Saturday, July 5, 2014

More Purple Doings

There has been plenty of Purple Emperor action over the last few days, particularly over the Knepp Castle Estate rewilding project area. On 3rd July I visited the site with father and son team Dan and Indi Danahar, and Colin Knight. The weather conditions were perversely too good during our visit, with clear blue skies, little breeze and a rapidly rising temperature. During the middle part of the flight season these conditions can bring out the lethargic side of Emperor behaviour. However, I suspect they may have been much more active before our arrival at 11 am. By the time we went our separate ways we had reached an impressive tally of 34, but that gives a rather false impression as it was very difficult to spot them. Most activity amounted to the briefest flights of restless males, or butterflies which had been irritated by a nearby Purple Hairstreak. Female activity was also minimal. I returned to a different area of the Estate later in the afternoon, but could only add another 8, bringing the day's total to 42 Purple Emperor.

On 4th July I spent a couple of hours in the very beautiful Eartham Woods. This under-recorded site has performed consistently well on the occasions I have visited, and this proved to be my best session yet. 3 males were sallow-searching around the car park and southern gate when I arrived. I later watched a female ovipositing high in the crown of a sallow on the edge of the car park. Best of all were the 2 females seen egg-laying in sallow-rich embayments along Stane Street (Roman road), much deeper in the woods. One in particular was gigantic and she flopped down low in a sallow, allowing me a very close approach - she appeared to be in mint condition. A tally of 6 Emperors (3m, 3f) in two hours is very good for a wood which is seldom visited. I later received reports from Paul Fosterjohn who had seen 23 individual Emperors back at Knepp, and Major Reg Trench who had seen a further 2 with his wife Sophie at Houghton Forest.

Today (5th July) Matthew Oates led a large group of enthusiasts across the Knepp Castle Estate. They made the best of limited weather breaks, notching up a further 31 Purple Emperor. We are both out there again tomorrow with a group, and if the weather is good we hope to see a lot of male/female interaction.

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