Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Upper Thames 18th till 27th July

The first posting covered the first 10 days of the season [8th till 17th July], when 43 sightings were made in 8 woods. This next ten days probably represents the peak period this year: 129 sightings were made in 20 different woods. Calculated as sightings per wood, this second period was only about 15% more productive than the first 10 days. I see no evidence from the website [apart from Herts/Essex/Beds]that people are following a similar strategy: namely, if we want to know how well iris is distributed in a region, we need lots of people scouring as many woods as possible. This can be frustrating, of course, but we also have the satisfaction, each season, of adding to the number of woods where iris has been seen. We have 20 to 30 enthusiasts each season engaged in this mission. How many of the other BC regional sections have species champions? People know me and send me their sightings; I can also encourage as many people as possible to take part in the regional search for iris. I highly commend this approach to you all. I'm sorry if this sounds a bit polemic, but I feel strongly about it!

Brief News from Kent

A few pages back, Matthew asked about news from Kent.

I moved back home to Kent late last year and have been in search is His Imperial Majesty this season. He exists at Dene Park, a FC wood north of Tonbridge and at at several sites west and south west of here towards Surrey. I never knew He existed here as a kid! Although, maybe He didn't back then.

Despite several attempts I have been unsucessful at Dene Park this year, although He has been seen there. I last visited at the weekend of 21st/22nd July and met someone who had seen Him that morning. I suspect numbers are low this year.

There is only one report on Kent BC's website so far, a male at Bough Beech reservior (near Ide Hill) on 25th July.

Lee Hurrell

Monday, July 30, 2012

Photographing Emperors

We're all good, but we can still get better. I've asked Rachel Piper to give us some insights into how she manages to get such magnificent photographs of insects, and she's put together some great hints and tips here for us:


And for a bit of inspiration, take the time to browse some of Rachel's photos of other species here:


And remember the butterfly photographer's official protocol - you're allowed three shots quietly on your own before you have to shout out to everyone else that you've found one!

Alice Holt Update

After a slow start things started to pick up and reasonably good numbers were seen both in territories and in the rides, with a maximum of six at Goose Green on one occaision. Since then I have managed to get to Alice Holt for seven consecutive days and I would say the results with males have been generally very disappointing. I have really struggled to see more than four males in the rides over the forest as a whole - regularly looking in Abbots, Straits and Willows Green.On more than one occaision some of the woods have revealed none. Frequently there has only been a lone male on territory in Abbots Wood Car park and between one and three at Goose Green. I have only seen one grounded male in total despite pretty good weather. On the plus side females have been out in force in the last few days. On one day I saw six different females, including three in one sallow and another in an adjacent one - all at the same time. I actually saw more females than males on this day. One female was hiding in the top of a sallow when a male came within eighteen inches without spotting her. Including today I have seen females laying for five consecutive days which will hopefully bode well for next year. Photo of Herself winning Hide and Seek

Next years generation in a hurry

A couple of the eggs I recovered from cut Sallow at Waterperry Wood on Friday have hatched today. Some of the others have also coloured up and should hatch in the next couple of days.
Monday July 30th
Bentley wood
3 males still together at one location today, including one recently emerged.
Photo of one of two females observed egg- laying for 45 minutes from 14.00 this afternoon.


We haven't received much news from Savernake Forest this season.  I visited yesterday afternoon (in between searching for a missing cat - Gilbert, a 16 year old ginger who later turned up safe and well, presumably having been off Emperoring - Fermyn no doubt). 

I worked the male territories along Three Oak Hills Drive.  Although it was a bit too windy for some territories I was disappointed to find only lone occupants in four of the nine territories visited.  However, Andy Foster reported 3 males clashing and chasing in the favoured Dead Beech Glade there on Sun 22nd July, where only one was present yesterday, and I also saw a superb female laying eggs high in a favoured sallow.  

More news from Savernake would be welcome...

