Archive for August 2009

The turtle who went walkabout!

29 August 2009

This is a short story of a tortoise who went for a long walk. In fact, who went for a very long walk on the CME campus. If you do things like that, you may very soon find that you are back where you started from and on top of that named ‘Myrtle’.

One morning I got a call at office from a friend. His daughter Shreya had found a tortoise in the garden. What, he asked, should be done? Naturally, I felt, it had to be restored to its habitat.

Going home, I picked up my tortoise books –

  • “Indian Turtles – A Field Guide” by Indraneil Das
  • “the Book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians” by J.C. Daniels.

and ventured forth. My daughter Aditi, an inveterate invertebrate inthusiast, accompanied me on this trip.

When we reached my friend’s house, I found the ‘exalted visitor’ on the pavement surrounded by all the kids from the neighbourhood.

Before you scratch your grey (or is it gray) cells wondering what kids were doing there and why they were not at school when I had been at the office, I have only three words for you –

“Swine Flu in Pune!”

Do I hear some one say, “Four not three…!”

I can’t count!  Never could.

Shreya holding the turtle she discovered.

Shreya holding the turtle she discovered.

Predictably, the turtle had withdrawn itself into its shell. The back was coloured “muddy-shoddy, grey, brown, black, ochre”. It had three black  stripes on its head.

Black streaks on the head

Black streaks on the head

I turned it over and said “Aha!”

( Aha = Its got flaps to hide its legs under! See the black-edged half crescents on the left half. It’s the Indian Flapshell Turtle (Lissemys punctata). Now I can appear learned and quite the expert! )

The downside of up! This flapshell turtle upended.

The downside of up! This flapshell turtle upended.

The kids were excited as I told them more about the turtles a la Messrs Das & Daniels.

It was an angry turtle – aware, wary, alert and fast. No sooner had I put it then a knobby, ridgy fore-leg with three claws emerged. To you and me they may look grotesque as compared to say cute kitties and puppies, but to a turtle – lover   I’m sure these are as fascinating to a turtle over as  female feet are to Quentin Tarantino!

The turtle emerges....

The turtle emerges....

The turtle scurried away along the lawn but was repeatedly recaptured while I pored over the DDs. I learnt from Daniels that –

“the adults and young make long journeys during the rainy season, which is probably the reason for the species being so widespread….”

Indian Flap-shell turtles are the “hoi polloi” of CME and occupy the four lakes, large acreage of reed-beds, ponds and marshes and the 2 km long rowing channel. The nearest water body or marsh as one can make out from the Google image is more than a kilometer away.

The turtle had crossed roads, houses, gardens, fences, ditches besides stray dogs and people to land up where it did! The turtle would surely have died if allowed to roam free as it was heading deeper and deeper into civilisation.

Red line surrounds lake/marsh/nalas. Brown spot - found. Black spot - released.

Red line surrounds lake/marsh/nalas. Brown spot - found. Black spot - released.

The next question I faced from the kids was ‘is it a boy or girl’ ? Met by a don’t know look on my face, they decided, mostly being girls (two girls both older vs two boys both younger), that it looked feminine and soon names for ‘her’ were being proposed.

It was decided that her name was actually “Myrtle” and that she would be a very good pet! Undying vows were made to look after the creature if only they could have it please, pleeassee..

Mindful of stricken looks on a loving parent’s face, I pointed out that Myrtle fed on shrimps, insects and worms from within the water (actually they eat that and vegetation too) and her family was probably missing her.

An expedition was launched and finally Myrtle was released upstream into the marshes near the CTW lake. The last photo that we have of Myrtle is of a grinning Shrey (not Shreya’s brother) who held the turtle last. And the reason for that is, as soon as we set it on the ground some good seven-eight feet from the water’s edge, Myrtle became greased lightning and vanished before we could photograph her!

Guess it was not a ‘snapping’ turtle!

Little Shreyas before he released the turtle.

