Last October, years after being swept off my feet by the birds of south India, I fell in love again. I was cruising on a Sunday morning in hope that I could spot pelagic birds. At a distance, I saw a gathering of winged creatures near a residential plot on the highway. Getting closer, I knew that it was a swarm of Crimson Roses. I recognized them because I had seen these red-bodied swallowtails many times before. But I had never given thought to how gorgeous they were.
This time, I was held captive by their anatomies that shone like sundae toppings. Mesmerized, I watched them ferry pollen from throats of flowers. I felt the lump of love inside my own.
Soon I started to notice that the flowery hedgerows had attracted other species of butterflies too. Scouting the bushes, I saw one that could have been a paler cousin of the Crimson Rose. Nearby, a large fella – bathed in blue – landed on a leaf, followed by another that resembled a caramel pancake fresh off a low flame. Then, there were a few who might have metamorphosed, during the twilight hours, into stained glass paintings.
Decorating the air with splashes of color, they awakened me. I tried to take some decent photographs, but they were too quick for me. The sun, flaring its nostrils, did not make it easy either. It took me some time to figure out that they flap their wings differently from how my feathered friends do. Tracking them required a more intuitive eye. I had to learn to respond quickly by predicting their next move. I do the same while photographing birds in flight but they belong to a more generous canvas – and with fewer distractions.
I ended up with a few snapshots (with the glare edited out) that, hopefully, offer some evidence of their beauty.
I continued to loiter within a radius of 500-meters for about two hours. I took mental notes on the little things they did. Their group dynamics during a nectar run. The approximate amount of time they spent on each flower. If they followed flight patterns I could recognize; if their antennas made a whooshing sound when the breeze turned stiff. And if their long-chambered hearts had enough space to accommodate my feelings for them.
After having my fill, I got into the car, and I ran my fingers across the steering wheel. The indigestion of love had made me tipsy. I wondered what the birds would think if they ever found out that I had fallen for another species.
Would they, in defiance, change their tunes around me? Or would they be overjoyed that they have one less stalker to worry about? Or is there a policy for the winged type to take turns seducing the two-legged kind?
Before returning home, I bought a copy of the Naturalist’s Guide To Butterflies, which is a first-course meal for any aspiring butterfly-watcher. I thumbed through the pages in hope of identifying the ones I had spotted.
It turned out that I had encountered a Lemon Pansy, a Common Mormon, a Common Jezebel, and a Great Eggfly. Each one had a pair of wings that told a different story. Like the birds I adore so much, each one had its own unique style of administering a coup de grâce of love.
I knew it then, as I do now.
There are butterflies in my tummy.
of bird plumage
like dead leaves
leaping to life,
Photographs: East Coast Road, Chennai
Edited: Bala K
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I’ve seen them in my native place too (Kerala). Good to know their names finally!
Will check out your other blogs too 🙂
Thank you, Hari. Hope you spend an unhealthy amount of time here!
Kerala is a treasure cove of birds and butterflies. Plenty of migratory creatures gravitate towards its green acres. Also found there is the Malabar Rose, which is a more magnificent version of the Crimson Rose.
You have been infected by insect love! Now you know how it feels. When you can harbor the same emotions when seeing a beetle or hover
fly, I’ll know the transformation is complete. They bring with them as much joy as the flirty winged paintings of your post. Be well, Christy! So nice to have you back again, Word Poet.
Oh yes, Shannon! Smitten like a fox. A fox moth that is! I can only hope that myself head over heels with other insects too. I can’t say that I am fully over my crawlyphobia. Reading your essays on them really helps ❤
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WOW, they look so pretty! Where did you find them! ECR Beach?
I found them by the bushes on the roadside, near the Mutthukadu backwaters.
Loved to be ferried from birds to butterflies with the hope that birdies will peek here again. A lovely read Christy 🙂
Thank you, Sumana. It feels great to have a familiar reader back in action. On the wings of beautiful creatures no less!
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Hey Christy. 😀
I get to see a lot of crimson rose swallowtail here. And a couple of other butterflies whose names I do not know. Some have fluorescent green and blue tinge on their wings. I see that you love to watch birds. 🙂 I am just a newbie bird watcher. 🙂
Thank you very much, Rekha. I was so happy to have stumbled upon your blog today. Your backyard seems to be a veritable paradise for lovers of all things winged, and I can’t wait to discover more of it.
I had no clue about the names of butterflies before I got myself a naturalist’s guide. It is a lot tougher to ID them given the inconspicuous changes in appearance that distinguish one from another. I am very much a novice butterfly watcher (amateur at bird-watching too, given how unscientifically I go about it). What I do know is I feel light-headed and warm-blooded around birds and butterflies. And I am just as happy to spot fellow birdwatchers!
Oh yes, we have a lot of fruit trees around so birds come by. 🙂 It is so much fun to watch birds, especially when they perch on the branch and peck on juicy fruits.
Fruiting trees makes birdie love blossom bright. I hope you discover more of them.
If possible, do keep a makeshift water trough outside during summers. You may attract birds, and you get to quench their thirst too!
We have built a cement trough. It is always filled with water, not just birds, even stray dogs come over to quench their thirst. 🙂
Awwww lovely ❤
Lovely photos of the beautiful butterflies. We have quite a few of these lovely creatures here, but much too fast to photograph. 🙂
Oh boy do they flutter like flicking lights. In fact, I haven’t been able to photograph them since!
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