Saturday, June 23, 2018

Joining the party at Knepp

Fab few hours at Knepp today, was too late to book myself onto a safari so decided to go and see what I could find by myself and to be honest, there were so many Emperors everywhere you looked that we never went more than a few minutes without seeing one. Started the day with two on a sap run, shortly after came across one on the ground, though quite flighty so a good photo evaded me. Had my 75 year old Mum with me, so didnt go too far but saw 51 in the few hours we were there and that was taking things at a leisurely pace. Highlight was seeing a group of 8 frantically flying in what could only be described as a swarm around the tops of some large oaks.

We stayed and watched in this location for a good twenty minutes, gazing up in awe at the numbers and although a few came and went, there were constantly threes and fours chasing each other. I forgot to mention some lovely views of a female at head height who allowed me some great close up shots. We started at about 10 and left by 2, but it certainly was a magical few hours and well worth the 5 hour round trip. Took a couple of videos, will try to add them later.

Knepp: Day 9 - Stupendous

Today, in a six hour wander through part of the 1150 acre main block of Knepp Wildland I counted a staggering 177 Emperors, or rather 175 Emperors and just two females - whilst suffering from either heatstroke or some poxy virus which meant that I had to finish early without celebrating with a bottle of something wicked... and my trousers never went on my head, which is outrageous.

The key points are 1) I rightly predicted a massive emergence this year and, 2), more importantly, this doesn't have to be a rare butterfly - it's just that it's horribly suppressed by certain mindsets in forestry and land ownership.

Tomorrow, a double century perhaps...

But I keep meeting people looking down for Emperors. Look up, and ignore all other biodiversity -

Male Specific Bait (2018)

Well the initial trial of my male specific bait (top photo) appeared to be working (in France) today. A.ilia pictured as A.iris are not out in this locality yet. Further UK and European trials will be taking place over the imminent days ahead. After this we'll also be testing the general feeding bait (bottom photo, taken in 2016) which had given promising results in the past. Last year however was a complete wash-out due to the unseen weather conditions.

Chiddingfold forest 22/6/2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

Knepp Erupts! Day 8

I started the day, and ended the morning, worried that I'd wrongly predicted an immense emergence this year - yesterday was relatively poor and this morning was rather flat. With hindsight, emergence may have been held up by a series of cool nights, and it's still early days...

This afternoon was stupendous. I had to retire at 5.30 due to a touch of heatstroke (and I'm awaiting a new knee off the NHS...). But by then I'd clocked up an impressive 121, 120 of which were males - the lone female was seen in cop at 5.15, carrying a male in flight: I suspect they'd been pestered out of the oak tops by randy males. This is the first time I've seen iris flying whilst in cop (though there are records of pairs being blown out of tree tops on windy days).  

Between 2.30 and 4.30 the males were on most oak tops, often in twos or threes. I hit one six, one five, five fours and innumerable threes. A lot were seen sallow searching.

I saw only two males down: one on an old fox scat around 2.30 and another on nothing in particular at 5.25. But I don't deliberately hunt grounded males.

Tomorrow is going to be simply amazing. I will end with the immortal words of my hero IRP Heslop: 'To the woods, without breakfast!'


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Day 7 at Knepp - Boycott & Tavare batting

A much slower day, hindered by a gusty NNW wind, and a cool night and start to the day. Few Emperors got up before 11.45, and were then regularly rendered quiescent by the wind, which produced a lot of Fresh gusts. Gradually, the gaps between the gusts lengthened and activity increased.  

I managed to see 56, slightly down on yesterday. The males were scarcely establishing territories, due to the wind. I think only a few emerged today, probably due to the cool night.  

Today's highlight: To the list of birds attacked by Emperors during the 21st century please add the illustrious name of the White Stork! Knepp is hosting the official UK reintroduction of this bird. One of the penned birds foolishly took to the air today and instantly regretted it... We also have (a wild) Great White Egret at Knepp, so hopefully that will get The Treatment soon...

Four males were seen down on cowpats today, one of which generated this classic photo of a prostrate Neil Hulme -

I think it's still early days for Emperors here - Purple Hairstreak and White-letter Hairstreak have yet to get going properly. 


Knepp: don't just look up!

Hi all, 

Thanks to Matthew's new Whatsapp group and Dennis's suggestion that we share our "purple bios" on it, I now feel like I have a sense of who might be reading these posts - brilliant ideas all round. 

To what Matthew has already written about Knepp I only wanted to add that it's now worth exercising some care as you walk the pathways there. I put several emperors up yesterday and saw a respectable six come down. Though I spent quality time with only two, it could have been more if I hadn't dawdled once and been caught napping twice. 

It seems the emperors' relationship with the ground is changing at this wondrous site. In terms of groundings, it may not be Fermyndous yet, but it is becoming Knepptacular. 

It was a treat to spend yesterday with Matthew and Neil, who were very generous with their time. Thank you chaps. 

Happy hunting all.