Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fat Lady Thwarted

She didn't sing today, infact she had a Nordik walking pole firmly stuffed down her throat. I toured the main Savernake male territories. All were blank bar the best one (the Dead Beech Glade) which produced no less than 3 males. They produced one glorious clash and chase involving all three, and several chases of pairs. The dominant male saw off a red kite (already on the PE hit list). All three were worn and a little frayed about the edges. Looks like there should be one left next weekend, though the following might be the last photo of the (lousy) 2011 iris season (top left) -

That's the good news. The worrying news is that the 2011 egg lay may be even worse than its predecessor...

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Humble Ringlet

During the duller periods of lesser Purple seasons, such as this, the People of Purple Pursuasion may wish to work the plebecite for aberrations. The humble Ringlet, hyperanthus, may be rewarding. Hyperanthus was, of course, one of the 50 sons of Aegyptus, who did bugger all other than begat 50 sons - all of whom were slaughtered on their wedding night by their brides. Here is ab arete, or is it ab caeca, I can't remember, photographed somewhere in the nether regions of the Empire this July.

Red Admiral Confusion

Many of us encountered numerous Red Ads in Purple Places this season. E.g., there was one every 50-75m along the rides in Fermyn Woods in early July. Red Ads also visited a lot of baits, natural and otherwise, this season. It seems there was a sizeable influx of Red Ads to the SE on the back of thunderstorms there on Tues June 28th.

Red Ads commonly set up territories in iris territories, though well below Emperor level. Indeed, one way of finding new Emperor territories is to look for Red Ad territories, and then look upwards.

Battling territorial Red Ads also chase each other about at speed, though usually not at irisian level - but we can at a distance mistake atalanta for iris because of this behaviour. Atalanta doesn't, however, engage in the classic circling squabble of iris males. Brothers c-album and cardui also chase each other about, sometimes high up - out of sight & out of mind, like iris. So we can confuse these lesser mortals for the Monarch of all the Butterflies at a distance. Beware of false prophets, for many will come in His name... A male Emperor will, of course, see off any of this riff-raff.

Here is a couple of pix of a male Red Ad that adopted Brother Neil as a perching point below the Marlpost Wood North Gate iris territory this season. Red Ad males are almost ubiquitous here during the Purple season -

Note the use of Grecian 2011 in the above pic... It proved, though, useless as a bait for iris.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Today, 26th July, as a minor digression, I watched a fresh male Duke of Burgundy Fritillary beating up a male Dingy Skipper - before they both took on a couple of Small Skippers, one of which later proved to be an Essex Skipper. I think this is the first time His Grace has tangled with his arch rival during the Purple Emperor season.

His Grace needs his own website, but in the meantime is welcome on this website where he will forever be known as The Duke of Burgundy Fritillary (once a king and queen in Narnia, always a king and queen in Narnia - Aslan said that). Here he is, on a late summer flower no less -

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Greetings from the 2012 Purple Emperor season... on its way. Skin changing to 2nd instar.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some Purple Bits

Over the weekend just gone we had a trip to Fermyn, hoping for some late season action; alas it was not to be!

We did have a very brief fly-by male in the wood during the very cold northerly wind on Friday, but torrential rain overnight to the Saturday will probably have finished them off!

Roll on next year, and hoping for a better sequence of rest days.



It's winding down here, too: just 3 females seen in two different woods today.
The attached photos, taken by Malcolm Brownsword during our field trip to Bernwood earlier this month, shows HIM allowing one of his Admirals first bite at the cherry [synonym for dog poo].

Season Ending

Ashley's right, this (rotten) season is ending fast. Today I struggled to see three lone males in a search of the main territories in Savernake, one of whom was so battered he had no right to be flying at all. Also, I failed to see Herself during two long vigils in the best breeding area. Savernake is a 'late' site, where males usually last until about 7th August. I doubt they'll be any left there by next weekend.

What do you do when the party's over? Find another party! It's egg-hunting time again, followed by 10 wonderful months of fascinating caterpillars. Emperor season without end...