Little Shrey before he released the turtle.

So Myrtle the turtle went back to tell tales to the grand-turtles with a new name to boot.

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Beautiful but deadly!

26 August 2009

It had just stopped raining in the  forests southwest of Binnaguri. The sky was overcast. Slowly, the ground absorbed the water which had not flowed away. Under the protective branches of a bush trying to reach high in the shady alcove of the forest, a flash of blue caught my attention.

The butterfly(?) resting on the underside of a leaf!
The butterfly(?) resting on the underside of a leaf!

Ah, a lovely butterfly, I thought as it  flashed its way to another such bunch of leaves. When I reached near, the wings opened and a gorgeous pattern of blue wings spotted with white emerged. I rejoiced for I had finally come across the most gaudy and colourful members of the Danaids or Crow family – the Blue Crows.

What I thought it was - Spotted Blue Crow (Euploea midamus)
Which butterfly I thought it was – Spotted Blue Crow (Euploea midamus)

Amazing buttterflies, the Blue Crows, like other Danaines, are inedible, fly slowly and leisurely flaunt their prominent markings which shout to all creatures of their poison and in-edibility. Once I had the butterfly cupped in my arms, I looked at it very carefully.

I realised that something was wrong but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Suddenly realisation dawned.

The antennas looked strange because they were straight and had no clubbed endings. What I had in my hands was a moth!

The brilliant markings of the deadly moth!
The brilliant markings of the strange mimic moth!

Gingerly so as not to harm it, I held it one hand and photographed it with another.

It was really, really beautiful. It mimicked the Blue Crows to perfection; it looked like one. It flew like one. It behaved like one – slow dodging flight, not too difficult to catch, when caught it made body movements just like that made by a Crow, right down to the yellow tendrils waving from the tip of the abdomen. It was quite uncanny.

After a while, I released it and after a full day’s outing went back to my room.

Indian moths are hard to identify. There is a tremendous amount of work yet to be one. The only really comprehensive work, the Fauna of British India, (Moths) volumes, appeared in the last decade of the nineteenth century and was authored by G. F. Hampson.

Fauna of British India (Moths) Vol 1 - G.F. Hampson (1892)
Fauna of British India (Moths) Vol 1 – G.F. Hampson (1892)

But I did not have it at that time. Today it is freely downloadable at www.archive.org.

So I did the next best thing! I  requested identification on Indian Moths yahoogroup. It turned out to be a most interesting query and the moth turned out to be deadly!   Beautiful, but deadly.

Arif Siddiqui in Southeast Arunachal Pradesh responded first. He said that he had spotted the moth just about then and was thinking of  posting online for it’s id when he saw my post.  From Binnaguri to Jairampur, that’s 694 kilometers apart! A very goodly range indeed!

The two places, Binnaguri & Jairampur, where the butterflies were spotted at the same time. 695 kms apart.
The two places, Binnaguri & Jairampur, where the butterflies were spotted at the same time. 695 kms apart. (Image copyright & courtesy Google Earth)

We soon got it identified from Roger Kendrick, the guy in charge of all the Moths of Hong Kong (seriously ;-)). He told us that  –

<quote>

“This looks like the nominate subspecies of a burnet moth (family Zygaenidae, subfamily Chalcosiinae) that goes by the name of Cyclosia midamia, if Endo & Kishida (1999; Day-flying Moths: Chalcosiinae, Epicopeia; Endless Science Information, Tokyo) is anything to go by.

I wonder why people consider burnets as mimics. They are a more primitive group than most larger moths and butterflies – so it would seem logical that they are the original distasteful models that more recently eveloved taxa (especially Danainae) have evolved to mimic (in Müllerian mimicry rings).”

