I drove up to Fermyn late on Monday evening (30th June), having been invited by Matthew to stay at a cottage he had rented on the outskirts of the woods. I had two full days ahead of me and the weather forecast was good. All of the reports we had heard suggested that 'Big Bang' day was imminent. As always when visiting this site, I was full of expectation. Given suitable weather Fermyn seldom disappoints.
I was out early the next day and started by cycling several miles through the complex, leaving a smelly trail of shrimp soup on the rides. These baits were to be visited by a great many Purple Emperor over the next 48 hours and things became very exciting very quickly. At 9.15 am iris started to descend in numbers, swooping low over the rides and quartering back and forth before dropping down to feast. I made a quick assessment of which were the best specimens. The last bait out of the bucket was quite thick with shrimp pieces, so I soon decided to dilute it in the most natural way possible. I was convinced that the butterfly which was approaching from down-wind was a standard model with a slightly chipped wingtip. As I was fully engaged in the exercise an Emperor suddenly appeared between my legs - a full ab.lugenda which looked to be in mint condition! Unsurprisingly it didn't stay long, and quickly retired to sulk at the top of an oak. It never returned and I remained in a state of disappointed shock for well over an hour.
Once I'd come to terms with nearly micturating on Britain's finest aberrant butterfly, I started to enjoy the almost constant Purple Rain. I saw fewer than Matthew on Day 1, refusing to leave the location for the entire morning, in the vain hope that this spectacular beast might give me another chance. Matthew's final tally exceeded 60 Emperors, but better was yet to come. Throughout the course of the two days my moleskin trousers were visited by 11 different specimens, and my boots by 5. 3 landed on my rucksack and presented me with opportunities to enter the Paul Fosterjohn Purple Emperor pin badge challenge. I'll freely admit that my efforts are vastly inferior to Susie Milbank's, although I know that another female photographer managed to get some images which might well be contenders.
Unfortunately the cloud started to build during the afternoon, bringing the action to a premature end. I already had some nice shots in the bag but most had at least a few grazes or fine scratches. I went to bed hoping that the following day would produce some perfect examples, and the return of lugenda.
More images at http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=4065&start=10000