Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Purple Emperor on Test Match Special

Delighted to have orchestrated a mention of the Monarch of all the Butterflies into the celebratory TMS@60 programme. It's around 54.00 minutes into the programme, and introduces the infamous Lords streaker of 1975 (who, incredibly, was called Michael Angelo).

Here's the BBC Radio Iplayer link 

The point of this, is that it's important that the Emperor continues to race ahead of other butterflies in media and public standing, especially the unmentionable members of the Entomological Riff-Raff Club (like the effete mothy thing which flaps around in the Norfolk Broads and that Blue which is so stupid it became extinct).  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Iris broods – a question for the ‘Empire fraternity!

Hi folks,

I have a quick question for the 'Empire's experts as I think it is unlikely I'll bump into Neil or Matthew for a year or so! Is a second iris brood a total impossibility? Does this happen elsewhere in the world where there may be longer periods of warmth and light? Or do the larvae universally require sustained periods of low light and cold to develop properly and pupate? Thank you.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Norfolk Emperors

Interesting news from BC Norfolk, male & female Iris reported on consecutive days from Sheringham Park NT.  No dates or details given.  I had heard rumours of sightings last year but it's a large site and 'needle in haystack' spring to mind.  Wonder how they got there?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hampstead Heath


I have also emailed the Herts and Middlesex Branch about a possible sighting of Apatura iris in Hampstead Heath.
I note that there have been a few sightings since 2015.
On 21st July I am reasonably sure I saw one maybe two iris near the Leg of Mutton Pond/Deer enclosure/Childrens play area of Golders Hill Park/Hampstead Heath.
They were clearly large Nymphalids and I have seen iris numerous times, they could have been escapees of a tropical nymphalid (eg Parthenos Sylvia) from the nearby Butterfly Green house in Golders Hill Park.
They flew between large Oaks at 25m.
I cannot be completely sure but it is possible that they could be.
There are possible breeding areas nearby, I know the area very well as I grew up in Golders Green
Let us hope that this magnificent butterfly is extending its range, the good warm weather recently I believe is ideal weather for species extending their ranges

Monitoring the last sightings

Today, two seen in Waterperry Wood by the Campbells; one female, looking fresh!

Friday, July 21, 2017


Sorry, in fact there has been a nice discussion on dispersal! [but not yet on influence of light and temperature]

The last knockings

Matthew pointed out that, at the end  of the season, it is difficult to spot them unless you are experienced enough to know where and how to look. In Upper Thames we have two people who possess this quality in spades: Wendy & Mick Campbell. They have been out looking almost every day in many woods since they saw the first on June 17th. Yesterday, three were seen in Waterperry Wood [including a female ovipositing], and today, one in Little Wood. So, that is 5 weeks so far, which is a normal flight season length.
I agree with Matthew, because the end is nigh, it is no reason to stop blogging!
Why don't we discuss our experiences, where they add to knowledge of the ecology of HIM?
For example, I have written two blogs concerning possible influence of light and temperature on activity, and dispersal, but the response has been meagre!

That Other Purple Butterfly...

This is a remarkable year for the Purple Hairstreak, at least in the Sussex Weald where I've spent the season. This is odd because many Wealden oaks were partially defoliated by late frosts, which must surely have adversely affected numerous larvae. 

I've known better Purple Hairstreak years, most notably 1976 which was probably an order of magnitude greater - they roamed the oak woodland edges in loose swarms.

Although most active during the evenings, when they conduct their courtship and mating, and largely quiescent during the heat of the afternoon, this July they have been coming down to visit bramble and Creeping Thistle flowers, as they do in drought summers - it's just that we haven't had a drought July since 2006 and 2003. 

Alongside His Imperial Majesty, the Purple Emperor, this hairstreak seldom visits flowers.  Here's one feeding on bramble -

Here's a better one on Creeping Thistle - 

And one feeding below a faded Creeping Thistle flower, I'm not sure on what precisely... - 

They've also been probing around for moisture in damp grasses, first thing in the morning (which they did prolifically in early July 1976) - 

Best of all are the Purple Hairstreak Ash feeder trees - if you can find one. I found one at Knepp late on. Here, at least 20 quercus were in view, probing around on next year's ash buds and, seemingly, feeding on lenticels (secretion pores) along the stems -

They have remarkably short tongues.

