Monday, December 9, 2019

2nd Brood Empress!

Believe this or not... A second brood Empress was seen flying low down and close to by a reliable recorder in woods near Milton Keynes on, wait for it, November 20th.  

As Fred Trueman used to say on TMS, "I don't know what's going off out there..."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Book Announcement...

Draft cover.  Currently scheduled to be launched on June 11th.  Price not determined yet.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Breeding Tip

At last I've worked out how to prevent captive iris larvae from crawling on to their sleeve: tie a wide band of moss around the branch, just before the neck of the sleeve. Bingo! Problem solved (I've lost a few wintering larvae in the sleeve neck over the years).

There's a hibernating 'pillar in the fork here (rather out of focus). I've only got two this year. I rear a few every year to keep me in contact with the butterfly and to indicate development progress in the wild.  

Sunday, November 3, 2019

2020 Purple Emperor Calendar

I haven't posted this year as for family reasons I had to move from Purple Paradise in Switzerland back to what is currently something of a Purple Desert in East Suffolk. But I've been following the season by proxy with interest.

For loyal subjects wishing to keep a note of all those purple-letter days next year or looking for a gift with a difference, I'm reproducing last year's calendar, illustrating all stages of His Majesty with three photos a month, all taken in the month they accompany. If you were kind enough to buy last year's calendar, I hope you were pleased with it. Please note these are the same pictures - I haven't been in a position to take new ones!

For more details and a preview of all months, please see HERE. I'm also selling a Swiss Butterflies calendar, HERE.

Apologies for the shameless plug - but I did make the Purple Emperor calendar specifically for contributors to this site!


Monday, October 28, 2019

Knepp 2019 PE Data

The Purple Emperor flew for fifty days at Knepp in 2019.  That is, seven weeks and a day - the longest Purple Emperor flight season on record. This means that it had a long, flat peak (as opposed to the normal five day peak season pinnacle). The first was seen on June 25th, the last on August 13th (though it was rare after July 24th).

Monitoring Data
We have two monitoring data sets at Knepp: 1) derived from arduous day counts during the peak season period, when we try to cover as much of the 450ha / 1100 acres as possible, and 2) from the single-species transect down Green Lane. The second is seriously kosher.

Day count data suggests that numbers at Knepp were about one-third of those of 2018, but Neil and I were leading so many guided walk groups that we did not manage to conduct a thorough count in fine weather during the peak season period. I managed two day counts of 108, both of which can be calibrated up to 130 to allow for annoying cloud, and Neil’s peak count was 113. This compared to three day counts of over 300 in 2018 (with a maximum of 388 on July 2nd, by Neil) and a peak day count of 148 in 2017. 

The Green Lane transect data is far more accurate. It indicates that numbers were half those of 2018. This is a single species transect, walked weekly (for six weeks) during reasonable weather (wind needs to be < Moderate strength), during afternoons when males are on territory, and with a 50m recording box. 

Knepp Green Lane Purple Emperor transect data

Total Counted
Peak Count

It seems that Purple Emperor numbers stood up remarkably well at Knepp in 2019, considering the number of factors impacting against the butterfly* and how poorly it fared elsewhere. This may be because the Knepp population is still building. 

*  2018 had been an annus mirabilis for the Purple Emperor.  However, no rain was recorded at Knepp between 31st May and 28th July, and many sallow bushes dropped sub-canopy leaves holding eggs and young larvae. By mid-July the ground beneath most of the young sallow stands was carpeted in fallen leaves. It was inevitable, then, that 2019 was going to see a drop in Purple Emperor numbers, though this was mitigated to some extent by 2018’s profuse egg lay.

The second half of February 2019 was very mild, causing some hibernating larvae to waken and expend valuable energy, long before sallows had started to leaf. Some would have perished. 

Worse, the mild February (and a mild winter in general) led to a population explosion of Umber moths (Mottled Umber and possibly Dotted Border and Scarce Umber). Their larvae feed profusely on sallows during mid- to late May, lacerate the foliage and set Purple Emperor larvae back, or even out-compete them (I'm starting to work on this area of Purple Emperor ecology; it’s crucial, as these moths may well be increasing due to mild winters generated by climate change).

