The Weekend Trails


Matheran
I spent the weekend at two different places, one in my backyard and the other atop a hill. It was not only pleasant - for me and the butterflies - but damn scenic too. Although we bagged few sightings, but those we sighted were pretty much uncommon!

New species of flowers are blooming, and as the monsoon's reign comes to an end, the life seems to bloom at its pinnacle.
Devil's Claw - Martynia annua
Without wasting anytime, I'll go through the macro world of wonder that I came across.

The Butterflies, especially the big ones always amuzed me. But considering they do not pose for me well, I always envy them. One such is the Blue Mormon. We saw it very commonly flying high in the canopy... coming down on us only to fly back up again! It is one hell of a butterfly that never wants to sit!
On the other hand though, we saw many, many danaines puddling on specific plants for the alkaloids. All those who do that are males, who come here in search of alkaloids that help 'em in sperm production* needs recitation.
Danaines
As soon as I backed off, they all flew off in the air... and it was like bliss amidst 'em!

My luck with the Swallowtails or the Blues is not going good. But the Brushfooted are being nice with me, and it seems the Skippers are impressed. On a serious note, I've been hunting specifically for Skippers only and have been pretty much lucky.

On saturday I found one "Common Small Flat" - a Pyrginae. It is common yet not abundant - as stated by Wikipedia - and found exclusively in post-monsoon months. No wonder I saw it now. It occurs on open patches, prefers sitting under the leaf but sits over the leaf while basking.
Common Small Flat
The real story goes, I was at the garden stalking a Blue Mormon, and when I thought that it sat - or vanished - in the bushes, I dashed downhill, and instead of that, I saw this tiny cuteness!
On the next day, we saw a Rice Swift - again.
Rice Swift
While walking on a grassland, we came across a tiny thing that flew at our approach. We later got the privilege to come close to it and photograph it. We were not sure of it's identification but thought it might be a Bush Hopper or a Tamil Grass Dart. It's found to be a Tamil Grass Dart indeed.

Tamil Grass Dart

I was lucky enough to have captured a Common Spotted Flat. Although 'common' is it's first name, it is not as common as it's cousin Malabar Spotted Flat.
Common Spotted Flat

While walking alone the fence that separated the farm from the grassland, we stumbled onto a tiny skipper - the Indian Skipper. Cutest of all! Unfortunately, he was charged up and did not pose for us at all. He got away into bushes while we stalked him. I managed a horrible record shot though.
Indian Skipper
That's all for the weekend bash the Skippers arranged for us, and I'm thankful of them cuties! Skippers - the Hesperiides are interesting butterflies. With the theory that says they're the direct descendents from the moth to a butterfly, they are but very well evolved too. And that's not it on a personal front. They're also mysterious, quiet difficult to identify and entertaining to find.
When on the field, I try and capture everything that's possible for my camera. So other than these scaly winged beauties, I photographed this tiny grasshopper drenched in morning dew.
Grasshopper
Too bad, for there exists no common name to him. And a scientific name that exists, is only known to a mere group of people.
We also came across mating Dipterans (picture below). These flies looked like Robber-flies, although I'm not sure.
Them Spiders awaited near their web, on their web awaiting a prey. And we enthusiasts came to document them. One such is is Tunnel-web Spider/ Grass spider (Agelenidae) - similar to a Wolf Spider. They were omnipresent on thin grass, their webs full of dew.
Tunnel-web Spider

The Orb-weavers (Araneidae) - other than Giant Wood Spider, were omnipresent too. Their numbers increase as monsoon comes to its end. And as winter gains strength, they again dwindle in their numbers, so this is the best time to find 'em in their peak numbers and adult sizes.
Orb Weaver

Orb Weaver
We also came across a lone spider which is yet to be identified, however I think it is a Ground Spider. But it was sitting high on a plant.
Ground Spider (?)
That was all, four new species of Spiders ain't bad at all.

My recent love for dragonflies was also fullfilled on this weekend session. With a lot of unidentified dragonflies, I also saw the commons.

Two dragonflies yet to be IDed perched high up on wires are both Potamarcha congener. And below is a Darner that is yet to be IDed too - called Hemianax ephippiger.

We also saw a pair of Ground Skimmers mating, but couldn't capture it thro' lens. However I captured the female Ground Skimmer. The female - as seen below - is yellowish in colour while the male is bluish.
Ground Skimmer, female
...and a Ruddy Marsh Skimmer, male. Identified by its dark orange colour, and a black stirpe that runs dorsally through its abdomen. The female, whereas, is on a yellowish side, with the typical dorsal black stripe that runs through the abdomen.
Ruddy Marsh Skimmer
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to click the Black Stream Glider again. I had clicked it previously too, with really bad results. It's a dragonfly exclusively found along streams, with its dark deep blue colour, it always amuzes me.
Black Stream Glider
Lastly, I re-captured a Granite Ghost - up close. It's one suberbly camouflaged dragonfly that loves sitting on stones or anything that stands verticle. This one was sitting on a Palm.
Granite Ghost
Here ends the trail. We had fun, super-dooper fun, and also cherished what all nature has created - that always go unnoticed.
PS. This report stands incomplete as I'm yet unable to find the correct identities of many. So keep watching. :)
Darner says goodbye!

