Saturday, July 20, 2013

From Bill Seager
Thursday 18th July 2013 – Fermyn.
By 14.40 the ground activity (by both Emperors and humans) had diminished to the odd individual sighting around the complex. However, there was still plenty to observe around the sallows and tree tops, and we dismounted from our bikes and switched to “Long Lens” mode with the accompanying neck-ache hazard. Our observation point was at the corner of a good stand of oaks along the ride to Souther Wood, where previously these were thought to be “Master” trees (SP975839). Both of us had a number of sightings of behaviour described elsewhere as oak edging, when my attention was drawn to an amazing sight, of what I can best describe as a “shoal” of maybe 10 - or possibly more - Emperors, flying almost at tree top level, and in a gaggle, in the direction of the conifers (SP974841).
They seemed to move as one - but not in single file - dipping and then flying around the front edge of the oaks before vanishing from sight. I ran after them calling to my companion, but found nothing. To my disappointment, Nigel had not observed the phenomenon. It was all over quicker than the time it has taken to describe this behaviour, and I only report it because someone may see the same thing in future years - if we have such an explosion of individuals as we have experienced at Fermyn this season. I assume at least one of the “shoal” was a virgin female? I say shoal because of the effect of so many butterflies together flapping their wings in what was by now, dappled shade, gave me this impression. (The sun has left the path entirely at this location but there was still a clear blue sky above). We continued to watch a number of individuals and one in particular, defending his sallow against all-comers, before retiring around 4pm.

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