Author: Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 2 years ago

Oriental Spiny Orb-Weaver Spider

Oriental Spiny Orb-Weaver Spider (Gastercantha geminata), Spiny orb-weavers is a common name for Gasteracantha, a genus of spiders. They are also commonly called Spiny-backed orb-weavers, due to the prominent spines on their abdomen.

Spiny Orb-Weaver spiders can reach sizes of up to 30mm in diameter (measured from spike to spike). Although their shell is shaped like a crab shell with spikes, it is not to be confused with a crab spider. Genus name Gasteracantha derives from the Greek words “gaster,” meaning “belly,” and “acantha,” meaning “thorn.”

Orb-weaver spiders are known for their nets, the spiral wheel-shaped webs that are so often spotted hanging from garden shrubs or between the branches of trees. However, with more than 2,800 species within more than 160 genera worldwide, orb-weavers are the third largest family of spiders

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 2 years ago


Not all butterflies are flower-visitors. Only the more evolved species and the ones in which the mouth-parts are represented by a long, thin proboscis adapted for feeding on liquid diet pay their visits to flowers. 

Such members include all species of Nymphalids, the majority of males of Lycaenids, Papilios, Pierids and Hesperiids. The flowers are exploited by the butterflies for nectar, the only source of carbohydrate for them. 

Baker and Baker (1973) showed that butterfly nectars tend to have sucrose dominance and are not very viscous. Further, the nitrogen requirement is fulfilled from the amino acids in nectar; therefore the butterfly nectars are normally rich in amino acids.

There is only one known instance of butterflies getting amino acids from pollen. The neotropical butterflies of the genus Heliconius collect pollen on their tongues, add nectar, and then drink the nectar that contains amino acids that have been leached out of the pollen (Gilbert 1972). Nectar may also satisfy the water requirement of butterflies. 

Pic & Post: #SwarnaChakrabarty #SvasaraNaturalist 

(A butterfly from the Hesperiidae Family , A DART (Telicota sp.) nectaring from the Hyptis suaveolens plant)

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 2 years ago

Butterfly Behaviours

Common Pierrot (Castalius rosimon) basking in the sun 🦋 ☀️ 

In the butterfly world, basking is the process of sun-bathing that helps increase temperature in the wing muscles to bring the insects in a physiological condition making them able to take off to their flight. 

Butterfly fly at their very best ecological conditionwhen the air temperature ranges from 24°C to 32°C. The reason for this is that they don‟t have to stop and warm their wings up. 

If the winds are cooler, many butterflies perch on flowers and leaves in the sun, usually laying them flat down and facing upward at the sun, so they can get the best exposure. When temperature rises butterflies seek shadey places.

Butterfly basking can be categorized into three types. These are lateral, dorsal and reflectance basking. Lateral basking occur when butterfly wings are folded and facing the sun. When the wings are fully open at 180° (or 90° with respect to the direct solar, radiation) the behaviour is called dorsal basking (Casey 1981). Dorsal basking is the most common type of basking. The third type basking is called reflectance. In this case, the wings are used to reflect the sun light to the butterfly‟s body rather than absorb it.

Pic & Post: Swarna Chakrabarty, Svasara Naturalist

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 2 years ago

State Butterfly of Maharashtra

Indian Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor polymnestor), is the state butterfly of Maharashtra. It’s a large swallowtail butterfly, member of the ” Papilionidae” (BIRDWING) family. This species is endemic to India and Sri Lanka. 

With a wingspan of 120–150 mm, it is the fourth largest butterfly of India. It is common and not thought to be threatened. It occurs throughout the year but more common in the monsoon and immediately after it. The butterfly is most common in heavy rainfall areas, such as evergreen forests. It is also common in deciduous forests and wooded urban areas, primarily due to the cultivation of its host plants, i.e. the Citrus species. This butterfly frequents forest paths and streams. The male is fond of sun and avoids the shade. The blue Mormon has been recorded as a pollinator of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). Blue Mormon is attracted to damp patch and has greater tolerance to other butterflies and humans while lapping up the mineral rich moisture.

In June 2015, the Blue Mormon was declared as the ‘State Butterfly’ of the state of Maharashtra and became the first state in India to have a ‘State Butterfly’.

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 3 years ago

Nature Walk at Dusk

During dusk nature walks at Svasara-Tadoba, one can look forward to spotting the tiny termite nest frog.

This frog belongs to the family named microhylidae (narrow mouthed frogs). Their size is quite small and they are endemic to India. Triangular disks are present on the fingers which is unique to this frog.

Rainy season is their breeding time and they breed in water inside dark cavities. Often spotted on termite mounds and also under the rocks, they are found in peninsular India and dry forest areas.

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 4 years ago


One of the main behaviors that can be observed in birds is “preening”. Through this special activity, birds remove parasites, dirt, dust etc. from their feathers while repositioning that particular feather next to adjacent feathers. This process helps to keep the bird healthy. A gland named ‘Uropygial’ or simply the preen gland is situated at the base of their tail which produces an oily substance to keep their feathers glossy and shiny.