End of the Purple Season

Date: 23 July 2011
Weather: Very Cloudy, Breezy with short interludes of sunshine
Temperature: 60f
Recorder: Ashley Whitlock
Location: Alice Holt Forest (1)
The sun was out when I arrived on site at 1230 but there was a lot of cloud about, and it could disappear at any time. It was probably too early to see anything, and I was right. There was nothing to be seen until 1305 as the weather had turned and was quite breezy and the cloud cover was almost 100%. A male did turn up at 1305 which was very lucky as I was going to go at 1300! He did the usual ‘s’ flight pattern and disappeared into the thick foliage of the Beech Tree. There was a Buzzard flying over the tops of this tree, and not sure whether it had seen this male, but he seemed to be hanging around. The male got off of his perch again and was patrolling quite merrily around his vista. He did this several times, whether he was hoping to find another male or was searching for any spot out of the eyeshot of the Buzzard! After all they do eat insects and a Purple Emperor would make quite a decent snack I suspect! I did not think there were any others around as there weren’t any chases, to be seen. It was very windy in the canopy but the sun had come out again at 1310.
The male was quite content to sit in the tree top facing the sun with its wings open, you can always tell a male when it’s quite battered and bruised as they have a sort of brownish tinge to their colouration. He didn’t move again as the weather closed in again so I moved on hoping to find some more.
Buckshot Hole
Arrived with a sort vague excuse for some sunshine at 1330, and stayed here for about 20 minutes but there wasn’t anything on station.
Goose Green Inclosure
Arrived at 1340 and the weather was really just black clouds and breezy, with some sultry sunshine for a few minutes, but there wasn’t anything here. I stayed for up to forty-five minutes, but all is lost now for this season. It’s really been bad, a small purple patch during the Wimbledon fortnight, but the rest well I’ll just put it down to experience….it can’t get any worse can it?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Winding Down

The season appears to be winding down rapidly, especially in the south east which experienced a sequence of Vile days this week (until yesterday). I failed to see any males in the main territories in Southwater Woods, W Sussex, yesterday afternoon, and felt that they were all but over. Ageing females will certainly make the most of the good weather that has rather belatedly arrived.

Looking at the info that's come in from last year and this, and at my own diaries, it seems that one of the reasons why last year's egg lay was so poor was that the females appeared unusually late then (e.g. 8th July in W Sussex), only to suffer at the hands of the mid July gale - the St Swithun's Day Massacre. Yet, this year it seems that the females appeared much earlier, in numbers, and that the entire emergence was far more concertinaed (which is the correct spelling). Last year in Savernake, the species emerged over a 3 week period. This year, perhaps over some 10-12 days. Presumably this is because of the difference in time spent in the pupal stage between the two years.

Other snippets: it seems that the Emperor has had a good year at / around the introduced site in Suffolk. I'll post a fuller account later. He has also been recorded again in Dorset, at the site just inside the county border discovered last year. Still no news from Kent (which doesn't seem to have heard of thepurpleempire... ).

Meanwhile, here's a male high on territory in Alice Holt last weekend...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mother knows best

Her Imperial Highness selected this rather pathetic leaf stub for her offspring. This was despite the presence of plenty of lush, whole leaves to choose from in the immediate vicinity. In fact she must have struggled past some good leaves to reach this egg laying site. This behaviour reminds me a little of camilla's preference for laying on the worst looking Honeysuckle in the thicket.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Picture from Nick Butt

A photo I took in a southern counties wood on July 5th 2011, quite a few females found on path ways this year but very few males which makes this picture unusual for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Purple Doings in Hampshire - Ashley Whitlock

Probably one of the worst years on record, with the weather going from bad to worse. In all my years I've never encountered such a wet summer in the the middle of the Emperor season, but I've no doubt several recorders can better this?

However the doings of the Emperor in Hampshire have actually not been that bad. There was a lot of activity in the first and last week of Wimbledon which is actually its saving grace, as the males were out in the first week and females followed on rapidly behind and mated very quickly. They were seen egg laying in many woods, some of those noted were Alice Holt of course, Botley Wood and Whiteley Pastures, Creech Wood, West Wood and Crab Woods.

The species has been seen in reasonable numbers up and down the county, and its hoped that the wet and windy weather over the last fortnight has not had too much of a detrimental effect on their numbers. Only time will tell, and with the promise of some steady high pressure in the next couple of days who knows...there may well still be some of the males at the assembly points?

On a personal note I've encountered it on the ground more times in 2011 than any other time in my career as a butterfly recorder, certainly since I've been Co-ordinator of Hampshire. Perhaps this has something to do with the very dry period leading up to the wet season we are now encountering. Here are a few pictures of my recording in several of the woods mentioned in the text.