Normal for Fermyn

Phil Corley and friend, Mon 23rd July.  Seconds later the ecstatic Corley ascended to the Heavens, like Elijah, on a chariot of flame drawn by horses of fire -

My car window, 8pm on Mon 23rd July.  There was a significant evening flight of iris that day, after a moderate wind died down ca 6.30pm.  This evening activity may help explain why the butterflies were relatively quiet the following day.  Earlier on the 23rd, a female ab. ? lugenda settled briefly on my car number plate - this means that my car is now officially classified as Blessed and may be worshipped as a minor Classical deity -

And finally, a scene from the gents loos in Fermyn Country Park (the tea rooms there serve some of the best cake in Britain) -

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Unusual Emperor In An Unusual Place

Today, while performing a butterfly survey on the Knepp Castle Estate, I saw a male Purple Emperor lacking most of His white. I can't put a name to the ab., having only seen it in flight, firstly at 12.30pm, then again at 12.41pm. Sir Charlie Burrell's ground-breaking rewilding scheme has given rise to a very large area of habitat which is becoming increasingly suitable for iris, with former arable fields developing into sallow scrub. This Emperor was following an old field margin lined with mature oaks, but in the very high winds it nearly put down in the field at one point. I last saw it flying across a large expanse of open farmland. It won't be long before the Emperor is recorded via the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey :)

Essex news

Essex news can be found here - see in particular entry for 23rd July from Epping http://www.cambs-essex-butterflies.org.uk/sightings.php Note that Mark Hall is the introduction site Liz

From Rachel Piper - Fermyn Woods

Images from Thursday: http://www.rachelpiper.me.uk/purple.html

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012 Egg Lay

The females have just had up to seven days of uninterrupted egg laying.  That's the longest run of good laying weather for several seasons.  It looks as though the weather's about to deteriorate but already it is likely that a good number of eggs have been laid, making this a successful season apart from in Sussex where numbers have been horribly low. 

Here's Herself, a lady of no small consequence - though a second after this photo was taken this huge female flew off in a huff...

Incidentally, we have received no reports from the introduced population in Suffolk this year.  How's it doing?  Also, we never receive any reports from Kent, or on the introduced population in Essex.  News welcome on these fronts...

Fermyn Diary

Day 1 (25th July): Arrived at Fermyn Wood early afternoon, but Emperor activity had unsurprisingly ceased due to the heat. At 5.30 pm the evening flight began, with 6-7 males sighted before bedtime at c.7 pm. 1 male grounded.

Day 2 (26th July): Thanks to my trusty steed, a folding Japanese commuter bicycle without gears or brakes, I managed to cover a huge area throughout the day, encompassing Fermyn, Lady, Souther and Titchmarsh Woods. Activity started at 8.55 am and I saw 13 different grounded males before 1.15 pm, when things went very quiet. Visitations to various body-parts were regular, with 3 trouserings, a booting and one on my camera case. I had another grounded male at 6.30 pm and at 6.45 pm a short but frenetic evening flight began. Along the straight immediately below the Lyveden Way bend 6 or 7 males were oak-edging and constantly squabbling with the numerous (15-20) Purple Hairstreaks in the canopy. Best bundle was 4 Emperors and 8–9 Hairstreaks (iris won). 2 males were seen on a high sap run and male activity stopped suddenly at 7.15 pm. With impeccable timing 2 females arrived here at 7.20 pm and sat motionless in the crowns of adjacent oaks, enjoying the last of the sunshine. 20-25 individual Emperors seen throughout the day.

Day 3 (27th July): Constant touring over the same area brought a tally of 16 grounded males, including 2 aberrant specimens. Activity again stopped before 1.30 pm and sadly I had to leave before the evening flight commenced. Visitations were again common, with 2 trouserings, one on my watch and another on my bicycle. Total numbers were similar to yesterday and no freshly-emerged specimens were seen. Iris appears to be at peak and it will become increasingly difficult to find examples in good condition.

Aberrant Forms: On Day 3 I saw 2 different aberrant males on the ground. The first was in Titchmarsh Wood (pictured base page). Unless corrected by those more knowledgeable I would call this ab. stictica, a determination I would also make for the similar specimen seen by Mike Coleman in Bentley Wood on 23.7.12 (Purple Empire). The second was a much more extreme form, which grounded repeatedly throughout the morning and was photographed by several other visitors, close to where the tracks branch in Lady Wood. Unfortunately my photo opportunity was scuppered by a jogger (you are forgiven madam). This is almost certainly the same butterfly as photographed by Phil Beard on 24.7.12 and Rev John Woolmer on 26.7.12 (Purple Empire). Again, unless otherwise advised, I would call this ab. afflicta. The even more extreme form photographed by Charles Nicol on 26.7.12 (UK Butterflies) is undoubtedly a good male ab. lugenda, and must be different to the pristine male ab. lugenda photographed by others either that same morning, or the day before. No doubt about Matthew’s (23.7.12) female ab. lugenda!

Other butterflies seen included 3-4 Silver-washed Fritillary and 5-6 White Admiral, most being fresh specimens. 3 White-letter Hairstreak were observed ovipositing, with regular activity at the first intersection on Cherry Lap.