</unquote>

Okay, folks, once more for your comprehension, the moth was identified as :-

Cyclosia midama,  Herrich-Schäffer, 1853
Family Zygaenidae or the BURNET MOTHS (Subfamily Chalcosinae)

Disappointed that I had not discovered a species new to science, I decided to read up about “Cyclosia midama”. There wasn’t much. So I decided to read up the Burnet moth family, the Zygaenidae, instead. To my horror I discovered that not only are Burnet moths poisonous but they actually manufacture cyanide in their bodies..

quoting Wikipedia..

Zygaenid moths are typically day-flying with a slow fluttering flight, and with rather clubbed antennae. They generally have a metallic sheen and often prominent spots of red or yellow. The bright colours are a warning to predators that the moths are distasteful – they contain hydrogen cyanide throughout all stages of their life-cycle. Unlike most insects with such toxins, they manufacture these themselves rather than obtaining them from host plants. They are known to have mimicry complexes based on these toxins.”

and even worse….

“Larvae in two subfamilies, Chalcosiinae and Zygaeninae, have cavities in which they store the cyanide, and can excrete it as defensive droplets.”

I had been so cavalier in handling what was potentially a lethal animal. Tough I passed safely through that encounter, I shudder to think that I could have just as easily handled it more carelessly or even brushed a caterpillar….

The undersides, spotted white on black and blue.
The undersides, spotted white on black and blue.

This is a very important point that most naturalists who attain a certain degree of confidence (or is it overconfidence) forget. There are dangerous things out there in the jungle – and many times we don’t even recognise them. Zygaenids or burnet moths are very common in the tropics.  If you are a predator, its a good idea to avoid bright, prominent insects – as this is nature’s way of saying..

Stand off! Approach at your own peril!

Beautiful indeed but deadly!

Image credits –

Quote – Jimbo Wales on ‘Wikipedia’

26 August 2009
Get the world's knowledge from your laptop!

Get the world's knowledge from your laptop!

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”

–    Jimmy Donal “Jimbo” Wales, Co-founder of   Wikipedia

Quoted in Robin “Roblimo” Miller, “Wikimedia Founder Jimmy Wales Responds,” Slashdot (2004-07-28)

Also by Wales..

We help the internet not suck.”

Hi,

Thanks to Keith, Roger, Arif, Vijay and others we have an interesting picture developing of an
Indian Burnet moth called

Cyclosia midama,  Herrich-Schäffer, 1853    Family Zygaenidae or the BURNET MOTHS (Subfamily
Chalcosinae)

(http://internt.nhm.ac.uk/jdsml/research-curation/projects/lepindex/detail.dsml?UserID=&UserName=&TaxonNo=82767.0&SCIENTIFIC_NAME_on_card=midama&listPageURL=list%2edsml%3fSCIENTIFIC%5fNAME%5fon%5fcardqtype%3dstarts%2bwith%26sort%3dSCIENTIFIC%255fNAME%255fon%255fcard%26SCIENTIFIC%5fNAME%5fon%5fcard%3dCyclosia%26recLimit%3d30&searchPageURL=index%2edsml%3fsort%3dSCIENTIFIC%255fNAME%255fon%255fcard%26SCIENTIFIC%5fNAME%5fon%5fcardqtype%3dstarts%2bwith%26SCIENTIFIC%5fNAME%5fon%5fcard%3dCyclosia%26recLimit%3d30)

Burnet moths are poisonous in all stages of life! That is because, unlike most other butterflies
and moths which assimiliate the poison from the food plants as larvae, burnet moths actually
prepare HYDROGEN CYANIDE in their body as part of the normal chemistry.

Hence they are well protected right throughout. They consequently evolved to have bright colouring
and prominent markings both as adults and caterpillars. See :-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zygaenidae

These are dangerous, the larva of Chalcosinae can even excrete out and store Hydrogen Cyanide as
droplets!

Good Lord! And I was so cavalier in handling the beautiful creature without gloves. Thank God I
didnt find and handle the caterpillar. This is a very important point that all of us forget. There
are dangerous things out there in the jungle – and many times we dont even recognise them.
Zygaenids or burnet moths are very common in the tropics. Its a good idea to avoid bright,
prominent insects if you are a predator – as this is nature’s way of indicating, stand off –
approach at your own peril!