Very much a candidate for Butterfly of the Year...

Closing Time...

The end of the fantastic 2017 Purple Emperor season is at hand... (unless, of course, they produce a second brood...)

I managed to see four males and two females at Knepp yesterday, July 20th, but only because I know precisely where to stand and look. 

The good news is that last Tuesday night's apocalyptic thunderstorm (which lasted for two hours at Knepp) didn't knock them all out! The rain fell steadily, rather than in stair-rods, and crucially there was no damaging wind. 

But the survivors looked like this final-day female -

Unless you are an experienced Emperorphile and know precisely where to stand and look it will not be worth travelling this weekend to see the butterfly. It's closing time.

Above all, please note that this website functions all year round, not just during the heady weeks of the Emperor flight season. In particular, I will give early indications of when the next brood is likely to emerge. Watch this space, and always look on the Purple side of life...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Saying Goodbye

One of the last stragglers, a worn and battered female, from what seems to have been a magnificent emperor season at Knepp. My first visit back there in over forty years - thanks to Matthew, Neil, Harry and everyone else for making it such an enjoyable trip. 


I presume most members of The Purple Empire can remember their first sighting of His Imperial Majesty.  For me this happened on June 25th this year.  With retirement looming over the horizon I realised there were many things I had not seen and decided to put this right.  I have a great love of all things nature in particular butterflies.  I am also a very keen amateur photographer and combine both interests.  At the start of this year I compiled my hit list, at the very top Purple Emperor!  Living in Norfolk does not offer many chances to see this mythical beast so I had to travel.  Plenty of internet research led me to this site and I decided my best chance, and nearest home, would be Fermyn.
By following the Empire I logged emergence dates and hoped weather and days off work would coincide, I had about 6 chances.  Set off early on the 25th, forecast not great but had to take the chance.  Arrived opposite the glider club at 8am surprised to see only 2 cars, I had expected mass crowds similar to a rare bird twitch!  Walked the northern bridleway seeing nothing so crossed into the Lady Wood complex taking the right hand path.  Within a few minutes I was transfixed by my first Emperor on the ground in front of me, a bit tatty but what a feeling of elation.
Within the next 100yds a second male, this time pristine, came down, seconds later another joined it.  This was fantastic, not a soul in sight and 3 magnificent creatures around me and then on me!  One decided to check me out, circled my face then landed on my jacket.  Gently I eased HIM on to my finger, there he sat for over 5 mins licking the sweat.  If only I had the short lens on the Nikon!  I tried to change lens one handed but he had had enough and went up onto a leaf giving me the eye.
The weather turned out o.k in the end and as I wandered around I had more and more encounters seeing at least 12 on the ground and others gliding overhead.  And they were very approachable so I obtained dozens of fantastic images.
It had been an incredible day and I must thank the Empire for putting me in the right place at the right time to fulfil a boyhood dream.  If any one wants to see my efforts in capturing other species on camera please check out my site  Butterflies to Dragsters.  Here's to next year!  Brian Hicks

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

'Rejection Drop' At Knepp

Here are some of the fantastic images of the 'rejection drop' taken by Bolton photographer Brian White on the 13 July Knepp Purple Emperor safari. An already-mated female is seen trying to out-manoeuvre two amorous males.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finished in Dorset

A 2 hour search of the woods in Dorset where I had several sightings last week failed to show anything purple . It would appear its all over for another year.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Emperors & Hairstreaks Oak Sapping...

Amazing photo by Tony Rogers of a female feeding on oak trunk close to a Purple Hairstreak, from Knepp -

Besides Emperors, these tiny sap bleeds (if that's what they are) on stressed or diseased oaks are visited regularly by Red Admirals and Purple Hairstreaks, and also by the occasional Comma and Speckled Wood. White Admiral (scarce at Knepp) will also visit.