As always it was a pleasure to spend time in the woods here, and it was good to catch up with one or two old friends and meet other like-minded enthusiasts. It seems that iris has an ever-increasing band of followers.


From Nige Crowhurst

Spent a great day at Fermyn, Lady, Souther and Titchmarsh woods yesterday July 26th with Bill Seager. Saw nine male Emperors in total, 5 of which came to the ground. It was great to meet and chat with Neil Hulme as he sped round the woods on his super little bike. See attached photo showing Neil with the ultimate camera bag accessory!

Friday, July 27, 2012

A new territory in Middlesex today

My season has ended as sailing is about to begin but Andrew's season hasn't ended so whilst I was at work he was having all the fun. 27 July 2012 ~ Whitewebbs Wood, North Enfield ~ based on work with Liz Goodyear, I was very pleased to at last see two Purple Emperors this afternoon. There was one male, sometimes two, on territory and active high in the oaks in hazy sun between 1 and 4pm, when I left. The weather is forecast as pretty good tomorrow afternoon Sat 27th July, so anyone wishing to join me there tomorrow would be more than welcome. I plan to get to the North Lodge entrance TQ330995 by 12.30 if anyone wishes to meet me there. I would advise bringing binoculars and a collapsible chair, insect cream etc, and some patience. My advice would be to put aside time through to at least 2pm, if not 3pm. North Lodge has good parking on Whitewebbs Lane, north side of Whitewebbs Park, about 300m west of the King and Tinker Public House, or one could walk through Whitewebbs Park or Forty Hall from bus services out of Enfield Town. (please copy and paste link as it is too late in day!) http://streetmap.com/map.srf?x=532770&y=199870&z=120&sv=532770,199870&st=4&a r=y&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf&dn=642&ax=532770&ay=199870&lm=0 For interest ~ previous records of singles known to me ~ 1909 Enfield Chase 1909, 2000 Whitewebbs Park 1976, Whitewebbs, Forty Hall ¾ mile lane, 2003 Forty Hall, 2010 Ferny Hill Farm general area (Robert Callf). Thanks - Andrew Middleton
Attached another image of the Bentley wood ab. I photographed on 23rd.
monophana ? stictica ?
All views welcome.
ab. lugenda also present.
These are the first images of an ab. that I have obtained in 30 years of observation at Bentley, so any info gratefully received.

Fermyn Wood Aberrations

So far this season at least six aberrant specimens (rare colour forms) have been seen and photographed in Fermyn Woods, including one female.  Two individuals were photographed today (see forthcoming post by Neil Hulme). 

Below are photos of what I take to be the same specimen of what is probably ab lugenda, the first two photos taken on Tues 24th by Phil Beard and the bottom one by Rev John Woolmer on Thurs 26th.  Our congrats and thanks to Phil and John.

Incidentally, I have long suspected that Purple Emperor aberrations (or variations) are proportionally no rarer than White Admiral aberrations, it's just that we see far more of the latter!
Today I paid a visit to Waterperry Wood, part of the Bernwood complex of woods. Shortly after arriving a couple of Forestry Commission chaps arrived and started sticking up closure notices at the entrance to the wood. I got chatting to them and it sounds like tree thinning is to start somewhere at the far end of the wood on Monday. Over the next hour I saw 8 Emperors. These looked like an even mix of males and females. The females looking like they were egg laying while the males were Oak/Ash edging searching for mates.

After an hour a large low loader truck arrived carrying timber handling equipment. It was accompanied by one of the Forestry Commission chaps. He was only doing his job but to my horror he jumped out of his truck with a chain saw. He proceeded to fell a large chunk of one of the best broad leaved Sallow along the track. It was a Sallow that I had already seen a couple of females showing an interest in. It had to be done, or the lorry would not have been able to pass, but about a sixth of the tree was cut down.

Knowing that females had been laying on the tree I set about systematically searching the cut material for eggs. Several hours later I had rescued 10 Emperor eggs. A couple of these were very fresh but most were several days old as they had the purple bands fully developed. Hopefully I didn't miss too many but there are certain to have been some that I missed.

