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Wandering Destination: Namdapha NP (part 4: Butterflies)

 



Wandering Destination: Namdapha NP (part 4: Butterflies)

 


Opening line of a song from Chennai express is "बन के तितली दिल उडा उडा है कही दुर …", meaning after transforming to a butterfly my heart has gone far somewhere!



I suppose here far means some where in North-Eastern part of India ! Seven Indian states constitutes the region, often known as Seven sisters, is the heaven for all kind of wild life including butterflies. Year in, year out region experiences heavy rainfall. Heavy rainfall and minimum intrusion by human has helped jungles to remain green and achieve the perfect ecological balance. These untouched jungles are located on terrain with its heights ranging from sea level to about 5000+ meters. Variation in the height is the reason for formation of right ecology in this delightful sanctuary for wild life researchers and enthusiasts. Our group was interested in documenting butterflies and Namdapha WLS is known for hosting more than 700 species of butterflies.



Beginners bad luck !

After anxiously preparing for the trip, we reached the place and settled down in a nice guest house ! Thanks Rohan, the only member of the group with  prior Namdapha experience, for all the arrangements :-) During the travel from Mumbai, we all were discussing about butterflies and photography - spots we can visit, the day schedule, size of butterfly flock, would batteries last long to shoot s many species that to for about six days and which will be the species we would be lucky to shoot ! Unending discussion finally ended when we arrived at Namdapha guest house just before lunch, the place most desired for last few months ! 


Apart from us, there was only one other group staying on the premises - totally out of the world and not at all concerned with wild life. That helped us in a way that forest department personnel (they live in the cottages near by the guest house) were interested in our work as it was of common interest. It was time to listen from horses mouth and horse has to face many questions ! 'This is not the right season for butterflies' was the common voice of long discussions we had on the first day. It took some time for us to digest exactly opposite to the information we gathered before planning the trip about butterfly activity at Namdapha. Earlier visitors had spotted more number of species in Nov-Dec season than in Mar-Apr season. The flocks of thousands of butterflies were photographed and many rare species cited as well !






Everybody of us had a strong feeling that the trip will not be a waste, at least it would some different experience. We believed that mother nature always has something new to show, we needed to be patient, explore more and explore intelligently. Now it was only the rain which can demotivate us, remember here weather changes in hours and black cloud can soon start raining ! butterfly activity increases tremendously after rain gets over which nobody can predict exactly !










The first catch:  

After that delicious food prepared by Gopal, We all scattered around the guest house to shoot for the first time since we arrived. There were some commoners like common tit, grass yellows, varieties of brown flying all around in plenty. It was a nice net-practice to warm up the gears and tune to macro photography. I had to practice more as I was using external flash (Nikon SB-700) for the first time. 










Shooting spotted Jester
It was just four o'clock and day had to be called off. Light was too low and almost all specimens in the garden had been photographed. There was still an hour or so for dinner. While chatting Rohan recalled Dr. Amol Patwardhan, one of renowned etymologist, told him that some butterflies do get trapped in the veranda of guest house. This veranda is packed by fitting a hard-wire-net which traps the large sized moths and butterflies in the evening. We cautiously opened the door of the veranda and immediately saw the first price catch (actual Marathi phrase we use is Aamba Padla (आंबा पडला) - literally meaning mango fallen !) - Assam Pasha. A beautiful, un-damaged female was seating on the nets. She welcomed us and posed for an hour or so till we fade up of shooting her !



Next it was another model waited for us at the same place! It cooperated for some two hours and we managed to shoot it in parts, I mean shoot every part ! Four of us took 1:1 close-up pictures of its eyes, scales, spots on the tails, open wing shot, close wing shots !














The targeted catch:

In this part of world, day breaks at around 5 in the morning and it closes around 5 in the evening. Just after arriving here, its hard to cope up with a lagging schedule and is made much difficult with very cold morning temperatures. If had not  there for shooting butterflies, I would have not came out of the quilt every morning, at least till the breakfast time. Need to maximum utilization of time made me to drop thought of any extension of sleeping hours after five in the morning. I thought to utilize hours before breakfast to roam around the guest house. Also, as per plan, after breakfast we were suppose to go on some simple treks to look for butterflies and would return for a late lunch.




There is a small part in the premises where plenty of fern plants were growing under dense trees. This atmosphere where it was hard for sunlight to reach is good for finding one of Namdapha special - The striped ringlet butterfly. This breed is shy, seats above the fern plant and monitors the territory. Unless it flew away, it is extremely hard to spot the seating individual. Considering the dense web of climbers, low light situation and camouflage abilities of this class of butterfly, it was challenging job to get a decent photo of a healthy specimen. I spent around three days to get an acceptable captures of this raw beauty  - including close-up of its scales! 




More places: 

There are many spots around the guesthouse, good for photographing butterflies, they are:
  1. way to Haldibari: Haldibari is camping site, special for bird like Hornbill. On the way, one may spot many skippers flying over the bushes. In this area be careful about leeches. 
  2. Namdapha river bed : Best site for observing flocks puddling in the sand. Yellows and tips are usually large in number. However, if there is right food present (e.g. rotten water-body / leopard scat) various species of Rajah and other exotic butterflies gathers in plenty. 
  3. The road ahead of guesthouse : In March - April this will be full of flowers and butterflies.










  

The good bye:

Penultimate day went watching the drizzles throughout. We could occasionally go out every time rain stops for some time and shoot everything we could. Commoners like wanderer, sapphires were seen, I lost the track of some leafblue. Catch was forest pierrot seating, sun bathing on a big leaf of some bush. Its a small butterfly quite far from me and it was hard to shoot it with a 100mm macro lens. I manage a decent shot and then did everything to get best shot. Even after all circus and follow-up, fellow eluded the shoot.








After rain time is a good time to see skippers but hard time to shoot them. Skippers, generally speaking, are fast fliers and prefers areas covered with dense bushes and grass. Exploring these areas immediately after rain is troublesome however a good experience. Wet leaves makes you wet, in-cautious movements in inter-mingled vines disturbs the butterfly, and the danger of falling down with the camera is haunting ! The last day double rainbow was spotted right over the Namdapha river bed that we captured from the "mobile" spot. I took tripod from Ajay and shot some spectacular HDR and videos around the premises.







Analysis:

To me citing of butterflies during our visit could have been suffered by one or more of the following reasons:
  1. Our visit was slightly delayed (No body wanted to celebrate Diwali in Namdapha).
  2. The cold wave started early that year, as locals said.
  3. Number of butterflies cited must be a cycle with a peak and valley in the graph. Unfortunately it was valley time of the cycle when we visited.
  4. Nov-Dec may not be the season for butterflies at all. I could hardly see some flowering (nectoring is mostly followed activity by butterflies)

   

Previous posts of this series:



Price catch:























The complete bunch:



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