I made my annual pilgrimage to Fermyn yesterday, and whilst I have a number of Emperor sites within 15 minutes of home I make the trip for two reasons - there are good numbers to see, although Knepp has now firmly relegated Fermyn to second spot for sheer numbers, but also the potential to see the occasional aberration of which Fermyn seems to have more than its fair share.
Leaving home at 4.15 am ensured that I was in the glider club car park by 7.30am, after a brief stop for tea and toast, and with the trusty black steed assembled I was off down the rides baiting with belachan soup on the way.
As Neil has already commented, FC have done a great job opening up the ride through cherry lap and it bodes well for the future. I had quickly made my way through Lady and Souther woods down through Titchmarsh and on to Oxen baiting as I went. I had used all of the soup and by the time I had got to the end I was pleased to be able to clean my hands with some wipes to get ride of ‘that’ smell.
Nothing was seen on the way down so I slowly made my way back. As I worked back along the ride between Lady/Souther I bumped into Bill Seager and as we chatted we watched a male quartering and land on one of Neil’s 3 day old baits - powerful stuff!
The day got hotter and hotter and the reflection from the white rides just intensified the heat and about lunchtime as I was riding out of Souther towards Lady a male Emperor came straight at me, over my shoulder up into the shade of an ash tree. I had already sensed that it was different but on seeing it resting about 20 feet up I had a serious Oh S**t moment [which I said out loud for some reason] as it was obviously an extreme aberration. Scrabbling to get the close up lens off my FZ150, whilst not taking my eyes off the prize, I managed to get off a few shots of the underside at extreme zoom and through foliage which I have shown here. I have lightened a couple which helps improve the detail. I willed him to come down but within a few seconds he had disappeared over in to the sallows not to return. I have compared the photo to some on UKB and it certainly seems in the range afflicta/lugenda.
Having calmed down a bit I rode off to find Bill but within 20mins I was watching another ab! A male was quartering the ride about 30m in front of me and as I got the bins on it I could see no white! It stopped briefly but then flew towards me at knee hight - It was slightly worn, but with no major tears in the wings, as it drifted by I could clearly see just just all blue with just two white apical spots - lugenda! On turning round it sailed up over some hazel but did not return.
Bill and I searched hard but sadly it was not to be.
As the sun reduced in intensity activity started again about 4pm and I watched four males chase off a Brown Hawker - nothing came down and reluctantly I left the woods at 6.45 after a memorable 11hrs.
Whilst I have no photos, I have an image that is burned bright in my memory that will last long.