Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Lately in my garden

I was going to do a butterfly post, instead I changed my mind to do a garden post involving butterflies.

We are in the early stages of the North East monsoon now, which brings rain and migrant birds to the entire country. Speaking of migrants, the much talked about Himalayan avian jewel, Indian Pitta Pitta brachura has arrived and my mother reported hearing one early morning today.

It usually calls at around 6 a.m. and again at 6.00 p.m., which has earned its local Tamil name: Arumani Kuruvi meaning the Six O'clock-bird! I was fast asleep at the unearthly hour that my mother had heard it.

Well, now that I know it is here, I will make an exception and look for it. Soon.
I have been trying to capture a certain angle of it for the last 4 years to complete an article about its plumage. I hope I would be get it this season.

My first Brown-breasted Flycatcher aka. Layard's Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui for this migratory season was seen on 12 Oct (Sunday).

Brown-breasted FlycatcherI welcomed it by doing a customary migrant welcoming dance. For those who are not familiar with this obscure Sri Lankan birding ritual, it is very similar to the dance performed by some of the US birders when a life bird is seen, as demonstrated by Susan Williams, except that in this version, you do figure 8s from your hips 3 times before moving the hands in the air like you just don't care.

The species name of Brown-breasted Flycatcher: muttui is to honour one Mr. Muttu (pronounced muththu)– the Tamil cook who served its discover, Edgar Leopold Layard (1824-1900), who was a British civil servant (1839-1848) with a passion for birds and natural history. Layard came to Sri Lanka with just £17 in his pocket with his wife Barbara Anne Calthrope after whom the species name of the endemic Layard's Parakeet Psittacula calthropae was named.

I heard the unmistakable call of the regular migrant Bright Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus on 1 October, and saw one the following day. Two more migrants, Barn Swallow and Brown Shrike were also seen for the first time for this season a few days ago at my local patch.

I have started to photograph 'blues' again, with renewed enthusiasm after getting my new camera. All these targets were acquired lying flat on the ground—commando-style—at early morning (defined as 7.30 a.m., thank you) when they weren't too active.

Indian Cupid Everes lacturnus

Indian Cupid
Their relative inactivity also allowed me to narrow down the shooting distance to less than a foot, which is required to get good close ups with my Canon 100mm Macro lens. In these pictures, you can see its conspicuous double orange spot on the tornus of the hind wing verso, which is a reliable diagnostic to tell this species.

Here's the same with in a more orthodox posture but with the light coming from a different angle.

Indian Cupid
Here is the same with the wings open showing why they are popularly referred as 'blues.'

Indian Cupid
Here's another shot of the same.

Indian Cupid
Most of the 'blues' are quite small and look identical, which explains why they pose ID challenges of the highest magnitudes. If you are not comfortable in capturing them to identify down to species level as deemed necessary by some experts, I think the next best way to identify them is to photograph them! And that is half the battle, of course.

I employ this second method, which works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Lime Blue Chilades lajus

Lime BlueHere’s one showing the recto of the same. Note how similar it is to the first one above.

Lime BlueA garden post without dragonflies?

No bloody way!

I had a brief but a good sighting of a male Pruinosed Bloodtail Lathrecista asiatica asiatica last Saturday, soon after waking up from a 3-hour power-nap at late afternoon. The last sighting of an adult male this uncommon dragonfly was on 6 Sep, 2004 when a male visited my home garden presenting my first views. Click here to see a young female of the same. An Amber-winged Glider Hydrobasileus croceus was seen today in flight, of which the first record was when I saw this individual on 17 Oct, 2004. This seem to be the time of the year when it visits my garden. This species is one of the two Libelluids that is not represented by a colour photograph in the 'photo guide to dragonflies of Sri Lanka,' as I blogged here I have now got both these species.

I conclude this post with this female Variegated Flutterer Rhyothemis variegata variegata, which is the Sri Lankan version of the Halloween Pennant found in North America seen in this post by Ecobirder.

Variegated Flutterer


Anonymous said...

where is your place located ?

Anonymous said...

Gallicissa, I think they know who you are! The way they pose for you!

Vickie said...

Thanks for a nice visit to your garden. Lovely, lovely photos!

Amila Salgado said...

Thanks for dropping by, Anonymous.
This is at Bomiriya, Kaduwela, - Colombo District.