Ashley Whitlock

A brighter future

A combination of low numbers and poor weather has made sightings of adult iris as rare as hens teeth here in North Bucks. The dull weather this morning ruled out the chances of any further sightings so I switched to egg hunting. In a little under two hours I found a spectacular 14 eggs. This suggests the females may not be very visible but they are getting on with business well. It also compares well with last year when I found no eggs.

All the eggs were laid on broad leaved, dark green, Sallow. Typically they were laid on the shady side towards the interior of the bush. Interestingly the leaves selected tended to be small and rather scruffy. I even found one where the leaf had been nearly completely eaten by something and the egg was laid upon the remaining fragment of stalk.

Over a week ago I found five other eggs in the same general area. All but one of these has now hatched and successfully taken up the typical position on a Sallow leaf. The other egg has coloured up and should hatch in the next couple of days.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Forestry Commission News

Can anyone explain the stained tea strainer that's recently been attached to the FC high seat tower in the middle of Straits Inclosure, Alice Holt Forest? It is nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Also, I have been informed of the following incident that apparently took place in Ampfield Wood, Hampshire, a little while back. Apparently, an FC van skidded on a massive banana bait placed on a corner along one of the made-up rides there and ended up in the ditch! The driver was heard explaining the situation to his boss on the mobile phone, by the person responsible for the bait. Why this glorious story has taken so long to make it on to this website beggars belief. What do people think this website is actually for?

If there are any more stories like this out there please bung them on, whilst the sukebind is still in bloom...

Happy Snapping

OK - it hasn't been the century's greatest emperor season, that's clear, although a couple of magic days in Fermyn by all accounts. I'm sitting in this expat enclave in a balmy 22 degrees (and yes, it's winter!) while my gorgeous wife is holed up just outside London emailing me daily with horror stories of gales and rain - as I said, what do you expect - it's England in July!!

That aside - are we really going to have to give the Purple Emperor Photographic Award to Matthew? Come on, he doesn't even claim to be a decent photographer - he just seems to have that knack of being in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps it's like Greg Norman's philosphy - the harder I work, the luckier I get?

Neil gets a special award for Miss Iris, our heartiest congratulations - that's worth at least a couple of ab iole's any day (pace Matthew - no idea of fourth declension plurals, I was probably having a haircut that day).

But seriously - get those pictures up on the blog - I promise only fame, not fortune, but let's see your best iris pix if 2011 - and yes, Matthew and Neil, I'll be there for 2012, that's a promise.

Bentley Wood doing well.

Just to give an overview of the season so far;

Good numbers of males & females have emerged this year with my own early morning counts of up to 11 males from a small area of the site.

In the same limited area I also made daily counts of up to 6 egg - laying females.

It is also important to remember that the wood is part of a large complex of woods here that are important to the species.

Since egg - laying was observed from early July [ as in 2010 ] & will no doubt continue for up to ten days now, this bodes well for 2012 provided of course that overwinter survival & emergence etc. is reasonable.

I suspect that last year's gale in mid - July had little effect despite the ferocity of the weather here as the same pattern of early egg - laying was observed & females were plentiful & busy egg - laying following the gale.

My final observation of egg - laying in 2010 was 27th July.

Given the huge area of woodland used by the males & females I hope to get a better idea of the size of the population by surveying more widely in future.

I will also hopefully find time to complete a couple more days survey on site this year when the inevitable weather window arrives.


Latest Doings

Sadly, I've had to go back to work, though that is somewhat eased by the fact that the weather has collapsed...

However, this week is crucial for egg laying, and the females desperately need some decent weather to get on with the all-important task of egg laying, to ensure a better iris season next year. At present, a low number of eggs has been laid at most sites, and one of the reasons why this season has been so poor (in terms of adult numbers) is because too few eggs were laid last July. (It is probable that this poor June was actually more damaging, but it's still a little premature to decide on that).

Females are still going strong at most localities, or should be ... Much depends on how well they can sit out the current poor weather, and make the most of narrow and sudden windows of opportunity for laying eggs.

Males will now be in decline, though they were still going quite nicely in Alice Holt Forest last Friday (15th). They may go over rapidly in this weather... .

Here's a nice male seen in Fermyn Woods at the start of the month -

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"They aren't here for our entertainment"

As the late Nick Sampford once said and he is probably quoting someone else
‘They aren’t here for our entertainment’.

As long as the females are doing their stuff, we shouldn't have to worry?

