Thursday, July 16, 2009

Empire extends southwards

A decent day at last, but much damage has been done by recent foul and abusive weather and iris is now decidedly on the wane, especially the males. It's the wind that knocks out these canopy butterflies.

Today, Neil and I looked at iris colonising the 'abandoned' fields of the Knepp Castle estate in W Sussex, just S of Marlpost Wood etc. Here, the owner, Charlie Burrell, is taking 3000 acres out of intensive agriculture and managing it through extensive grazing, in huge compartments, mainly by Long-horn cattle. It will run to wood-pasture, with sallows being prominent for a long era. Many former arable fields have been colonised by dense sallows, whips in the 2-3m range mainly. We saw a male over some boundary oaks and then one of the best sightings of a female I've had - a superb Empress on egg-laying runs over the young sallows before drifting effortlessly away eastwards. Tomorrow I search for eggs in these jungles.... It looks as though iris is quite an early coloniser. Again, here it is by no means a woodland butterfly, let alone a creature of dense forest. It needs sallow jungles, sallow-rich landscapes. I'm not even sure if it needs tall trees... .

Later, we visited the main known spots in Marlpost + Dogbarking woods to the N. We saw 6 males and 1 female. The main Dogbarking territory held only 1 quiescent male (4 at peak) but we were pleased to see 2 at the Marlpost NW gate site. Best of all, 2 late in the day at my beloved Dragons Green, including 1 visiting a sap run high on oak.

We applauded the England captain's century by the Dogbarking Wood 'master tree'.


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