I understand that Dragonflies were among the first winged insects to evolve some 300 million years ago. These dragonflies that we see around now have wingspans of only two to five inches and are no comparison to the fossil dragonflies with wingspans up to two feet! Here are some more interesting facts about dragonflies along with the pictures of these friends from my garden- Dragonflies don’t sting or bite; they don’t carry diseases or germs. They are colorful and have amazing ways of flying. The flying skills of the dragonflies have inspired scientists and engineers to make flying robots, drones and helicopters. They need water bodies to complete their life cycle. The larvae are aquatic and stay in water for one or two years! But the adult stage lasts only for a few months. Dragonflies are natural pest control devices, so to say. A dragonfly can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in a single day. They catch the prey while in flight. Watching dragonflies, similar to birding, is called ‘oding’ which comes from the order ‘Odonata’ to which they belong. According to some folklore, seeing swarms of dragonflies signifies impending rain. For some cultures, dragonflies represent good luck and prosperity, especially when it lands on one’s head 🙂
My yellow friends from the garden- lovely yellow butterflies! Let me introduce them in the order of the pictures presented here. Common Emigrant or Lemon Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona) gets the name from their migratory nature. Females of these pretty, medium sized butterflies can be distinguished by their brown blotches and silvery spots on the underside of the lemon-yellow wings. Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe) are small butterflies with freckled brown spots on the underside of their wings. They fly closer to the ground. Small Grass Yellow (Eurema brigitta) resembles the previous species. The distinguishing feature is the dusting of the underside of the wings with scattered black scales and small black spots. Many myths and beliefs surround yellow butterflies. A yellow butterfly represents joy and creativity. A yellow butterfly flying around you brings happiness and prosperity. Seeing one also means that some fun and excitement is on its way. Yellow butterflies represent new life in many cultures. For the Chinese, a yellow butterfly denotes love. It represents the passion inside the hearts of two lovers.
Spotted doves (Spilopelia chinensis) are elegant visitors to my terrace. They are friendly, still very watchful of my movements. They visit in pairs to have a drink or two in the birdbath provided.
It is very comforting to watch these birds. They wait on the trellis in my terrace garden, watch the other birds that make a racket at the birdbath and fly down when the din subsides and other birds fly away. They are well mannered, adding to their elegance. Never rush or chase other birds…but, wait for their turn patiently to quench their thirst! These are pictures captured on my terrace.
Spotted dove is also called the mountain dove, pearl-necked dove and lace-necked dove. These are common residents across the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia. They are very common in urban areas, foraging on the ground for grass seeds, grains, fallen fruits and seeds of other plants.
When we think of friends in our garden, Potter wasp is not likely to be on the list. However, potter wasps are beneficial insects that provide natural control of many types of caterpillars that are pests of our vegetable garden. The name ‘potter wasp’ derives from the shape of the mud nests built by the female to lay eggs and these nests are known as brood nests. These are built in a variety of places, like on tree trunks and twigs as well as exterior surfaces of buildings. The nest interestingly looks like a miniature pot or jug, complete with cover when it is sealed! The female wasp hunts caterpillars, stores them in the nest after paralyzing them by her sting. The developing wasp larva feeds on these caterpillars and comes out as an adult. I found this lovely potter wasp (Phimenes flavopictus) hovering in my garden, feeding on Leucas aspera (Thumba) flowers and then having a drink in the birdbath. You can see the nest that is built on a plant twig. The seal of the nest has two tiny holes to let in air for the larva inside!
Today I have three orb-weaver spiders from my garden. Orb-weaver spiders build spiral wheel-shaped webs that are very common in gardens and places with a lot of plant growth.