Here in Herts, the range is expanding and/or we are just finding them where we didn't know they existed! Our summer has been exceptional even though I am stuck at work tomorrow when the forecast is sunny. Our target is that we should find them in every 10km square within a few years!

Savernake Subsides...

Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, has now added its illustrious name to the lengthening list of places experiencing a dire iris season (in terms of adult numbers). The butterfly seems to have emerged in desperately low numbers in most (but not all) districts.

Today I conducted my annual standardised count of males in ten territories along Three Oak Hills Drive in southern Savernake, in near-perfect weather and with the males at peak (Sav is a 'late' site). I struggled to record six males, compared to 14 in 2010 and 17 in 2009. The previous lowest tally from a comparable count was ten (in 2007). Today's count fully backed up impressions gained in previous visits to Sav this season - that males are decidedly scarce there.

The good news is that I witnessed a wonderful egg-laying performance from a huge and pristine Empress in a distant part of the forest, and learnt of another stunning female being seen laying eggs near The Column (a piece of 18th century bollox) and yet another fine lady being photographed down on a grassy ride nearby.

This is proving an exceptional year for Herself coming down to the ride surfaces (usually to grassy rides or the grassy edges of surfaced rides). Perhaps there's a shortage of honey dew (or whatever the females feed on) in the trees?

I'm now giving up trying to work male territories, and will concentrate on the females for the rest of the season. Males become lethargic when they are sole occupants of territories, and most territories are at best holding single males only. Also, one of the main causes of male activity is small flies landing on their basking wings, but there's a paucity of small flies high in the canopy at present (due to pulses of foul weather).

The females need to lay every egg they can this month, to restore numbers for next year. It's vital that they don't get knocked out by a gale, as happened this time last year - and guess what's forecast for this weekend...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nigrizina or Bust!

His Imperial Majesty was not in the giving vein today at Bookham Common, probably due to persistent cloud, but Paphia was, as below. This follows an extreme ab ocellata photographed in Chiddingfold Forest on Monday by Brother Ken. Enjoy. Piers is charged with naming her -

Alice Holt Forest

As the weather was not particularly good last Saturday I thought I would pay a visit to AHF specifically to look for egg laying females through the middle of the day. Although the sky was overcast it was warm and fairly still. After spending 2 hrs scouring likely looking sallows I was somewhat reassured by spotting five - possibly six - different females that all appeared to be egg laying. I did spot two or three males so hopefully things are looking a bit brighter for next year.
Mark T

Double Drop

Today at Madgeland Wood (Southwater) I watched an Empress busy around the crown of a tall sallow near the Trout Lane assembly trees. She strayed too close, immediately catching the attention of the single male on station here. A classic avoidance tumble ('the Willmott drop') failed to shake Him off, so she rose again and repeated the process. This time it worked.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sussex Blues

Further to Brother Neil's post yesterday. I Emperored intensively in Southwater Woods during the 1970s and have returned annually since 1998, with intermittent visits in between. Not since the odious summer of 1972 (vile May & June, then a lovely July) have I struggled so badly to see iris at this stage in its season there. The mean is about 11-12 per day for this stage. Camilla was also very poor there this year (and was going over rapidly yesterday).

Brother Ken indicates unusually low occupancy of the male territories at Bookham in Surrey, though a pleasing number of males on the ground during good weather there. I haven't received any news from Kent (please!).

It looks as though numbers are particularly low in the SE this year, and in some other districts (e.g. Warwicks). I also suspect that the butterfly is right down in Savernake, Wilts, but everytime I go there it promptly clouds up ...

It's difficult to explain this patchy picture, though the situation will become clearer in time.

Certainly, the two day gale that commenced last St Swithun's Day knocked out adults in a big way, just as the females were getting into the swing of egg laying. At Savernake, they only had 2-3 days of laying before being clobbered, though in theory ladies in the SE, where the season was more advanced by 15:7:10 would have commenced laying a few days earlier. So, the 2010 egg lay should have been better in the SE.

We know precious little about the pupal stage of iris in the wild. It may well be that, as with camilla, adult emergence is best after a good June + short pupal period and worst after a poor June + long pupal period. Maybe larvae in the SE pupated there incredibly early this year (mid-late May) and the insect then got trapped for horribly long in the vulnerable pupal period, even longer than elsewhere?

