Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bentley Wood doings

From my personal diary on UK Butterflies: http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=3977&start=1000

I couldn't resist any longer. With all of the sightings of Purple Emperor, I headed off to Bentley Wood arriving rather late at around 10am (so late that I thought that most of the "action" would be over!). Making my way to the south side of the wood I got sightings of 3 male PE flying around the canopy, including one clashing pair. I eventually bumped into an old acquaintance, Mark Swann, and his friend Peter, who showed me some great photos of a grounded male. After 10 minutes or so, and having seen a couple of male PEs flying around the canopy, a female flew out of a nearby sallow and I finally got to see my first ever ovipositing Purple Emperor as she laid 7 or 8 eggs over the next 10 minutes. Surprisingly, all sallows were in full sun, but were magnificent specimens and no doubt offering the amount of shade that this species likes. Unfortunately, no ova shots since they were all laid quite high up. I must admit, the term "striking the tree" that is often used to describe the action of the female entering a sallow (typically the crown) seems to be misplaced; what I saw was the female delicately flying in and around the sallow branches as she hunted out a suitable egg-laying spot. I managed to get some distant shots of her as she teased us by sitting high in a sallow for 15 minutes and I thought that was it for the day (given that it was now 1230).

As I arrived back at the car, as often seems to happen, I saw the characteristic spiraling flight of a Purple Emperor coming down to the ground. What surprised me, though, was that this was another female! And this time I managed to get some shots (and a video). The amount of orange on the wings of this pristine individual was really quite striking.

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