Opadometa fastigata, the pear-shaped Leucauge, is a species of spider in the family of long-jawed orb weavers. It is found in India and East Asian countries. This species can be identified by its pear-shaped abdomen and the fourth pair of legs with a thick brush of spines. Side view shows a hump formed by the pear-shaped abdomen overhanging the cephalothorax (the structure formed by head and thorax). Gasteracantha geminata is a species of spider, found in India and Sri Lanka. It is known as the Oriental spiny orb-weaver or Spiny-backed orb-weaver, due to the prominent spines on either side of the abdomen. Argiope pulchella, another species of the orb-weavers is seen in India and other Asian countries. The species can be often seen near human habitats. Like other species of this genus, it is a “signature spider”; it builds the web with a zig-zag ‘stabilimentum’ resembling a signature! These spiders build their web close to the ground in order to catch low flying insects.
This time, two butterflies! These beauties were captured in my garden. Easy to shoot, as they are generally fond of enjoying the morning sunlight.
Lime butterfly (Papilio demoleus) is also known as Lemon butterfly and is a common visitor in gardens wherever the host plants of the species, Citrus plants, are cultivated. No wonder they are regular visitors in my garden! The common names suggest their host plant on which the life cycle is completed. Those who are interested can have a look at the stages of LIFE CYCLE that I captured in my garden.
Lemon pansy (Junonia lemonias) is a common species found in a wide variety of habitats and is distributed across India. It can be commonly seen in gardens, parks and wastelands. The butterflies are usually seen in twos and threes, either basking on low foliage, or nectaring on flowers. Though not brightly coloured, Lemon pansies are very beautiful with lovely designs on the wings. These butterflies do not use Citrus plants as their host plant.
Indian palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum) is known for the distinctive three stripes across its back, much similar to that in Chipmunks, a smaller variety of squirrels seen in N. America. There is a legend related to the stripes seen on this squirrel. Though it is a well-known legend in India, here it is in brief. According to this Mythological legend, the squirrel helped Lord Rama to collect sand and build bridge to reach Lanka, the Kingdom of Ravana, where Sita was in captivity. Lord Rama stroked squirrel’s back to show his appreciation and three stripes, marks of his fingers, appeared on its back. I have two more posts on Indian palm squirrel. Please check out here- Post1Post2. This adorable critter decided to have lunch on my backyard wall. Looked like the rice I had placed was tasty. Observe the expressions!
I have two butterflies here. They look similar due to the wing designs, but are different. Maybe, we can say they are related as both belong to the same family, Nymphalidae. The one with white markings on brown is Common sailor butterfly (Neptis hylas). This is a common species seen in Indian subcontinent. Here you can see the butterfly feeding on sandalwood flowers, on a tree behind my house.
Butterfly with orange markings is Common lascar butterfly (Pantoporia hordonia). It’s distribution in India is from the Himalayas to the Western Ghats. The adults would typically open their wings fully when perching. This is captured from my backyard.
My second post on Spotted Beauty- Asian Koel female. Please check out the first post HERE. Asian koels, members of the Cuckoo family, are frequent visitors. After quenching thirst on my terrace, they forage in the vegetable garden for ripe tomatoes also!
This beauty had a drink. Then she flew on to a tree nearby, which had Tinospora vine climbing on it. The ripe berries were a definite attraction. She might have had her fill and then flew away. I could capture a few pictures of her in sequence.
Though very attractive, she has a not -so-desirable character of laying eggs in the nests of other birds especially crows, where the foster parent nurtures the young ones till they begin to fly.
Black kite? A friend in my garden…? Yes…a kind of! They hover above my house, make nests and brood on tall trees in the neighbouring property and then many times rest on my parapet or in the garden.
Black kite (Milvus migrans) is a fairly large bird, larger than a crow. They have a majestic stance and shrill call with whinnying. The brown plumage is beautiful, which is similar in male and female birds. Black kites are widely distributed around the globe. They are seen in large numbers near human dwellings in India and avoid wilderness.
Here you can see the bird resting on my parapet, with keen observant eyes. Suddenly it is alert and flies down to the ground to snatch a dead rat from the crows. Though I have the pictures of the scenes, I am restricting to the kite alone. Once the meal is done, it is ready to fly away!
These pictures are of the same bird, taken sequentially.