The most interesting thing is that it appears inedible danaid butterflies such as the Blue Crow
(Euploea mulciber) have evolved to take advantage of this resemblance. This is called Mullerian
mimicry (to differentiatiate it from Batesian mimicry where a palatable butterfly resembles an
unpalatable butterfly to take advantage of its protection by fooling the predator). For an
explanation of how Mullerian mimicry works, please  see :-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimicry

It also appears that the larvae of certain Papilionidae such as the Chinese Windmill
”Atrophaneura alcinous”, a species found in Manipur/Mizoram has also evolved to resemble that of
this deadly moth, Cyclosia midama. The moth is mimicked in every stage by one creature or the
other!

Th moth is relatively common having been reported by Vijay & Arif from Arunachal Pradesh and self
in Dooars and is really really beautiful!

It deserves a common name. What should we call it ?

I suggest the

Blue Beauty

The Blue Beauty is the name given to photos of Earth from space, a delicate-blue water lily and
many works of art/jewelry etc.

The moth is blue, beautiful, brings to mind images of a beautiful woman blue in colour by poison
(shades of Neelkanth).

or

Beautiful Blue Burnet

Comments please, otherwise I’m going ahead.

With regards from one in love with the Blue Beauty,

Ashwin Baindur

___________________________________________________________
It had just stopped raining in the  forests southwest of Binnaguri. The sky was overcast. Slowly, the ground absorbed the water which had not flowed away. Under the protective branches of a bush trying to reach high in the shady alcove of the forest, a flash of dark blue caught my attention.

Ah, a lovely butterfly, I thought as it  flashed its way to another such bunch of leaves. When I reached near, the wings opened and a gorgeous pattern of blue wings spotted with blue emerged. I rejoiced for I had finally come across the most gaudy and colourful members of the Danaids or Crow family – the Blue Crows. Amazing buttterflies, they…

The Crows, like other Danaids are inedible, fly slowly and leisurely flaunting their prominent markigs which shout to all creatures of their poisonousness and inedibility. Once i had the butterfly cupped in my arms, I looked very carefully. i realised that something was wrong but i couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Suddenly realisation dawned. The antennas looked strange because they were straight and had no clubs. What I had in my hands was a female moth! Gingerly so as not to harm it, I held it one hand and photographed it with another.

It was really, really beautiful. It mimicked the Blue Crows to perfection; it looked like one. It flew like one. It behaved like one – slow clumsy flight, not difficult to catch, with body constriction just like that made by a crow, right down to the yellow tendrils waving from the tip of the abdomen. It was uit uncanny.

After a while, I released it and after a full day’s outing went back to my room.

Indian moths are hard to identify. There is a tremendous amount of work yet to be one. The only really comprehensive work Fauna of British India, (Moths) volumes appeared in the last decade of the nineteenth century and were authored by G. F. Hampson. But I did not have it at that time. Today it is freely downloadable at http://www.archive.org.

So I did the next best thing! I  requested identification on Indian Moths. It turned out to be a most interesting query and the moth turned out to be deadly. Beautiiful, but deadly.

Arif Siddiqui in Southeast Arunachal responded first. He said that he had spotted the moth just about then and was thinking of  postng for its id when he saw my post.  From Binnaguri to Jairampur, thats 694 kilometers apart! A very goodly range indeed!

We soon got an id from Roger Kendrick, the guy in charge of all the Moths of Hong Kong (seriously ;-)). He was apoplectic. After he recovered, he told us that  –

“This looks like the nominate subspecies of a burnet moth (family Zygaenidae, subfamily Chalcosiinae) that goes by the name of Cyclosia midamia, if Endo & Kishida (1999; Day-flying Moths: Chalcosiinae, Epicopeia; Endless Science Information, Tokyo) is anything to go by.

