Part of the magic of camping lies in waking up to the morning. Wriggling out of the sleeping bag, tripping over someone's feet, elbowing another in the face, you unzip the tent's flapper and gaze awestruck at the scene in front of you. The mixed deciduous Sahyadri forests stare back at you, their bodies cloaked in a warm yellow-gold garment lent by the sun with a lush green evergreen crown adorning their peaks. The lake reflects the azure skies, bordered by the towering reflections of the mountains. In a flash of fluorescent blue, the Small blue Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) dives in the lake and emerges out triumphant with a silvery sliver of breakfast clutched in its orange beak. A pair of Great Pied Wagtails (Motacilla alba) arrive with their characteristic wave-like flight and earnestly begin the up-down motion of their tails, like a pair of hyper-excited puppies. A tail-bobbing Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) scans the lake surface for some protein. As the morning wears on, butterflies abound on the trail back towards civilization.
We trudged along, with heavy backpacks and heavier hearts for the weekend trip was drawing to a close. The butterflies flew along with us, mesmerizing us with their bright, graceful flights. The Lemon Pansy (Junonia lemonias) was the first to greet us, though it settled down frequently, to replenish itself with flowerfuls of morning nectar. Soon, the Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace) took over from the Lemon Pansy, leading the way, its delicate black-veined blue wings glowing in the sun. Occasionally a Common Leopard (Phalanta phalantha) would dart past, as a hurried greeting. Ceruleans would often say hellos, their purplish-blue wings glistening in the sun. Common Grass Yellows (Eurema hecabe) did what they do best- waving at us from amongst the grasses. It was left upto a freshly-emerged pair of Striped Tigers (Danaus genutia) to bid us a dazzling farewell, even as others fluttered in the background and bid us to return soon.
The trail veered off onto the road…There was but one place left to visit. We walked on towards a rickety bamboo hut constructed over a waterbody. The Walvan dam has resulted in a number of artificial wetlands- now these wetlands play host to migratory Painted Storks ((Mycteria leucocephala). We spotted around twenty of these large storks perched on treetops, with around three Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) and a lone Open-billed Stork (Anastomus oscitans) for company. The occasional Intermediate/Large Egret (Ardea alba/ Ardea intermedia) and Indian Cormorants (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis) were also sighted. Armed with a camera, I took my first step towards odonate identification- clear photographs. A time limit forced us to return back to the Eco-hut, but not before we had seen the tail of some snake rustle into the shrubbery alongside. Oh and of course, the mongoose that scrambled into the undergrowth. The trip ended with a final goodbye from the Grey Pansy (Junonia atlites) butterflies.
The greeting was brief, and the outside world greeted us with deafening music blaring in the name of god.
Ramblings on wildlife sharing spaces with non-wild humans