A many-splendoured blessing of the monsoons is that spoors of untamed animals are clearly imprinted on jungle trails and peripheral ‘gray zones’ utilized by each man and foraging beast. On a ramble alongside the Shivalik foothills, I stumbled upon a remarkably contemporary leopard pugmark path outdoors a village. It had rained the night time earlier than and the pugmarks of the nocturnal hunter may simply be adopted hours later like lingering plumes of airliner emissions throughout the blue dome.
The leopard path took the course of a cart/tractor monitor for a kilometre earlier than diverting to dense thickets 50 yards off this well-used passageway hemmed in by crop and wild bush. The leopard was resting in secrecy within the thickets for the day after having been lured right here by an abundance of wandering village canine. A farmer was tilling his fields a 100 yards from the thickets whereas the luxurious European-style nation home of a Chandigarh household was 250 yards away from the massive cat’s bunker. What provides to its stealth and talent to function below the human radar is the truth that a leopard rarely roars, snarls or growls when prowling the gray zones because the shadows of the moon lengthen or when resting and hiding in the course of the day.
There was no alert or panic concerning the leopard within the space just because nobody knew it was there, proper below the villagers’ noses. It had harmed no human, neither had it turned a infamous livestock predator. Reality is that as an alternative of taking part in out its presumptive function as a rapacious, blood-guzzling maneater and youngster lifter, the massive cat had taken due care to keep away from people just like the plague or Covid-19. Frenzied reportage and media paranoia on Covid appeared to have been picked up by the wily leopard’s sharp ears and led to the cat enhancing its self-effacing norm of social distancing!
I sought a perspective on this invisible hunter’s astute methods from wildlife biologist and India’s main professional on leopard-human battle, Vidya Athreya. “Quite a few leopards reside amid the suburban settlements of Mumbai with out detection. The leopard is a ghost, neither right here nor there. Its presence in human proximity can go undetected for years until an opportunity occurring takes place, corresponding to a leopard killing a locality canine is caught on CCTV cameras or it’s noticed in automobile headlights by late night time travellers. There may be nothing to get alarmed about. Livestock ought to be protected in the course of the night time and stored below vigilance when out for day grazing,” Athreya informed this author.
COURTIERS IN THE KINGDOM OF FLOWERS
A honey bee and (on proper) a Hoverfly within the author’s backyard, Sector 19, Chandigarh.
Photograph: Vikram Jit Singh
Hoverflies are unsung and unrecognised however necessary pollinators of our gardens and crops. They’re most frequently mistaken for honey bees, even by skilled Nature photographers. Within the present season, the confusion between the 2 evokes the similarity between Flying ants and termites on wings (deemak).
The simplest technique to distinguish Hoverflies is that they’ve just one pair of wings whereas bees and wasps have two. The big eyes and quick antenna of Hoverflies additionally render them distinct from bees as additionally the truth that they don’t sting. Hoverflies are elbowed out of the petals by bigger bees.
Ignorance is bliss and lends itself to poetic fancy. Footage of hoverflies selecting flowers are incorrectly lent elaborate bee captions that elevate the standard flies to honey trails, birds and the bees, harmful stings and different Shakespearean-like profound poetic references. However Hoverflies neither make honey nor grasp about on hives. They roost on leaves. Hoverflies don’t linger on a flower for a very long time however are on the transfer continuously, hovering with sharp zigzag actions and have the power to maneuver abruptly and on the oddest angles. The Hoverfly has near-transparent wings and a decrease physique which is fantastically banded in black and amber.
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