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Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Yuwaraj Gurjar takes photography to the usually ignored lesser fauna to show us the micro in the macro.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

A butterfly covered in dew drops

Location: Yeoor, Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Camera details: Nikon D70s, Tamron 180macro, 1/60, f14, ISO 200

Butterflies are cold-blooded insects, often seen on early winter mornings, studded with dew drops, their wings covered as if with jewels. This one’s very tiny, just 18-20 mm.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Common Skink

Location: Yeoor, Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Camera details: Nikon D70s, Tamron 180 macro, 1/60, f22, ISO 200

The Brahminy or Common skink is truly common in India. Its tongue is olfactory IN function, though many reptiles rely on their senses of sight, smell and hearing to find food and avoid danger. Some reptiles have poorly developed senses. Burrowing reptiles have poor eyesight, with a few not able to hear very well. Some male skinks may aggressively court females. Most skinks are oviparous, with the exception of some ovoviviparous individuals. Nesting sites are normally under logs or rocks. The young are generally darker than the adults.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Spider approaching a Plant-hopper

Location: Yeoor, Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Camera details: Nikon D90, Tamron 180 macro, 1/60, f25, ISO 200

This Plant-hopper (Family: Debride) was idly sitting on a leaf, with its extra-long wings positioned in a very unusual manner, so they appeared to shine. The approaching spider is about to jump and make a meal of this guy.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

A Checkered Keelback

Location: Tadoba National Park, Nagpur

Camera details: NikonD90, Tamron 180 macro,1/60, f18, ISO 200

A Checkered keelback(Xenochrophispiscator)is the most common freshwater snake. It strikes rapidly, determined and tenacious. Its forked tongue is a feature common to many species of reptiles, aiding not only in the ability to smell but also in identifying the direction of the smell and follows trails based on chemical cues.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

A tiny grasshopper on a flower

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: Nikon D70s, Tamron 180 macro, 1/125, f8, ISO 200

A small grasshopper looks like a tiny, fat worm. The first nymph to hatch leaves a tunnel from the egg pod to the soil surface, making emergence easier for the rest. The nymphs have no legs, no feelers, and no wings. After a few minutes, the skin splits, and a baby grasshopper crawls out. Nymphs live on plants, are light in color, with skin that hardens as they grow. They resemble adult grasshoppers, but are smaller and wing-less. They molt every eight to 10 days, five to six times in all before reaching adulthood.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

A Praying mantis laying eggs in Ootheca

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: Nikon D90, Tamron 180 macro, 1/60, f9, ISO 200

In the monsoon, females lay eggs in a large mass or cluster (an inch or so in length),called an ootheca, a frothy, gummy substance glued to tree twigs and plant stems. Tiny nymphs emerge from the egg mass in the winter. smaller and wing-less. They molt every eight to 10 days, five to six times in all before reaching adulthood.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Robber fly with a Treehopper kill

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: Nikon D70s,Tamron 180 macro, 1/200,f9, ISO 200

Robber flies are swift flying predators with stout, spiny legs and dense bristles on their faces. They capture prey with their bristly legs and inject it with saliva that contains neurotoxic enzymes. This rapidly immobilizes the prey, liquefies and dissolves its tissues, which the fly is able to rapidly suck out.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Camouflaged bark gecko

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: Nikon D90, Tamron 180 macro 1/60, f13, ISO 200

Bark geckos are perfectly camouflaged in large tree trunks. I was lucky to have captured them perfectly blended into the surroundings.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Water strider

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: Nikon D90, Tamron 180 macro, 1/320,f3.5, ISO 400

Water striders are able to walk on water by using the high surface tension and their long, hydrophobic legs. I was able to click the ripples made by this one, with the water algae forming a perfect green background.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

A Praying mantis nymph

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: NikonD90, Tamron 180 macro,1/60, f11, ISO 200

A young mantis is extremely active and disperses rapidly from the vicinity of the ootheca. Though many of the young fall prey to ants, spiders and other predators while they are still struggling with protective hatching suits, they soon turn tables to become predators themselves, with the ability to standstill for hours, and waiting for prey to come to them.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

A Green lynx spider with a Mime Butterfly

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Nagla

Camera details: Nikon D90, Tamron 180 macro, 1/60, f11, ISO 200

Wolf spiders, jumping spiders and some crab spiders dash about in search of prey and pounce on it when the opportunity presents itself. This Green lynx spider was rewarded for its patience when a Mime Butterfly chose to alight on the leaf it was waiting below.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

An egg-laying Robber fly

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: Nikon D70s, Tamron 180 macro, 1/60, f13,ISO 200

Robber flies (Order Diptera) are distinct as they have only one pair of normal wings. Females, who lay eggs in hollow barks,spend more time seeking prey than males, possibly because of reproductive requirements.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Banded Gecko

Location: Matheran

Camera details: N Nikon D90,Tamron 180 macro, 1/60, f14,ISO 200

Banded rock geckos(Cyrtodactylusdekkanensis) are easily distinguished from other geckos by their vertical pupil. Most species are brown or gray with conspicuous, handsome spots and/ or bands. From the 12 known species in India, almost all are nocturnal and live among rocks and on the forest floor. This species is widely distributed in the Western and Eastern Himalayas, the desert of Kutch, the forests of the Western and Eastern Ghats, and in the Andaman Islands.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Apefly

Location: Maharashtra

Nature Park, Mumbai

Camera details: NikonD90, Tamron 180 macro1/60, f25, ISO 200

Butterflies are usually shot at angles parallel to their wings, but I wanted this Ape fly (Spalgisepius) from a low angle so the sky could act as a background.

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Fruit-piercing moth caterpillars

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Yeoor

Camera details: Nikon D70s, Tamron 180 macro,1/60, f13, ISO 200

These moth caterpillars looked fairly alarmed and I was able to get them as their behavior started to resemble that of synchronized dancers.

 

This article first appeared in the 2013 July/August edition of Saevus Magazine.

 

About the Author /

Yuwaraj Gurjar works with Raymond Limited - a renowned textile manufacturing company, but his love for nature always drives him to go places into wild India – being hugely diversified habitats. He has traveled across the country & Sri Lanka for nature observations and photography. His photographs have won many national and international awards; have been exhibited across the world. Some photos were included in field guides, educational websites and magazines. He actively spreads the awareness & knowledge about nature, wildlife & photography especially Macro Photography. He has developed a free Mobile App on Butterflies of Mumbai named “I love Butterflies”.

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