Did you know that not all butterflies spend most of their day flitting from flower to flower? Some are likely to make pit stops on decaying fruit, animal poop—even on your sweat-soaked shoes. Most are active only when the sun shines and, like birds, maintain territories to keep out butterflies of other species. Some butterflies have migratory patterns like birds and can fly hundreds of kilometres.
I learnt all this and spotted more than 15 species of butterflies at the Asola Bhatti sanctuary, near Surajkund, Haryana, last weekend during a Breakfast with Butterflies (BWB) walk conducted by Sajeev T.K., centre manager, Conservation Education Centre (Delhi), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
The best part about the two-and-a-half-hour walk that starts at 9am is that there is no strict agenda. Our group of 35 ranged from children as young as 5 to some senior citizens. “We want to encourage families to come out together. Most of these walks are not conducted for professional butterfly-watchers only, but amateurs and first-timers,” explains Sajeev. So if you spot funnel-web spiders and wonder why they weave their webs on the floor of the forest, just ask.
We took turns trying to distinguish a peacock pansy butterfly from a blue pansy and chased striped tigers, danaid eggfly females, common grass yellows, Indian cabbage whites, yellow orange tips, and tried to tell a pale grass blue butterfly from a rounded pierrot and a zebra blue. The children got a chance to study the life cycle of a butterfly and touch a larva and a pupa.
Our walk, priced at Rs. 175 per person (programme charges and menu vary, based on location), started with a round of hot samosas, tea, biscuits and gulab jamuns and ended with sandwiches. After the walk, a slide show recapped all the butterflies we had spotted. Budding nature photographers are also encouraged to practise their skills and discuss their pictures.
Sajeev has organized two such walks since September, as part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the BNHS and the Delhi government on running educative programmes on conservation and environment in Delhi. “I hope to conduct the third one at Lodhi Garden in early December. Once the flowering season begins there is no dearth of butterflies in any garden of Delhi.” Sajeev claims to have spotted 45 species of butterflies at Shalimar Bagh in west Delhi just last week. Whether it’s the Sanjay Van, Shalimar Bagh, Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary and Asola Bhatti or the Jahanpanah forest, he says it is possible to conduct these walks just about anywhere. There are also plans for a birdwatching tour at the Okhla or Sultanpur sanctuaries.