I wonder why people consider burnets as mimics. They are a more primitive group than most larger moths and butterflies – so it would seem logical that they are the original distasteful models that more recently eveloved taxa (especially Danainae) have evolved to mimic (in Müllerian mimicry rings).”

Moth-ers consider butterfly guys to be ignorant, self-important snoots! And with good reason too! I thought that this moth mimicked a butterfly! As per Roger, it was the other way round. This whole family of moths, the Chalcosiinae, is far older than the Danainae subfamily commonly called Crows and Tigers.

Roger mentioned the Chalcosiinae as ‘primitive’. That’s a politically incorrect term now, as I was rudely told on Wikipedia by an irate editor; one should use the term ‘basal’.

An interesting emailversation followed between Roger and Krushnamegh Kunte about whether the butterflies or the moths were the ‘model’.  The argument was put that the moths had evolved first. The point was then made that it was not known as to which which group evolved aposematic  colouration first. It was submitted that Crows being the more populous ‘drove’ the mimicry, to be countered by the assertion that the moth could have been  more poulous in the past. This was met with a repartee that the butterflies being far more numerous today were driving ‘mimicry’ and that the past situation could not e acertained.

With a lot of goodwill, these two experts argued, watched by me with gaping mouth, marvelling at the erudition and knowledge on display.

For those who have been lost so far – a instructive interlude.

Suppose a butterfly eats inedible plants as a larva and ‘sequesters’ those toxins within itself – that’s called being inedible.

At this point, no bird or lizard or whatever knows about this, so it samples this butterfly. The butterfly tastes disgusting and distasteful, so the predator spits it out and vows never to eat this filthy stuff again.

In order to make it easier for the bird/lizard to ‘remember’, the butterfly develops distinctive patterns with bright colours so that once sample, the predator remembers the disctinct markings and avoids it. This develomnt of warning advertisement is called ‘aposematism’.

poisonous

mimicry

double mimicry

danger

Such a beautiful

Quote – Holmes on ‘Entomology’

22 August 2009
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

” I suppose you are an entomologist ? ”

” Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name.

No man can be truly called an entomologist,
sir;  the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

The Poet at the Breakfast Table.

Image credit : Wikimedia Commons.

Ye old looke at naturalists!

22 August 2009

One comes across gems hidden amongst the deadly prose of scholarly tomes ; though no one could say that of  W.J. Holland‘s  popular “The butterfly book” published in 1902 meant for encouraging young American turn-of-the-century aurelians. This was discovered in one of his digressions as he liked to call them.

A naturalist on the prowl!

A naturalist on the prowl!

UNCLE JOTHAM’S BOARDER

“I ve kep’ summer boarders for years, and allowed
I knowed all the sorts that there be;
But there come an old feller this season along,
That turned out a beater for me.
Whatever that feller was arter, I vow
I hain’t got the slightest idee.

“He had an old bait-net of thin, rotten stuff
That a minner could bite his way through;
But he never went fishin’ at least, in the way
That fishermen gen’ally do;
But he carried that bait-net wherever he went;
The handle was j’inted in two.

“And the bottles and boxes that chap fetched along!
Why, a doctor would never want more;
If they held pills and physic, he ‘d got full enough
To fit out a medicine-store.
And he ‘d got heaps of pins, dreffle lengthy and slim.
Allers droppin’ about on the floor.

“Well, true as I live, that old feller just spent
His hull days in loafin’ about
And pickin’ up hoppers and roaches and flies
Not to use for his bait to ketch trout,
But to kill and stick pins in and squint at and all.
He was crazy ‘s a coot, th’ ain’t no doubt.

“He ‘d see a poor miller a-flyin’ along,
The commonest, every-day kind,
And he ‘d waddle on arter it, fat as he was,
And foller up softly behind,
Till he ‘d flop that-air bait-net right over its head,
And I ‘d laugh till nigh out of my mind.

