Thursday, March 8, 2012

A butterfly that can Swim

A butterfly that can Swim !!!

Baghmara Village and Surrouding area from Hilltop
       First day of Diwali of year 2011 and I was attending the 14th butterfly meet in Meghalaya organized by butterfly India group which is part of diversity India Group. All of us were having a butterflying trail along the stream in the midst of fantastic evergreen forests of Baghmara Biodiversity Reserve.
Karwani Stream in Baghmara Biodiversity Reserve
        The weather was humid but not very hot. The morning was pretty pleasant with the temperature somewhere around 20 °c. Even at the peak noon the temperature never crossed 31 °c. The water was clean, flowing slowly but continuously with a constant pace. Without any rain on previous day, there was no change in the water level. Overall the situation was stable and perfect for butterflying.
         With fantastic butterflies flying and mud puddling in front of us, we were having a field day. There were variety of skippers moving around with velvet bob as our star attraction. Big butterflies like yellow Helen, blue bottle, tawny rajah, common nawab, commander and so on. After sometime we started moving further upstream. This part of stream was flowing through a dense forest, hence, there wasn’t sunlight penetrating to the ground. Since there wasn’t any sunlight, the region was very cool compared to the surroundings. At this spot we spotted a strange activity.
First spotting of Forester on water
         There was a brownish coloured butterfly. Initially it was sitting on the side of the stream, under a tree. As we were approaching it slowly; this butterfly took off from its spot and went over the water surface of the flowing stream. It was touching the water. We thought it is trying to drink water in some strange way. Suddenly that butterfly dropped on the water surface and started floating.  It rested on the water completely in horizontal way. It was almost like a person lying on a bed. It started flowing along with the flow of water.
Closeup of Angled Red Forester floating on water
         The first thought came to our mind was that this butterfly must be injured or old and it might have dropped because of exhaustion factor while flying. I have personally seen many butterflies that have gone near water and dropped in and subsequently died because they can’t take off again. We expected that it was the same thing happening with this butterfly.
          Suddenly after flowing for 2-3 meters with the water this butterfly took off from water and started flying as if nothing has happened. It flew from the water and sat on the stone and only then we were able to identify this champion. This swimmer butterfly was Angled red forester.
Angled Red Forester Lying on Wet Sand
One might think that this was an accident and this butterfly got survived by luck. It was not the case. After we observed this incidence, this butterfly was doing the same thing for almost next 1 Hr. The area was rich with butterflies and the members from our group were continuously going up and down along the stream. Every member from our group was able to observe this behavior.
          In birds I know that the ones who are categorized as water birds have special oily layer over their wings and hence they can swim. That oily layer protects their features from getting wet and prevents them from drowning. But in butterflies, I have seen such type of adaptability for the first time. I don’t know the reason why this Angled red forester was doing like that. I don’t know the anatomical reasons for this. Since all of us have observed this behavior with respect to only one specific butterfly, I don’t even know whether this is common in this species.  I am documenting this just for the sake of an interesting record which all of us encountered and left us astonished.

- Pinakin Karve
   25 Oct 2011

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