Furthermore, as a result of drought stress, a great many sallows at Knepp Wildland and elsewhere came into leaf unusually late in 2019 – long after Purple Emperor larvae should have begun to feed. Sallows had put their efforts into flowering instead. Indeed, 2019 was a prolific sallow flowering (and seeding) year. Many sallows, particularly the narrow-leaved varieties, did not come into leaf until late May. Purple Emperor larvae on them would have struggled, or died.

Finally, after good weather for larval development during April and May, June saw a lengthy spell of cool wet weather from the 2nd to the 18th inclusive, when many Purple Emperor larvae would have been pupating. Evidence suggests that the longer Purple Emperors spend pupating and the longer they're forced to stay in the pupal stage, the fewer of them fly. Predation / mortality seems to be high in the pupal stage.

Fortunately, three factors were in the Purple Emperor’s favour: 1) the profuse egg lay of 2018, 2) a relatively low predation rate on hibernating larvae (by titmice), and 3) fine feeding weather during April and May. Also, flight season weather was good, until late July.   

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Autumn Larvae

For the last 11 years I've conducted standardised searches for iris larvae in Savernake Forest, Wiltshire. This year's total is 15, the lowest tally during the 11 years.  

There are several reasons, but the three week wet spell in June, when larvae were pupating, is probably the most important - the longer iris spends pupating and as pupae, the fewer adults fly.  

Now, larvae are starting to colour up prior to hibernation (one at Knepp Wildland is about 80% coloured already). 

They construct silk highways up their seat leaf midrib. This one's done that, and has also constructed a bypass! (Savernake, today) -

Sallow Leaf Mildew is prevalent this autumn. It looks as though iris larvae can consume a fair amount of it without ill effect, like this one (feeding damage, top left) - 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Poor Egg Lay

The 2019 egg lay seems to be extremely poor. I'm struggling to find early autumn larvae in Savernake Forest, and think that this will be by far the poorest year in 11 years of dedicating monitoring there (through standardised counts). I've also struggled in Sussex, though some of my favourite trees there have been felled.

Today, in three hours of actual searching on several favourite trees in Savernake, I found precisely none. However, I found May feeding marks and silk pads from a larva I missed finding last Sept when I searched that tree; then I found the remnants of a pupal case about 2m away (of a male) - 

This is only the second time I've found an old pupal case whilst looking for autumn larvae in Savernake, in well over 400 hours of actual searching.  

For the record, larvae are just going into the third instar now, a little late. Here's an L2 larva - 

Monday, August 5, 2019

1600m up!

Discovered a colony of Purple Emperors in a partially wooded ravine 1575m up on a steep, heavily wooded north-facing slope in the Catalan Pyrenees today. Two of the three seen were feeding on sap oozing from Woolly Thistle heads which have been damaged by weevils and beetles.  

Here's an old male (centre) -

And here's the site, centre, from a distance. The rides in this pine wood were lined with highly suitable-looking sallows but we didn't see any Emperors there, maybe the butterfly simply hasn't found these isolated rides yet.

In the afternoon we watched Lesser Purple Emperor males behaving appallingly - every bit as badly as Purple Emperor males - clashing and chasing, from perching points on birch and sallow along a shady leeward edge (it was quite windy) in 30 Celsius - 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Ilia Nailed

Today I finally nailed the Lesser Purple Emperor. Three males were imbibing minerals where a stream crossed a rough track. 

Here's a couple of males from there -

Not be be outdone, Herself put in an appearance (two females, one pristine, one worn) - 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Doings in the Pyrenees...

The Purple Emperor population has crashed in the Catalan Pyrenees. We are struggling to see any, whereas this time last year I counted fifty in a day and photographed three feeding together on sap flowing from a weevil-damaged Woolly Thistle bud. And the butterfly is definitely at peak season now.

Not sure why, yet, but suspect that adults got knocked out just after I left last early August by torrential thunderstorms, and scarcely laid any eggs; and / or tiny L1 larvae got washed off leaf surfaces by other thunderstorms. We are checking the local weather data. Certainly, there were a number of deluges here last August.  

Maybe the butterfly has different population dynamics up here?