Pic & Blog Credit: #SwarnaChakrabarty #SvasaraNaturalist

#preening #birdbehavior #tadoba #birds #indianbirds #naturalistblog

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 5 years ago

First Safari, New Season

While I was in Kolkata for 3 months (during my monsoon break), one fine night I got electrifying news! T7, our very own Choti Tara Tigress had given birth. In her last two litters, she had two cubs each, but this time, news was that she had amazingly delivered three cubs. So now getting back to Tadoba, to the enchanting Central Indian Dry Deciduous Forest suddenly became a matter of urgency for me. These three months, not only Choti Tara, but also other tigers like Matkasur (T54), Maya (T12), her two cubs, and Choti Tara’s two sub adult cubs always remained in my thoughts.


So, on 1st October 2018, with the memories of my favourite tigers, I proceeded with excitement for my first safari post monsoons at Tadoba National Park. I was accompanying guests from Kolkata. When we reached the Kolara Gate early morning, a small Gate Opening Ceremony for the new season was happening. We received a very warm welcome from the guides and from the park rangers, a red rose and a piece of little sweet was given to us as they were celebrating the Forest Week also. And then, we heard the unmistakable metallic sound; the gate of Tadoba National Park had opened for the season of 2018-2019.


This time Monsoons was generous in the region and as soon as we entered inside the park, after moving couple of meters we saw the beautiful result of bountiful rain. In Hollywood, they use the red carpet but here Mother Nature used a dark green carpet to welcome us, which was absolutely stunning. The smell of the wild green and dew on the zelen (Bosnian word for Green) texture totally enthralled me. On the way, we once again passed by the historical “Gond Pillars” standing tall! Slowly, through the rustic road we reached the spot where, just a few years back, was the Jamni Village. At Jamni, we saw a couple of busy eating Langurs on treetops and a few running Spotted Deer in the meadows.


We started moving towards the Jamni Chowk (intersection), and took a right turn towards Pandharpauni. Just few meters down on that road, we suddenly noticed few jeeps standing in a line pointing at something. We couldn’t understand first but then spotted, a Bengal Tiger, our very own dominant male tiger, Matkasur T54. Soon he vanished inside the tall green grass. Position wise, our jeep was the last one so we could barely manage to get a glimpse. Everyone on board, hence, was a little bit crestfallen. Our guide told me “let’s wait here, he can come out again”. After waiting there for seven to eight minutes, we decided to move forward.


We then reached Ainbodi 1, where one of the Choti Tara’s sub adult cubs was out of the grassland, in clear view. Over here the driving skill of our driver accorded us a brilliant position. Several pictures were taken by the guests already, when we heard a sound of leaf crushing and heavy twig breaking and then the second tiger also came out from the bush. So the two striped brothers once again came in front of us, oh what joy! But who was the sound engineer? A huge Male Gaur was disturbed by the presence of those tigers. So he charged them and they came out of the bush. Everybody in my jeep thanked the Indian Gaur profusely. Sighting was for more than ten minutes, where we observed different tiger behaviors, one of which was also that one tiger was eating grass, a sign of an upset stomach.


Whenever I have encountered these two striped brothers something special has always happened. And true this time too, one of the sub adult cubs came towards our jeep and looked at us, as if saying  “Hi Everyone”. And actually, we were quite delighted with this special interaction. He then went back inside the bush again.

After this brilliant experience, we made our way towards Tadoba Lake. On way, we had a surprising rendezvous with two Indian Wild Dogs or Dholes. They were busy marking their territory. Because of the good rain this year, the lake was full with water. The old Indian Blackberry Trees on the shore, once again came in contact with the lake water. The vastness of the lake and calls of different birds mesmerized us. We spotted a big Marsh Crocodile. Then we moved towards Panchdhara and then on the tar road, reached Khatoda Gate for Breakfast. After having breakfast we decided to take the Kosaikanar road, in search of Choti Tara (T7). As soon as we reached Jamni Chowk again, we heard news from another jeep that Choti Tara crossed a couple of minutes ago. We had missed, but it was ok, this is the natural rule of the forest. Some times you are lucky and sometimes you are not.


From the core of my heart I wished Good Luck to Choti Tara T7 and her new cubs. Once again, a new battle will start. Surviving in this brutal world and competition of staying alive in a vast dry deciduous forest will be difficult. They have to be strong and face all challenges in their way. A challenge, where I hope they will prove themselves to be the fittest of all. With those last thoughts, along with the beautiful memories and experiences of our first safari, ending at 10 AM, we came back to the Lodge.

Pic Courtesy: Rishin Basu Roy, Naturalist at Svasara-Tadoba


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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 6 years ago

Tadoba’s very own Bagheera!

