Webbed

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A spiderweb glistens with raindrops in the early morning in Bangalore.

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Wildflower Wednesdays

Our hike in the Himalayas last August was not defined by its birds, surprisingly enough. Rather, it was defined by its flowers.

I tend to avoid flowers, except when as an attraction for butterflies, as a photography subject: stationary plants seem too easy, too facile. But the sheer range we saw in the mountains made me a convert, at least for the duration of the trip. The sheer range! The colors! The fields upon fields of them! (The fact I had no birds to distract me only helped matters.) And I found myself taking my camera out more and more in an endeavor to capture them. Over the next few weeks(? Months? Years? Centuries?) I’m going to be sharing my photographs with you every other Wednesday.

First up: the Cutleaf Buttercup. Not having access to a field guide (or the Internet) for that week, however, made us have to make up our own names. Thus, we named this, instead, the Kashmir Sun-glory. It’s a much better name, I think. 😛

Considering the amount we saw it, we needed a name for it. Meadows were blanketed with them – endless stretches of yellow, forever and ever, brushing the horizon, varnishing the slopes in gold. They brought a humanity to the vistas we confronted every step we took – took it down to the level of a single bee, humming its way from plant to plant; formed the ranges in the microcosm of a single petal drifting to the ground.

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Of Paintings and Project Noah

Some of you may recall my recent post of a lilac-breasted roller we spotted in Kenya. If you don’t, refresh your memory. This bird was at the top of my to-see list in Kenya, not despite and in fact because it was so common there. Satisfaction guaranteed. (I also had a second, non-official list, which essentially consisted of the entire Birds of East Africa field guide.)

In addition to the blog post, I also posted the photograph on Project Noah. In case I haven’t fangirled about it before, this site is the best thing ever. (It’s also what got me started on this craziness. In case you can’t tell.) It’s essentially a social media for wildlife spottings. Think Instagram, animal-style. Through it I’ve met so many fellow ‘crazy nature people’ and learned so much about – well, everything. It was a distinct high point for me last year when my spotting of a black rhinoceros received Spotting of the Day, something I’ve been wanting ever since I got started. (Also, on the main page, in the header where all the spottings are featured, click on the fungi icon and scroll a little to the right. You might spot a familiar photograph. STILL NOT OVER IT.) If you love wildlife, and photography, Project Noah is the thing.

I’m not paid by them. Promise.

Anyways, back to the roller. I got a comment on my spotting from Karen Lockyear, a biologist-turned artist, asking if she could paint the photograph, and possibly sell prints of it.

My first reaction: what.

Seriously, I consider my photography to be mediocre at best. I enjoy it, yes, but someone wanting to paint it?

…woah.

So, yesterday I get an email from Karen with the completed painting. And I’m still in a little shock of how beautiful the thing is.

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I MEAN, LOOK AT IT. She has taken my photograph and transformed into something way, way beyond. All things bad about it have disappeared. I do not know this witchcraft.

She hasn’t yet set up her Etsy store, but when that’s up I will definitely link that here. Because. I mean. The above.

So: thank you, Karen. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

If you want to read about snakes instead of paintings, check out my recent post on my other blog, Saving MacRitchie, and learn about some of the fantastic wildlife in the Central Catchment Reserve.

Buzzing Time

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This gigantic bee was spotted at an altitude of above 3,000 meters in the Himalayas. The largest social bee in the world, Apis laboriosa, is found in – fittingly – the largest mountain range in the world. While the species above is not Apis, it is, however, a telling reminder to not forget that which buzzes and crawls in our quest for flying treasures.

Grenade of Colors

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Scarlet Grenadiers (Lathrecista asiatica) are another example of a common species that should not be underestimated in terms of ability to stun. Despite being found from India to Australia, they are still restricted to forested nature reserves in Singapore – this individual was spotted at Pasir Ris Mangroves.

Crazy Tiny Insects: Crazy Cool Moths (Again.)

I love moths as much as I love butterflies, I think, only they’re… hmmm. I’d say about 20x as difficult to spot. So many people have these crazy beautiful ones literally bumping into their front doors with a wave of brightly colored wings, saying, ‘Hey! Take a picture of me!’ and despite living, quite literally, in a rainforest, that just doesn’t seem to happen. Once, I think. Yup– once. Maybe for another CTI I’ll dig up the pictures, because that encounter was crazy weird.

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Now this moth is beautiful.

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We found it sitting on our dining room table in Bangalore. There are approximately 10,000 different moth species found in India– imagine! The sizes range from very, very, small to the beautiful Atlas and Luna moths. And then there are some gems in between– in proof, above. Moths differ from butterflies by their antennae. Butterflies’ are clubbed: at the tip, there’s a kind of roundish-ballish-thing which moths lack distinctively. Most species are nocturnal, but ‘most’ isn’t a hard and fast rule; in an earlier CTI I mentioned the Common Wasp Moth, a distinctively diurnal species.

The word ‘moth’ itself is quite derogatory to a frankly beautiful group of insects: tracing a long and complicated lineage through words like ‘motti’ and ‘moððe’ we end up at a possible ‘maða’, meaning maggot, which is also the root of midge, usually used in reference to moths’ cloth-devouring properties. But I’m sure these creatures don’t bear a grudge: having evolved possibly up to 190 million years ago, much older than butterflies, they must have had a) enough time to hear all the insults possible and b) enough time to refute all these insults with the evolution of stunning species like the one above.