Wednesday, July 17, 2019

var. afflicta at Bernwood, Bucks.

First post here.

Here are a couple of pictures of an aberrant Purple Emperor I took this morning at Bernwood, Bucks. I assume it's ab. afflicta. I saw 4 Purple Emperors in total, one in flight, and 3 on the ground, including this one. All looked a bit worse for wear.

I'd seen 5 on the morning of 11th July but none on the ground. 

Mark Griffiths, Oxford.

Starting to go over at Knepp....

Already, the 2019 Purple Emperor season is on the wane at Knepp Wildland. I struggled to see 35 yesterday. The last should be seen here around July 26th.

From now on they will be afternoon butterflies only. Don't look for them here before 11.45am, and don't expect them to come down to the ground at all. 

Male activity will become increasingly localised and episodic, around favoured territories and feeder trees. 

Females will be active in the sallow jungles between noon and 3pm, and around sap bleeds. The good news is that the weather is set fair and the sallow foliage is in good condition for egg laying.

Early indications are that this year's Knepp PE transect tally will be around 95-98, compared to 201 last year and 114 in 2017.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

How to Watch Emperors...

Great to spot this couple watching a brace of sparring males at Knepp Wildland yesterday. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Particularly Appalling Behaviour...

During the latter stages of yesterday's (farcical) cricket world cup final (which NZ should have won, having lost fewer wickets) I witnessed a patrolling male iris break up a mating pair. This was in an ash tree used annually by the Brown Hairstreak (first male seen here yesterday). I don't know how long the pair had been mating for - maybe they were ready to separate anyway - but a searching male continually pestered them, trying to muscle in, and managed to break them apart. The female promptly flew off in a huff. 

I managed to see 40 Purple Emperors here yesterday, despite prodigious amounts of cloud and the destraction provided by TMS commentary. However, the season is now into its second half here, as illustrated by this worn and torn Empress -

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Brilliant Day!

I decided to take a break from Purple Emperor watching today and look for the elusive Brilliant Emerald dragonfly at Warren Heath, North Hampshire today. It was very cloudy on arrival and so my hopes to see this green jewel of an insect were not high. I made my way to the pools whilst a glimmer of sun made the Ringlets active, then suddenly I noticed a large butterfly above a sallow, a gliding Purple Emperor. This was at around, 11.30, I saw it again at 13.35 and 13.53. I'm pretty sure it was a female on large size, it was sticking to the same area along the ride. The majority of the habitat was not what I would call typical of iris as there were many tall conifers, but some tall oaks and sallows were present. There were good numbers of Silver-washed Fritillaries and a White Admiral was also present. I have not heard of Purple Emperors being recorded here before, but it is a large wooded area which may hold a low density spread out population. By the way I did see two or three Brilliant Emeralds as well!

The area along the ride I saw the Purple Emperor

All about.Abs

It's been hard work at Fermyn these last two weeks. Numbers down considerably on last year. However, there seems to have been more frequent sightings of aberrations. What this might be down to is anyone's guess but I suspect the unpredictable weather and temperatures may be a factor. I was fortunate enough to witness this beautiful ab.afflicta high above us in a fir tree next to a master oak in the Souther Wood ride. Inexplicably he decided to sail down and investigate my blue folding bike, creeping along, dabbing the cross bar (traces of sweat?) before flitting off to return to the bike tyres. I have seen male emperors on car tyres before, so this was not a surprise. All in all he was down for about ten minutes which gave ample time to get plenty of shots.

Slow Ton at Knepp

I managed to get the hundred up at Knepp yesterday, but it was a slow grind (Boycottian in fact, though the ball was not coming on to the bat). I ended up on 108 but would have seen around 125 had dense patchy cloud (unforecast) not spilled over from 2pm - the Emperors then became active only during the sunny spells.

I scored one six, two fours, two tumbledowns and a mating pair (again, in the highestmost spray of a sheltered oak crown, along a leeward edge, with the female flying up into a territory occupied by a lone male; they joined after a 2 minute follow-my-leader courtship flight). 

The male emergence is probably almost complete here now, and morning sallow searching is starting to abate. Very soon the Purple Emperor will become an afternoon butterfly here. By next weekend look for them only after 11.45am.

In terms of numbers, I think they are about one-third of last year's abundance and two-thirds of the norm. However, Purple Emperor doesn't have bad seasons (other, lesser butterflies do...)