Moth - Orudiza protheclaria


Other than that, we could see see some lovely creepy crawlys, I mean the caterpillars of a moth, very unusual, with a huge head and golden body, a caterpillar mostly that of a Noctuid.



A Moth Caterpillar


And, a very beautiful caterpillar that of a Common Indian Crow, curling up in the leaves on our approach.

Common Indian Crow caterpillar
This subtle world of delicate darlings was pleasant. But there lurked predators, stalking and ambushing the prey! One such stealth hunter is the Robber Fly (Asilidae), an aerial predator with raptor like skills! I was fortunate enough to capture one with a Hover Fly kill, and sucking away all its juices. I wonder, the combat between these two helluva aerodynamic machines must've been fantastic!

A Robber Fly with a kill


While returning, a friend upturned a stone, with a fortunate intent, and we saw a tiny scorpion! I have no idea about its identification, and help is always appreciated. Here's a snap of that Scorpion which was about an inch long.

Scorpion to be identified
Update June 16, 2013: The scorpion is probably an Isometrus sp.

There was still a last surprize, and something that I had always wanted to see. And that's an Owlfly! It was resting on a dead branch beside the pathway, and thanks to a friend, I could see it and photograph it. Owlflies (Ululodes) are dragonfly like insects with long knobbed antennae. They're more closely related to the Antlions. Adult owlflies are aerial predators feeding on other insects. When disturbed, some owlflies will release a strong, musk-like, chemical to deter an enemy. Adults of many New World species are most active at sunset and dawn and can often be collected around lights. During the day, such adults rest on stems and twigs with the body, legs, and antennae pressed to the stem. The abdomen in a few species is held up, projecting into the air, to look like a broken twig.



An Owlfly

Here ends a beautiful trail. It was quite small, we were there for not more than five hours, and we saw lots and lots of these beauties. Yeoor Hills sure is an abode for all that is beautiful. Let is protect it. How, you ask? Well, ask yourself. Stop littering, plant trees, do this and that in favour of the nature in your surrounding, and it'll add up to save other such complex yet fragile places like Yeoor Hills.

Bracket Fungus
Thank you for your precious time!

Tungareshwar WLS - A Monsoon Trails Report

Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, 13th June 2008
Tungareshwar was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 2003. It is about 85 km sq of forestland. It is located on an altitude of about 2177 ft. It is well known amongsts trekkers and nature enthusiasts and must be visited in the monsoons and winters.
I had gone on a trail to Tungareshwar WLS when the monsoon just set it. And this is the best time when one sees swarms of butterflies mud-puddling, and a variety of other critters. This year, the rain set in quite early, and brought to life a lush green world of nature. The birding was amazing, althought I'm not an avid birder, and the bug hunting was worth it.

The terrain of Tungareshwar reminds me of Himalayan foothills, with those li'l bushes and shrubs and flowers on the meadows. The landscape was full of Hill Turmeric - Cucurma pseudomonata, Edible Chlorophytum - Chlorophytum tuberosum and Yellow Ground Star - Curculigo orchioides, and young leaves laden with rainwater.

Edible Chlorophytum - Chlorophytum tuberosum
Hill Turmeric - Cucurma pseudomonata
I could capture what I saw, and that's a best way to bring forth the things here and share it with everyone. The birds we saw were quiet commonly seen there, such as, Scarlet Minivet male and female; Iora, Black Hooded Oriole, Chloropsis, Racquet tailed drongo, prinia and so on...

Ashy Prinia, seen whistling on a bare tree

When it comes to trails, I'm much of a head-down person, looking in the undergrowth, the leaf litter and rotting wood. And that's where you find jewels! And I mean, honestly, Tungareshwar is very rich in its undergrowth, and there's surprize in every leaf you uncover.


A Tiger Beetle with a Flying Termite kill

So here's all that I could find at Tungareshwar WLS, and I already yearn to go there!

The best part of Tungareshwar WLS trail was the coraking of Common Indian Toads. It was so loud, and seemed to come from throughout a stream that ran down the gorge. We went off the usual way and down the mountain, and guess what we saw?! Look for yourself! A Mating Ball of the Common Indian Toads!


Common Indian Toads mating ball

Although 'common' in it's name, the Common Indian Toad - Bufo melanostictus has been brought on a brink to exist-no-where-but-away-from-us. The once common toad was seen in swarms, mating away to glory! The croaking rang in our ears, and we spent some nice time photoshooting the aspiring male toads!


Common Indian Toad, male croaking
We spent like an hour here, birding and clicking 'em, and hiked o'er the mountain back on the kuchha road. Over the road, in fact through out the trail, we found these super-sonic flying critters, cutting through our path, and on one closer inspection we found 'em to be the Tiger Beetles! There were so many of 'em, hunting, strolling, flying and mating, that I wanted to capture 'em through lens right away! And I got an opportunity to snap of a mating pair, with a kebab mein haddi!

Tiger Beetles mating, and a third one trying to fight o'er a female

Now, these critters are supersonic, as I said, and why are they called Tiger beetles? That is because they are active predators (see the far above pic of a Tiger Beetle feeding on a Flying Termite). They fly and hunt and are solitary much like the tigers, sometimes ambushing, giving a surprise attack.

But, to my surprize, we did not find much butterflies! And the main reason for that is because the monsoon set in early, so all the mud-puddling session was over and out. We saw a few butterflies though, like, an Oak Blue, the ever-present Spot Sword Tails, and a Tailed Jay.

Tailed Jay - Graphium agamemnon, perched high up on a windy evening
With not much luck from the critter-world, we strolled through the forest listening and watching the birds. It was a pleasant day, very windy, apt light for photography, and the birds were singing away to glory. Without much going on in the undergrowth, we saw a moth belonging to Agaristinae species, common throughout the forest, a noctuid, but one which is fond of light!

Agaristinae sps.
And lastly, we saw a tiny jewel that would be crazy to miss. It's size was about 7 mm, very small, but managed to get a record shot. It was a Jumping Spider, species unknown to me.

A Jumping Spider, Salticidae
And to end a report on Tungareshwar WLS, I'd like to conclude that, with respect to the last year's Monsoon Trail, the sighting had been very few, althought the birds we saw were thriving happily, and this place still looks untouched, virgin (except for the way to the temple) and I hope it remains so for ages to come.

Monsoon Trails Introduction

Like last year, I thought I'd create anoter report on all the Monsoon Trails I been on. Unlike last year, where I had created an 'offline' report, as a pdf; this year I thought I'd blog it down o'er here. That would be easy to access and to gather/ give more information. So as I go on with the trails, I would be updating this space, with photographs and stuff...

I love going on trails and treks, and try to capture all the details with my ever-handy Sony H7, although I use an SLR too. Anyhow, I'm much into Macro stuff, I mean Entomology, so this is the place where you'll find a lot of insects and spiders.

All the posts would be the highlights of the trails I call the Monsoon Trails and it's called so because it's exclusively monsoon 'round the corner. And the best time to go insect hunting! So watch this place, and any help with the identification of the unidentified thing, mistakes, and stuff like that is highly appreciated.

Aniruddha H D 28th June '08