In March, we observe World Wildlife Day. Come July, and the 29th is dedicated to Indias national animal, the tiger. We have exclusive days for birds, elephants and even trees, so why not the butterfly? It was this very thought that got naturalists, experts and wildlife enthusiasts together this lockdown to commemorate the first ever Big Butterfly Month: India 2020. Co-ordinated by Goa-based Foundation for Environment Research and Conservation (FERC), the programme brings together over 30 organisations working in the field of biodiversity conservation in India.To continue until September 20, the initiative has various activities like online workshops, photography and videography contests and a butterfly count. Here are a few highlights to keep track of:
1 - Start counting
To participate in the ongoing Big Butterfly Count Week (Sept 14-20), download one of the three apps: iNaturalist, ifoundbutterflies and India Biodiversity Portal, create an account and simply click and upload pictures of the winged creatures you spot in your backyard or on your morning walk.
2 - One-day course
Cant identify that butterfly in your front yard? Sign up for this one-day certificate course by Coimbatore-based Act for Butterflies and the famed Tropical Butterfly Conservatory in Trichy. With a combination of theoretical and field components, it will cover 100 species found in Tamil Nadu. Priced at Rs 200 (digital certificate) and Rs 300 (printed certificate and butterfly booklet). Details:aeonct.org/one-day-butterfly-course/or call 9843511233
3 - Balcony garden
Naturalist and conservation photographer Rizwan Mithawala, who lives in the heart of Mumbai, turned a window at home into a butterfly garden over a year ago. This lockdown, he started the Nature Comes Home project, where he invites, observes and records butterflies on his single row of potted plants. I live in the heart of the city - its noisy and crowded, with hardly any trees. Yet some butterflies find their way to the larval host plants and nectar plants on my eighth floor window.If youd like to invite butterflies to your garden, he recommends growing common nectar plants such as Blue Snakeweed, Ixora and Pentas. Find butterfly species common in your part of the city, learn what their larval host plants are and grow them. In a few months, you will be able to witness their life cycle.
4 - Vote for Indias national butterfly
This lockdown, several butterfly enthusiasts and researchers came together to start the process of choosing Indias national butterfly. After a series of rounds, seven species have been shortlisted: Krishna Peacock, Common Jezebel, Orange Oakleaf, Five-bar Swordtail, Common Nawab, Yellow Gorgon and Northern Jungle Queen. An online public poll is on until October 7. Details: National Butterfly Campaign on Facebook
5 - Virtual walk with Indias Butterfly Man
On September 19, Isaac Kehimkar, Indias Butterfly Man is hosting a virtual nature tour to Arunachal Pradesh. He will take you through the thick jungle tracts of Namdapha National Park in search of butterflies. For queries, call 9987013144
He is also organising a course, Butterflies for Beginners, from Sept 25 to Oct 30. For queries, call 9820165525 or firstname.lastname@example.org
6 - Lectures with Poochi Venkat
Chennai-based naturalist Venkatraaman, better known as 'Poochi' Venkat, started online lectures on insects and butterflies during lockdown. I realised lockdown was the perfect time to get people interacting with Nature from their homes. During my lectures (free of cost) with adults and children, I showcase my photos and at times, video clips.
7 - New species
In early July, two more species were added to Indias list of butterflies, increasing the count to 1,327 species. Striped Hairstreak and Elusive Prince were both were spotted in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
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