Yesterday my friend Nick and I spent a long day at Knepp and had our best-ever day of emperoring.
I’m pretty sure Neil Hulme will have more enlightening updates shortly as I know he was racking up some serious numbers at the site, but Nick and I saw approximately 90 emperors including some memorable encounters and a superb, hotly-contested territory.
First off, at about 9.45am I saw a grounded male on the path near(ish) to the hammer pond. It later transpired it was on or near to a spot that Neil had baited – Neil asked me to post the photo to the blog. Here it is. The emperor was flighty.
Later in the day (2 pm-ish) we were watching beautiful demoiselles in the ditch in Green Lane when we suddenly realised we were looking at an empress sitting so still in the mud that we hadn’t initially noticed her. She appeared to be drinking at the edge of the water in the ditch, and soon flew off.
Thanks to a conversation with the site-owner, Charlie, during a break in the Go-Down, we then searched what is a new stretch for us – the circuit adjacent to the hammer pond - in which we found a ride that was a stunning hotspot with a territory consisting of two or three oaks next to a prominent dead oak.
In this little stretch we experienced emperor madness: within minutes we saw a battling sextet of emperors with another pair in the same air space flitting around 20 metres or so away from the main cluster – by far the biggest emperor scrap I’ve seen. Not very surprisingly we walked up and down this ride for a while and saw many groups of four, three and two males fighting. I’ve never seen such a concentration of emperors in one 200-yard transect.
The high level of activity continued almost unabated and it was notable that in this stretch the emperors were “flirting” with the ground and often landing obligingly low in the sallows along the path. (We saw similar behaviour in Green Lane in the pm, though with lower numbers).
We decided to retire briefly again to the Go-Down to recharge before a final evening stint, and in the evening light, a few hundred metres past the first tree house, we almost stepped on a male emperor feeding on a fox scat. He was pretty settled and returned for a second grounding in a different spot.
There were plenty of emperors around this ride at that point, with quite a few coming low and one landing further away on the path but not allowing us to come near. They were notably more obliging than earlier in the day and I’m guessing evenings are good at Knepp during these blisteringly hot days – meaning a quick evening stint could be really rewarding for anyone local enough to make it.
We also saw white letter hairstreak (thanks to Neil), purple hairstreak and white admiral.
It was an amazing day at Knepp, and was notable for more groundings than I’ve seen there before.