Yeoor Hills, 24th August 2008

Yeoor Hills

BNHS had organized a trail to Yeoor Hills, lead by Isaac Kehimkar, Yuvraj Gurjar and Dr. Amol Patwardhan. We had an ‘official’ letter to be inside the protected area of the Yeoor Hills, and that’s something great! About 50 on and off BNHS members trailed through the green laden hills, scanning the undergrowth and the canopy. The trail was unusual in itself for we found exclusive monsoon species here and there.
For more on BNHS, visit here – http://www.bnhs.org/
The trail started at the entrance gate into the actual SGNP area, and as soon as it started, we were greeted by the cold humid air with promises none like anything ever witnessed!
To start off with, the flowers are blooming as usual, and so is the Karvi!
Although these common flowers adorned the forest floor, so did the Karvi, that blooms once in every seven years!
And the sugary treat that is so rare is enjoyed by many, like this fly in the following photograph...
The butterflies were commonly seen everywhere. With less and less of the Lycaenids, I again looked out for the Hesperiids, and was lucky enough to see a few of them. Although no Pyrginae, we saw a Brown Awl, Grass Demon, Rice Swift and Chestnut Bob.
Chestnut Bob


Vindhyan Bob


The above two pictures of different Bobs - the above one being the genuine Chestnut Bob, while the latter one shows remarkable difference. Is it a Vindhyan Bob?
An Update: I had an e-mail conversation with Krushnamegh Kunte, and he has confirmed this one to be a Vindhyan Bob. It is a native bob to India. It is known to have various seasonal forms, as well as intermediate forms which makes this one quite difficult to identify, however, it can be done so by observing it's upperwings. I'm posting another image of the same below.

Vindhyan Bob

The Rice Swift, seen below, was seen nectaring on Karvi. Something you get to see once in seven years!

Rice Swift

And ultimately, presenting a Grass Demon in its most unusual pose!!

Grass Demon
On the other side, I could photograph a male Yellow Orange Tip from a distance. The Blue Oak Leafs were everywhere!

Below is a photograph of the male Yellow Orange Tip. See the report Yeoor Hills of 17th August 2008, for the female photograph. Although they look usual in the underside, they're beautiful in the upper-side!

Yellow Orange Tip, male

Lastly on the butterfly front is a Bushbrown, most probably a Long Branded Bushbrown - underwings. See the Yeoor Hills 19th August 2008 report for the upperwing photograph.
Bushbrown
We also saw various moth caterpillars, some in clusters for protection, while some really big and hairy...
...and a Grub that of a certain beetle too!


Beetle Grub
There were other many, many variety of insects. Like these grasshoppers seen below. Most of them were Nymphs and thats what monsoon is about - the young ones!


Tooth-pick Grasshopper nymph

Grasshopper Nymph, ID unknown

Adult Grasshopper
There were these, subtle kinds of peace loving insects, and others, of another kind... the predators - insects and arachnids alike.

Below is a Praying Mantis sitting on the flowers of Lea. Although not well camouflaged, it was sure to get its food some or the other time!

Praying Mantis
The other Praying Mantis that mimics a stick, stood tall in fame on a grassblade...

Stick mimicking Praying Mantis
Again, both of these were nymphs!

The other predators of the macro world, the Arachnids, specifically Spiders were omnipresent on all plants and the forest floor.

Seen below is a Lynx Spider that got lucky to suck on the Honey Bee juice!

...and another sitting on the inflorescence, awaiting a winged prey...Lynx Spider

PS. This species is different than the ones seen in previous Yeoor Reports.

We were also lucky to see one Nursery Web Spider (Pissuaridae) sitting on forest floor awaiting a prey. They are ambush predators, often startling their prey. Although look-alikes of Wolf Spider, they are different, more related to the Water Spiders.

Nursery Web Spider

When it became pretty dark, we were fortunate enough to have seen this prefectly camouflaged Giant Crab Spider. Although not a relative of the colourful Crab Spiders, these one's pose like a crab, hence called Crab Spiders too, and due to their giant size the name.

Giant Crab Spider

Last but not the least. The top most predator on the list today, we saw a Bronze Back Tree Snake! It was a treat to see this juvenile snake. Thanks to Yuvraj for the excellent find!
Some photogallery of the Bronze Back...



This little juvenile posed nicely for us, although he was intimidated with the people all around him, all he did was get the hell out of there!

None the less, he did find his way back upto the tree for some gecko hunting.

The trail was beautiful as always, and this proves how rich the floral and faunal life at Yeoor Hills is. Hats off!

Mushroom ID Unknown
Thats all for today :)