The Indian palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum) is native to the warm, humid areas of the southern Indian subcontinent. The species is known for the distinctive three stripes across its back and is also called the Three-striped palm squirrel. Highly adapted to urban life, these adorable critters are always seen around my house. They even venture to build their nests in the corners of the windows, gnawing at the wooden frame, much to our chagrin. Indian palm squirrels prefer to feed on nuts and fruits. They are also believed to eat certain insects and caterpillars etc, making them omnivorous. These critters are always busy, vocal and unlike other squirrels they do not hibernate. I have captured different actions of their busy schedule 🙂
A songbird of open areas such as farmland, fields, and urban gardens, black drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus) is a common sight perched on wires, cables or small bare branches that pop out. This species is identifiable by a white spot at the base of the beak on either side. It is famous for its aggressive behaviour towards much larger birds such as crows and chase away any birds that invade its territory. Smaller birds often find it safe to nest in the vicinity of well-guarded Black drongo neighbourhood. Another interesting fact is its ability to mimic, producing a variety of avian calls. This insectivorous bird is glossy black with long and deeply forked outer tail feathers. Male and female birds are similar in appearance. Though aggressive to other birds, it was very friendly with me, relaxing on my terrace and even posing for photoshoot 🙂
Today, let us enjoy the beauty of these butterflies. The common names of some of these butterflies may be funny. These are delicate critters, and the name ‘tiger’ is a misnomer, as far as common people like us are concerned. Blue tiger butterflies (Tirumala limniace) are migratory in nature. Here, it is feeding on a Periwinkle flower in my garden. This Plain tiger butterfly (Danaus chrysippus) is a male, identifiable due to the presence of a white pouch. This pouch is seen on the underside of the hind wings in a black patch. The Common crow butterflies (Euploea core) have dull brown wings with white spots. Great eggfly or Common eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina) is seen feeding on sandalwood flowers, behind my house. In males wings are black or dark brown with white marks. Females are colourful.
This beautiful, predominantly green bird is a resident of South India. I am lucky to have them around my house and they regularly visit to have a drink and bath on my terrace. Then, have a meal of Tinospora berries before disappearing into the green foliage of the tall trees nearby. White-cheeked barbets (Psilopogon viridis) have brown head and characteristic white patterns on its face- white patch of plumage extending from beak to ears, white line above the eyes and white throat. These are frugivorous birds. It is very rare to see them foraging on the ground.
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.