Farmlands may look tame to you, but seen in the small it is as wild as the jungles. The farmers around Chhoti Haldwani had planted pumpkin vines to grow over the Lantana that takes over berms. They were in flower. I love that bright yellow, a colour that remains even after you batterfry them. I haven’t eaten the flowers in years, because you don’t get them in markets in Mumbai. I remembered the taste as I took this photo of an ant crawling down in search of nectar. There were also a few tiny moths sitting on the flower. If I’d had the time to stand there, I could have got photos of a very large variety of insects as they came to it in search of food.
You can see more of these intersections of different kinds of life if you walk through the fields. Like this blade of grass, converted into a trap by one of the fiercest carnivores of this tiny world. Some spiders can eat around 10% of their body weight in a day. This web has a couple of spidery snack wrapped up for later. The trap is as indiscriminate as a fishing trawler’s net, and has snagged some dandelion seeds. I wonder whether the spider comes along later and cuts them loose.
We spent a couple of nights last week in an extremely wet part of the Sahyadris. I’d expected the room to be full of mosquitos. It wasn’t. I discovered why only when I turned my macro lens on the lovely brick wall that the architect had designed. It was meant to be a substrate on which moss would grow. Indeed it does. But my camera caught more than moss, as you can see. The canyons between the bricks were walls of silk.
Mosquitos, and other insects were decimated by the microscopic predators which live in the environment that we have built for them. My macro lens barely caught a glimpse of the spiders; they are less than a millimeter across (you can barely see it in the photo above). I won’t find it listed in a field guide. If I want to identify it I will have to catch an expert. I wonder where they used to live before humans began to build an ecology specially for them. We worry so much about feral dogs and the loss of cheetahs. We have no idea what havoc we play on the ecology at these sub-millimeter scales.
I stop at this spot in the garden once a day. I’m sure to see some butterflies here at any time. Yesterday I saw this strange spider web. A spider web has radial threads which aren’t sticky; these are the first threads that the spider lays down to make sure that the web will be stable. Once these anchors are in place, it moves crosswise along them laying down the sticky spiral thread. If you look carefully, you can see the fine lines of this spider’s radial and spiral architecture in the featured photo. But the spider was doing something weird here. While it moved spirally along the web, it seemed to lay down a much thicker spiral.
I haven’t seen anything like this before. I read later that when a spider wishes to move, sometimes she eats up the old web. Could she have been doing that? Maybe she lays down something to soften the thread before eating it? Videos on YouTube (a great reference site for the amateur naturalist) show that the dismantling of a web is very straightforward; the spider doesn’t have to season the silk before eating it. Nor was this the process of wrapping prey in silk. Could it be an invader trying to attack the original inhabitant? As I watched, I saw only one thing moving. I cursed myself for not carrying a magnifying lens with me. I went back again today to look. The web had disappeared. Maybe it was an invasion that I had seen.
The sprawling 425 acres of the Kandawgyi botanical garden is one of the best places to spend your time in the British era hill station called Pyin Oo Lwin. It was founded by the British Army colonel May and called Maymyo (May’s town). The summer capital of Raj-era Burma remained one of the favourite spots of army generals, so the town has been kept manicured and clean, but renamed. We saw amazing things here: a Hoolock Gibbon in the open (featured photo) and Takins (a Himalayan goat-antelope). Everything we saw here could also be seen in India, but you’ll have to travel to the wilds, and be lucky, to see them.
A meandering walk through a garden is a quiet and peaceful way to spend your time, so look through the photos below at your leisure, without my chatter to break the peace.