“Hey, look here! Some white butterfly,” I called Vidya, and she replied, it may be one of the whites.
Again I said, I know that it’s white but what is it, again comes the answer it may be one of the white !!!!!
I could only give a dumb look (since a killer look is not an option anymore), but really failed to understand why she kept calling a white butterfly, whites!!!! a yellow butterfly, yellows!!!! and a blue one, blues !!! Do you really need to be that dumb to be a lepidopteralogist or a butterfly enthusiast?
I learnt about this dumb act of butterflying over a week with Vidya, S. Karthikeyan and Anand Pendharkar in the faraway north eastern Indian jungles of Namdapha & Kamlang. We had planned this trip in April, knowing that it would be rainy season and we might see some different butterfly activity.
The act of butterflying is as fluttering as the subject itself. There are no unidirectional walks and observations, you just go behind all flying, resting, roosting butterfly like objects and then say either ok, common!!! or say hey, lifer !!!! and then make all kinds of efforts to get a picture. Oh, and I forgot to say, you do all kinds of upper and under observations to decide their worthiness.
Fun apart, it’s an intriguing hobby as well, other than being dumb. On one butterfly, Vidya suddenly said, Its butterfly mimicking moth. So I said, wow, a butterfly that looks like a moth. To that she said, no no its moth mimicking butterfly. Now tell me what can be more intriguing than 2 individuals with different antennas that can make so much difference taxonomically.
But by the end of the first day I was becoming more curious and a little accustomed to the ‘upper’ and ‘under’ language. It’s a simple rule, when its closed its under and when its opened its upper. It took a sighting of a black butterfly called Black Prince which was plain black when open but had amazing markings when closed. This upper and under business is the one most fascinating things when it comes to butterfly description. I was also fascinated with flying patterns of butterflies; they have different characteristics. Some are at leisure, some are in rush, some are high fliers and some of them are darting continuously. Now I am going to call some characters at my office Mormons, Skippers and Flats.
on the second day I was more active in chasing, as my photography ego was thinking about clicking something which has not been clicked before. With a 100 mm macro it was failure more times than success, as you need to go real close. Vidya and Anand with their prosumer point and shoot cameras were way ahead in photography and Karthick, though he had similar equipment like mine, knew how to court butterflies. For me, all my snake techniques were giving me a big zero while trying to get close to these subjects.
By this time I had gone through 2 evenings of identifying and cataloging our day’s sightings which made me a little well versed with what to observe and I has been able to identify common ones quite easily and guess the other ones’ groups — flats, swallowtails, blues etc. It’s all a game of patience but it awarded me my first ever sighting of dragontail, windmills, yellow kaisers and spangled. It doesn’t look dumb anymore .
Third day was washed out completely by a heavy downpour which lasted the entire day. We had prepared for such an eventuality and spent our whole day playing UNO & MENDI COAT. We played cards with the same vigour of upper and under observations while butterflying.
Fourth day was again sunny and we could do a long walk on MV road for 19 miles. Though butterfly activity wasn’t so good we had sighting of a hoolock gibbon — a mother and young one. Her curious eyes looking at us from behind branches reminded us of how closely we are related to them. I also photographed Malayan Giant squirrel and sighted hoary Bellied Squirrel .
Next day we were supposed to leave Deban and travel to Wakro for the next 3 days, but the rains had seen to it that no vehicle could reach Deban that day. We walked 22 kms to Empen to reach Mio , had excellent butterflying as well as sightings of large numbers of Brown Hornbills on the way.
We stayed in Miao and left for Kamlang wildlife sanctuary the next day. Our travel to Wakro involved a long wait at river crossing as there were 6 vehicles before us waiting to cross on ferry and it could take only one at a time. We did majority of our journey on empty stomach as celebration of Bihu have made every shop closed on that day. After some challenges in getting a place to stay at Wakro, finally we retired at IB without a single butterfly that day except those in our stomach.
We had a long trail next day in Kamlang wildlfie sanctuary which yielded me a photograph of an open Orange Oakleaf as well as a common and Crimson-bordered Windmill. Windmills were lifers for me with many others on this trip. Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary is a beautiful sanctuary with Kamlang river flowing through. Our plan was to go to Glow lake but due to weather and time concerns we have to abandon it. Our second last day was again washed out with rain and we returned to Tinsukhiya for the night and repacking for our trip back home.
Though I have photographed butterflies before, never ever made any serious efforts to study or know more about them. This trip resulted in making me more enthusiastic towards butterflying as an activity. Though it’s look little dumb at start, it needs very fine skills of observations and visual analysis.
I keep learning from elements of nature. And for these flying colors of nature I would like to end poetically.
Flower to flower
In search of power
Like nothing else matters
Before life gets in tatters
Move from goal to goal
Don’t think about life as a whole
Its short wondering life
If you rest, its your last time
You may feel when and where it ends
Just keep flying through those bends
Long or short nothing to worry
Its efforts that takes you to glory
Life has many different stages
May be cocoon, caterpillars or eggs
How do we go through these I wonder
Something to learn from these flying colors.