Very seldom does it happen that Tadoba fails to thrill the wildlife enthusiast, especially when they are expecting to see tigers! But what happens when you have already seen a beautiful family of tigers (Kuhani), then a sloth bear, and then driving towards Shivanjhari water hole, hoping to be even luckier and spot the other famed tiger family of Kolsa (Shivanjhari); you reach the spot to find not the striped feline but a spotted one, and that too BLACK? Thrill to the point infinity!!!!


So unexpected! That the Forest Guide, when first spotted the black creature, assumed it to be a Palm Civet, but Svasara’s accompanying naturalist with our guests from Belgium, instantly remarked, “cannot be a civet as the tail seems much longer than the body!” Swarna, our naturalist quickly grabbed his binoculars to zoom in (the waterhole is at a distance of about 20’ from where the jeep track is), and then what he experienced having spotted for the first time a melanistic Indian Leopard at Tadoba, is impossible to express in words………


We thank his presence of mind, to quickly request the guests to photograph this once in a lifetime sight! Although there have been prior discussions at Tadoba on the existence of a black panther in the Kolsa Zone, it has never been photographed till last evening.


22nd May 2018, around 6 PM IST, Kolsa Range, Tadoba (Please note there was a camera screenshot shared earlier which mentioned Belgian time 13:52): Indeed a historical day here! And sooooo special for Svasara as it was our guests and naturalist who got to be the lucky ones to witness this sighting.


p.s. contrary to the media reports, their jeep was the sole jeep that witnessed this sighting. All sighting pictures published in this blog are taken by Guest Juliet Decaestecker and are the only veritable pictures of this sighting.

Group Photo: From Left to Right Praful Yerme (jeep driver), Shalik Yerme (forest guide), Jean Francois Aernouts, Kids Lina, Zia, and Ruby, Juliet Decaestecker (svasara guests) and Swarna Chakrabarty (svasara naturalist)


Sighting Pic Courtesy: #JulietDecaestecker #SvasaraGuest



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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 7 years ago

Nature is Magical

Excited to share excerpts from my first jungle safari post my monsoon holiday! The guests I accompanied were from Mauritius.


Day 1, PM safari, Navegaon Entry Gate:

Our entry inside the gate started with a sighting of a speedy wriggler – A rat snake (non-venomous but often confused with the venomous cobras) appeared suddenly on the road to cross over. This was the first time for me in Tadoba to start the jungle safari with a snake encounter! As a keen herpetologist, this was a great start for my new season at Tadoba. Proceeding further we saw a black shouldered kite sitting on a tree. Tadoba is a great birding destination too and many birds of prey can be sighted here especially around the perennial Tadoba lake and other water bodies. We also spotted four glowing eyes, soon to be identified as a pair of spotted owlets!! Very cute birds and we are lucky to have a resident family at the property too.  After observing these nocturnal birds in broad day light we made our way towards Tadoba Lake. On the way we heard a question seemingly in full chorus- did u do it ? Did you do it !!!! Asked by a pair of red wattled lapwings. We also saw a large herd of grazing deer. Good to see that the last three months of heavy monsoons has created lots of puddles and ample food is available for all our jungle friends. After watching the deer for sometime we moved towards Vasant Bhandara. Over there we found the largest cattle in the wild the very muscular Gaur feeding on fresh bamboo leaves. After “sighting” us the lone gaur walked silently inside the bush.


Day 2, PM safari, Kolara Entry Gate:  This was the last safari for my guests and they were very keen to spot India’s national animal – the Bengal tiger! Good luck was on our side…barely five to six kilometres inside the reserve, we spotted something moving in the middle of the road, our guide was quick to tell us it is a tiger walking…we had sighted “Choti Tara”. She walked in her distinctive majestic sway in front of our jeep. My first tiger sighting of the new season…could not have been better!! After sighting the tigress, we made our way to the spot “Ainbodi”, where we saw over a 100 common rose butterflies sitting on the ground. Our next destination was panchadhara, a spot where we expected to see the Brown fish owl….and so we did! Even got a chance to photograph her. Through the hilltop road we started our return to the lodge. After crossing the jamni  nala we saw a sloth bear who was busy eating termites. While we waited there watching the sloth bear, for some time, another jeep informed us that wild dogs were in the area, we turned to head to the location and there we saw two indian wild dogs or dhole coming towards us.


What an amazing afternoon indeed! A safari of four hours and we sighted Tadoba’s three of the big five mammals!


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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 8 years ago

Butterfly Corner

The native butterflies of Tadoba: Lime Butterfly

Lime is a tailless, yellow spotted black butterfly. It’s a member of the family named papilionidae. Its wing span is 80-100mm. It is generally very fast and flies at an eye level. This butterfly can be seen in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. Its common name refers to its host plant which are citrus species (cultivated lime). It loves mud-puddling in large numbers on damp patches in summer. It basks with its wings held wide open on the tufts of grass and herbs. It is also frequent visitor of flowers in gardens. In the evening time it also roosts in large numbers on tall grassy area. While resting, the butterfly closes its wings over its back and draws the forewings between its hind wings.

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