Black Beauties of the Fluttery World: The Black Rajah Butterfly
A Passion for Butterflies
Butterflies have always amazed me, with their fluttering whereabouts and flitting stances. Though not a photography buff, the sheer wish to observe them made me pursue the tracking and observation of more than 45 species of butterflies, which I have recorded from selected areas in Gujarat.
Most of these butterfly trysts have happened around the Department of Biosciences (Vallabh Vidhyanagar), Biosciences Botanical Garden (Vallabh Vidhyanagar), and the Lambhvel railway track in and around Anand in Gujarat. At that time I was not owning a camera but the passion for studying these bright and cheerful creatures enthused me and I started capturing record shots with my mobile phone. Truly, it is not about the resources or the means, in today’s times you merely need the will and you can make things happen, I learned. I was able to successfully record more than 45 species using my very normal mobile phone camera itself. Of course, owning a camera helps, and to capture the elegance of these insects up, close and personal, my dad then gifted me a camera. This was all the more inspiration for me to click some more beautiful butterflies.
The Quest for the Black Rajah
Here in Gujarat, this Black Rajah butterfly is seen in some specific geographical areas only. Because of the deforestation and urbanization, the forest cover has decreased significantly, impacting the natural habitat and flower cover that butterflies need. Still, Anand is quite rich in floral and faunal diversity, and I made it a personal agenda to started working on Butterfly Diversity about 8 months back in the areas in and around Anand.
I was in search of the beautiful but elusive Black Rajah since the last 8 months, and after working hard I was able to find one along the Lambhvel railway track one fine day. I was very happy to find this Brush footed Butterfly but at that time I didn’t get a proper record shot of it, which I would have loved to! I was blessed with this opportunity on the 23rd of March 2017, at the Department of Biosciences, Vallabh Vidhyanagar, Anand. My focus area for the day was birds, and suddenly while clicking birds I saw a butterfly which was flying in such a manner that it astounded me no end! It settled down very high on the branch of a tree from the Bignoniaceae family. I realised this was something unique, an opportunity not to be lost, and captured one quick photograph with my 55-250mm lens. To my astonishment a pleasant surprise presented itself! On review, of the image, I saw that my muse, the BLACK RAJAH had presented itself! My wish of the last 8 months was at last fulfilled, and that too when not even looking for it! The best of things happen when you least expect them!
I have learnt the virtues of patience, being an ardent nature lover. And so I waited for hours for the butterfly to alight and settle down closer, to get to know it better! It gradually came down on the stem of the same tree and I think it started sucking the sap of the tree. I concentrated all my attention on it, zooming in from some distance, and managed to get some amazing clicks of the beauty. My joy knew no bounds when I spotted a total of five individuals of the Black Rajah over the course of the day. A fruitful day indeed! The beauty mesmerized me, and an obsession for the Black Rajah took over. I went to the same location again and found them, as if they were waiting for a photo shoot! Some beautiful silhouettes, upper wings and macro photographs came out very nicely, thanks to their patience too!
These days were like dream days for me, where I was able to get to know them better. I was very happy to find this Least Concern species of Butterfly in the very department where I’m doing my masters. It was like a fitting end, or rather, a beginning to my ongoing tryst with these beautiful beings.
About the Black Rajah
Scientific Name: Charaxes solon
Native to: Tropical Asia
Wingspan: 70 mm to 80 mm
Coloration: Dark brownish-black with greenish or white discal bands across both the wings.
Caterpillar: dark green in colour with irregular rows of yellow tubercles
Article & Photos by: Mayur Variya