It was May 2019, I was asked by my department to report to Kendriya Vidyalaya IIP Dehradun, Uttarakhand for a 12 day Training Program commencing from 6th June 2019. This very news made me excited and wanted to en-cash this opportunity to witness and photograph some West Himalayan Butterflies. Since I had little idea about the butterfly hot spots near Dehradun, I contacted my friend Shri Sanjay Sondhi of Titli Trust Dehradun. He connected me to Mr Rahul Kala, gem of a person to make friends with. I spoke to Rahul and planned to visit Benog WLS situated about 11Km from the famous town of Mussoori on the way to Kempty falls.
I landed at Dehradun on 4th June and got a Guest House accommodation at IIP Dehradun, thanks to my cousin Dr Soumen Dasgupta, Scientist IIP and Dr Anjan Ray, Director IIP Dehradun. The IIP campus is situated in the periphery of famous Rajaji National Park and is well forested with diverse Terai ecosystem and needs another blog post to describe.
On 5th June early morning me and Rahul, travelled to Mussoori in his bike hoping to encounter some amazing butterflies at Benog WLS. We reached Benog by 9am after finishing our breakfast at Mussoori town. The entry to Benog WLS is not free and we paid nominal amount to the forest officials and started our uphill trek. The climb was not steep and the path was by the side of the stream flowing down.
Soon we were welcomed by scores of Garhwal Great Blackvein(Aporia agathon) butterflies. It was my first encounter with these Himalayan butterflies and they were everywhere. Many of them were floating on the stream and I picked many alive individuals and put them to safety.
We spent more than three hours in that paradise and witnessed many-many butterflies and most of them were a first time witness for me. I am posting below some of the stunning images that I took on that day.
As far as swallowtails were concerned we encountered four species of these pristine beauties. I was desperate to see spectacle swordtail and four-bar swordtail, but to was disappointed.
The landscape was dominated by brush-footed butterflies and I could witness and photograph 21 species of these magnificent beauties. The highlights of them were of-course Pale Yellow Sailer (Neptis zaida), Arrowhead Blackvein (Aporia leucodice) and Large Silverstripe (Argynnis childreni).
I also photographed a few Lycaenidae butterflies and witnessing the Water Hairstreak (Euaspa milionia) and the Silver-Grey Silverline (Spindasis nipalicus) was a treat indeed.
There were a few Skippers too in the landscape and I saw the Marbled Flat (Lobocla liliana) and Veined Scrub hopper (Aeromachus stigmata) for the first time.
The Judies and metal marks included the punches and I could only witness two of them.
A group of Brimstones fluttered around the Thistle flowers and they were the only butterflies in the family of Yellow and Whites.
After a successful trip to Benog WLS we came back with itched memories and a promise to visit the place once again, may be more than once in coming years.
During my stay at Dehradun, I had also a chance to visit Dhanaulti, about 70km from Dehradun. There too I had a chance to see a few butterflies. Notably the Large Branded five ring (Ypthima hannyngtoni) and the Dark Oakblue (Arhopala rama).
Overall it was a fascinating trip and I did repeat the same in the year 2021. The time was not conducive and winter was about to set. I could add two butterflies to my account from that place. One of them was Indian Purple Emperor and the other was Tailed Punch. Hence the best time to visit this place is May till June. I conclude by saying that a must place to visit in Western Himalayas for all butterfly lovers.