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Butterfly Journal
March 2003
Amber Habib

Common Rose

Common Lime

Common Mormon

Common Jay

White Orange Tip

Yellow Orange Tip


Large Cabbage White

Common Emigrant

Plain Tiger

Common Castor

Blue Pansy

Painted Lady

Handmaiden Moth

Delhi, March 1: A report on the past winter. In Delhi and Aligarh, Pioneer, White Orange-Tip and Yellow Orange-Tip were very common from October through December - I do not recollect seeing them in such numbers during the corresponding period of the previous year. Other common butterflies in this period were Lime Butterfly, Common Castor, Blue Pansy, Pea Blue. In Aligarh (December) I saw a Tawny Coster - the literature says this is common in all of India, but this is my only sighting from Aligarh or Delhi. In Delhi, also December, an Indian Red Flash (saw open red upper side also).

Then an intense cold spell hit and lasted through almost all of January. All butterflies disappeared and even now hardly any are to be seen. In all of February I saw just a handful of Emigrants, one Yellow Orange-Tip (Aligarh, Feb 16), one Pea Blue (Delhi, Feb 27), a few small Grass Blues. The Large Cabbage Whites, which typically are common in spring, are also yet to appear.

March 1 brought the first signs of change - a small (my estimate is 25% smaller than usual) and slightly faded Painted Lady in the garden by the Vice-Chancellor's office. And a Common Mormon near the Cooperative store.

A word of explanation: "Aligarh" refers essentially to the garden in my parents' home there. This is a mixed-up garden - parts are well-tended, while others are given up to wild shrubbery. So a variety of butterflies can be found. "Delhi" on the other hand, means the campus of St. Stephen's College and the parts of Delhi University immediately around it. These are very green and again of a mixed type.

Delhi, March 3: A Painted Lady in the University garden. Similar to the one seen on March 1 (small and faded) and nearby. A fresh Common Rose in front of the Physics department.

Delhi, March 7: A late morning walk around the University campus. At 11:30 a basking (but restless) Painted Lady on the ground by the St Stephen's Chapel. Then two Common Mormons chasing in the foliage (about 10-20 feet up). Still in the chapel grounds, a Common Rose sipping from Cinerarea flowers. Only after taking 2-3 photos of it did I realise its body was black and that this must therefore be a female Common Mormon mimicking a Rose. (This also puts some doubt on the March 3 sighting of a Common Rose. However: usually when I see a possible Rose I always try to get a look at the colour of the body. So far, whenever I have succeeded, it has always been pink. Last year, in Aligarh, Abha even managed to videotape a Common Rose.)

Next stop was the University garden - full of flowers, but these seem to attract bees and wasps rather than butterflies. Only butterfly seen here was a lone Pea Blue. Just outside, a Yellow Orange-Tip, two Common Emigrants (Slightly greenish and rippled underside, but with yellow base to wings on upperside and no striations), and a Pioneer (which chased the Emigrants from the flower patch they were all visiting). In the VC's garden, two Painted Ladies, full sized.

Later, in the VC's garden about 4:30pm, a Handmaiden moth (genus Syntomis) visiting a bed of pansies. These moths have a shape and flight (rapid wingbeats so one sees a blurred cone on either side of the body, and a flightpath consisting of smooth slowly evolving arcs) that is very much like that of wasps.

Delhi, March 8: Common Mormons are everywhere. Even saw one while eating lunch and looking out on to a busy market street.

Delhi, March 13: The first Lime butterfly of the season. Flew low over a flower bed, then sat on the ground briefly, with folded wings, before flying off on my apparoach. Very fresh. Vibrated wings briefly before taking off.

Delhi, March 15: A Common Jay flying around a Mast Tree. A Common Castor flying unusually high at about 20 feet - recognized from the dark colour, wing shape, and flight (like a windblown leaf).

Delhi, March 18: The first Plain Tiger of spring. At home - on a climber with small white bunched flowers that are very popular with bees and bumblebees, two unidentified skippers. And a brief but exciting visit by a Hawkmoth which hovered before these flowers. My first reaction was - Hummingbird - before I recollected I was not in America. It was green with a pink band around the abdomen. I managed to take a photo and hope it is decent enough for an identification.

Delhi, March 19: Large Cabbage Whites are at last here. Common Jays are now very common. Mostly seen flying high and very fast through the foliage, but also sometimes perched at various heights, even just off the ground. Always with folded wings, so far.

Delhi, March 26: A Blue Pansy sunning on a path in the University gardens, around 3pm. Blue Pansies are often found basking in open spaces, and particularly on paths.

Delhi, March 29: A Syntomis moth walking in little loops in a moist patch of soil on the margin of a road. Its antennae were depressed and flicking the ground, and its proboscis was also inserted into the earth.