“Why, he ‘d lay on the ground for an hour at a stretch
And scratch in the dirt like a hen;
He ‘d scrape all the bark off the bushes and trees,
And turn the stones over; and then
He ‘d peek under logs, or he ‘d pry into holes.
I ‘m glad there ain’t no more sech men.

“My wife see a box in his bedroom, one day,
Jest swarmin’ with live caterpillars;
He fed ’em on leaves off of all kinds of trees
The ellums and birches and willers;
And he ‘d got piles of boxes, chock-full to the top
With crickets and bees and moth-millers.

“I asked him, one time, what his business might be.
Of course, I fust made some apology.
He tried to explain, but such awful big words!
Sorto’ forren, outlandish, and collegey.
‘S near ‘s I can tell, ‘stead of enterin’ a trade,
He was tryin’ to jest enter mology.

“And Hannah, my wife, says she ‘s heerd o’ sech things;
She guesses his brain warn’t so meller.
There ‘s a thing they call Nat’ral Histerry, she says,
And, whatever the folks there may tell her,
Till it ‘s settled she ‘s wrong she ’11 jest hold that-air man
Was a Nat’ral Histerrical feller.”

Annie Trumbull Slosson

Note

Annie Trumbull Slosson (1832-1926) was an important short story writer who epitomized the American local color movement that flourished after the Civil War and ended at the beginning of the twentieth century. She is widely acclaimed for her book  ” Fishin’ Jimmy “,  about which noted angling story teller, Henry Van Dyke said:

“The loveliest of all her simple narratives is that which I have chosen to stand near the end of (my)  book,–a kind of benediction on anglers.”

The butterfly catcher!

The butterfly catcher! Collage by Ann Gorman

Image credit:


Freedom? Still awaited!

15 August 2009

Yesterday we celebrated the freedom of our nation. That was freedom  from dominion by an alien race. We wanted to be free – to prosper, to further ourselves, to contribute to our nations and mankind, to become better people.

the first stamp of independent India, released on 21 Nov 1947

The first stamp of independent India, released on 21 Nov 1947

We did not become free to serve new overlords – in any field, whether it was public life or in private life; definitely not in our love for learning, discovery and engagement with the world around us. In 62 years, more than a lifetime for many of us, we continue to be restrained. Simple things like Knowledge, which should be free, continue to elude us; nay to be denied us by artificial constructs such as copyright, by bureaucracies, by small, selfish people who are blind to the larger picture, the enormous latent possibilities in the hearts and minds of the common Indians and who do not consider the common man to be a stakeholder in anything which affects him.

“Satyameva jayate”

may be interpreted as

“The truth shall set you free.”

So on this day, I celebrate freedom. Free practices, free knowledge, free thinking.

I have placed this blog under free licenses explicitly.

The content on this blog is free!

Free to be used by you, quoted, modified, transformed and even used commercially.

But with the proviso that the freedom which I give you has to be passed on to your stakeholders and you cannot take that freedom away as they can’t  in their turn. And my copyright (or more accurately, my copyleft) needs to be acknowledged by attribution.

Wikipedia - free content in the real world!

Wikipedia - free content in the real world!

The exact terms can be seen from the links on the two licenses (take your pick of one) in the license widget in the right panel on the blog main page.

This blog already has an impassioned plea for Open science by Shyamal.

‘Open science’ is actually a weasel word, mistakenly used by me to title his op-ed; he had not given one to his piece.

We actually need ‘Free science’.

Just as Free software is a more powerful concept than Open source software, so is ‘Free Science’ more ‘free’ than ‘Open Science’.

Richard Stallman - The Prophet for Freedom in content!

Richard Stallman - The Prophet for Freedom in content!

“Value your freedom or you will lose it, teaches history. “Don’t bother us with politics,” respond those who don’t want to learn.”

Richard Stallman, circa 2000.

