Day 2 (26th July): Thanks to my trusty steed, a folding Japanese commuter bicycle without gears or brakes, I managed to cover a huge area throughout the day, encompassing Fermyn, Lady, Souther and Titchmarsh Woods. Activity started at 8.55 am and I saw 13 different grounded males before 1.15 pm, when things went very quiet. Visitations to various body-parts were regular, with 3 trouserings, a booting and one on my camera case. I had another grounded male at 6.30 pm and at 6.45 pm a short but frenetic evening flight began. Along the straight immediately below the Lyveden Way bend 6 or 7 males were oak-edging and constantly squabbling with the numerous (15-20) Purple Hairstreaks in the canopy. Best bundle was 4 Emperors and 8–9 Hairstreaks (iris won). 2 males were seen on a high sap run and male activity stopped suddenly at 7.15 pm. With impeccable timing 2 females arrived here at 7.20 pm and sat motionless in the crowns of adjacent oaks, enjoying the last of the sunshine. 20-25 individual Emperors seen throughout the day.
Day 3 (27th July): Constant touring over the same area brought a tally of 16 grounded males, including 2 aberrant specimens. Activity again stopped before 1.30 pm and sadly I had to leave before the evening flight commenced. Visitations were again common, with 2 trouserings, one on my watch and another on my bicycle. Total numbers were similar to yesterday and no freshly-emerged specimens were seen. Iris appears to be at peak and it will become increasingly difficult to find examples in good condition.
Aberrant Forms: On Day 3 I saw 2 different aberrant males on the ground. The first was in Titchmarsh Wood (pictured base page). Unless corrected by those more knowledgeable I would call this ab. stictica, a determination I would also make for the similar specimen seen by Mike Coleman in Bentley Wood on 23.7.12 (Purple Empire). The second was a much more extreme form, which grounded repeatedly throughout the morning and was photographed by several other visitors, close to where the tracks branch in Lady Wood. Unfortunately my photo opportunity was scuppered by a jogger (you are forgiven madam). This is almost certainly the same butterfly as photographed by Phil Beard on 24.7.12 and Rev John Woolmer on 26.7.12 (Purple Empire). Again, unless otherwise advised, I would call this ab. afflicta. The even more extreme form photographed by Charles Nicol on 26.7.12 (UK Butterflies) is undoubtedly a good male ab. lugenda, and must be different to the pristine male ab. lugenda photographed by others either that same morning, or the day before. No doubt about Matthew’s (23.7.12) female ab. lugenda!
Other butterflies seen included 3-4 Silver-washed Fritillary and 5-6 White Admiral, most being fresh specimens. 3 White-letter Hairstreak were observed ovipositing, with regular activity at the first intersection on Cherry Lap.
As always it was a pleasure to spend time in the woods here, and it was good to catch up with one or two old friends and meet other like-minded enthusiasts. It seems that iris has an ever-increasing band of followers.