Monday, July 4, 2022

Gloucestershire Comes Out!

Visited my local Gloucestershire wood today, where I've followed a small batch of Purple Emperor larvae since mid-October ('Boris', 'Rishi', 'Priti' & Co...), just in time to find 'Jacob' freshly emerged on his pupal case. This photo sequence may be Too Much for some viewers, especially Neil Hulme (who will turn a wondrous shade of putrid green) -

Note the tree guard in the background - this was a lovely Pearl-bordered Fritillary site a few years back.

After an hour, he basked in full gloriousness for a minute, then took off to fly the golden sky that calls itself July, and create chaos -

This the the first Emperor adult ever seen in this wood - I discovered the colony as larvae. I glimpsed one other (distant) male. These are the first seen in Gloucestershire this year, making Glos the last of the known Purple counties to produce adults this year.

I'm heading back to Knepp tomorrow, where the season has entered it's second half. Neil was there all day today and, in perfect weather conditions, found the Emperors rather lethargic: they've stopped coming down to feed on the tracks and are ceasing sallow searching and becoming creatures of afternoon territories. Advise: Don't visit Knepp hoping to see males down on the ground, visit in the afternoons and look for males on territory in the canopy gaps.  

Males are still coming down to the rides a lot in Fermyn Woods, but may have stopped doing so by next weekend.  

Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Wind Drops!

Today, at last, the Moderate to Fresh SW winds that have plagued the last week abated. I thought Emperors would take to the air big time, to make up for lost flying time. They didn't, at least at Knepp, where they had a very quiet day indeed. I'm not sure why.

I took a group of Operation Wallacea ecology students around Knepp today, charged with finding the worst behaved Purple Emperor as a replacement to the suspended Tory Deputy Chief Whip. We chose this male, feeding on cherry-flavoured fox scat (note the stones) - 

He attracted quite a crowd of admirers -


Bernwood Forest 30th June

Not the most propitious of mornings weatherwise, with cloud obscuring the sun for the most part but a mid morning visit more in hope than expectation resulted in the joy of a male buzzing me then grounding for twenty minutes before flying back into the surrounding oaks. Not a fresh  individual, showing a nick out of the left hindwing and various scratch marks.Nevertheless nice to see and my first this season 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Sat July 2nd. The Gale Continues...

Today was the 8th very windy day in a row here at Knepp. Wind has deprived us of the second week of the Emperor season, which is normally the optimum week for seeing pristine males. The good news is that it's set to drop tomorrow, though I suspect it's done some damage.

At Knepp, males are still emerging and descending to feed on the tracks, and the bulk of the female emergence is yet to come (plus some more males). The emergence has probably been slowed down by cold nights this last week (ask any gardener...).  

Today, like yesterday, males were very active for about 1 1/2 hours from late morning, then calmed down - searching for newly-emerged females.

Advise: When the wind drops, get out Emperoring, they'll erupt. It could be tomorrow...

Females are starting to be noted. I saw three today, all pristine. Yesterday, a mating pair was filmed here, high in the oak tops, with two unsuccessful males trying to muscle in (don't ask...). 

At Knepp, we have a gentle stream of visitors walking the Purple Emperor Walk, with the leaflet -

I probably helped about 100 people see their first Emperor(s) today. We want to offer Life-changing Experiences...

The butterfly is now out in all counties it is known from (plus some others it hasn't been recorded from, yet), and will be at Peak Season this next week - and the weather's set fair...

To the woods, the lot of you.  Enjoy...  

Where is everyone?

Glorious day at Fermyn yesterday. A day of warm sunny interludes and the odd shower and for once that westerly wind dropped. But where were all the punters? Virtually had the place to ourselves on what is high season for HIM. Have a feeling it must be the exhorbitant price of petrol these days. Having said that my 'client' for the day Mr James LeRouge had travelled up from Bournemouth on the pretext that I bet my house if I couldn't find him a close up encounter with His Majesty (i am by nature very risk averse 🙂).

The first grounding was reported  as early as 8,15am, but our first sighting was high over the trees at 9am. The deeds to my house were safe by 9.30am with our first grounding in Souther Wood. Like many other males seen this last week, although intact he was very 'scratched', no doubt a testimony to the constant lashing of foliage by the wind as His Majesty roosts atop the trees. This was extremely frustrating for the connoisseur and my OCD regarding their photographic condition, but many of the  individuals seen over the last week were a little shabby. Bumped into an old pal on the rides. Andrew Porter. The Purple Emperor had finally brought him out of butterfly hibernation!

Over at Lady Wood the groundings started to ramp up with 3s and fours down at any one time, hot footing it between one butterfly and the next. Then an extroadinary occurrence. One of the grounded males flew up and was immediately snatched by a passing Emperor Dragonfly. I chased after the pair but couldn't quite see where they landed amongst the Hazel. I gently rattled the trees and the pair were off again over the treetops. A sobering lesson for HIM.  There others that claim the Imperial crown!

By 1pm I had recorded 40 odd sightings and a dozen groundings, but alas only one in pristine condition. Many were nice, but no cigar. As the clouds rolled in at 2pm I thought that was it for the day and as the rain started to fall we had to take shelter under the trees and a late lunch. 3pm the sun returned and to my surprise the groundings started again. But this was siesta time wasn't it? What's more these individuals coming down were different, all in 'out of the box' condition, spread flat on the ground and shimmering glorious 'double purple'. We filled our boots. Shot after shot every angle which way. It was a heady and intoxicating purple experience. Then a brief fly by from an Empress rounded off a near perfect day. Mr LeRouge was a very happy bunny and said he'd never seen anything quite like it. Well that's Fermyn for you. Safe as houses 🙂

Friday, July 1, 2022


Here’s a photo of a purple emperor in Cotgrave Woods early this afternoon, showing beautifully in the fleeting sunlight.

July Blows In...

Much sunnier this afternoon, but with the sun came the wind - Moderate to Fresh SW, again. That hindered Emperorial activity.

For a while, when the sun broke through, there were Emperors flying around the back of most dense-leaved oak leaves (leeward side). But they quietened right down when the wind gathered strength.  

At last I managed to walk the Knepp Purple Emperor transect (2km long, with a big recording box). I counted 22 males, but would have got 30+ had it not been so windy (the record is 66, in 2018!).

I didn't see any definite females but Neil saw a mated female reject a male in a classic 'tumbledown' and a distant trio I saw disappearing into an oak crown may have been a female with two suitors.

Here's a slightly battered male that came down to one of Neil's shrimp paste baits at 9.15 -

Quite a few males are now damaged. It's wind damage, as they roost in the oak crowns.

But there are still many more males to emerge, and the bulk of the females.

Elsewhere, the butterfly is now out in Notts and Wilts (including Bentley Wood).