It is still too early to judge how well Knepp will perform this season, not least because it's too damned hot. The intense heat is really supressing activity (and the counts) and areas known to be well-populated can appear to be bereft of emperors for long periods, only to burst into life when a wisp of cloud takes the sting out of the sun, or as the evening cools.
Yesterday (18 June) I made a count of 32, including a respectable 20 on the green lane transect. One came down briefly to a fox scat. A remarkably early egg-laying female was also seen at close range.
I was absent this morning, but Andy Wilson photographed a pristine male on the deck, and saw several more perching low in the sallows. By the time I arrived, mid afternoon, things were very quiet. It was after 6pm before I finished the green lane transect, having seen just 11, plus 6 elsewhere. However, things started to liven up and as I searched different areas the total rose to an encouraging 36. They were still active at 7.30pm and attacking Purple Hairstreaks with typical enthusiasm. Just a single empress seen today.
Purple Hairstreak numbers have been low until today, but by 7pm they were forming bundles of up to half-a-dozen. In all, about 40 seen.
As the sun threw its magical evening light low across the oaks, and with the place to myself, I experienced Knepp at its best, to the soundtrack of Cuckoo, Turtle Dove and distant Longhorns. But it took a lot of patience today. Can we have a little light cloud please?