Today, I found a colony 1650m up north of Setcases, in a valley bottom. Here's the habitat -

Thursday, August 1, 2019

It's a wrap at Fermyn

2019 was not a bad year at Fermyn, but perhaps His Majesty was not as prolific as the last few years. Extensive ride widening may have had an impact on the usual hotspots, but I'm sure the unsettled weather in the weeks leading up to emergence played it's part. A late year, with first sightings occurring well into the first week of July (a whole two weeks later than 2018). Once out, they did not come in a rush either with pristine individuals present after what would normally be their 'sell by date'. So quality, not quantity this year.....but those abs! 👌

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mark and Never See Again...

Off to the Catalan Pyrenees to attempt mark and recapture work on iris... Returning home on Aug 9th. 

This what a team of us will be doing, led by Catalan scientist and high priest of the Painted Lady (the only butterfly capable of mixing it with iris males on territory) Constanti Stefanescu -  

Previous attempts at this piece of basic science, here in the UK, have amounted to mark-and-never-see-again...  In Catalonia it should be much easier, in theory, because both sexes readily come down to feed on sap flowing from Woolly Thistle buds that have been damaged by various beetles and weevils. The sap seems to be more of a soporific than a stimulant to iris, in fact they seem to get stoned on it. Netting them on the thistles is relatively easy.  

The Purple Emperor flies much later in the Pyrenees than here, and should be at peak season there. However, numbers may be down this year as a large number of riverside sallows got washed away by a severe flood last October.   

Watch this space. This is going to be at the very least, Silly...

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A pretty special day had with the kids at Lyveden on Friday. Our third attempt at Purple Emperor spotting. I was being ambitious as always as our previous attempts challenged my ability to maintain the kids (aged 3 and 7) enthusiasm staring up at some treetops.  

We think we had success at Foxley Wood the weekend before, but the powerful and highly energetic suspect was far too quick to be 100% certain as it shot down from a row of oak trees to pass my shoulder and back up to the tree tops. There were a good number of White Admirals to confuse matters. This ramped up my intrigue and determination to have a definite sighting. 

We set off on the Lyveden way footpath to Fermyn. They’d been storms and heavy rainfall upon our arrival. Luckily this passed and we set out. By sheer fluke I spotted this tired male in the grass beside 
Lady Wood, trying desperately to fly but he had hopefully lived his expected lifespan. It gave us a good display of its yellow tongue and beautiful iridescent wings. A moment I’ll treasure.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

How Good Was 2019 at Knepp?

Neil and I run a Purple Emperor (single species) transect along a 2km stretch of green lane at Knepp Wildland. 

Method: weekly count throughout the PE season, afternoons only (when males are on territory), 50m box (the UK BMS 2.5m box mainly records males on dog poo), and windy weather restrictions (c/f tree tops). We developed it in 2014 and  2015, and launched it in 2016.  

Given that the 2019 season lasted just five weeks (most seasons do, though 2018 stretched to six weeks), the data set now runs -

                    2016      54
                    2017    114
                    2018    201
                    2019      98

It is hard to explain why 2019 was so much better than 2016, other than by suggesting that the Knepp population is still in building phase. 

Why were numbers so down on 2018? First, no rain fell at Knepp between 31st May and 28th July 2018, causing many sallows to drop their sub-canopy leaves - on which most eggs are laid. Secondly, Purple Emperor numbers are heavily influenced by June weather, and June 2019 was cool and wet (bar the last week).  

Monday, July 22, 2019

Knepp Update - Going Over

A bit too cloudy for much of today, so I struggled to see Purple Emperors. Eventually I managed seven old and battered males and five females (two in reasonable condition, two frayed around the edges and one utterly ragged). Most were in one small area, around a favoured feeder tree.

Advise: don't visit (unless you live locally), they're going over fast.

Brown Hairstreak just starting. Too early to say whether they'll be good or not.  Watch this space...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Excellent news from Norfolk.  The return after a 50 year absence of Iris to Foxley Wood NWT.  Photos on Norfolk Butterfly Conservation facebook page.  Have not heard of anything from Sheringham Park NT.

Knepp Decimated

Am back at Knepp after an enforced absence. The place got hit by a severe thunderstorm + stair-rod rain on Friday evening. I struggled to see a few males late this afternoon but will find out the extent of the damage tomorrow. Advise: don't travel a long distance to visit Knepp this season, they're probably going over...