I think its interesting to kick around a few numbers to make a guess as to how many eggs are laid on this Sallow in a season. Approximately one sixth of the suitable egg laying habitat was cut down. This would imply that the entire Sallow currently holds about 60 eggs if you assume I collected all of the available eggs. If you work on the basis that only half of them were found then it implies a total of about 120 eggs. My guess is that we are about half way through the egg laying season. That would imply that that Sallow will holds between 120 to 240 eggs this year (or it would have done before the arrival of the chain saw).
Nice précis from Lynn Fomison of Matthew's article on the larval stage of the Purple Emperor. http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/reports_britishwildlife.php

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Assorted Doings

This blog / website has received >10,000 hits so far this month!  A fact that speaks volumes for the cultural significance of this butterfly...  Clearly, Purple Emperor spotting should become an Olympic event.

Yesterday, Tues 26th, Neil Hulme was touring Fermyn Woods on his Japanese folding cycle.  He saw 13 males down on the ground, only one of which was pristine - suggesting that the male emergence there is all but complete.  He failed to see Herself (though the technique for spotting females is different to those for spotting males). 

In Warwickshire, the butterfly started in Oversley Wood, on the 17th and in Ryton & Wappenbury Woods on the 22nd.  These introduced populations are doing really well, and studying their spread is really helping our understanding of the insect's powers of colonisation.

The overall picture is that iris has emerged in reasonable numbers at most of its sites except in West Sussex where it has clearly crashed.  Away from Sussex (and as close to Sussex as Bookham Common, Surrey, and Alice Holt, E Hants) numbers in the better colonies are 'average' or even 'quite good', though some smaller colonies seem only to have appeared in low numbers. 

Also, this is an old fashioned season in terms of time of emergence.  The butterflies held back from emergence, waiting for the weather to improve.  Back in the 60s and 70s the butterflies often didn't appear until mid July (with exceptions like 1970 and 1976). 

The butterfly is now at peak season generally.  Males will soon start to get tatty and faded.  The coming weekend is really your last chance to see the males in good condition, though the butterflies will last into mid August at many sites this year. 

From Bill Seager

Picture title: How did it get there? – No, we are not talking about the Sussex migrant - the traffic cone, the traffic cone!
Neil in good form at Fermyn to-day, Thursday 26 July 2012.
Sent by Bill Seager – his second visit to the wood this week.

His Majesty's tongue!

His Majesty continues to show well at Fermyn Woods, although numbers are somewhat down on previous years. Having taken some very close up shots, does anyone know how the preboscis works, is it a push pull action, does he use fluid from himself to dissolve minerals, can anyone help ?

Fermyn Woods aberration

Here's the female aberration that I saw within a minute of driving into the woods (en route to the cottages where I stay) last Monday. She initially settled on my number plate which means that my car is now officially Blessed. She then fed for 3-4 mins from a damp patch on the ride side before rising to settle, wings closed, for 42 mins in a sallow trees, before skulking off.  I saw her entering the crown of a shady sallow 2 hours later.  I think this is ab lugenda but will get the pictures checked up.  Lugenda is a gerundive (verbal adjective) meaning the state of mournfullness.  I also saw an ab iolata male (equivalent of a bog standard ab semi-nigrina / ab obliterae White Admiral) that morning, probably the one Doug Goddard photographed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My first Fermyn visit

On monday 23rd , after getting some info from Matthew Oates & Neil freeman  on where to look , i drove 166 miles down from cheshire to Fermyn wood to see the Emperors!  loads of cars there when i arrived at 9.40 ish.  walking down the first track, matthew drove past,said hello and then carried on driving!  (thanks for the lift matthew! lol )  just after entering Lady wood, his car was stopped under a tree!  with an Empress ab.semi iole perching above :)    so my first Emperor of the year didnt take long to see:)  leaving Matthew i walked down the main paths around lady & souther wood, finding grounded male Emperors everywhere!  by the time i had walked round the main track my total was up to 20 males , i was amazed to see so many,  seeing up to 4 at once at one point!   the colour of these newly emerged specimens was superb!

i also found a grounded purple hairstreak which posed for a few phots :)    arriving back on the main track to meet Matthew , by this time ,about 1 pm most people had already gone?  stange!  Matthew then showed me all the areas where the males hang out!  , we saw plenty more,i then witnessed  the so called "incident"  when Matthew almost trod on "HER HIGHNESS " when she was drinking from a muddy puddle,  i have been sworn to secrecy on what words rang out at that point!,  but he later said ," thank god it wasnt a sunday!  lol "     after watching a pair of males fighting we walked along the track between Lady & Souther wood where we found 2 very playfull males,the first of which perched on my finger!

