We are three weeks away from the first holiday of the year which is a week in October. In our first year we had a wonderful time in Angkor Wat in Cambodia and last year we went on another great trip to Laos where we saw gibbons and had a relaxing cruise down the Mekong. This year, because of Covid, we could only plan a local beach holiday which, even though we’re not really beach people, I was still really looking forward to as we haven’t been to the beach yet and they are supposed to be lovely.
First we planned to go to Ngapoli which is the top destination but would require an internal flight which isn’t very appealing at the moment. Then we had a plan B and C in a place called Ngwesaung which you can drive to. Sadly both these places have cancelled on us as internal travel is being curtailed here. As the case numbers rise it looks like we are going into another more severe lockdown so it’s going to be a stay(in your garden’)cation for October break. So – what to do….
Well, I always like throwing myself into a new hobby or project which is usually just an excuse not to do something more pressing which should be learning Burmese. However, I find it a lot easier to learn Burmese while I can listen to my colleagues rabbiting on in Burmese and try to pick things up. It’s a lot more boring on your own. After School Activities to the rescue!
All staff have been asked to volunteer to do a virtual after school activity which is only 30 minutes once a week so not a big ask to be fair. I came up with the idea of ‘Urban Wildlife’. My plan was to have kids try to photograph or draw animals they see from their garden or windows or while on walks (that’s still allowed). Then we would meet once a week and try to identify everything seen.
In doing this I naturally took a few photos myself to get the ball rolling. I got a couple of birds as I would but also a couple of butterflies. I have always liked butterflies but the task of actually identifying them has always seemed too arduous to me. After getting a few shots I then had to think of a way of identifying them that the kids might be able to come up with. A quick search on the internet for ‘butterflies of Yangon’ and ‘butterflies of Myanmar’ and I came up with ‘inaturalist.org‘, which is a website that allows people to record sightings of pretty much anything, including plants and add a location. A quick filter for Yangon and hey presto I had a list of all the possible butterflies with excellent photos. This has allowed me to pretty easily identify all the butterflies I have managed to take photos of and even one caterpillar!
After making this discovery I have been frantically taking photos of just about anything I can find and am finding it super enjoyable to identify everything. Despite Myanmar being a bit obscure there have been hundreds of sightings so it’s been fairly easy to find everything. The one downside to inaturalist is that when you upload something even though it might be blindingly obvious, like a pigeon say, until someone else confirms your identification, it says ‘needs id’ – humph (as my Dad would say).
So far everything I have been able to identify comes under the category of ‘so common, I’m surprised you don’t step on them’, which I always find insulting. It especially annoys me an animal has the word ‘common’ in its actual name. The ‘Common Cuckoo’ for instance is, sadly, anything but common and as for the ‘Common Crane’ – I mean. I guess it’s better than having the word ‘Edible’ in your name like the Edible Crab – that guy really got the shaft. Anyway, I took a photo of a wasp seemingly having a drink on a leaf in my garden. I got a really good photo so figured it would be easy to identify. Annoyingly there are loads of categories of waspy type critters in the system so I had to painfully go through them all. I couldn’t find it in Myanmar so expanded my search to South East Asia. After a while I’m pretty sure I found it AND when I checked there doesn’t appear to have been any recorded sightings in Myanmar. Fame beckons. I notice that it doesn’t appear to have a common name in English. ‘Gav’s Wasp’ maybe…
The only problem I have now is containing my excitement and actually letting the kids get a word in edgeways. Buckle up kids.
The image at the top is a Common Mormon Swallowtail.