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Apatura iris on Buddleia

This fresh-looking female was photographed today in my godson's garden at Wonston, near Sutton Scotney in Hampshire. I've still never seen iris feeding on flowers, other than once on Sweet Chestnut flowers.

PS  This stimulated the reporting of a male on Buddleia near Cambridge North Station. That's serious, as it suggests that Cambridge has declared itself Purple ahead of Oxford (though I'm confident PE has been breeding in Port Meadow for years)...

Leics & Staffs Come Out!

Delighted to report records of lone males from Leics and Staffs, the first for these counties for a very long time.

On July 16th a male was seen and photoed at Charnwood Lodge Nature Reserve near Coalville in the Charnwood Forest region of Leics (NE of Leicester and close to the Derbys border). Here's the proof of evidence -

This means that it well worth looking for iris in parts of the new National Forest around Ashby de la Zouch, and into Derbys around Ticknall. I've visited these areas out of season and have noted much highly suitable habitat... Once colonised, the butterfly could abound there...

PS  I've just learnt of a record from woodland just NW of Leicester last year.

The Staffs record is of a fresh male at a window near Rugeley, in Cannock Chase on 18th July, i.e. to the north-west of Birminghamshire (where the Sandwell Valley needs checking).  

These sightings are the legacy of the Great Purple Emperor Season of 2018.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

50 Years On...

Fifty years ago tomorrow, Sunday July 21st, IRP Heslop netted a small but near-pristine male specimen of what was almost a full ab. iole, just east of where the Bentley Wood car park now stands - after having been up all night watching the moon landing. 'Never have I a caught a specimen so easily', he wrote in his diary. The specimen resides in Bristol Museum. Here it is -

Will someone please visit Bentley Wood tomorrow morning and do the necessary honours (I am hors de combat)?

Castor Hanglands

Following a tip-off that the weather would improve from the morning's cloud and drizzle, we decided to "hang a right" on the A47 to Castor Hanglands on the off-chance of observing some purple action. This site has a good selection of habitats and subsequently holds both grassland and woodland butterflies. A mid-morning arrival in damp conditions did not put us off as it is often the case that the insects will take full advantage of any changes in the weather for the better.

The sun broke through the cloud cover at 11.50 and within five minutes, we observed two emperors jousting at the top of a large oak at the side of the metalled track. (A clue that this area was the right place to be was the number of banana skins strewn about the track). A few minutes later, another male emperor was seen to come down from his lofty perch and conduct two circuits in a search of a particularly good sallow before zooming up and over a nearby oak. This action took place around a bend in the track and as the cloud cover once again obscured the sun, we had a good look at the sallows in the area, which all appeared to be in fine condition.

Another pleasing observation was in the number of purple hairstreaks in the oaks. These were fresh females and they came down to head height on a number of occasions throughout our five hour stay. In all we had seven sightings of His Majesty, maybe three individuals, but possibly four as what appeared to be a larger insect dived into a huge likely-looking sallow and was not seen to reappear. I would skip the banana baits in favour of some Belacan shrimp paste and perhaps some lucky person may lure HIM down on the track here, when conditions are more amenable? At no time did I get the camera out today, the binoculars allowing me to concentrate on observing purple behaviour.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

var. afflicta at Bernwood, Bucks.

First post here.

Here are a couple of pictures of an aberrant Purple Emperor I took this morning at Bernwood, Bucks. I assume it's ab. afflicta. I saw 4 Purple Emperors in total, one in flight, and 3 on the ground, including this one. All looked a bit worse for wear.

I'd seen 5 on the morning of 11th July but none on the ground. 

Mark Griffiths, Oxford.

Starting to go over at Knepp....

Already, the 2019 Purple Emperor season is on the wane at Knepp Wildland. I struggled to see 35 yesterday. The last should be seen here around July 26th.

From now on they will be afternoon butterflies only. Don't look for them here before 11.45am, and don't expect them to come down to the ground at all. 

Male activity will become increasingly localised and episodic, around favoured territories and feeder trees. 

Females will be active in the sallow jungles between noon and 3pm, and around sap bleeds. The good news is that the weather is set fair and the sallow foliage is in good condition for egg laying.