The second one , after perching on my shoulder ,& then on a passing cyclists shoulder and nose! ( so funny! )     he flew around me a dozen times, the sound from the wings clipping was amazing!  Eventually the image everyone wants to see, Emperor perching on mr Oates hat!  i have closed wing shots also :))

after saying goodbye to Matthew, another 3 males flew past me just walking back towards the car!

my final total of probably the best flutter day i have had this year , was 3 females and 38 males.   about 24 -26 of which were grounded ,  along with maybe 8-10 white admirals. 
 the alure of the Emperor grows inside me :)


This morning I continued my tour of iris locations in Northamptonshire with a visit to different parts of Yardley Chase (private site). After drawing a blank in the first section, I arrived at Ravenstone Road Copse at 11.15 to find a male circling round the car. As I got out it flew off along the adjacent ride. I had a walk round for an hour recording other species before returning to my car for lunch.. As I was sitting eating this, the male returned, flying over the canopy around what is an open ride intersection several times. Finally it settled, homing in on a small dropping where it fed avidly for the next half an hour or so. A couple of times it flew up into a nearby ash, but soon returned to the same spot. It was  12.45.by now and the hottest part of the day. I was a little surprised to see a male grounded in these temperatures, but it fed in the shade a couple of feet from the car. It flew into the side of the car at one point - my vehicle is now among the blessed!

Goings On In Warwickshire

Quite a few goings on to report from around Warwickshire. The following are sightings from Oversley Wood:
  • 17/07/12: Warwickshire's first 2012 Purple Emperor was reported by Richard Eyres.
  • 20/07/12: 4 seen by Richard Southwell and Andy Barker, including 3 grounded on the south side of the wood.
  • 21/07/12: 1 seen by Neil and Chris Freeman on the north side.
  • 22/07/12: 2 seen by me, both males at opposite ends of the congregation area. Usually, the eastern end is favoured and I have rarely seen activity to the west so was very pleased! Also, 1 grounded female seen by Paul Masters.
  • 23/07/12: 1 Emperor reported by Don Wagstaff and 4 spotted by Simon Primrose: 1 grounded female feeding on the NE side of the wood, another possible female flying/perching between oak and hazel trees, and 2 non-interacting males at the eastern end of the congregation area.
  • 24/07/12: 1 seen by Rob Adams.
 Sightings have now also started coming in from Ryton Wood and the adjoining Ryton Pools Country Park (RPCP):
  • 22/07/12: 1 grounded Emperor at RPCP, seen feeding by Brian Sherwin near Pagets Pool.
  • 24/07/12: 1 spotted by John Carter at Ryton Wood.
No doubt there will be more sightings this week with the incredible weather we are (finally!) having. I'll be at Oversley Wood again tomorrow so im hoping to top the maximum count of 4 seen in a day. If anyone decides to visit tomorrow, you'll probably find me sitting around a big pile of dung, some smelly shrimp paste and a few rotting banana skins!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

From John Woodruff

Being an avid reader of The Purple Empire blog page i wonder if you could help me please. Until today i was an Iris virgin, having only ever seen his majesty in books. Thankfully at Bentley Wood this morning that all changed as i was treated to photographing both a pristine and a worn male on the floor feasting on dog droppings.
 The pristine male i saw had been disturbed from a log but returned moments later to the same spot, and as it was about to land it was fluttering it wings furiously making quite a pronounced sound to the three of us watching it. So my question to you is is this sound normal behavior ? or is there a reason you can think of that could explain this please ?
Any response would be gratefully appreciated.

From Tony Rogers

We had a good day at Bentley Wood on Monday afternoon this week (23rd July). We started off going to the clearing below the main car park to search along the Sallows. Within 15 minutes we saw our first female Emperor and shortly after one or two more. I know there were at least two because we saw them flying at the same time. Then I got quite close a laying female (see pic).

    After that we back to the track that runs off the main drive below the car park. About 600m up the track there is a fallen Sweet Chestnut and just beyond that a tall stand of trees to the left. We were treated to many lively flights around the tree tops by a couple of males before moving on.

    After that we walked a long-ish circular route back to the car park and had two additional sightings of what were probably females amongst the Sallows. So, seven in all of which five were females. No close-ups of males though.

    There were many Silver Washed Fritillary and White Admiral (20-ish). We also got a glimpse of White Letter Hairstreak at the top of an elm and there were still some Dark Green Fritillary in the clearing. All in all, a great day.