Purple Hairstreak has been in great numbers this season, at least until last Tuesday's rain, and has been visiting bramble flowers frequently in the hot weather. I hadn't seen it on flowers since at least 2006, the last decent summer we had - 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Season Ending, Doings...

Apols for lack of postings but I am having difficulties logging on at Knepp... (have popped home for the weekend).

To update, iris is starting to finish at many sites, particularly those supporting small populations. The exceptions will be 'late' sites like Savernake, which should have a good week left, and the mega population at Knepp, which will finish by next weekend.

At Knepp, adults are becoming increasingly worn, torn and localised, and hard to find. A lot of people new to the site are struggling to find them. 

Advise: search the downwind side of oaks close to sallow thickets during the afternoon (and warm sunny evenings) only. At this stage in the season both sexes tend to take mornings off - and so would you if you were an ageing rock star, like Himself.  If you want something to do during the morning at Knepp then search along the outgrown sloe hedges for Brown Hairstreak, the males of which are well out there and visit Creeping Thistle and Fleabane flowers.

Numbers-wise, Harry Drew and I counted 10 iris on the Purple Emperor transect at Knepp yesterday (Fri 14th), compared to 25 on Fri July 7th and 36 the previous week, when the butterfly was at peak. Many were in very poor condition, though that doesn't stop them behaving abominably. The transect runs for about 2km down a green lane which contains many favoured male territories (we only count Emperors on it, no riff-raff).

I don't think last Tuesday's steady rain, which produced 25mm (an inch) at Knepp, did any real harm to the Emperors - it fell steadily and was not accompanied by the strong winds that really knock out roosting Emperors. It did, though, greatly reduce Purple Hairstreak numbers, which have been astronomical at Knepp this season. 

In fact, the weather has been decidedly clement this Emperor season, which means that the egg lay should be good (not least because the butterfly emerged in synchrony with the appropriate growth stage of sallow foliage, which doesn't always happen - never mind what that is, but it's very important).

This female flopped into a sallow close to us late on Friday afternoon, on what was probably her final flight - 

Finally, if you want the ultimate quality Emperoring experience, and the opportunity to learn a considerable amount about the butterfly, then please come on one of the Purple Emperor Safaris that Neil and I run at Knepp in season. Next year we will be running afternoon safaris during some weekdays and some day-long safaris at weekends, and can offer experiences like this -

Don't worry about the bloke in the kilt: that's Harry, him's from Devon...

 Credit: Tony Rogers, Knepp July 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

North Dorset Woods Part 2

With the weather being perfect and after yesterdays success at locating Emperor eggs in the Cranborne Chase area i decided to try again at seeing HIM but in another part of the complex so headed to the woods near Tollard Royal . Once clear of the conifers the woods opened up into mature ancient woodland full of huge oaks , ash and broad leaved sallows . In the first clearing Herself flew into the crown of a sallow , presumably egg laying before flying out and not to be seen again . Minutes later a male was seen flying around an oak before finally moving on after being annoyed by the Red Admiral activity , which seem to have emerged in huge numbers over the last few days . Moving on to the next clearing which was dominated by a huge oak , and amazingly it had two males battling it out around the canopy . Taking the route back yet another male was seen this time perched on a prominent sprig of oak . Considering I have only ever seen single sightings in these woods , to come across five in a relatively small area and in the space of an hour makes me wonder how unrecorded HIM is in N Dorset .

Thursday, July 13, 2017

North Dorset Emperor

With the season starting so early I had only visited guaranteed sites (Knepp and Bentley Wood ) before I went on holiday . Now back in the country I thought I'd try my local woods of North Dorset and Cranborne Chase where HIM flies but is spread thinly over a large area . With a previous report of sightings last week from N Dorset and good conditions the usual woodland species were abundant especially egg laying S W Frits but HIM failed to appear. I decided to search for eggs as the sallows are predominantly of the broad leaved variety with very few crosses and many in suitably shaded locations .In the space of an hour 3 eggs were located on 3 separate trees , proof undeniable that HIM is alive and seemingly doing well , and keeping Dorset purple . Will be returning at the weekend in the hope of seeing HIM before the season burns out .

