Wednesday, August 10, 2016


I am an incurable nature-watcher. Give me a nondescript patch of greens and I will go sniffing and snooping around. That I always find some-being or hit on some “eureka moments” is another story altogether. Why, just the other day, in my neck of the woods, I came across something that I thought happened only on “Animal Planet”. I almost stepped on blobs of cow-dung buzzing with flies and even as I skirted the roadblock, a tiny movement caught my eyes. It was a dung beetle spiriting away a perfectly round ball of trophy!

From suburbs to countryside, from birds to butterflies, from mega to mini, from long shot to short range, from telephoto to macro photography, it’s been a journey, a wild one. Over the years, my skills got honed acutely. From missing the songster in the bush to spotting it through sixth sense and from being blind to butterflies and dragonflies to picking up their presence as on radar, I have graduated in the course of “natural progression”.

One noticed butterflies when they flitted around trying to settle on some flower or the other… in short, when one followed their flight. They may well be soundless angels on wings. But having watched them for a while now, I am able to sniff out tigers and pansies at dusk, even as they quietly rest by an obscure weed, closer to ground. Even a pea-size “grass blue” (of the “Blues” family of flutterbugs) perched by a wildflower carpet at day-close draws my attention these days.  

When I excitedly told my son—my biggest admirer and critic—about this development, he dissed me with typical teenage nonchalance: “Mom, you are jobless”! Hardly the reaction I expected! A pat on the back or a “wah wah” (highest praise from him), maybe; anything but that! Come to think of it, maybe my neighbours think the same of me, too… wouldn’t they if they saw me sauntering around at 11 a.m. or 3.30 p.m. armed with a ‘bazooka’ peering into bushes, the sun peaking overhead? Very rarely these days do I race against time, running from one invented work to another imagined errand; I am content with my “jobless” status and identity.

While on the subject of diurnal butterflies and their retiring habit, I have been observing teeny-weeny ones moving like meteors in a blur only to settle down on the under-side of low leaves or grass blades, particularly at twilight. With that attribute they easily give my lens the slip. Something told me these were not butterflies, and soon I was observing their crepuscular country-cousinsthe moths.

The other day, I saw an inch-long apparition that was buzzing by the flowers of a hedge, its wings a blur. It’s proboscis with which to suck nectar seemed to mimic a beak. Having seen hummingbirds in San Francisco, it appeared to me a miniature hummingbird, no less. Try as I would, even the fastest shutter speed saw me incapable of freezing the winged fauna. Moreover, it was flitting aimlessly from flower to flower not sure of which one to settle for.

With the customary Google search I could pin it down to species: Macroglossum stellatarum. In common parlance, this unusual creature was simply a hummingbird hawk-moth! It also dawned on me then that I had photographed the moth earlier while it was resting on the verandah bar when I didn't know its identity or propensity. 

Look at the serendipity. Soon thereafter, I came across a fun article (what with Pokémon on the go!), “14 bizarre animals that could totally pass as Pokémon”, where on Number 13 was, guess who! That the moth should feature among oddities and rarities of animal kingdom, in the first place, and that I should have stumbled upon it right herein Vizag, first-hand, gave me unalloyed pleasure of a new discovery. Of course, the Pokemon-bit sobered my son a bit…at least “Mom wasn't primitive”!

The article went on to inform that the moth’s resemblance to humming bird was a result of “convergent evolution”. “In evolutionary biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms not closely related, independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches”! This is the opposite of divergent evolution—which we are perhaps more aware of—where related species evolve with different traits. The Galapagos finches that Darwin observed and studied to arrive at his Theory of Evolution fall in the latter category.

With such miracles evolving in front of my eyes, son, I can only say: ‘I maybe “jobless”, but certainly not joyless’.

Hummingbird hawk-moth 
Trigonodes hyppasia moth