Fermyn woods

Just a quick update from my previous post. Not knowing the area very well I have just looked at the os map and it appeared we walked right through to oxen wood on a couple of occasions. On our last circuit we ventured right into this area at about 5pm and it was very unfamiliar emperor territory being largely low scrub with a few immature trees but plentiful sallow. It was at this extreme southern end that we saw one of the last grounded males.
I had been fortunate to get some time off work this week after seeing the forecast and set my stall to go emperor hunting. On Monday I started early at Alice Holt seeing my first male at 8am - I watched this individual for an hour and quarter resting on an oak sprig. It had flown straight from a mature sallow and it looked as if it had just emerged. It flew off at 9.15 And I continued my journey straits Inclosure revealed very little although others had seen males and two females. I only saw one other in individual ( other than females) not on territory. In all I saw twelve definite individuals with four at Goose Green old car park and two at abbots wood pines. Saw my first female of the year which appeared silently and out of the blue at noon egg laying in a very mature sallow - had a second female at one o'clock. Perhaps the highlight was a female sparrow hawk carrying an unfortunate blackbird past nthe goose green high point - he was immediately seen off the premises by no less than three males who combined forces against this interloper! I am being deliberately non specific about locations in Alice Holt as I encountered yet another collector! After having seen both the forecast and the reports I decided to make the long journey to Fermyn arriving at 7.45 this morning. This was my first visit so after first getting my bearings I set off from the entrance at the gliding club. To cut a long story short the morning surpassed my expectations the Emperors were out in force with some sixteen individuals and probably a dozen groundings including two at once! For obvious reasons I couldn't take a photo but a truck appeared along the ride at this time so - unaware if the local PE population were aware of the highway code - I consulted with the other two chaps and I encouraged one onto each index finger. Once the truck had passed I placed them back on the ground where they appeared to be unfazed by their ordeal - indeed one stayed for a further hour or so. The afternoon was indeed very quiet so we took the opportunity for lunch. One further walk right through the wood between three and half five revealed three or four including one drinking from a puddle but it was indeed much quieter - probably because of the heat. My pedometer revealed Neil and I had walked some 42,000 paces - about 21 miles or so. We saw the last individual at 5.30pm and only one female was encountered. Lovely day on my first visit to this part of the world. I will be back even if it is a three hour drive!

Egg laying has started in North Bucks

In the space of 30 minutes this afternoon I saw three females ‘stricking’ Sallow in a North Bucks wood. The last female appeared to lay several eggs the last of which was low enough to allow me to take this photo of the egg. The freshly laid egg shows no sign of developing the distinctive purple bands.


What a difference a day makes! I received the following from Matthew in Fermyn today, in sharp contrast to yesterday:

No 2 days in the PE season are alike! Considerably fewer sightings today, and no females.  I only saw 4 down on the rides (E Ride) and few people did better. I wonder if there were too many folk there?  The only person who did significantly better (local lad - forgotten his name) cycled S into Tichmarsh and cleaned up there. Earlier, he photoed a pristine male ab lugenda at the N end of the track across the arable field - I've seen the pix, superb.  He is a lovely chap. So pleased for him.

I left at 1pm, by which time they'd virtually stopped flying - too hot, no female emergence today probably, and yesterday evening they were v active till 8pm! I've had them v quiet before after an evening flight. Several SWF seen.
I had an equally frustrating day today, having decided to visit Salcey Forest. The butterflies were reluctant to show them and there was no sign of the PEs seen yesterday. I think it is the extreme heat. However, one was seen from the fourth tee on Silverstone Golf Course, adjacent to Hazelborough Forest from where it presumably came.

Bentley Wood doings

From my personal diary on UK Butterflies: http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=3977&start=1000

I couldn't resist any longer. With all of the sightings of Purple Emperor, I headed off to Bentley Wood arriving rather late at around 10am (so late that I thought that most of the "action" would be over!). Making my way to the south side of the wood I got sightings of 3 male PE flying around the canopy, including one clashing pair. I eventually bumped into an old acquaintance, Mark Swann, and his friend Peter, who showed me some great photos of a grounded male. After 10 minutes or so, and having seen a couple of male PEs flying around the canopy, a female flew out of a nearby sallow and I finally got to see my first ever ovipositing Purple Emperor as she laid 7 or 8 eggs over the next 10 minutes. Surprisingly, all sallows were in full sun, but were magnificent specimens and no doubt offering the amount of shade that this species likes. Unfortunately, no ova shots since they were all laid quite high up. I must admit, the term "striking the tree" that is often used to describe the action of the female entering a sallow (typically the crown) seems to be misplaced; what I saw was the female delicately flying in and around the sallow branches as she hunted out a suitable egg-laying spot. I managed to get some distant shots of her as she teased us by sitting high in a sallow for 15 minutes and I thought that was it for the day (given that it was now 1230).