Just as open source is a compromise between the commercial world of big business and the FLOSS community, ‘Open Science’ envisages an avatar of traditional science where you and I are valued stakeholders.

But my wish is the same that Capt Vikram Batra, Param Vir Chakra (posthumous) paraphrased after the capture of  Pt 5140 p –

Yeh dil mange more!

Yeh dil mange more!

Science should not be just ‘open’ but also should be ‘free’

It should be free to all stakeholders to better their lives and their heritage. Clean green technology freely available to all for saving our planet. Technology to better our lives also free, if not to all concerned, but definitely to those who can’t feed their bellies every day. Science free from the top to the bottom – from academia to the hoi-polloi, from the technocrat to the consumer, from the practioner to the enthusiast.

Maybe, its a pipe dream, but I wish…..

If you find this rant mis-placed in the context of India’s freedom, I allow Stallman to reply for me once again. Only replace the word ‘software’ with the word ‘science’…

“It’s clear that other problems such as religious fundamentalism, overpopulation, damage to the environment, and the domination of business over government, science, thought, and society, are much bigger than non-free software. But many other people are already working on them, and I don’t have any great aptitude or ideas for how to address them. So it seems best for me to keep working on the issue of free software. Besides, free software does counter one aspect of business domination of society.”

—–

God bless all who gave their tomorrow for our today!

Credits – Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote.

Din ka raja aur uski praja

12 August 2009

(English:The Day-king and his retinue)

I really like having plants with perfumed flowers around where I live. I plant them whenever we move into a new house. When we moved into ‘Casa Grande’ as my brother and his family refer to the quaint old-fashioned bungalow that we are presently staying in, I had the same sentiments.

(My wife reminds me, that by ‘planting’, I actually mean getting someone else to plant them .)

My father-in-law, the quintessential and ever-obliging gardener, brought two perfumed bushes and a creeper so as to indulge his son-in-law.

The Clematis creeper grew profusely, flowered in all seasons and doused passers-by in clouds of perfume. The Raat ki rani (Night queen, to those who know not Hindi) (Cestrum nocturnum) wafted gentle fragrance into my son’s bed room. But the Din ka raja (Day king) (Cestrum diurnum) though growing tall did not quite live upto the reputation of its nocturnal relative, planted barely twenty feet away.

It was not his fault really. Cestrum diurnum flowers in the rains in India and yours truly was quite ignorant of this. The rains brought flowers but no visitors. I was disappointed.

'Din ka raja' flowers in front of 'Casa Grande' in the rains!

'Din ka raja' flowers in front of 'Casa Grande' in the rains!

One overcast day, around ten in the morning, there was a break in the clouds, and some shafts of golden yellow sunshine poured through. All at once there was a riot of  insect life, buzzing all around the flowers.

The most colourful were the Common Jays (Graphium doson). I had seen them very often in my garden fliting up and down the Mast trees (Polyalthia longifolia). Common Jays are common in CME whereas there are very few records, if any, in neighbouring Pune. It is a electric blue butterfly which can easily be mistaken by beginners as the Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon).

Common Jay - most colourful of all!

Common Jay - most colourful of all!

There were many Common Gulls (Cepora nerissa) around. The bushes just swerved with them. But were they flighty? I hardly had time to focus before they were off. Add to that, their folding their wings.

Common Gull and a wasp!

Common Gull and a wasp!

Another visitor – the Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace).

Blue Tiger suspended but sipping!

Blue Tiger suspended but sipping!

Besides the butterflies, there were wasp, flies and bees too.

This looked like a fly through the viewfinder till blown up on a computer for identification. It turned out to be the head of a Common Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona), the green wings had seemingly merged in the background.

Not a fly. Common Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona).

Not a fly. Common Emigrant.

Besides this were Lycaenids or blues, Common Jezebel (Delias eucharis) and the Tailed Jay (Graphium agamemnon).

My cup runneth over….