September in Goa has always been special.
Let me rephrase that. Every month in Goa is special and September is no exception!
The annual cleansing from relentless lashings in July and August are a thing of the past. Sporadic showers of a now exhausted monsoon leave in their wake crystal clear skies and a sparkling countryside.
Yes, that’s right…
…I do mean literally…
a countryside that actually sparkles!!
A soaring humidity and dipping early morning temperatures create the perfect setting for a sequinned carpet of dew…
…that is incentive enough for any photographer worth his salt to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and, ablutions be damned, rush out into the garden with his camera!
Butterflies that began to make their presence felt since the month of June had now significantly increased in numbers.
The spectacular Southern birdwing butterfly (below) is a species that only condescends to fly through my property, rarely stopping for a feed. What’s more, it does so at such speeds and with such an erratic flight pattern that it is next to impossible to photograph.
On this rare occasion it actually paused for a feed on the ixora beds barely 15 feet away from me.
Unfortunately all I had in my hands was the camera set up with an effective focal length of 1000mm. To the uninitiated, that is akin to hunting a mouse with an elephant gun!
I guess I should be thankful that I was able to get this half-decent image.
If ever there is a month that exemplified Browning’s, God’s in His Heaven and all’s right with the world, this was it.
There was something going on that was not quite ‘right’.
I had put down a number of butterfly-attracting plants last year. Thanks to the tender loving care of my gardener they were flourishing. Unfortunately – and this was the puzzling part – they were not attracting any butterflies!
The image below was taken a couple of months ago.
It is of the plant Stachytarpheta jamaicensis also know as blue snakeweed and is supposed to be a magnet for butterflies. Which it was till a couple of months ago.
Mysteriously, as of the past month, despite the numerous floral sprays that the bush has put out, not a single butterfly was attracted to it.
Light began to dawn on the matter when I questioning the gardener. He complained that bugs were attacking the leaves of the plants and hence he (quite proudly) bought a lethal insecticide and generously doused the garden! I do believe the bugs he was referring to were caterpillars.
Here I was trying to attract the butterflies and encourage them to propagate. While all my gardener was focused on was protecting the plants and getting rid of the ‘pests’!
If ever there was a classic example of working at cross purposes this was it!
Hopefully, ensuing discussions will help reset revised objectives. (Assuming, of course, that there was a clear understanding as to who was boss!)
There was the regular assortment of insects and birds as well, but by now I am well past the stage of rushing to grab an image of anything that moved. Preferring instead in most instances to simply sit back and enjoy their presence.
Although I must admit that the tiny but beautiful Indian fluorescent grasshopper above did result in a flurry of photographic activity.
As did the sighting of a pair of grey-headed bulbuls, that are considered to be near-endangered…
…and the vernal hanging parrot below as these birds too are infrequent visitors.
For the more technically-minded, the image above was taken with a full frame camera with a 500mm lens + a 2x teleconverter that took the effective focal length to a whopping 1000mm.
It was further cropped in post-processing by 150%. The original uncropped image is below.
To complete the picture and put things totally into perspective I took an image of the tree with my iPhone. The arrow points to the branch on which the bird was perched.
So when anyone tells you that one can never have enough ‘reach’ when photographing birds you had better believe it!
The not-so-technically minded among you – (Aunt Carmen, ahem!) – may appreciate the above image more for its scenic appeal. And, just for you, I do have something that, in my opinion at least, is rather special!
The image below was taken from my west-facing front porch.
At this time of the year, clear skies scrubbed clean of smog and ever-changing post-monsoon cloud formations make for simply stunning sunsets.
That’s it for now.
Looking forward to what October has to offer, and,
Till next September…