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Possible influence of sudden changes of light and temperature on tree-top activity

The afternoon of the 30th of June was dull but warmish [20 to 21 degrees] in the BBW [best Bucks wood]. Mick Campbell and I stood looking up at a line of Oaks above Sallows; nothing moved until, for a brief spell, there was hazy sunshine. Immediately we saw two pairs taking off and skirmishing about 30 metres apart; they sank without trace back into the canopy as soon as the sun disappeared.
On the 8th of July we returned to the same spot under completely different conditions: hot and sunny, windless, 25 degrees. Again we waited, staring up at the canopy. Nothing happened until a few wisps of white cloud obscured the sun, and this was accompanied by a slight breeze; immediately, a pair rose into the sky, clashing. Quickly, the clouds moved away, the breeze dropped, as did the activity.
Does HIM need a sudden change in the atmospheric conditions to stir him?

Importance of Oak Sap

Heslop invented the term 'feeder tree', for ageing, diseased or otherwise stressed oaks which produce small bleeds of sap. Such oaks are a major source of adult sustenance in landscapes where veteran oaks are common. 

These feeder trees are visited intermittently, as the supply of sap bleeds appears to be intermittent, and only when conditions are relatively still. Feeder trees may be unused on windy days.

Oak sap seems to become increasingly important as the season ages, for older adults. Both males and females visit, often for lengthy periods, particularly during the afternoon and, in hot weather, the evenings. During the recent heatwave iris has been visiting small bleeds of sap on veteran oaks at Knepp as late as 8pm.  

Large sap runs are rare (I've seen none this year) but can attract Emperors in numbers (the most I've seen together is four, females). These photos are all from Knepp this season (one male, three females) -

Both sexes adopt a distinctive zig-zag flight when homing in on an oak to feed on sap bleeds. 

The males seem to get plastered on fermented sap. This may explain why the Wealden males are far more aggressive than their cousins elsewhere - they're primarily oak sap feeders, inhabiting a landscape where veteran oaks are frequent.

Fighting to the End!

Please don't think that worn and torn males are past it... That's not how they see things. They fight to the bitter end.

A few seconds after this photo was taken this male launched his mobility scooter in pursuit of a stick lobbed up in front of him, shouting "Come back and I'll bite your legs off!" -

And this worn and broken male was last seen in pursuit of a Chaffinch -

Dining with the Emperor - Countryfile 9 July with John Craven

Now available on BBC iPlayer at c.51.20 mins
Image by Andy Wyldes

Monday, July 10, 2017

Savernake Ova

I had to journey to Lyneham in Wiltshire today to pick up our pooch which had been holidaying there with relatives, so I took the opportunity to stop off in Savernake. Having visited with Matthew previously in the Autumn to look for larvae I thought I ought to see if I could catch up with the adults -  with some success. There was only intermittent sunshine through the lunchtime period and I managed mostly brief views of five males along three oak drive and around the column - although one did an extended glide across the avenue about 20ft up. Good numbers of Purple Hairstreak were showing on the oaks and a lady showed me a picture of a nice Valezina she had taken on one of the rides. One of the chaps Emperor watching mentioned he and seen a female the day before so I made a note to return to do a bit of searching on the way home - well the dog needed a walk!
I returned to the North of the forest about 5:30pm and focused my search on a few bushes where I had found Larvae with Matthew, and after 45mins and on the third bush which had perfect foliage, bingo a fresh green ova - very satisfying.
Kind regards


On Friday, my friend Nick and I made our annual pilgrimage to Fermyn from Tring and Portsmouth respectively, and as usual, the great site did not disappoint, exceeding my expectations at this relatively late point in the season (this year). 

