Sunday, August 26, 2012

Butterfly viewing at Ovalekar Wadi in Mumbai.

Mr Isaac.Kehimkar explaining  "BUTTERFLIES".
Regarding Butterflies, was only interested in these beautiful insects through a famous  Giacomo Puccini  written Italian opera called "Madame Butterfly", one of the most performed Opera's in the World ,having  viewed the English Version in Mumbai.. During one of my sea-voyages in the 1990's  had purchased a "Butterfly stuffed   Mounted Frame" in Singapore  and the same adorns the collection of curio's and handicrafts at my residence, reminisces of my personal World travels. "Butterfly Mountings" are popular tourist  souvenirs in Singapore, legally permitted as butterflies have an average life-span of just a month and are never a endangered species because of human collections. Butterflies become extinct in certain localities due to deforestation  also the  cause of wild-life  degradation and gradual extinction in the wild.Was never ever a insect enthusiast despite a Wild-life activists and outdoors adventurer , admiring butterflies and moths for their exotic colours and shapes. Akin to most people i didn't know the difference between moths and butterflies until i joined "B.N.H.S".I am  a Life-member of "B.N.H.S(Bombay Natural history society)", the oldest "N.G.O(Non-Government Organization)" in India , having  two of   India's experts  on butterfly's and Moths in its employment. Shubhalaxmi .Vaylure has a doctorate in entomology and partly responsible for making moths popular amongst Wild-life  naturalists including myself, having experienced the same  in 2011during a "Moth Nature trail" at Malshej Ghats. She is  also nick-named the "Moth-Lady", an authority of moths in India. Mr Isaac.Kehimkar  is the General Manager(Operations) at "B.N.H.S"  and has authored  two books, one on wildflowers of India and the other book titled "The Book of Indian Butterflies",a bestseller, a text book for Indian butterfly enthusiasts and researchers. Mr Isaac.Kehimkar  does not hold a "Doctorate" degree in entomology  unlike Shubhalaxmi.Vaylure but instead is a Political Science and Psychology graduate from Mumbai University, later joining "B.N.H.S" as a librarian ! For a Individual  to become one of the foremost authorities on the "Butterfly" in India  from such humble Naturalist education  beginnings, also authoring two books , is an inspiration to all self-taught naturalists.Hence, although not a "Butterfly" enthusiast , more of a "Cat , Dog  and Parakeet man"decided to visit  "Ovalekar Wadi" in distant Thane and personally experience the "Butterfly Bounty breakfast at Ovalekar wadi".
Mr Rajendra.Ovalekar feeding rotten fruits for Butterflies.
"Butterfly Habitat" in Ovalekar Wadi in Mumbai.
Sunday(26-8-2012):- Woke up at 0500 hrs, a slight drizzle outside my house, hoping it would be a rainless day ahead.Left my residence at approx 0530 hrs boarding the local bus to Dadar Station.Purchased a railway  return ticket to Borivili station(Rs 18) and boarded the 'Borivili Slow Train" at approx 0555 hrs..The 45 minutes journey to Borivili was comfortable, an empty train as it was Sunday(Holiday) as well as early morning.The rains had stopped and finally  reached Borivili station at approx 0640 hrs  making my way to the "700 Nos" bus-stop outside the station on Borivili East. Boarded 700 Nos bus at approx 0700 hrs, the ticket being to "Owla Village Bus Stop(Rs 21)", requesting the conductor to inform me on arrival at the alighting point.As a typical  "Sobo Inhabitant(South Bombay)" of Mumbai, this particular stretch of Mumbai city was akin to a solo tourist drive, viewing the suburbs of Dahisar, Vasia creek  and classic forested Thane-Ghodbhunder road highway, a beautiful cloudy day with occasional drizzles.Finally reached "Owla Village bus-stop" at approx  0725 hrs and inquired for directions to Ovalekar wadi. Was directed into a lane on the opposite side of  "Spice  Island restaurant", a landmark for the lane leading to Ovalekar wadi. It was a long and pleasant walk through a narrow lane with