Yeoor Hills - 17th July 09

Yeoor Hills, a trail on 17th July 2009

Yeoor is my backyard, where instead of discarding old goods I go to find some new goods. The goods include everything good, the Nature's work of art. Yeoor has taught me a lot of things - and butterflies were a beginning - back in 2006, with Krushnemegh Kunte's Butterflies of Indian Peninsula in one hand, I remember cautiously approaching butterflies to identify them.

Yeoor has been and still is a better place. Whether budding naturalists or experts, everyone visits here and there is always a surprise waiting. For those who litter that place, and many other places, you are doomed. And for those of us who go to just enjoy the air, so are we. So to change that, let’s make an effort. That effort is to carry with you an ultralight-weight “garbage” bag - and pick the plastic that you see littering the forest floor. Be it a Paan Masala cache or a bisleri bottle. It’s worth the effort to bend down, as you just might to click a photograph. Honestly, in the end, you will be satisfied to see that garbage in your garbage-bin and not on the forest floor.

This trip to Yeoor was planned at 11:59th Hour. With a small water bottle and camera bag, I left home with nothing in my stomach and headed into the forest with a friend. It was a new track for me, and it seemed untouched – the path was wet, slippery, old and perfect. As it is always my wish-cum-nightmare, we got lost. We never reached where we wanted to, but the views on the way were breath-taking. We walked for six hours, wished if we had a GPS and wished again for at least a Compass! But we knew we won’t be lost for long, so the panic was not set on us. We saw many tiny creatures on the way, and wild flora that was either flowering or fruiting. On the lost way, we saw dried shrubs of Karvy, and then all of a sudden, a field of lush green young Karvy plants. It was a revelation; I wondered how it will look 7 years later? An astonishing view! There were many Cotton Stainer bug nymphs (Pyrrhocoridae) on the leaves, at least ten and more on every visible plant. Karvy sure attracts a hell lot of attention, be it bugs or humans!