It was buzzing with life as huge numbers of various hawker dragonflies, brown butterflies, skippers and nymphalids did their thing. 

And of course the emperors showed well, too – we counted 60 in all, although some of these could have been repeat sightings. We were treated to some very close encounters with two grounded and ageing males, one of which was very tired and flitted around us for a long time, landing close and often. 
A much fresher individual attracted our attention as it engaged a hawker dragonfly in a prolonged high-speed and very acrobatic chase before landing low in a hazel bush and starting to feed from a leaf right under our noses. 

This chase was testament to the aerial prowess of iris, as our male stayed right on the hawker's tail until he had shooed the miniature missile from his adopted territory.   

In a previous Fermyn blog Bill Seager reported high numbers of paphia at Fermyn, as well as valezina females. We also saw huge numbers including a copulating pair and those valezina females, one of which was so dark that I momentarily thought I was going mad and was looking at a freakishly gigantic speckled wood - I was delighted to read Bill's blog after this trip to see he had made the same comparison. 
I’ve had a great summer this year sharing emperors with several friends. I hope I can manage one more evening trip to Knepp this week on my own – it’ll be worth it just to watch the shadows lengthen on the rides while hoping for the tell-tale silhouette of a late-season emperor. 

More Dispersal?

I have just noticed a post on the Hants BC website of an Empress on  wheelie bin at Paulsgrove - this is a very urban housing estate about 3Km from the nearest colony that I know of on the Southwick estate to the north and she would have to have flown over Portsdown Hill (350ft amsl) to get there - more evidence perhaps?
I also seem to remember one on  a wheelie bin at Emsworth a few years ago - a new baiting strategy perhaps one for Matthews picnic?
Kind regards

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Elegant Empress

I visited Cranborne Woods in Dorset last weekend looking for His Imperial Majesty, but as the heat was a bit overpowering, I struggled. I did manage to see what I'm sure were 2 battling males but the sighting was very brief, one second zooming overhead, the next gone. I re-visited the wood again today, but again I failed to turn up anything all morning along with other observers. I was making my way back when I noticed a very large butterfly drifting over an oak, it flew past me over a gap between the oaks. It was vast, graceful and very elegant, a fresh looking Empress. Seen very well underneath as she effortlessly powered off over the trees. I had not had a bad day seeing 2 valezina Silver-washed Fritillaries in the woods, but this really made the trip worthwhile.

Countryfile: Sun July 9th - The Emperor's Breakfast

Warning of High Level Insanity: Hulme & Oates will be staging The Emperor's Breakfast on Countryfile tomorrow, most likely before or after the Weather Forecast, with John Craven.

It should be a cracker. It was filmed in Fermyn Woods, and the butterfly performed spectacularly.

Hulme and Oates are likely to be Sectioned after this...

Mis-identification - Ab. Corax?

Forgive me a little indulgence. Since my sighting of an almost black aberration of Iris, I have been improving my understanding of the history of Iris aberration classification and the mythical ab. Iole. I was first struck by his strikingly jet black appearance. He was so dark that it was easy to track him even in flight as he flew up into the oaks and returned to his puddle. My first instinct was lugenda. However, aberrations like lugenda are described only in terms of absence or presence of white markings. This specimen clearly has a strikingly different ground colour. The photographs all look extremely dark.
I looked carefully at the cover of Frohawk's "Varieties of British Butterflies" and noted that this specimen with two upper wing clear white spots was very close to the Cotgrave specimen. This specimen has since been classified as ab. beroe. However, there is no doubt that there is the presence of a third faint white spot on the forewing on the Cotgrave aberration.
 I looked at UK butterflies and read an exact description of the Cotgrave specimen above.
Ab. Corax 
The ground colour of the upper side strongly black like the crow with a strong bluish reflection. Forewings with only two white spots, the apical and second marginal, the third is absent or almost so. Hindwing's with no trace of the transverse band, only some hairs of bluish grey. The anal eye is not pupilled.
I could not have written a better description of these photographs.
Ab. Corax - am I right? - Comments please!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Dispersal, continued

Yesterday, Steve Croxford saw a female fly through his garden; he lives about 2 km from the nearest iris woods. So, this season, we have seen iris [2 females, one male] three times well away from their habitats: all about 2 km from their woods. Does this happen later in the season always?

