Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Early spring in CH too

Like their cousins in the UK, the Swiss emperors started feeding early this year. March was the second warmest on record and some sallows were in leaf almost a month before the usual date.

I've just spent a couple of weeks in the UK, so can't say exactly when Mr Mackey moved up to 4th grade but he was looking smug and well-fed today:


Here is Timmy:



The weather is much cooler now, which will probably hold up their development a little. But in principle, it could be an early season this year.

Guy


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Proscribed Badge

The Committee of the People of Purple Persuasion has unanimously decided to ban the execrable lapel badge the RSPB has recently brought out, supposedly of a Purple Emperor.  

Anyone found wearing this badge within the Purple Empire will be staked out as bait at Poplar Corner, Lady Wood Head, Fermyn Woods, for the duration of the season. 

We have to maintain standards: only Fosterjohn's badges are permitted. 

You have been warned...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Skin Changing

iris larvae are very advanced.  They are now changing into the 4th instar, in the wild - and camilla larvae are already in the 4th instar. Here's Savernake No 9 skin changing - 



If this mild, dry spring continues iris will be on the wing in early June. However, we've had panics like this before, notably in 2011 - only for the jet stream to jump south in late April / early May, ushering in six to eight weeks of cool wet weather and slowing progress right down.

Watch this space, but you may need to bring your annual Emperoring holiday forward...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Feeding Starts!

I visited Knepp Wildlands yesterday, Sun 2nd.  Two of the three larvae I was following on one tree have got through the winter (the 3rd went missing-presume-crunched during Feb but may yet reappear).  The two have started feeding, probably on Thurs March 30th; and I spotted the silhouette of another larva high up on another leafing sallow.  

My captive larva has also begun feeding, and Brother Denis's boys in Aylesbury are on-leaf, ready to feed.

It is unusual for iris larvae to commence feeding this early.  And if this goes on the butterfly will be out in early June - unless May is foul, again...

Here's Knepp No 2 from yesterday - 



Here's him starting to feed on his second leaf - 


And here's the other larva, ready to move on to a leaf (he's already bitten into an opening leaf bud) - 



Here's a view out over one patch of the (vast acreage of) sallow lands, from a tree platform - 


Here's a couple of the Knepp Wildlands pigs, lazing away the first of summer's hours yesterday -


The pigs are quite important to the future of iris at Knepp, as their diggings (below) get colonised by sallow...


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sleepers Awake!

His Imperial Majesty, The Emperor of the Woods, The Monarch of all the Butterflies (etc.) awoke from hibernation yesterday afternoon, March 28th, and aligned himself up against an unfurling sallow leaf bud.  

The larvae are likely to start feeding very soon, which is early...  

Watch this space...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Apatura iris on Dennis's Patch...

Delighted to announce the accidental discovery of Apatura iris in the Bradenham Valley (NT) just west of High Wycombe, Bucks, on the edge of Park Wood. 

Today I paid a quick visit to the site in the valley where we've successfully reintroduced His Grace The Duke of Burgundy, casually looked at a spray of a nice-looking caprea-type coppiced sallow and instantly found His Imperial Majesty hibernating there. I've never done that before and very much doubt I'll ever do it again. It was pure serendipity. Here's the 'pillar - 


And here's the NT's Neil Harris pointing at the 'pillar's location, 2m up on the north side of a 4m tall coppiced bush on the wood edge - 


This is, of course, bang in the middle of Dennis's Patch...

 Party time!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Kicks Off!

At least one of us was out in the Emperor's woods on New Year's Eve... I was in Savernake, with deer, tawny owls, a bat, Mottled Umber moths blundering about, shadows numberless, and church bells calling out from Marlborough. Then the fireworks took over.

Unfortunately, two of the three larvae I had marked out there have vanished (though they might have moved long distances - I need to return in daylight, as torchlight is inadequate). Larva No 9 remains, but had moved 6 cm during the mild December.

Yesterday, Jan 2nd, I checked the two larvae I have marked out in a sallow at Knepp Wildlands. Both had moved since my last visit on 27th November: one 20 cm, and the other a massive, record-breaking 2 m.  

Here's No 1 ('Raymond'):-



And here's No 2 ('Raymonda'), after a 2m sleep walk - 



She's the one with the skull marking behind her head, but it doesn't show well when she's curled round a twig scar.  

Hopefully, they'll both conk out properly now, sleep through the winter, and dream up the spring...

I've now seen iris in the wild, in one or more of its life stages, for 92 consecutive months. This is Obsession (at least I hope it is)...


The prospects for the 2017 Purple Emperor season are not great. Last year was just about the poorest season I've known (I think 1990 was worse), the egg-lay was low, and larval mortality (as measured) was again quite high during the autumn - but much depends on how well the larvae over-winter, and on spring, June and, especially, flight season weather.  

Prediction: My intuition tells me that the first 2017 iris will take to the air around high noon on 24th June. Be there!