Early indications are that this year's Knepp PE transect tally will be around 95-98, compared to 201 last year and 114 in 2017.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

How to Watch Emperors...

Great to spot this couple watching a brace of sparring males at Knepp Wildland yesterday. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Particularly Appalling Behaviour...

During the latter stages of yesterday's (farcical) cricket world cup final (which NZ should have won, having lost fewer wickets) I witnessed a patrolling male iris break up a mating pair. This was in an ash tree used annually by the Brown Hairstreak (first male seen here yesterday). I don't know how long the pair had been mating for - maybe they were ready to separate anyway - but a searching male continually pestered them, trying to muscle in, and managed to break them apart. The female promptly flew off in a huff. 

I managed to see 40 Purple Emperors here yesterday, despite prodigious amounts of cloud and the destraction provided by TMS commentary. However, the season is now into its second half here, as illustrated by this worn and torn Empress -

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Brilliant Day!

I decided to take a break from Purple Emperor watching today and look for the elusive Brilliant Emerald dragonfly at Warren Heath, North Hampshire today. It was very cloudy on arrival and so my hopes to see this green jewel of an insect were not high. I made my way to the pools whilst a glimmer of sun made the Ringlets active, then suddenly I noticed a large butterfly above a sallow, a gliding Purple Emperor. This was at around, 11.30, I saw it again at 13.35 and 13.53. I'm pretty sure it was a female on large size, it was sticking to the same area along the ride. The majority of the habitat was not what I would call typical of iris as there were many tall conifers, but some tall oaks and sallows were present. There were good numbers of Silver-washed Fritillaries and a White Admiral was also present. I have not heard of Purple Emperors being recorded here before, but it is a large wooded area which may hold a low density spread out population. By the way I did see two or three Brilliant Emeralds as well!

The area along the ride I saw the Purple Emperor

All about.Abs

It's been hard work at Fermyn these last two weeks. Numbers down considerably on last year. However, there seems to have been more frequent sightings of aberrations. What this might be down to is anyone's guess but I suspect the unpredictable weather and temperatures may be a factor. I was fortunate enough to witness this beautiful ab.afflicta high above us in a fir tree next to a master oak in the Souther Wood ride. Inexplicably he decided to sail down and investigate my blue folding bike, creeping along, dabbing the cross bar (traces of sweat?) before flitting off to return to the bike tyres. I have seen male emperors on car tyres before, so this was not a surprise. All in all he was down for about ten minutes which gave ample time to get plenty of shots.

Slow Ton at Knepp

I managed to get the hundred up at Knepp yesterday, but it was a slow grind (Boycottian in fact, though the ball was not coming on to the bat). I ended up on 108 but would have seen around 125 had dense patchy cloud (unforecast) not spilled over from 2pm - the Emperors then became active only during the sunny spells.

I scored one six, two fours, two tumbledowns and a mating pair (again, in the highestmost spray of a sheltered oak crown, along a leeward edge, with the female flying up into a territory occupied by a lone male; they joined after a 2 minute follow-my-leader courtship flight). 

The male emergence is probably almost complete here now, and morning sallow searching is starting to abate. Very soon the Purple Emperor will become an afternoon butterfly here. By next weekend look for them only after 11.45am.

In terms of numbers, I think they are about one-third of last year's abundance and two-thirds of the norm. However, Purple Emperor doesn't have bad seasons (other, lesser butterflies do...)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Emergence at CFW

The purple wave has rippled northwards to the ‘Emperor Arctic Circle’ of Lincolnshire. Spotted my first Purple Emperor out at Chambers Farm Wood (CFW), near Lincoln, on Wednesday 10th July 2019.

Like buses...

Like buses... wait ages for one, and then 3 come along together! Well, that's Me and Purple Emperor aberrations! I've waited over 50 years to see a Purple Emperor aberration, not even a sniff of one before, and now three have come along at the same time! Literally!

I've been expecting a dig in the ribs by 'management', followed by the phrase, "wake up!", but so far that hasn't happened; so I guess I haven't dreamt it! Also, it was good to share the experience of the second and third aberrations with Bill Seager, who, like me, had not seen a Purple Emperor aberration before. (It was great to meet you Bill!)

