It was buzzing with life as huge numbers of various hawker dragonflies, brown butterflies, skippers and nymphalids did their thing.
And of course the emperors showed well, too – we counted 60 in all, although some of these could have been repeat sightings. We were treated to some very close encounters with two grounded and ageing males, one of which was very tired and flitted around us for a long time, landing close and often.
A much fresher individual attracted our attention as it engaged a hawker dragonfly in a prolonged high-speed and very acrobatic chase before landing low in a hazel bush and starting to feed from a leaf right under our noses.
This chase was testament to the aerial prowess of iris, as our male stayed right on the hawker's tail until he had shooed the miniature missile from his adopted territory.
In a previous Fermyn blog Bill Seager reported high numbers of paphia at Fermyn, as well as valezina females. We also saw huge numbers including a copulating pair and those valezina females, one of which was so dark that I momentarily thought I was going mad and was looking at a freakishly gigantic speckled wood - I was delighted to read Bill's blog after this trip to see he had made the same comparison.
I’ve had a great summer this year sharing emperors with several friends. I hope I can manage one more evening trip to Knepp this week on my own – it’ll be worth it just to watch the shadows lengthen on the rides while hoping for the tell-tale silhouette of a late-season emperor.