Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fermyn Wind Farm

Rest assured that a strong argument on behalf of the friends of the Purple Emperor, and their allies, will be put to any public inquiry into the proposed wind farm at Fermyn Woods. I cannot give too much away at this stage, but an inquiry would need to know that a large number of folk visit these woods from late June to late July to engage with this most wondrous insect in a most wondrous landscape - and that giant wind turbines would detract horrifically from that experience for most if not all of them. I have kept records of the number of Purple enthusiasts seen in the woods and have been able to extrapolate an annual total - and it's massive. There are positive implications for the local economy.

I appreciate that many of us, including me, strongly support moves towards greener energy, including wind farms; it's just that nearly all, or perhaps all, the People of Purple Persuasion regard the Fermyn Woods complex as being an immensely special landscape, well worthy of vigorous protection, and a grossly inappropriate site for giant wind turbines.

In addition, Fermyn Woods is 'BB's heartland. 'BB', a.k.a Denis Watkins-Pitchford, was a eminent servant of His Imperial Majesty who lived, painted and wrote at nearby Sudborough. He lived and breathed Rockingham Forest. His book Brendon Chase fired up my enthusiam for the Purple Emperor, and changed my life. He would fiercely resent giant wind turbines in the middle of his heartland. I and many others owe him a lot, and our views will be made known to an inquiry. His writing, his history and his values are part of that landscape, and will be defended.

I would welcome cogent arguments and facts for possible inclusion in proof of evidence - via email to matthew.oates@nationaltrust.org.uk (I am working on this in National Trust time).

There is also the issue of the backdrop to the National Trust's Lyveden New Bield property, shown here without wind turbines ....

'What we have loved others will love; and we may teach them how'

William Wordsworth, Prelude XIII 444-5.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Emperors and Windfarms Don't Mix

Some nutter has proposed to build a windfarm close to the end of Fermyn Woods where the best numbers of Purple Emperors are. I have only just found this out in the nick of time.

Unfortunately, there is only until midnight tonight to place objections. Can I suggest that everybody does so asap?

I have just objected. Click here to read it: http://www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/fscdav/READONLY?OBJ=COO.2036.300.12.3511288&NAME=/Mr%208%205STDavid%20Phillips%2020/09/2011.pdf

If anybody wishes to object -- on grounds of disturbance to Purple Emperors, Red Kites, etc??!! -- click here: http://www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/ViewCase.asp?caseid=2156757&coid=32833

and scroll down to "Comment on this Case".

I'd appreciate it if you passed this on to as many people, as possible, as time is running out!!

Dave Phillips

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Northants Location

I am the Butterfly Conservation transect walker for Bearshank Wood, which is approx one mile east of Fermyn Wood. I am pleased to report multiple sightings of Purple Emperor males this summer. I believe this is a new venue for the species?

Although I only recorded four on my weekly "official" Transect walks (two each in weeks 14 and 15, ie on July 4th and 12th), I spotted several more (up to six in a hour) on other visits during that brief "window" of fine weather in early July. I did not see any after the middle of July.

A retired friend of mine who is a keen ornitholigist also told me he had seen several Purple Emperors (again all males) during his early morning (approx 9am - 10am) daily wlaks around Bearshank Wood. This was the first year he had seen them, in 30 years of visiting the place on a daily basis.

Bearshank Wood was mainly coniferous until about 12 years ago, when they were cut down and replace dby indigenous trees (mainly birth and oak saplings). However, sallow has become very prolific in many areas, particularly (and convemniently!) close to the nearest vehicular access point. This is also where I enjoyed most sightings, on the track (flattened hardcore/gravel) that runs into the wood.

I believe it is a Forestry Commission wood. It is controlle dby a shooting syndicate, but I know the gamekeeper quite well and he appears to be conservation-friendly. I mentione dto him the importance of not cutting back the sallows!

It is close to Lyveden New Bield, a National Trust property, where I have photographed some lovely SW Fritillaries this summer and which I'm sure Matthew must know well. (Lyveden is situated midway between Fermyn and Bearshanks)

I hope the above information is useful. If you require any more, please don't hesitate to ask

David Phillips
Caroline Cottage, Church Street,
Nr Oundle, Northants PE8 5ST

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Skin Changing

Larva skin changing from 2nd to 3rd instar, note yellow neck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

3rd Instar

Larvae in captivity and in the wild are now almost all in the 3rd instar. This stage lasts some 8 months, including ca 5 months in hibernation. After skin changing into the 3rd instar larvae move to a new leaf, and usually to a new spray. In the wild this may involve a journey of >1m, sometimes as far as 2.5m, usually upwards within the tree. These movements can be mistaken for instances of mortality / predation.

The number of larvae I'm finding in Wilts remains horribly low - currently averaging out at one larvae per 80 mins of actual searching time at present, though the task isn't finished yet and this figure will change. In the annus mirabilis of 2009 I was finding one every 20 mins in these woods...

I'm going to spend a weekend searching for 3rd instar larvae in the Northants woods soon. I strongly suspect that the egg lay will have been considerably better there, for the population's significantly bigger and females were laying well there several days before the weather fell apart on July 6th.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

eggs and larvae

In Bucks and Oxon too it has been very difficult to find larvae. It started well enough, sensationally in fact, with Steve Croxford finding 14 eggs in a mid-Bucks wood in mid July in a very short time [see his blog for the details]. Normally, I never start looking until the beginning of August but, for this early season, this was obviously already too late. It seems that predators have had a field day this year and snapped up most of the larvae in July. Matthew and I, together and separately, have found many leaves that had 'iris was here' written all over them.