Recording of males in Sussex yesterday was difficult because only one territory held more than one male, and we know that solitary males are quiet, especially during the second half of the season (now beginning). Males are far more active if they've got someone to squabble with! Also, there's a paucity of small flies in the canopy at present (following last Wednesday's mild gale): one thing I've learnt from nine days in a cherry picker is that the commonest reason for territorial males flying is small flies landing on them whilst they're basking!

But Neil and I also failed to see Herself in Sussex yesterday, and I particularly went for her...

Meanwhile, here's Brother Neil at work beside an artificially-created puddle in another Sussex wood earlier in the season. This behaviour is quite normal of course.

Sussex All But Empty

Matthew and I searched hard for iris across the entire Southwater Woods complex yesterday, from early to late in perfect conditions. We found only 5 males between us. I have personally seen just 10 Emperors in Sussex this year, with the most frenetic activity being a single chase of 2. On 9th July 2010 we covered the same ground and saw at least 21 different males. Elsewhere in Sussex other observers are seeing the same .... little, or in most cases nothing! Matthew came to the conclusion that this is the worst showing in Sussex since 1972. Other counties seem to be faring much better, but here all but the very best sites have fallen below Heslop's observation threshold.

Monday, July 11, 2011

News from Herts & Middx

Apologies for the lack of news, but lack of news doesn't mean lack of happenings.

It is happening big time in Hertfordshire with two new confirmed woodlands (one historic area) and two reports from new areas of individuals. One of the woods and one of the individual sightings are considerable distances from our known colonies.

We have to give credit to Laurence Drummond who has worked really hard these last two weeks and is responsible for finding one of the new woods.


berks/bucks/oxon interim report II

I've divided these reports into 8 day periods: 20th June [1st seen in our region on that day in W. Berks] to 27th June. After that 1st emergence, nothing much happened, and we had a total of only 18 individuals during these first 8 days. We were worried that we were in for a poor season. I'm delighted that we were absolutely wrong, because, from the 29th June [was the weather poor on the 28th? I've no records from anybody for that day]it really took off; 29.6 is the 'normal' 1st appearance time for us northerners. The next 8 day period: 29.6 to 5.7 yielded 117 individuals in 21 different woods.
The female ovipositing in a 'NW Bucks' wood, photographed by Matthew,was on 30th June. The first time I've seen a June female, and, it follows, the first time I've seen ovipositing in June. That day, on the same small Sallow, we found another egg which was several days old! A female was even seen 23rd June in Bernwood Forest.
Note: 21 woods; we have a lot of keen observers scouring these counties for new habitats. Because of these efforts we have been able to build up a useful landscape picture of iris habitats across this region.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The disappointment of such a poor iris season in Sussex was temporarily relieved this afternoon when I had two good sightings of different females striking sallows. These were my first Sussex femmes of the year. Both were observed on high ground in a newly investigated wood near Billingshurst. These girls must do their duty - I need to see more Emperors next year.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Delicious Bird

Here's the delicious bird I pulled the other night in Sussex... White hot she was, white hot...

And here's Brother Neil in customary poise. Note the artificially-induced puddle of Shrimp Tea (it works...) -


We seem to have been seeing an unusual amount of Herself this season. For a start, there are a good number of records of Her coming down to the rides during the hot weather of 1st - 5th July, usually to grassy rides or grass edges of surfaced rides. And she's even posed amongst the sallows -

And she's even laid some eggs. Here's a freshly laid egg -

Whether she can ride out this stormy weather remains to be seen...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Distant sighting of himself (note lower case "h") at Fermyn?

Forever Fermyn

Taken at Fermyn last Friday when the only sounds were the cooing of pigeons, the drumming of woodpeckers and the trumpeting of a group of Northerners who'd "just had a Whie-letter Hairstreak". This shot was about the best ( like Matthew I can see some warm work ahead in the editing suite); Himself enjoying a long draught of Chateau Jack Russell.

Miss Iris

And here's another picture of Miss Mia Iris, sporting The Emperor Hat from the 'House of Mrs Hulme' summer knitwear collection.

