Butterflies of the Andamans

It rained in the mornings when we went out to the woodlands of South Andaman. As a result, butterflies were hard to spot. I would occasionally see a Psyche fluttering in its usual lost Luna-Lovegood-manner in low grasses around roads. Now and then some grass yellows would flutter in and out of sight. It was only on Mount Harriet on Christmas day that the weather was good enough to actually spot butterflies. I saw the Common Emigrant in the featured photo up there. Nearby there were also a Mottled Emigrant.

I briefly saw a butterfly which looked like a Mormon. It could have been either the female of the Andaman Mormon or the Andaman Clubtail. The sighting was too brief for me to be certain of its identification.

At the entrance to the Mount Harriet National Park there is a little office and garden which belongs to the forest department. The garden was full of Great Orange Tips. One day I hope to have a good photo of this beautiful animal.

bushbrown Identification of the little brown butterflies that flit among low bushes defeats me. I think the one whose photo you see here is a bushbrown. I’m reluctant to go further along the branching pathway of deductions which depend on the number of rings on the wings, their sizes and distribution between forward and hind wings. I leave it to a careful naturalist to identify this specimen which I saw on Baratang island.

A brown crow butterfly on Mount Harriet, Port Blair

The commonest of larger butterflies I saw was the Andaman Crow, whose photo you can see above. I saw this species in various places in South Andaman, Baratang Island and Neil Island. The photo here was taken on Mount Harriet in South Andaman. I also saw them flitting through mangrove forests in various places. I hope someone writes a little more about its natural history. I had fleeting glimpses of a few more Danaids: the eggfly and a brief view of something like a glassy tiger as it disappeared behind a tree. Could it have been an Andaman tree nymph? The two look similar.

Usually Lantana bushes are magnets for butterflies. I often stand next to a sunny bush and wait for butterflies to come by. In the Andamans this did not work. Maybe there are few of the species which feed on Lantana. The zoological survey offices in Port Blair reportedly have a specimen collection, but I was unable to visit because they were closed during the period I was there. A paper from twenty years ago talks of habitat destruction and lack of surveys on some islands. I hear the same today. Amateur naturalists visiting the islands could turn out to be helpful in this respect.

I saw a pierrot of some kind on Baratang island, and also possibly a baron. I guess I will have to go back to Andaman another time to really follow up on butterflies.

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Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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