A visit to any forest is replete with surprises; you never know what to expect! Our primary purpose for the visit to Pakke Kesang in Arunachal Pradesh was to study the area’s butterflies and moths. While the butterflies were plentiful, very few moths visited the moth screen (a plain white sheet with a special bulb which attracts moths)
we set up in the first few days. After every night’s disappointment, we consoled ourselves saying that we had not found the correct location to set up the moth screen, and that the next night would be better, at a different location. Wildlifers are a hopelessly optimistic bunch!
After the first few nights, we selected a location that was on a bridge built over a gushing forest stream. From the bridge, we could see dense forests on either side of the bridge. Aha! This has got to be a good location, we told ourselves. That night, after a 5-kilometre drive, we set up the moth screen on the bridge, keeping our fingers crossed. We waited, and waited and waited! An hour after setting up the screen, we had attracted only three moths! Sensing the hopelessness of the situation, I decided to take a night walk to see if I could find other creepy-crawlies. Only a few metres from bridge, we spotted a cricket frog — a fairly common frog found throughout India.
A few metres on, I located another frog — this was a Himalayan Tree Frog (Polypedates himalayanus). Tree frogs generally live in bushes or in the lower canopy of trees and this one was no exception. It was sitting on a large fern beside the road. On the same fern, we spotted a tiny frog, which was only 15 mm in size and had red eyes. This was another tree frog (Kurixalus species) that I am yet to identify.
A little further on, we spotted yet another tree frog! This one was a beauty, being parrot-green in colour, and about 10 cm in size. Called the Large Tree Frog (Rhacophorus maximus), this individual was very docile and posed nicely for us.
Most tree frogs have adapted their feet to suit the habitat they live in. Many of them have discs at the tips of their fingers and toes, which helps them to clasp the branches and stems of the trees they live on. Others, like the Large Tree Frog, have webbing between their fingers and a toe, which helps them get a firmer grip.
What is interesting is that most tree frogs build nests made of bubbles, called foam nests, on vegetation, which hang over water. The female lays her eggs in these foam nests.
When the eggs hatch and the tadpoles emerge, they fall directly into the water to begin their aquatic life-cycle!
Even as we walked back to the moth screen (where one more moth had arrived on the screen, taking the evening’s total to a paltry four moths!), I wondered at the twists that nature had thrown up for us. We had come looking for moths and were served up frogs instead.
I am not complaining one bit; I love all forms of nature!
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