Developing Purple

I have also noticed the phenomenon recorded by both Steve Croxford and Garry Chambers, regarding the relatively dull and 'blotchy' appearance of newly-emerged male Emperors. I'm sure Alexander Henderson is correct in his analysis of when the purple iridescence is best observed (see replies to SC), relating to the play of light on the scales; it is often easier to 'get purple' under the suffused light conditions resulting from thin cloud cover. However, I think there is an additional factor at play when it comes to these particular individuals, which I'm sure are both in the early hours of adulthood. I have also observed a very similar if not identical situation with the iridescent purple 'flash' in female Purple Hairstreak; when they are still in the earlier stages of 'drying off' it isn't possible to view a particularly rich, strong colour. I suspect that molecules of fluid still adhering to the wings are interfering with the potential effects of refraction and reflection, as light strikes the microstructured surface of the scales. As the wings dry off we see the gradual development of the purple brilliance we know and love. Here's one of my own.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Iris Returns to Salcey Forest

Two sightings were made of male iris grounded in separate parts of Salcey Forest, some distance apart, on Sunday, July 2nd, with a further one at one of these on the following day. These are the first records for over half a century in one of its traditional strongholds of the past, a favourite hunting ground of "BB".

Doug Goddard

Howling Gale

The weather seems to be brewing a gale tonight. That could put the mockers on the 2011 iris season. Last year, the butterfly was decimated (in the modern sense, the opposite of the original Roman sense) by a 48 hour gale on July 15th & 16th, as the females were getting into the swing of egg laying. Consequently, the egg lay was poor. That, coupled with this poor June, lead to a low emergence this summer. I've got the horrible feeling that history is about to repeat itself... Are we allowed to use the F word on this website?

Meanwhile, here's a Comma ab suffusa photographed in Fermyn Woods last weekend - in the same riding where one was seen in 2010. He's missing half an antenna, necessitating a winter evening photoshop session.

Purple is as Purple does

A series of images below from Garry Chambers. He asks

"I took these pics at Fermyn on 29th June. I have never seen one quite like it and was wondering if it is an aberration or whether its colour was still developing."

Any feedback for Garry?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Doings in Fermyn

Just back from five wonderful days in Fermyn Woods, Rockingham Forest, staying at an artists' retreat cottage in the old meadows on the edge of the woods and bumbling round the ridings (Northants word for rides) on a mountain bike, with the butterfly at peak season... Linnets, both whitethroats, yellowhammers and a reeling grasshopper warbler in the cottage garden jungle. Pimms served from 5pm. No TV.

Fermyn doesn't deal in poor Emperor seasons, other woods do. Here the season is either Excellent, Superb or Utterly Brilliant. This one fits into the Excessively Good category...

Straight in on the male ab afflicta, which has already been featured on this website. That was on Fri 1st. I don't think he was subsequently seen, but please comment if otherwise. So, he was seen along a half mile stretch of riding by several observers on both Wed 29th and again on Fri 1st. I think at least half a dozen people managed to photograph him (out of the 1500-2000 that visit Fermyn for iris). It may sound boastful but I have now photographed iris aberrations three years running.

Good numbers of males visiting the rides, including four together on genetically modified horse dung this morning. I think the male emergence there is now complete, with just the odd late female to come. In Fermyn, the insect emerges over a relatively short time (ca 12 days), compared to around 20 days in other woods (e.g. Savernake).

Saw quite a lot of Herself too, not least because I was targetting the minx. Witnessed several egg-laying runs in the sallow jungles and along north and east-facing ride edges. Saw several females down on the ridings, something I personally haven't witnessed since 1976 - though they do come down in hot dry weather, usually to grassy rides. Here's a lovely lady who arrived at the genetically modified pile of horse dung this morning.

Finally, congratulations to Brother Neil who now supersedes me as Britain's Worst Father, and a warm welcome to Miss Iris Hulme, Born on Mon July 4th, in purpuratum. Here she is -

Monday, July 4, 2011

Emperor Photo Competition

I see his (and her) excellency have been extremely co-operative, especially in Fermyn where they've done the media course and know all about sitting on the rides with wings wide open. Some great photographs of professional quality, and from a much larger number of photographers, which is very pleasing.

We'll try not to be over-impressed by females and varieties, but gosh - I'm impressed.

Monday July 4th 2011.

Bentley wood.

3 mile circuit produced much activity from 09.00 with 11 males & 4 egg - laying females

Some males already in poor condition, others pristine as shown here.

Female shown was laying between 2 & 5 metres up in canopy.

Savernake 2nd 3rd July

Saturday 2nd July

As I drove up Three Oak Drive towards the column I passed a couple with binoculars. They were at the spot were several PE's were seen last year. I suspected they were looking for iris so wound down the window and asked them if they had seen anything. They hadn't, they were new to the forest and had never seen iris before and not quite sure where to look. I informed them, they were seen here last year and should have a look before trying at the column. After 20 minutes or so a brief view of a male flying at the top of a tall Beech was obtained. We waited for more activity, I got the scope from the car and scanned the area where it was last seen, to no avail.

