Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hampstead Heath


I have also emailed the Herts and Middlesex Branch about a possible sighting of Apatura iris in Hampstead Heath.
I note that there have been a few sightings since 2015.
On 21st July I am reasonably sure I saw one maybe two iris near the Leg of Mutton Pond/Deer enclosure/Childrens play area of Golders Hill Park/Hampstead Heath.
They were clearly large Nymphalids and I have seen iris numerous times, they could have been escapees of a tropical nymphalid (eg Parthenos Sylvia) from the nearby Butterfly Green house in Golders Hill Park.
They flew between large Oaks at 25m.
I cannot be completely sure but it is possible that they could be.
There are possible breeding areas nearby, I know the area very well as I grew up in Golders Green
Let us hope that this magnificent butterfly is extending its range, the good warm weather recently I believe is ideal weather for species extending their ranges

Monitoring the last sightings

Today, two seen in Waterperry Wood by the Campbells; one female, looking fresh!

Friday, July 21, 2017


Sorry, in fact there has been a nice discussion on dispersal! [but not yet on influence of light and temperature]

The last knockings

Matthew pointed out that, at the end  of the season, it is difficult to spot them unless you are experienced enough to know where and how to look. In Upper Thames we have two people who possess this quality in spades: Wendy & Mick Campbell. They have been out looking almost every day in many woods since they saw the first on June 17th. Yesterday, three were seen in Waterperry Wood [including a female ovipositing], and today, one in Little Wood. So, that is 5 weeks so far, which is a normal flight season length.
I agree with Matthew, because the end is nigh, it is no reason to stop blogging!
Why don't we discuss our experiences, where they add to knowledge of the ecology of HIM?
For example, I have written two blogs concerning possible influence of light and temperature on activity, and dispersal, but the response has been meagre!

That Other Purple Butterfly...

This is a remarkable year for the Purple Hairstreak, at least in the Sussex Weald where I've spent the season. This is odd because many Wealden oaks were partially defoliated by late frosts, which must surely have adversely affected numerous larvae. 

I've known better Purple Hairstreak years, most notably 1976 which was probably an order of magnitude greater - they roamed the oak woodland edges in loose swarms.

Although most active during the evenings, when they conduct their courtship and mating, and largely quiescent during the heat of the afternoon, this July they have been coming down to visit bramble and Creeping Thistle flowers, as they do in drought summers - it's just that we haven't had a drought July since 2006 and 2003. 

Alongside His Imperial Majesty, the Purple Emperor, this hairstreak seldom visits flowers.  Here's one feeding on bramble -

Here's a better one on Creeping Thistle - 

And one feeding below a faded Creeping Thistle flower, I'm not sure on what precisely... - 

They've also been probing around for moisture in damp grasses, first thing in the morning (which they did prolifically in early July 1976) - 

Best of all are the Purple Hairstreak Ash feeder trees - if you can find one. I found one at Knepp late on. Here, at least 20 quercus were in view, probing around on next year's ash buds and, seemingly, feeding on lenticels (secretion pores) along the stems -

They have remarkably short tongues.

Very much a candidate for Butterfly of the Year...

Closing Time...

The end of the fantastic 2017 Purple Emperor season is at hand... (unless, of course, they produce a second brood...)

I managed to see four males and two females at Knepp yesterday, July 20th, but only because I know precisely where to stand and look. 

The good news is that last Tuesday night's apocalyptic thunderstorm (which lasted for two hours at Knepp) didn't knock them all out! The rain fell steadily, rather than in stair-rods, and crucially there was no damaging wind. 

But the survivors looked like this final-day female -

Unless you are an experienced Emperorphile and know precisely where to stand and look it will not be worth travelling this weekend to see the butterfly. It's closing time.

Above all, please note that this website functions all year round, not just during the heady weeks of the Emperor flight season. In particular, I will give early indications of when the next brood is likely to emerge. Watch this space, and always look on the Purple side of life...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Saying Goodbye

One of the last stragglers, a worn and battered female, from what seems to have been a magnificent emperor season at Knepp. My first visit back there in over forty years - thanks to Matthew, Neil, Harry and everyone else for making it such an enjoyable trip.