Two roads diverged

We had to park the car at the center of the little village of Mukteshwar. The road beyond this was under repair. We walked past a few shops and a post office. This was just a dusty cross roads, not a yellow wood, but our roads diverged here. The Family took the high road, up towards the Shiva temple and Chauli ki Jali, a rock face which is locally famous because it has become a favourite of rapellers (and no, that’s not an Anglicization of rapelleurs). I took the other, which was just as fair, because it was grassy and wanted wear. Late on a smoky morning was not the best time for either, but each of us enjoyed it.

The road I had taken wound above a wooded region called Kholiya. This is supposed to be a wonderful place for bird watching earlier in the morning. I stopped above a dense cluster of colonial era buildings. The air was full of bird calls. I’m not very good at identifying them, but a short message away are two experts. I recorded some of the sounds and sent them off. I had no luck at spotting birds at all, and I moved along soon.

The Family had found Chauli ki Jali, left completely to its own in this second pandemic year. The view would have been nice, she said, if there was less smoke in the air. She clambered about some of the rocks, got a few selfies against the bland gray smoke, while avoiding the fair bit of maskless tourists near the temple. The second wave was beginning to swell, and such tourists were to be given a wide berth.

A couple of hundred meters below, I had just walked past the cars parked on the side of the road by those same maskless tourists and found my morning’s muse: a crowd of Pachliopta aristolochiae, a swallow-tailed butterfly more well known as the common rose. This late in the morning they are extremely active and hard to photograph, so chasing them took up quite a bit of my time and energy, without producing anything useful. Photography is a nice and strenuous pastime, wouldn’t you say? When we got back together at the cross roads, both parties had stretched our legs adequately, and were ready to go look for lunch.

A rose by any other name

A common rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae) flew round a patch of flowers in the sunlight. I find them maddenning. They fly fast, settle very briefly and seem to move so randomly that it is hard to get a bearing on them. At least I got this one in the frame. Identifying this one can be a little tricky, since the female of a common mormon (Papilio polytes) mimics it. The only way to tell them apart is to note that the rose has a red body, whereas the mormon is black-bodied. The rose is common in South and South-east Asia, and I’ve seen it everywhere in India. It seems to reach peak activity late in the morning, around the time I’ve finished a morning’s birding on an empty stomach. Just about when I would like nothing better than to settle down with some chai and large breakfast, one or more of these will put in an appearance. At such a time would you really feel up to chasing them from flower to flower? I do it reluctantly, which is perhaps why I don’t have a single fabulous photo of this butterfly.