Having spent a few days just over the border, on Friday (12th July) I decided to look for Emperors closer to home, in a small, quiet wood near Billingshurst. The morning cloud cover was slow to clear, so I headed off to another site further west where the sun was already shining, leaving my parents to watch over a couple of belachan baits. I hadn't been at the second site for very long before I received a phone call informing me I was in the wrong place. Later that day I did catch up with the same butterfly my father had photographed in full purpleness, but only managed an underside shot. In the evening I found another male Emperor sitting on a pile of chalk aggregate.
On Saturday (13th July) I co-led a BC Sussex/Hants & IOW walk around Havant Thicket, with Ashley and Jackie Whitlock. 29 of us wandered around this well-managed site in sweltering heat, seeing a wide variety of species, but sadly no Emperors. We were more fortunate at Southleigh Forest on the county border, where 2 males put on a spectacular show for us. Last stop was the Brickkiln Ponds territory near Stansted House, where a single male crossed through the vista at c.3 pm. Thanks to Ashley, Jackie and all who attended.
On Sunday (14th July) it was back to Botany Bay, to lead an RSPB walk with Chris, Helen and Ellie Corrigan. 21 birders were treated to an impressive performance by the Purple One, with several participants seeing their first Emperor. Everyone got excellent views and one obliging male sat at head-height in a hazel, flashing purple every time I pushed a sweaty finger in his face. I stayed into the evening, finally leaving a very active male butterfly at 6.15 pm. At least 10 individual Emperors were seen across the site, with many coming to ground throughout the day. Thanks to the generosity of the RSPB walkers we raised £85 for conservation work by the Sussex Branch.