As I arrived back at the car, as often seems to happen, I saw the characteristic spiraling flight of a Purple Emperor coming down to the ground. What surprised me, though, was that this was another female! And this time I managed to get some shots (and a video). The amount of orange on the wings of this pristine individual was really quite striking.

Monday, July 23, 2012

From Mike Gibbons

Over the weekend of 21st and 22nd July I visited Straits Inclosure and Goose Green, Alice Holt over two contrasting days. I struggled to see any at Straits on 21st with just a flyover male, others had been luckier before I arrived and seen 2 by the wooden tower. The afternoon though was much better at Goose Green with a veritable air display going on. Comings and goings around the favoured Sweet Chestnut with a ‘King of the castle’ dominant male, the action was non stop from 14.00 – 14.30 when I left. Up to 5 or 6 were seen including one male  with very little in the way of forewings, but it did not stop him getting involved in a riveting aerial ‘dog fight’. In the end a rather cocky male remained circling and landing on the uppermost leaves having seen all the others off.
Sunnier Sunday was much better at Straits with up to 8 being estimated by myself and fellow Iris enthusiasts. 2 males near the wooden tower, with a male showing on and off up to mid-day on the structure imbibing. My main highlight however was a shy egg laying female a little further on, deep in a sallow, trying not to be seen while another female flew off nearby high through the oaks. This was around 12.30 when male activity seemed to have ceased here.  At Goose Green I saw 2 males displaying, but I was told 6 had been seen earlier.

From Richard Carter

Alright? Absolutely cracking at Bentley Wood this morning. Male half way along the switchback. Then another 2 males, left at the crossroads at the end of the track. On the way back to the car park there was a possible female grounded swiftly joined by another male. Not to be outdone there was a valesina in the car park.
Have a goodun

Bentley ab. photo hopefully now attached
Monday 23rd July 2012
Bentley wood
10.00 - 14.30
4 mile circuit yielded minimum 8 males including a worn ab. iolata [ stictica ?] photo attached & 2 females egg- laying.
Several other males reported elsewhere in the wood.


I have spent a number of memorable days in Fermyn Wood but today must rank highly among them. In warm sunshine, I arrived at 8.30 a.m. and set off hotfoot to Souther Wood. At 9.18 a.m. I was greeted by a rather worn male on the ground. In the next half hour or so a total of eight were seen grounded in the western ride, one a multiple sighting of the three below feeding on faeces with another one nearby.

I ventured into a grassy ride and a fine female flew at low level before alighting on a hazel bush to feed on honeydew.

Shortly after this I met up with Matthew who at 10.00 had photographed a superb female lugenda (tbc - photo to be posted in due course) on the ground. It had flown into the top of a sallow where it remained with wings closed for forty minutes before flying off out of sight.

A further detour down the western ride into Lady Wood produced a further half dozen males on the ground with some "oak-edging". As I returned, I met a small group of the BB Society who had come on a field visit. I accompanied them back down into Souther Wood where we met a couple of photographers who had found a male on the ground. Casting shadows over it to try to get it to open its wings revealed that it was a superb male iolata, not bad for a first view for some of the party!

The wood was surprisingly alive with visitors for a weekday. Iris entertained a number by perching on legs, hands, camera bags etc. You really have to take your hat off to HIM!

On my return, I received welcome records from elsewhere in Northants - four seen in Geddington Chase and a further four in Salcey Forest where iris returned last year for the first time in half a century.

Climatic Risk Atlas

A number of readers have asked about the map I uploaded earlier in the month. It's from the Climatic Risk Atlas of European Butterflies -  a multi-authored book by, among others, our own Martin Warren, and Oskar Kudrna of  European Distribution Atlas fame. It's available from Pensoft in Bulgaria for 120 Euros as hardcopy, but the lovely authors also make it available for free download in .pdf format. You can get it here:

Climatic Atlas

Take the time to browse the rest of the Pensoft site - they have a magnificent selection of science and natural history books, many in English. Be patient with their (slow) site, it's worth the effort.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

