Thursday, September 12, 2019

Poor Egg Lay

The 2019 egg lay seems to be extremely poor. I'm struggling to find early autumn larvae in Savernake Forest, and think that this will be by far the poorest year in 11 years of dedicating monitoring there (through standardised counts). I've also struggled in Sussex, though some of my favourite trees there have been felled.

Today, in three hours of actual searching on several favourite trees in Savernake, I found precisely none. However, I found May feeding marks and silk pads from a larva I missed finding last Sept when I searched that tree; then I found the remnants of a pupal case about 2m away (of a male) - 



This is only the second time I've found an old pupal case whilst looking for autumn larvae in Savernake, in well over 400 hours of actual searching.  

For the record, larvae are just going into the third instar now, a little late. Here's an L2 larva - 


Monday, August 5, 2019

1600m up!

Discovered a colony of Purple Emperors in a partially wooded ravine 1575m up on a steep, heavily wooded north-facing slope in the Catalan Pyrenees today. Two of the three seen were feeding on sap oozing from Woolly Thistle heads which have been damaged by weevils and beetles.  

Here's an old male (centre) -




And here's the site, centre, from a distance. The rides in this pine wood were lined with highly suitable-looking sallows but we didn't see any Emperors there, maybe the butterfly simply hasn't found these isolated rides yet.


In the afternoon we watched Lesser Purple Emperor males behaving appallingly - every bit as badly as Purple Emperor males - clashing and chasing, from perching points on birch and sallow along a shady leeward edge (it was quite windy) in 30 Celsius - 




Sunday, August 4, 2019

Ilia Nailed

Today I finally nailed the Lesser Purple Emperor. Three males were imbibing minerals where a stream crossed a rough track. 


Here's a couple of males from there -



Not be be outdone, Herself put in an appearance (two females, one pristine, one worn) - 



Saturday, August 3, 2019

Doings in the Pyrenees...

The Purple Emperor population has crashed in the Catalan Pyrenees. We are struggling to see any, whereas this time last year I counted fifty in a day and photographed three feeding together on sap flowing from a weevil-damaged Woolly Thistle bud. And the butterfly is definitely at peak season now.

Not sure why, yet, but suspect that adults got knocked out just after I left last early August by torrential thunderstorms, and scarcely laid any eggs; and / or tiny L1 larvae got washed off leaf surfaces by other thunderstorms. We are checking the local weather data. Certainly, there were a number of deluges here last August.  

Maybe the butterfly has different population dynamics up here?

Today, I found a colony 1650m up north of Setcases, in a valley bottom. Here's the habitat -




Thursday, August 1, 2019

It's a wrap at Fermyn

2019 was not a bad year at Fermyn, but perhaps His Majesty was not as prolific as the last few years. Extensive ride widening may have had an impact on the usual hotspots, but I'm sure the unsettled weather in the weeks leading up to emergence played it's part. A late year, with first sightings occurring well into the first week of July (a whole two weeks later than 2018). Once out, they did not come in a rush either with pristine individuals present after what would normally be their 'sell by date'. So quality, not quantity this year.....but those abs! 👌







Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mark and Never See Again...

Off to the Catalan Pyrenees to attempt mark and recapture work on iris... Returning home on Aug 9th. 

This what a team of us will be doing, led by Catalan scientist and high priest of the Painted Lady (the only butterfly capable of mixing it with iris males on territory) Constanti Stefanescu -  



Previous attempts at this piece of basic science, here in the UK, have amounted to mark-and-never-see-again...  In Catalonia it should be much easier, in theory, because both sexes readily come down to feed on sap flowing from Woolly Thistle buds that have been damaged by various beetles and weevils. The sap seems to be more of a soporific than a stimulant to iris, in fact they seem to get stoned on it. Netting them on the thistles is relatively easy.  



The Purple Emperor flies much later in the Pyrenees than here, and should be at peak season there. However, numbers may be down this year as a large number of riverside sallows got washed away by a severe flood last October.   

Watch this space. This is going to be at the very least, Silly...


Sunday, July 28, 2019



A pretty special day had with the kids at Lyveden on Friday. Our third attempt at Purple Emperor spotting. I was being ambitious as always as our previous attempts challenged my ability to maintain the kids (aged 3 and 7) enthusiasm staring up at some treetops.  

We think we had success at Foxley Wood the weekend before, but the powerful and highly energetic suspect was far too quick to be 100% certain as it shot down from a row of oak trees to pass my shoulder and back up to the tree tops. There were a good number of White Admirals to confuse matters. This ramped up my intrigue and determination to have a definite sighting. 

We set off on the Lyveden way footpath to Fermyn. They’d been storms and heavy rainfall upon our arrival. Luckily this passed and we set out. By sheer fluke I spotted this tired male in the grass beside 
Lady Wood, trying desperately to fly but he had hopefully lived his expected lifespan. It gave us a good display of its yellow tongue and beautiful iridescent wings. A moment I’ll treasure.