By the time I got to the column, the early sun had mostly been replaced by cloud a hour or so passed and no more butterflies were seen. The couple I met earlier left, and as they drove away his highness glided across the column. Another hour passed without and Emperor action and I decided to walk down a ride. On my return an hour later, now 3pm, I had my final sighting of the day.

Sunday 3rd July

I arrived at the column around 11am. The couple I met yesterday updated me with the sightings they had prior to my arrival (several sightings on the ground of a male) During the next two hours a dozen or so sightings, including two males (one on the column and one on the ground) one male alighting low enough to get a half decent photo.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fermyn (Part 2)

I'm very grateful to Nick Ballard and Phil Bromley for pointing out the Purple Emperor aberrant (later identified as ab. afflicta by Piers Vigus) which they had already photographed that morning (29th June) in Lady Wood at Fermyn. I had already clocked up 26 grounded males on an adjacent ride, but the day was just getting better by the moment! The butterfly had retired to a low hazel during a dull, cooler period, but was tantalisingly just out of reach of the camera. As we chewed the cud I remained quietly optimistic that it would return to ground ....... and after 10 minutes it did so, thereafter allowing me ample opportunity to photograph this rare and beautiful insect. On Friday (1st July) I received a text from Matthew, who had just arrived at Fermyn and quickly located the specimen. Apparently it was also giving much pleasure to other lucky butterflyers. Two days in Fermyn is never enough.

Lodge Pond

Out fishing with my son today on the outskirts of Alice Holt at Lodge Pond which is just across the road from Birdworld. Much to my surprise spotted a pristine male on the ground at the edge of the pond taking salts etc (this is not an area where I've encountered males before). He allowed me to touch and his wings were still very soft. Seems like males are still hatching down here in Hampshire.

Brazen Lady

I spent Thursday at Bentley wood for scant return - three individuals with one on the ground. I was in a quandary as to what to do on Friday. I considered making the long journey to Fermyn Woods but decided against it. Obviously a mistake in hindsight! So I decided to return to Old Haunts at Alice Holt Forest. I arrived at 7.45am and walked the ride for an hour or so and saw nothing. It was already very warm and I returned to the car for a drink. At about 9.45am, I spotted a male quartering the ride in front of me. It settled and I gave it time to get comfortable before firing off some shots. The day was looking better! Whilst looking through the viewfinder at this first male, I sensed movement in my peripheral vision. Glancing down, I spotted another Emperor at my feet. It was huge and obviously female. Having read about the skittishness of females on the ground, and knowing it was quite a rare event, I moved gingerly to reposition my camera and quickly fired off a number of shots. At this point, the male was still only two feet away, and I was unsure whether they were aware of one another. As I watched, she walked towards a small clump of grass and appeared to be taking moisture. She was a very brash lady and paraded for 15 minutes while I watched intently.. The male flew off up the ride after about 5 minutes and unfortunately they never acknowledged each other. Her back wings were a bit worn and she’d obviously been out for a few days. By the end of the day I had seen one other pristine female and seven different males. An improvement but not quite as successful as Neil’s trip!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday July 1st 2011
Bentley Wood - A 2 mile circuit today yielded 9 males & 2 females egg-laying.
Increasing cloud cover quietened everything from 2.00 pm onwards.
Several White Admiral egg - laying.

Fermyn (Part 1)

With a disappointing start to The Season down South the lure of Fermyn was too strong to resist. On Wednesday 29th June I drove North early in the morning, arriving before He had stirred. It turned out to be one of those sublime days which come but once a year. He came down in wave after wave throughout the morning, in numbers I have not experienced before. Having my Japanese folding commuter bicycle always gives me the edge when clocking up numbers and I travelled some distance through the ride system; nevertheless, 35 grounded males is a LOT! At times I could see 5 or 6 quartering a short section of the track. One of my baits played host to 3 Emperors, 4 Red Admirals and a Comma. They landed on my forehead, hand, boots, trousers, rucksack and bicycle - they swarmed. I even managed the open wing, purple shot on foliage as a male cleaned his proboscis. It was a memorable morning, but just around the corner there was an even greater prize awaiting.