 Western Switzerland, Jura foothills

From Ashley Whitlock

Today I saw (19) Purple Emperors in Alice Holt Forest which is my second best record. Not bad for a poor year! In Straits Inclosure I saw (3) Two were in the area of the lookout tower of which one was imbibing on the sap of the wood, where it stayed for up to 30 odd minutes. Another was oak edging down the ride. In Abbotts Wood Inclosure there was two sat in the same Oak tree barely a metre apart looking down at me, contemplating on coming down to get minerals I suspect although they never did, one took off over the oaks and another decided to look at a large Sallow bush, where he found no females, and he decided to go wandering off. Another Male was seen oak edging further up the ride towards the large car-park, At the Assembly points at ALH(1) there was three males on territory, and female came wandering through and a male followed her in  the usual 'follow me flight' and promptly  disappeared However it was back later, and I think the female was playing hard to get. At the Abbotts Wood territory, there was one male flying around and using a Norwegian Spruce for a landing platform, where he looked very uncomfortable!. My wife and decided to have lunch there, at the picnic tables and just as I was tucking into my Chicken and Mushroom Pie we espied a female flying across the vista she was a lovely specimen with rusty coloured wings, she promptly took off over the Pines and Sweet Chestnut trees, she may well have been looking for a suitable Sallow to Egg-Lay as it was about that time. At Buckshot Hole there was nothing, I don't think they have occupied this site this year. At Goose Green there was a female flying around the Cherry tree as soon as we got there, and was tormenting the males on station of which there were at least (6) two down the ride  on the wayleaves on the large oak, two were at the top on the small beech tree, and one was in Georges Vista.
An excellent days Emperoring.

From Ashley Whitlock

Went to one of my favourite woods today (Sunday), Farley Mount/ West Wood near to Winchester. I got there early anticipating a good showing with good weather in prospect, Unfortunately all I got was a very cloudy day with intermittent bursts of sunshine, I made up for this looking for the main core breeding area. I found a lot of Sallow in the western end of the wood and the ride rises up and runs from West to East, and the Sallow is a potentially good breeding area.However I only glimpsed the Emperor once for a few seconds at 1007 on a Oak tree.

I not sure they are out in significant numbers here yet. The ride where I normally see at least one or two drew a blank, but it was mainly a cloudy day. The Silver -Washed Fritillary took ages to fly and saw only (4) White Admirals and one of these was straight out the box!

Female Seen Feeding At Botany Bay

Today a small group of us watched an Empress feeding from a weeping ash bud scar on the high point at Botany Bay. She returned to probe the tiny wound repeatedly over several hours, before spending a further lengthy period in a large, adjacent sallow. Although we didn't actually observe oviposition there was little doubt about what she was up to, repeatedly 'striking' the upper part of the tall crown. While we were watching her a male passed through rapidly - the only view I had of Him before leaving mid afternoon.

Second port of call was a wood near Billingshurst, which provided several fleeting glimpses of a male around a large oak near the entrance gate. I finished off at Southwater (Madgeland) Wood, where a single male was still active around the Trout Lane car park at 5.30 pm.

The runt pupates

You may remember my post concerning a larva that was well behind: well, it finally pupated today. It is rather small [26 mm long], and I'm wondering if a parasitic fly might emerge: this happened to about 10% of my larvae in Switzerland, although iris parasitism is not known in the UK.


Andy Wyldes visited Fermyn Woods yesterday morning to find the area almost devoid of iris hunters. He saw half a dozen males on the ground in Souther Wood, all very fresh, and another observer had seen the first female reported there this season. He heard from soeone else who had been there today.and recorded double figures.

In the meantime, I looked in the Silverstone woods today. After a couple of brief sightings amid the canopy I found a grounded male, feeeding on a patch of trodden horse droppings, sadly looking a little worn and appearing to have some damage to its front right leg, though it was able to fly well enough.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Alice Holt

The forecast looked good this morning so was out early but it seemed more like autumn, there was a definate chill in the air. When I arrived at AH I needed a jacket and body warmer. A walk through Abbots wood and back revealed more or less nothing - even the ringlets and meadow browns were still warming up. I shortly bumped into Pauline who had seen some activity the previous day and we chatted as we scanned the oaks and sallows for signs of life. After nearly three fruitless hours we decided to make our way back to the cars. Just as we were leaving the wood I caught sight of what I thought was a white admiral glide into a hazel and perch. Pauline wanted a photograph of the underside of a white admiral and as it had perched i located it in my bins and lo and behold it was a male emperor cleaning its proboscis. I managed to approach it through head high bracken and nettles [ouch!] to grab the shot attached when it flew off. Fortunately its next perch was my foot where it stayed for ten minutes or so - much to everyones amusement. We then spent 45mins in its company as it landed on the track several times then up to a low perches to clean and bask. In all we saw five individuals in AH - two in Straits, only two in Goose Green Old Car park which I was surprised at as the weather was perfect, just the one in Abbots wood. No females for us today.