Friday, July 7, 2017

High Flight at Fermyn

Successive days of fine weather in what is normally "peak purple time" was marked this year on Thursday July 6th with the observation that for much of the day, the Fermyn Light Horse had the Ladywood/Southerwood complex to themselves. The high cloud broke up during late morning leaving us gasping in the heat. There is still plenty of male Iris activity to observe, albeit from the ground looking up into the tops of the trees, and we recorded 15 individuals during our patrol from 08.30 to 1600 hours. Most of our sightings were brief glimpses of desultory short circuits around the oaks, but as the heat intensified we saw a male flush a female - the only one we saw this day - out of a sallow by the deer hide at SP97818417. Our best view was of a spectacular combat late afternoon at SP971847 where we had not seen Iris before. They battled each other high into the sky and we lost them from view. We have not encountered the female activity we expected to see, and have yet to find the secret to where they go, in what is a vast area of suitable habitat. An observation of a different kind reveals that Paphia is now the most likely encounter to be had. The number of individuals we saw do not bear publishing for fear of ridicule. Suffice it to say that we have never seen such numbers of this species. Males and females were in abundance, mainly on the still-flowering brambles. In two concentrated areas of the wood, we saw the famous courtship flights, and also copulation - not a very elegant sight as the males towed the females around in flight quite often - and at least two Valezina females. The first, before 9am, at SP98108433 by the Lyvedon way footpath sign. It was a very dark specimen - like a giant Speckled Wood? (The area has been well-trodden so somebody must have been fortunate enough in obtaining a picture). The other may be found along with high numbers of the usual form, by seeking them out early afternoon when the sun shines directly on the area close to the Deer Hide located at SP97828475. If you enter the small track at 97958471 (you will see a number 4 on a tree stump on your left as you go a few metres up the trail) follow this track up to the brambles on your right maybe 100 yards? and perhaps you too will enjoy the kind of action we saw this day. (The grass paths to the deer hides have been cut, affording good access on foot). As the sun left the brambles, the females seemed to disappear, leaving the males to feed on the flowers, which they did greedily. Most of them were in fine shape.

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