Malabar Tree-Nymph (Idea malabarica)
Luck favors who take chances - I took chance when Deepak said we can get Malabar tree nymph (MTN) caterpillar for sure at one place. Answer to this question was another question. Why dont you asked me before? The destination was another five kilometers inside the jungles, ahead of Ashtagaal (cotigao, goa). Thankfully a car was available and going there was not a problem. MTN is one of the largest butterfly species of India, with wingspan upto 160 cm. Could be easily identified with black spots on off-whit grey colored body, gliding flight and habit to hover over a particular spot. Species is endemic to the western ghat and is locally common.
There were 4-5 individuals MTN specimen were hovering over a patch of road. Every individual with characteristic a long gliding flight and then habit of settling down on some leaf at least 15 feet above the ground. The first hour was irritating, as I could not get a single snap of this black and white beauty. MTN is known to be camera-shy butterfly. This forced us to move to a very small pond near by. Seating there and watching the other butterflies were fun. Redspot duke guarding the territory, Blue Nawab in brisk flight mode and again lots of MTN gliding. Prize for this nature watch - raw mangoes. That too, drop them with stone. Remove the pedicel rubbing it on the stone and sour the teeth.
Apart from those moments no success. I thought to return as luck was not with me today it seems. But then suddenly some fate-related planets were disturbed somehow it seems. Deepak spotted the caterpillar and then I saw the female laying eggs. Female laid eggs under the leaf at height from two feet to ten feet. Egg is quiet similar to that of common crow. Surprisingly two males started court shipping the lady. But lady was not in mood till the first affair is not over. Males tried to woo female for a long time and I grabbed the chance to photograph the courtship. One of them shows the scent sales of male taken out during courtship. When tired pair settled dropping the idea to mate, I could grab some photos of both sexes, and of upper wing and under wings. Photos are dull as all of them were shot in almost dark. But I was happy as the chance I took was rewarded with all the stages of MTN life cycle but the pupa. It was stimulating half an hour for me. The sighting indeed was lifer.
By Paresh Kale