Working Late Season Emperors

Males have largely stopped sallow searching(for virgin females) and tend to now take the mornings off. They become active in  territories after 12.30, though in very hot weather they may quieten down for an hour around 4pm, before kicking off again in the evening (usually till around 7.30pm). Much depends on whether there is a rival male around, for males in single occupancy territories can become very quiet on hot weather.  

Today, I counted 22 males on territories on the Knepp PE transect (+ 3 females). This compares to a peak season count of 36. Last year's peak count was a mere 18.

Here's Herself being elusive on a minor sap bleed, from yesterday - 

High Flight at Fermyn

Successive days of fine weather in what is normally "peak purple time" was marked this year on Thursday July 6th with the observation that for much of the day, the Fermyn Light Horse had the Ladywood/Southerwood complex to themselves. The high cloud broke up during late morning leaving us gasping in the heat. There is still plenty of male Iris activity to observe, albeit from the ground looking up into the tops of the trees, and we recorded 15 individuals during our patrol from 08.30 to 1600 hours. Most of our sightings were brief glimpses of desultory short circuits around the oaks, but as the heat intensified we saw a male flush a female - the only one we saw this day - out of a sallow by the deer hide at SP97818417. Our best view was of a spectacular combat late afternoon at SP971847 where we had not seen Iris before. They battled each other high into the sky and we lost them from view. We have not encountered the female activity we expected to see, and have yet to find the secret to where they go, in what is a vast area of suitable habitat. An observation of a different kind reveals that Paphia is now the most likely encounter to be had. The number of individuals we saw do not bear publishing for fear of ridicule. Suffice it to say that we have never seen such numbers of this species. Males and females were in abundance, mainly on the still-flowering brambles. In two concentrated areas of the wood, we saw the famous courtship flights, and also copulation - not a very elegant sight as the males towed the females around in flight quite often - and at least two Valezina females. The first, before 9am, at SP98108433 by the Lyvedon way footpath sign. It was a very dark specimen - like a giant Speckled Wood? (The area has been well-trodden so somebody must have been fortunate enough in obtaining a picture). The other may be found along with high numbers of the usual form, by seeking them out early afternoon when the sun shines directly on the area close to the Deer Hide located at SP97828475. If you enter the small track at 97958471 (you will see a number 4 on a tree stump on your left as you go a few metres up the trail) follow this track up to the brambles on your right maybe 100 yards? and perhaps you too will enjoy the kind of action we saw this day. (The grass paths to the deer hides have been cut, affording good access on foot). As the sun left the brambles, the females seemed to disappear, leaving the males to feed on the flowers, which they did greedily. Most of them were in fine shape.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Knepp Still Going Strong

The Purple Emperor is still going strong at Knepp, although hot and sunny mornings can be very slow now. Today followed this pattern, but by the time I'd bumped into John Woodward, of Steyning Downland Scheme fame, things were livening up. We got some fantastic views of His Imperial Majesty through John's telescope.

I later met a couple I know through Steyning U3A, just in time to share a point-blank view of an empress dropping to the ground in an attempt to shake off an over-enthusiastic male; later repeated by another female in exactly the same spot. At one point I saw three females laying eggs in a sheltered sallow grove, and by the time they'd stopped flying I'd seen a total of 47 individuals.