We wandered for couple of hours and then decided to trace back our way, and ultimately found the path all of a sudden. And that’s when our hike finished and we hit the tar road. It is amazing to be lost in the woods, trust me – but if you are lost in some really vast forest – such as a rainforest – please make a note to remember your bearings. Every landmark counts and will save your life. It is these landmarks that helped us on the way back home. It is no big deal to be lost at Yeoor or SGNP, but do not under estimate forests! On a last note, remember to collect plastics and respect nature!
List of Sightings
The sightings had been ordinary, the weather very windy and cloudy with short showers and short period of sunlight.
Insects
1. Cicadas
2. Common Gull
3. Chocolate Pansy
4. Common Pierrot
5. Spotted Small Flat
6. Scorpionfly
7. Jewel Beetle – 2 sp.
8. Leaf Beetle – 1
9. Zygaenid Moth UNID
10. Plume Moth – 2
11. Blue Bottle flies
12. Flesh Flies
13. House Flies
14. Mosquitoes
15. Robberflies
16. Common Leopard
17. Baronet
18. Pyrrhocoridae bugs
19. Spot Swordtail
20. Tiger Beetles
21. Horseflies
22. Yellow Crazy Ants
23. Camponotus angusticollis
24. Crematogaster ants
25. Grasshoppers
Arachnids
1. Spitting Spider
2. Ant-mimicking Spider
3. Harvestman
4. Nursery Web Spider
Photographs
Wattakaka volubilis (Above and the image below) is a spreading liana seen on rocky slopes. It is commonly found on plains. It is a food plant of Blue Tiger butterfly. The leaves are much employed as an application to boils and abscesses. The roots and tender stalks are considered emetic and expectorant. The young roots are cut and the exuding juice is inserted into the nose to cause sneezing. - Source Flowers of India
Solanum indicum - It is a food plant of Death's Head Hawkmoth. It's roots are used in traditional medicine.
Helicteres isora - It is a beautiful shrub with nectary flowers. The caterpillars of Common Sailer and Golden Angle feed on this plant. It flowers during July to September - Source Common Indian Wild Flowers by Issac Kehimkar pp. 42
Inflorescence of grass - Grass flowers are very tiny, this one measured about 10mm in diameter, and within it's inflorescence was a tiny beetle - you can imagine it's size. Grass seeds are nutritious and form a major part of the diet of many insects as well as birds.
Chlorophytum sp. - Fruits of this shrub, that flowers in June can be seen abundantly now. The picture of Chlorophytum shrub is displayed in the report on SGNP (July 2009).
Ampelocissus latifolia - A creeper, commonly called Wild Grapes, the seeds of which resemble the grapes but are not edible. Previous Yeoor post (June 2009) displayed it's flowers. This is how the fruits look.
Land Snail - Many of these come out during Monsoon and vanish during dry season. Wonder where they disappear? They go underground and hybernate - that helps them conserve water as well as food, and wait for months together for the rain to arrive. The land snails lack an Operculum that covers the shell opening, so during hybernation, the mucus secreted hardens and forms a door at the shell opening - containing the snail body inside.
Unidentified Bee - A bee was seen feeding on the flowers of Leea indica. Bees are exclusively nectar seekers, and if you do not bother them, they will pose for you - but if u try to catch them, they will sting! Bees, butterflies, beetles and other flies love Leea flowers. It's party time for them when Leea is in bloom.
Pagoda Ant Nest - I took many pictures of Crematogaster Ants in earlier Yeoor Hills post (June 2009), here is how their nest looks. It is called "Pagoda" because of the shape of their nest. According to Wikipedia, "Pagoda is a general term for a tiered tower with multiple eaves, common in China, Japan and other parts of Asia." Crematogaster ants are ferocious protectors of their homes, and if you happen to stand below a tree that has the Pagoda Nest, you are likely to get bitten by its residents!
Anoplolepis gracilipes - A ferrocious ant, I spoke about it in previous Yeoor Hills post (June 2009). It was again seen in mass numbers... all over the forest floor and all over the tree trunks. I also located a subterranean nest. They are the indicators of a disturbed habitat. I yet again failed to photograph it well, they are restless and small!
Grasshopper - The commonest of all insects everywhere, many nymphs were seen this time.
Pyrrhocoridae bugs - Also called Cotton Stainer bugs, they were in thousands on a lush green bloom of Karvy saplings. In the above photograph, you will also notice "Eaten away" leaves, but these bugs do not eat. They are true bugs belonging to Hemiptera - which have sucking mouth parts and feed on plant juices.
An unidentified fly, that resembles the Blue Bottle Fly (Calliphoridae family), perhaps a deformed Blue Bottlefly?
Horsefly - The infamous Horseflies of Mumbai and surrounding region. They are worse than mosquitoes, but nonetheless beautiful to look at. They are approximately 10 mm in size, and capable of biting. Only the females require a blood diet for reproduction, the males feed on nectar.
Leaf Beetle - An unidentified Leaf Beetle of Chrysomelidae family landed on a twig in front of me. Chrysomelidae family is vast and identification of many beetles through photographs is near impossible task.
Jewel Beetle - Of the Buprestidae family, they are famous for their shining exoskeleton. The above beetle was hardly an inch in length, and it was a fast flier.
Jewel beetle (*now identified as Empestes viridiscuprea) - Another kind of a Jewel Beetle, a larger one - he was conveniently feeding on the leaves until we arrived, and then...
...he was dead! Or so he thought I would think. But I ain't fool! He was pretending to be dead, a phenomenon called "Thanatosis". Many insects do that, but this is the first time I observed it in the Jewel Beetle, they are of the quick-at-flying type. The below image is of the same beetle, pretending to be dead. So cute!
Tiger Beetles - Two mating pair of these were seen. They are my favourite beetles! When you say quick-at-flying, you will think of the Tiger Beetles. They are so fast that you wont even know where they disappeared while you clicked their photograph!
The Tiger Beetles mate like any other insect. As usual, the lower partner is the female, and the one mounting is the male, notice how he is holding her with his mouthparts. He wont leave her until they have mated and he is confirmed that she will carry his generation, and none other! The grubs of Tiger Beetles are equally predatory as their parents, but instead of running and flying so fast, they prefer ambushing their prey. They make a verticle tunnel and rest inside it, with it's head at the opening of the tunnel. When an ant approaches, the grub attacks with blitz krieg - and the ant doesnt even know what happend! The image below shows the lustrous colours of the Tiger Beetles...
The above beetle has been identified as Cicindela azureocincta, an endemic of Northern Western Ghats!
Unidentified Moth - This moth remains unidentified as yet. They are a common sight on Leea flowers.
Spotted Small Flat: Sarangesa purendra - A skipper with colours to camoflauge well with the surrounding was seen basking on the leaf surface.
Chocolate Pansy - A common Pansy, it was seen feeding on Leea flowers.
Danaid Eggfly - A male that sat just besides me while I was busy searching for the path. Eggflies are territorial and will not tolerate another kind of a butterfly, if it is not the female of the same species!
Spot Swordtail - I was lucky to see this beautiful swallowtail butterfly basking with its wings wide open. But, I couldn't manage a close-up of this one.
Nursery Web Spider - Belonging to Pisauridae family, I have spoken about these spiders in SGNP (July 2009) post.
Spitting Spider - Belonging to Scytodidae, it is one spider to see since it is only commonly seen during Monsoon months. They tend to fold the leaves and live inside it.
Ant-mimicking Spider - Belonging to Salticidae, the genus Myrmarachne, are excellent mimics of ants. They are the spiders in disguise of an ant. This one seemed to mimic the Crematogaster ants.
Harvestman - From the family of Opilionidae, Order Arachnida, these creatures closely resemble spiders - and are in fact their relatives. This fellow had recently molted and it's moult can be seen on the right side. The fresh, new Harvestman, is infected by a mite (the red dot).
Lastly, we came across this dropping on a bare rock surface. It contained only seeds, and hence the fact that it is that of a ruminant is cancelled. It could possibly be Langoor, since we also saw them in the vicinity, or perhaps another herbivore like a Civet?
After enjoying the flora and fauna of the backyard, I always yearn to go back to greet them.
Landscapes:
A few landscapes on the way up and back again.
The lush green tender grass is the result of Monsoon - a season of blessing to everything that lives, and lived, and is to take birth.
The above image is of the dense forests of Yeoor, home to so many species we can just sit and wonder about.
The "Urban Landscape" a view from the hilltop. Look at the construction, a misleading term and another irony of destruction by us.

The lake you see is Upvan Lake. On the right is Yeoor, a small range of Kanheri Hills, and on the left is Thane city, ever expansing.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Annirudha...This was amazing...N after looking @ the fantabulous pics i have decided to visit this place shortly.
    -Nagendra

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent work on natural history of rapidly urbanizing neighborhood. We need a million blogs like this in our country of 1350 millions.

    ReplyDelete