In 1960s, I lived in the forested hills of Aravallis (near Gogunda village in the district of Udaipur) looking after our mining operations. The area around my hut in Dholi Ghati abounded in snakes. It was normal to see snakes coiled up between my utensils or under my cot or in a corner of the hut. I used to hunt these reptiles with an air-rifle. There were many types of snakes but Cobra, Russell’s Viper and Rat Snake were in abundance.
Once, it was a cloudy day and a soft hum surrounded my hut as I sat having my lunch. It had been drizzling. I peeped out in anticipation. It was the ideal time for reptiles to come out. About fifty yards behind our hut was a small nullah. There were lens-shaped pits in it from which alluvia had been washed away and schist-like rocky formations were exposed. But at the bottom some sand always remained. In these rocks there were numerous holes that harboured rodents and snakes. The average depth of the pits was between two to four feet and breadth at the widest point was four feet. When the drizzle stopped, I took my air-rifle and went out.
At the edge of a pit, I peeked inside but could see nothing. I was about to relax when my eyes caught a movement on the sand at the bottom of the pit. There was a small toad, which had escaped my eyes, but its movement revealed its position.
I was admiring how well camouflaged it was, when suddenly there appeared a fly. It was a very small toad and its size was slightly bigger than that of the fly. It buzzed for some time and settled down just in front of the toad. The toad froze for a moment and then jumped and caught one of its wings. Both of them remained in this position for a few moments. The fly wriggled and freed itself from the grip of the toad and started circling over it. It again sat right on top of the toad and remained there for some time moving its legs as if trying to tickle the toad. But the toad remained motionless. The fly left its perch and circled for a while. It then sat right in front of the toad in the same position. Again the toad caught it by one of its wings and the whole scene was repeated. The fly manoeuvred to escape. This was repeated four times. I gazed at the toad carrying a composed expression on its face and the fly grinning at it with its buzz. The fourth time, after harassing the toad by sitting on top of it, the fly took four rounds of the pit and flew away leaving me amused. The first encounter may be by chance but the repetition suggests that these were deliberate acts of the fly.
The height from the sea level of Dholi Ghati, wind velocity, temperature variation during day and night and during different seasons, and precipitation, are quite different from other areas of Udaipur. No behavioural study of mega and minor fauna of this region has been undertaken. We do not know whether this is a routine behaviour of these species or an isolated case.
Nevertheless, teasing or playing in such small creatures of two different species, which are predator and prey, is fascinating.
The story was published in Mystic IndiaTehsin, R. H. (1997) Mysterious Plays Between A Toad & A Fly. Mystic India 3(11): 105 – 106