Sunday, July 11, 2010

How the sites compare

In the last 10 days I've visited Fermyn Wood, Bookham Common, Botany Bay and Alice Holt. From talking to fellow searchers and my own experience, here is my "score" out of 5.

Fermyn 5

BotanyBay 4

Bookham 3

Alice Holt 1

At the last, Straits Inclosure was a real disappointment with no sightings in 2 hours of fine warm sunshine. But the sallows along the main ride have been cruelly treated and virtually all destroyed, presumably to widen the ride. There was activity in the old car park at Goose Green, but only about one sighting per hour. At Bookham we had a male on the ground for 10 mins in the main (Tunnel House) car park at 6:30pm and earlier there was high-level activity along the eastern ride towards Mark Oak. People at Botany Bay had several males (at least) on the ground last Sunday, enough for most people who came to get good viewing opportunities. But Fermyn was definitely the best with good sightings pretty much guaranteed for anyone prepared to wait for an hour or two, and sometimes several PEs on the ground together.

A few photos to show PEs taste in cars, trees, shrimp paste and my trousers. I've not yet seen a female this year (to July 9th am). Anyone able to comment on why the newly-emerged (I think) Purple Hairstreak at Alice Holt has a white spot on its forewing?


1 comment:

JMP said...

Gentlemen and Ladies - To provide a bit of clarity to accessing the woods near Southwater (south from Horsham, Sussex) here is the route we took on Saturday (10 July 2010). Between 'Dragons Green' and 'Christs Hospital' on the south west side of Horsham is the connecting 'Marlpost Road'. This road forms the western boundary to Marlpost Wood, one of the acknowledged sites for purple emperor Apatura iris.

We approached from the north (Horsham side) and after a few twists in the road running between open field and small hedgerow shaws came a cross the main block of Marlpost Wood. There was a small section of track on the left-hand side where three or four cars could park away from the road. The track into the wood had a gate, with the instructive sign stating 'No Dumping' (OS Ref: TQ 142,258).

The first two hundred yards or so of this track were most suitable, with plenty of sallow Salix cinerea and some reasonably tall planted oak Quercus robur. Further east along this west-east track we descended into a gill valley which became quite shaded with only very confined ride sections receiving sufficient light to be interesting to butterflies. These further sections were not explored.

Despite arriving for 08:30 it was too cool and overcast to observe much butterfly activity. However between 09:05 and 09:10 precisely there was a sudden flurry of madness as his imperial majesty flew manically up and down the ride as the sun briefly broke through. In fact we saw six purple emperor in total but never obtained good views of stationary adults as they were clearly on a mission to fly increasingly faster and higher.

Also seen on this ride were 20 silver-washed fritillary Argynnis paphia and many more than twenty meadow brown Maniola jurtina.

If you progress about two-hundred yards southwards along Marlpost Road there is another gated end to a track on the left side. This track appears slightly narrower and more shaded with only relatively young oak plantations. Whilst a local forester described seeing many butterfly hunters pursuing quarry armed with military issue cameras and lenses the first two-hundred yards of the ride appeared unpromising. The purple ones too seemed unimpressed, none were seen.

Afternoon was spent in 'Netherwood' on the west side of the road (entrance opposite the second southerly track described above). Entrance is along a fairly straight ride which then curves significantly to the right where another ride takes a perpendicular route to the left. A fairly short walk along this left-side ride (for about fifty yards) leads to an open woodland block alive with butterflies. Many white admirable Ladoga camilla males seen desperately seeking females. Competing males would jostle for air-space flying alongside each other, with the faint clatter of wing-tips revealing how important their battle is.

Reports heard of a feeding-station being established to attract the more culinary-discerning purple emperors which preferred to feast on shrimp paste were not directly confirmed. However it is likely that this area of woodland is close to the feeding-station. Apparently good views and photographs of feeding adults can be obtained in the morning here.

The following day was continuous light drizzle from a plain-grey sky, so butterfly hunting was abandoned in favour of odonata at Nymans.

I beg to remain your humble servant &c.