country type houses and the rare skyscraper building in the midst. Ovalekar wadi lies at the base of the Sanjay Gandhi National park  called Yeoor hills and hence the entire locality is lush green forested area with modern 21st century skyscrapers absorbing  some green space on  the forest fringes along the "Thane-Ghodbhunder Highway". Was one of the first few early  naturalists at Ovalekar wadi  reaching its entry gate at  approx 0740 hrs, greeted by typical village fanfare, a large squawking white goose, chickens and a small village cottage.Having done numerous outdoor nature tours with "B.N.H.S" group was familiar to most tour  employees and spotted  Mr Asif.Khan on a motorcycle arriving at the "Guest registry point" near the entrance gate.Inquired  about the formalities and format of the Butterfly garden tour and after paying the entry charges of Rs 350 made my way into this unique garden city of suburban Mumbai.I always have the habit of being early at any occasion, be it a common private  party or a public gathering , sometimes, being the "Early Bird" has its own advantages.There were a few Butterfly tourists ahead of me and the butterfly meadow was teeming with flying butterflies of various colours, the light rays of the Sun peeping through a clouded sky, ideal weather for butterfly discovery.The "Ovalekar Wadi" was agricultural land  owned by the Owalekar family consisting  of rice plantations prior to being converted into Mumbai's unique "BUTTERFLY GARDEN"  by its present owner Mr Rajendra.Owalekar . In 2004 Mr Rajendra.Owalekar  visited "B.N.H.S " and the concept of developing his agricultural farm into a butterfly park resulted with a little help from "B.N.H.S" and Mr Isaac.Kehimkar. I  first saw a artificial butterfly garden at the London zoo in 2010, a walk-through butterfly garden where i even had the unique opportunity of photographing a mating pair of butterflies.The "Ovalekar Butterfly garden" is a natural butterfly garden where the Butterflies are not held captive akin to the London zoo  or other enclosed butterfly gardens but are free roaming natural residents that have formed Ovalekar wadi as their residence and breeding turf.The Yeoor hills of the Sanjay Gandhi national park that borders this unique garden helps in replenishing and maintaining a healthy stock of butterflies that normally have an average life-span of just a month .Walking through the maze of small flowering trees and chickoo plantations on the fringes of the turf gardens came across a casually dressed gentleman replenishing a "Butterfly feeding bowl" with rotten pineapple and fruit waste. On inquiry, came face to face with the owner and creator of this wonderful garden, Mr Rajendra.Ovalekar. Surprised to note that he works for a living, conducting  his butterfly garden tours only on Sundays.Its rare to find a person devote his life to a hobby rather than monetary acquisition.This 2 acre  land could be a gold mine for prospective builders, worth crores of rupees to its owner Mr Rajendra.Ovalekar, yet, he lives a normal middle-class life devoted to butterflies and spreading the message of nature conservation and the knowledge of entomology. The "Ovalekar Butterfly  Garden" is a total private enterprise funded entirely by the efforts and monetary funds of Mr Rajendra.Ovalekar with scientific knowledge from "B.N.H.S" which itself is a private organization.Mumbai's politicians have always mentioned admiration to converting Mumbai into a Shanghai or Singapore and Ovalekar wadi has shown the way to making Mumbai into a garden city by means of private entrepreneurship, akin to the Singapore zoo, a total private enterprise.
The nature tourist crowd gradually filled the park, the entire parkway filled with vehicles a healthy sign of the popularity of the " Ovalekar Butterfly Garden".
The beautiful "Crimson Rose Butterfly" feeding on flowers.
A large crowd of Butterfly enthusiasts at Ovalekar Wadi.
"Been there, Done that, Seen That"!; Self photo.
My Personal "Butterfly Mounting" at home purchased from Singapore.