Thanks, Kalu.
Glad you think that way! These blues can really stretch you.

Thanks for coming over to visit my garden, Vickie. I am pleased you liked the photos.

Pat - Arkansas said...

I very much enjoyed the photos of the little "blues." They are charming. Your new camera is working very well. I laughed at my mental image of your doing the "Welcome Migrant Birds" dance!

Redzlan aka Tabib said...

Now the migrant birds stat comming, to keep us busy chasing this species.
We have "dauurica" species here.

I love to see that blue butterfly, the same species around my backyard too.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Pat,
Thanks! Yes the blues are fun and I am loving my camera.

Migration is a serious thing considering the amount of preparation, effort and dangers involved. The MWD is to celebrate all these things.

Hi Tabib,
Migrant season is a very exciting time of the year for me. Yes, I saw your dauurica pics.

I bet you have a good diversity of blues and related forms over there.

spookydragonfly said...

Your little blues are beautiful...but of course, great shot of the dragon! What I really would've liked to have seen is you doing that dance!! (or maybe not?!)
All the photos are perfect,Gallicissa!

Amila Salgado said...

Thanks Spookydragonfly.
Just try our MW dance at home - it is good for your hips!

Have I said that I love your nom de plume? I think it is cute.

Doug Taron said...

We have a very close relative of the Indian Cupid here in the states (ours is Everes comyntas. Great photos, as always. Lycaenidae is my favorite butterfly family, particularly if you are a lumper and include the metalmarks.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Doug,
I googled Everes comyntas and saw how similar it is to our Indian Cupid. That is quite amazing!.

We are blessed with only a single metalmark: Abisara echerius (Plum Judy). And I prefer keep it in Riodinidae!

Larry said...

I like th photos of The "Blues" wih their wings open.-I've never danced over a lifer although my heartrate has sped up a little bit.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Larry,
Glad you liked my blues.
Blues are good distractions at midday when bird activity drops.

I am sure you will remember this post when you see a lifer next time! Try it - it is good for you!

Susan Gets Native said...

Maybe someday, we can bird together...you show me the Migrant Dance and I will show you the Lifer Dance? And everyone can stare and laugh at us.
: )

Your Indian Cupid is just like one of our blues! (Eastern Tailed Blue...Cupido comyntas)

*just looked it up again...also called Everes comyntas like Doug said...well, I'm confused by that, but anyway....very cool how we are on opposite sides of the planet but can still enjoy very, very similar butterflies and birds.

Amila Salgado said...

That sounds a good idea, Susan!
I'd love to show you our MWD!

Yes, as you pointed out in a comment earlier and here, it is amazing how some of our taxa are so similar to ones found there despite our lands beings so far apart.

Small world!

oldcrow61 said...

I know I keep repeating myself but your pictures are fantastic. A joy to look at.

Mel said...

Hi Amila,
I just looove staring at your dragonflies!
I envy your garden!!

合田學 (上坂眞信)  said...

I read your sentence interestingly. I was impressed. Refined sentence and diversity of a beautiful photograph, you have born ability.

At the time of that tsunami, it will be that I met with a tsunami if I go to Indonesia via Thailand. Fortunately, I saved it because I took another course and was in the Philippines.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Mel,
A lot of work has been done in my garden on habitat enrichment to invite in creatures I like.

Thank you, PZ.
Glad to read your Tsunami story.
You are lucky that you changed the trips.

anushka said...

your blog is excellent.it helps me in my blog also.i have many pictures of birds and butterflies in my blog,but i have difficulty in identifying it.

Amila Salgado said...

Thank you, vrajesh.
Good to hear from the neighbourhood. I would drop by in your blog to see whether I can help you. Thanks for dropping by.

Kathie Brown said...

You sure have been busy! I love the little brown-breasted flycatcher! It looks so sweet in this photo! I'll have to go check out those dances you linked to. Can you teach us all the Sri Lankan Migratory Welcoming Dance? Perhaps you could post a video! I love the butterfly photos too!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Kathie!
Yes I have a garden that keeps me occupied. The flycatcher is an indicator species of sorts as it prefers shady/wetter lower reaches of gardens/forests. And my garden has the right habitat requirements for it.

You want to see my WMD? I promise to post a demostration of it for one of these days after I get my niece to do it! She'll look far better on video!

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