The butterfly meet is something a butterflier can not miss. After 6th Butterfly meet in Andhra Pradesh, discussions for venue of next butterfly meet began. When Suggestion of N.W. Bengal came from ArjanDa, everybody readily agreed to that. Anything that goes near N.E. India or Sikkim promises good butterflying!!
So the Jayanti in Buxaduar Tiger Reserve and Samsing in Neora Valley Sanctuary were finalized. Responsibility of all logistical arrangement was taken by ArjanDa and Rudra, so there was nothing remained to bother about. The dates for the meet were finalized as 15th March – 20th March.
Long journey to Kolkata, then to New Alipurduar and another hour by Jeep and we were at the Gates of Buxaduar WLS. From gate itself we started getting promises of rich find. The Buxaduar is a typical Himalayan foothill Jungle. It is a moist evergreen forest with tall trees and lot of undergrowth even in the month of March. You can see many trees hosting orchids which promises moist environment over the year. There are lots of streams flowing through forest. These streams ultimately meet Jayanti River. These stream & river beds are completely filled with rocks and fine soil brought from the mountains which creates perfect environment for mud puddling.
The rest houses at Buxaduar are on great location and very nice, comfortable and clean. They are situated just a hundred meters from Jayanti River, on the edge of Jayanti village. Just by peeping outside window we were able to spot several dozen species of birds and butterflies. Banded blue crow, variety of Jezebels & sailors, Cabbage whites, grass blues & flashes, evening browns & bush browns were seen just around the cottage.
We were total 2 ½ day in the Buxaduar WLS. The first day we took a trail along Jayanti River and surrounding bushes. Second day we took a trail along a stream called ‘Guay Nala.’ On third day, on the way to Samsing we visited a place deep in jungle called 21 mile stone.
First day was fantastic, clear day. The checklist on the first day crossed the mark of 90 species. That includes swordtails, peacocks, red & yellow Helen, windmills, batwings, silver lines, flashes, mimes, zebras, and chocolate albatross. Tiny but beautiful butterflies like orchid tit, fluffy tit were also seen. First day we lack skippers. Only 3-4 types were seen on this day. Second day was also good revealing copper flash, oak blues, shadowy visitors like tree browns, dark palm dart, common earl, grey count. It added about dozen in the previous day’s checklist. But most gratifying was amazing variety of silver lines, glimpses of variety of peacocks and complete showbiz modeling of red breast. Himalayan snow flat, yellow breasted Himalayan flat, chestnut angle were added in the checklist.
Every evening revealed amazing variety of moths and we spotted huge sized geckos eating those beauties. There was one interesting gecko called Tokay’s gecko which was of almost a feet long and was continuously feeding on insects near bulb in our rest house.
On the third day we left Jayanti and started for Samsing. On the way out we visited 21 miles. This is very nice place. It is surrounded by jungle from all sides and there is no trace of human except mud road and a watch tower at the centre. It was very cloudy and hence we weren’t able to spot much species here. But still cloudy environment has its own advantages. This brings out skippers out in open. The instant we arrived on the spot there were two varieties of awls flying around. Along with that we were able to spot some sailors which were not seen on previous two days. Purple Sapphires were also flying around. Finally we had to leave Buxaduar because it started raining and we had a long journey ahead of us before we reach Samsing.
Samsing is another interesting location, situated approximately on 2500 ft from sea level. It is located near the entrance of Neora Valley. It is under jurisdiction of Forest Development Corporation. Original forest is cut for timber purpose and right now there is only tertiary vegetation but it is fenced and well protected so amazing variety is found in this area.
We reached there on 17th March but weather was cloudy and it was drizzling. It rained entire night but the morning came with bright sun. The morning came with the sightings of Palmfly, Clear Sailors, Countless Sapphires, Blue tit. After breakfast we started our real trail. We walked along the tar road. This day was simply amazing. The first good sighting was Common Gem. Krishna peacock was flying around. It was followed by Tawny Rajah. Then came red base jezebel and common birdwing. Common sergeant, Staff sergeant, Colour sergeant were giving their glimpses. Crossing the bushy land we entered into a wooded area and there we got the catch of the meet Blue Imperial. It was there for just 15 seconds but we were able to grab few snaps. Further down the trail we spotted Golden Sapphire, Plane, Poppin Jay, Tabby, and Common Maplet. We were overjoyed with the staggering number of sightings. Our checklist crossed the mark of 175 species.
From the experience of last day we expected another great day. But there was no new addition to the checklist except one obscure record of common tinsel. Later noon brought heavy clouds and then in the evening it rained so heavyly that I have experienced never before. The rain was accompanied by icelings and the size of icelings was frightfully large. It was like some weapon bombarding lemon size bullets on us. One hit on your body and pain that will accompany you for next few days!! Obviously no butterflying was possible but this experience was entirely different.
Last day in Samsing was as gloomy last evening. We encountered some new variety of sailors. A Black Prince was sighted flying on a litchi tree. Tawny Angle was spotted in a streambed. But by then it was cloudy again and promised heavy rain so we returned back to rest house. We started our journey to New Jalpaiguri.
Every night during this meet we gathered to identify and summarize the records of the day. Everyday was filled with some new sighting some very common, some very rare, some very confusing. These 6 days were completely filled with butterflying spirit.
This meet was a real success. During entire meet all arrangements of lodging, food and traveling were excellent. All credit goes to our Kolkata members.
There were total 32 of us completely filled with passion of butterflying. People in the village use to stare at us like we were some idiots running after butterflies but we never cared and maintained spirit of butterflying. Later even villagers started contributing in our observations. Important observations were made, trends in sighting were observed, precious data was collected. We finished our 7th Butterfly meet with 195 species in our checklist and with a lingering desire of staying back at Samsing which really promised good time. We were back to Kolkata on 21st morning with lot of new friends and new places to look forward.- Pinakin Karve