Mr Isaac.Kehimkar finally arrived at approx 0900 hrs  and along with Mr Rajendra.Ovalekar  addressed the crowd of over 60 naturalists on the uniqueness and beauty of the common butterfly.It was a cloudy day with occasional intermittent drizzles. He explained us that most of the Butterflies were named by British colonialists  and hence unique names of English origin.In England there are only approx  47 species of Butterflies while in India there are approx 1500 different species and hence the early British butterfly naturalists went crazy naming these numerous species.After a brief introductory lecture we  were taken on  a guided tour of the park and  explained various butterfly species and also the plants , flowers and fruit waste on which they normally feed.Everyone was busy photographing with their camera's ranging from professional  lens camera's to ordinary phone camera's.It gradually started raining heavily and so we all made our way to the small restaurant cum instruction shed situated in a corner of Ovalekar butterfly garden.Here we were shown live specimens  in plastic containers of a  common Mormon  species caterpillar, pupae and a  tiger butterfly just having emerged from its pupae stage..I last studied butterflies in school and refreshed my memory of the various evolving life-cycles of the butterfly, extremely memorable due to the practical demonstration.This particular "Ovalekar Butterfly garden" is an excellent  nature  study school for students and looking around i did see numerous young kids with their parents.Met Mr Jonathan.D'silva who had come along with his wife and young child, a Sunday butterfly outing. Mr Jonathan.D'silva is very knowledgeable on moths although an automobile engineer by profession and thanks to him, our team won the "Moth Quiz" at Malshej Ghat  in 2011,  conducted my  "Moth lady" Dr Shubhlaxmi Vaylure. Moths are fast fliers compared to butterflies and the reasons for this was explained by Mr Isaac.Kehimkar. After the practical butterfly demonstration we had our breakfast consisting of fresh and hot "Vada Pav(Mumbai potato Burgers)" followed by tea.The rains gradually ceased into a drizzle and we ventured into the gardens, the butterflies also flying around flowers and the trays of rotting fruits, happy that the rains had ceased. Butterflies don't get drenched as their wings are waterproof, besides, they take shelter under leaves and other vegetation.Spotted the uncommon "Crimson Rose butterfly" a beautiful sight also explaining the reason for some people devoting a life-time to butterfly study and collection..Unlike birds or mammals, butterflies are the easiest to photograph at close range and although we were a crowd of over 60 butterfly tourists we all did manage to click memorable photographs in this unique garden,Rains again played spoiled  sport and some of us decided to call it a day after it started raining a bit heavily.I took shelter in the  lecture shed and after the rains ceased  ventured into the garden.After a final brief detour of the garden bid adieu  to the organizers and took a photograph of myself alongside  the big squawking goose near the exit of Ovalekar  garden. Most people might be unaware that geese are excellent "watchdogs" that  alert the owner on any abnormal intrusion or dangers. Any  butterfly illiterate would definitely leave the Ovalekar garden more knowledgeable about this common , most talked , most advertised but least understood insect.Walked  back to the bus-stop of "Owla Village"  in the company of a co-visitor Mr Tushar.Bhagwat, discussing nature, the  common topic  with all members of "B.N.H.S" belonging  to  different vocations, professions, age-groups, sexes and income groups. At approx 1105 hrs boarded the "700 Nos" A/c bus , an excellent bus on par or better than  First World country buses  , the ticket also being pricey at Rs 56 while the normal ticket cost only  Rs 21.Reached Borivili Station at approx 1140hrs in air-conditioned comfort later boarding the crowded "Churchgare Fast Train" at approx 1150 hrs.The fast train journey was approx half an hour compared to the normal 45 minutes by the slow train.Alighted at Dadar station, caught the local bus and finally reached home at approx1230 hrs.After lunch and a bit of "Internet Work"  rode on my bike to the race-course, my usual expensive club  hobby, the Mahalaxmi race-course being another nature haven in concrete jungle Mumbai..It was one of my  most hectic travel days within Mumbai  city   in recent years, also memorable.