The highpoint for me today was watching a pair of males doing almost non-stop battle over the pond beside the barn on the green lane. I was mesmerised for an hour, during which they were in combat flight for about 45 minutes. And I won't forget the White Admiral which I spent an hour photographing as it repeatedly perched within a metre of where I stood. I'll be back again as soon as possible, to drink in more of Knepp's magic.

concerning dispersal

Matthew comments on dispersal when the season is past its peak. I have noticed, both here and in Switzerland, that females may be seen flying decisively, at low altitude, and in a straight line, away from a wood. They are presumably seeking another wood in order to spread their progeny as far and wide as possible. We saw this again two days ago. In mid-Bucks there is a wonderful private estate within which there are 6 ancient woods, all within an area of 9 sq. km. Iris is found in all 6 woods, and, since the distances between neighbouring woods is not more than a few hundred metres, HIM will fly from wood to wood [although we would need to carry out marking and recapture to prove this.....tricky with HIM!].
In one of the high point territories, we watched 3 males engaged in aerial battles for 20 minutes; one of them, the largest, always prevailed and returned to patrolling his canopy between two ashes and an Oak.
We returned to our cars parked near a farmhouse several hundred yards from any of the woods when we saw a female fly past us at head level at a rate of knots, on her way to the wood we had left.

Towards Closing Time...

The Emperor season is now quite well into its second half. The bulk of the butterflies could burn out quite quickly in this hot weather. Be warned.

Also, quite a few of them may well disperse.  This something we've rather overlooked hitherto. I've been amazed by the extent to which the males have been wandering at Knepp this year. Relatively few have been setting up territories, most sightings have been of males exploring extensively.

Two ab. lugendas have been photographed: a pristine female in Fermyn Woods, Northants, and a splendid male in the Notts site. Also, I saw a lugenda-type male at Knepp, in flight, from beneath - they look very red from below. But it got beaten up by a typical male and wandered off.

This coming weekend will be the final good one for this season. Make the most of it.   

Here's Herself cleaning her tongue in a bush - 

Apologies for my lack of postings but my laptop system doesn't like the new Knepp wifi or vice versa...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Cotgrave Wood update

Cotgrave Wood in Notts is probably the most northerly location for Iris. We do not know for sure but it is possible the colony was started by an unauthorised release, 5 years ago. Nevertheless, Iris has survived and we have enjoyed Emperors here every year since. This year, the first three males were seen on June 24th and this emergence was disrupted by pretty much four days of non-stop rain. I arrived this morning to photograph my first grounded Iris at 10.15a.m., which was disturbed as a bulldog charged into his puddle for a drink. It was then that I noticed a much darker specimen grounded nearby. I took a few photographs, and would very much like anyone to verify, but I believe it is the aberration lugenda.

He was very flighty and it was quite dull, however, on and off he was taking salts for four hours and most visitors had the pleasure of both the sighting and photographs. Overall, a fantastic day and, together with a newly emerged Sister Quercus, yesterday, I have enjoyed a fabulous two days at Cotgrave.

Never the same Knepp twice

A Saturday Knepp session outside of peak hours, timed purely for convenience, allowed me to introduce my old pal Jim to 30+ emperors. The presence of empresses meant the party was in and around the sallows; we saw plenty of amorous behaviour obligingly low down, including a rejection dive that, memorably, brought a pair to within a metre of us and ended with them flitting about our faces. Stoat, grass snake and turtle doves also said hello. More heady stuff for the memory bank.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Battered in Bentley

A trip to Bentley Woods in Wiltshire was planned for today as the day looked a good sunny one.
I arrived at 9.30 and by 9.45 had a battered tatty male Purple Emperor down on a silver Volkswagon in the famous car park. Indeed it did seem to approve of this car brand as it moved from bonnet to registration number, eventually settling on the badge. Very interesting, perhaps there is a Golf in our knowledge of HIM's preferred car brands!
As I was about to leave the car park another drifted over. I set off on the main ride and had only walked a short distance before I put up a male in much better condition. This male settled at my feet for a short time before flying up for a rest 10 ft up on a hazel leaf.
Another was seen at Donkey Copse resting at the top of a tree. I made my way back to the car park and drove off down the track on my way out only to see another out the car window low down on an oak, but it did not stay for photos. A grand total of 5 was very pleasing as I had not seen my usual quota of His Imperial Majesty for 2017 as I've been spoilt at Fermyn in recent years.