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.

Kutpai Valparai

Valparai is situated in the middle of tea estates and at the edge of a protected forest. This makes it easy to spot birds and mammals. Since butterflies do not normally travel very far, the monoculture of the estates reduces the visible diversity. As the last of my posts on Valparai, I just list the birds, animals and butterflies we saw.

Mammals

During the time we were there, elephants, leopards and civet cats were spotted; we were just not lucky enough to see them.

Nilgiri tahr
Nilgiri tahr

malabarsquirrel
Malabar giant squirrel

Lion-tailed macaques are not larger than two feet (60 cms). Apparently they live up to 20 years.
Lion-tailed macaque

Malabar langoor
Malabar langur
  1. Wild pigs: we saw these as we passed through the Anamallai tiger reserve on the way to Valparai.
  2. Indian gray Mongoose: quick glimpses, but one stood still long enough for The Family to catch it on her phone.
  3. Hares: saw lots of them at night
  4. Lion-tailed macaques: saw one band at close quarters. In this region they appear to be habituated to humans.
  5. Malabar langurs: saw a band feeding near a road. Very shy, they flee when they see humans.
  6. Gaur: many family groups visible grazing in the tea estates. In this region they are totally habituated to humans.
  7. Barking deer: shy creature. Saw one crossing a tea field.
  8. Malabar giant squirrel: heard them very often, and saw them feeding and sleeping on trees near the road.
  9. Nilgiri tahr: saw them on the Pollachi-Valpari road near the 8th bend. There are posted tahr crossings at the 9th and 13th bends.

Birds

I’m not good at birds; I spot some only when there are birders with me spotting away. The Family is good at it, and she says we missed many of the smaller birds. We also heard birds which we did not see: the raquet-tailed drongo was one. So there are large holes in our lists. Still, we had nine lifers; this is birder-speak for seeing a species for the first time.

greathornbill
Juvenile great hornbill

Malabar parakeet
Malabar parakeet

Mountain imperial pigeon
Mountain imperial pigeon

Chestnut-headed bee-eater
Chestnut headed bee eater

Plum-headed parakeet
Plum headed parakeet (female)

Streak-throated woodpecker
Streak throated wood pecker

Scimitar babbler
Scimitar babbler

Long-tailed shrike
Long tailed shrike

The usual suspects

  1. Magpie robin
  2. Oriental turtle dove
  3. Spotted dove: fairly widespread
  4. Red-whiskered bulbul
  5. Red-vented bulbul
  6. Common crow
  7. Common myna
  8. Hill myna

Somewhat less usual

  1. Malabar whistling thrush
  2. Streak-throated woodpecker
  3. Flame-backed woodpecker
  4. Long-tailed shrike
  5. Rufous babbler
  6. Scimitar babbler
  7. Chestnut-headed bee-eater
  8. Great hornbill
  9. Gray hornbill
  10. Jungle fowl
  11. White-breasted water hen
  12. Lineated barbet
  13. Malabar parakeet
  14. Brahminy kite
  15. Mountain imperial pigeon
  16. Brown fish-owl
  17. Spotted owlet
  18. Small blue kingfisher
  19. Plum-headed parakeet
  20. Crested serpent-eagle
  21. Black-shouldered kite
  22. Indian pond heron
  23. Little egret
  24. Scarlet minivet
  25. Besra
  26. Crimson-backed sunbird
  27. Grey-headed bulbul
  28. Grey-bellied cuckoo

Butterflies

We didn’t really stop to look at butterflies, so the chances are that we managed to list only what we knew well.

Tamil spotted flat
Tamil spotted flat

Red Helen
Red Helen
  1. Many bush browns and grass yellows
  2. Common tiger
  3. Glassy tiger
  4. Danaid eggfly
  5. Common crow
  6. Red Helen
  7. Great orange tip
  8. Tamil spotted flat

Contrary to my fears before I left, we were not beset by leeches even once during our walks. I’m sure they lurk in various places. It is just that it is possible to see whatever we did without coming into contact with these pests even once.