I was in the Lady Wood/Souther Wood complex on Thursday 11th July when I spotted the first aberration, which circled around in front of me before alighting on a conifer about 12 feet up. My heart started racing as I tried to get a semi-reasonable photograph of it with the macro lens. I got a few record shots, but not the best in the world.

Aberrant 1 - Upperside

Aberrant 1 - Underside

With the focussing square firmly on the butterfly, another Purple Emperor aberration flew past at chest height. Now, imagine the dilemma: keep focussed on the first aberration, 12 foot up, or follow the second? The second aberration did a U-turn, flying back towards me, and then took a fancy to my right leg. It then circled low down, above an area on the track where I had deposited one of my concoctions. Finally, it landed on the track nearby and I decided to now focus on this one, firing off a few shots with the camera. It only remained on the ground for about 30 seconds and was then off again.

Aberrant 2 - Upperside

Aberrant 2 - Underside

It circled around me a few times, before making off along the track. I gave pursuit and fortunately, at this point, the cavalry appeared, in the form of Bill Seager of the Fermyn Light Horse, apparently a well-known regiment in these parts! Bill saw me pursuing it and immediately realised what it was. The Emperor doubled back again, and tantalisingly it looked like it was going to settle on the track, but then flew round the conifer and landed about 20 foot up. Grey cloud rolled in and we watched the aberrant, which remained in place for over one hour, occasionally turning, occasionally closing its wings and occasionally flapping its wings to ward off marauding bees. When the sun came out, the aberrant still remained rooted to the spot and we witnessed further Emperor activity around the conifer with at least 6 normally-marked male Purple Emperors flying further up. All of this time, the original aberration that I had spotted had remained in place. With these two aberrant butterflies settled in the conifers, we both then witnessed another aberrant Emperor flying in; this one was even darker than the other 2 aberrations, both of which I could still see up in the conifers. This third aberration didn't land, but worked its way around and then up and over the conifers. As the skies leadened, the other two flew up and over the conifers and all flying activity ceased. I had remained there all day, but eventually realised that I wasn't going to see any more, so departed for home.

I still can't really comprehend what happened, but those butterflies certainly made two grown men very happy that day!
Rather hard going at Fermyn today, but managed a couple of grounded males.  Click the link to see!

Emperors at Fermyn

Friday, July 12, 2019

Peak Season at Knepp

The Purple Emperor is now at peak season at Knepp. There are probably a few males and several females still to emerge, but some of the more kamazi males will already have died out (and many more will have dispersed). Last year males emerged over a 20 day period, today is Day 17 of the season at Knepp.

I managed to see eight females today, including this tatty female -

Most males, though, are in good condition, including this stroppy male, defending a territory known as Gratuitous Violence today -

However, males have virtually ceased coming down to the ground at Knepp for the year (surprisingly few groundings have been recorded there this year, by the way). Instead, you may see gatherings on small sap bleeds, like this grouping, taken at 7pm yesterday evening -

The forecast for tomorrow is terrific - don't miss out....

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Today at Knepp

I planned to do a big count today, and hoped to see over 150. However, large parts of the day were just a bit too cloudy, and the wind also became a little inhibitive too. I only managed 69...

Instead, I surveyed parts of the Wildland seldom (if ever) visited and was pleasantly surprised, finding Emperors in good numbers in terra nova - around new sallow thickets and sallow-lined streamsides. 

Males are still emerging in numbers, on Day 15 of the flight season here, and females still haven't got going properly. The emergence is certainly protracted this year, especially considering the fine weather.  

Both sexes are starting to visit sap bleeds on oaks. Here's a remarkable photo of five males on a small bleed, probably started by a woodpecker boring (it's not my photo, I wish it was...) -

Apatura iris in copula

Few people have witnessed Purple Emperors mating, mainly because it takes place high in the tree tops.

Yesterday at Knepp Wildland, I saw a pair join in the highest spray of a 60' tall oak, at 4.26 pm, after a short follow-my-leader courtship flight.  They settled on a twig, rather than on leaves.  They remained joined, end to end and wings closed, until cloud came over after 7.30, and they separated. They had mated for around 3 hrs 12-18 mins. 

They then roosted 2' apart there. A second male came in and roosted close by.

This is the 14th pairing I've seen from start to finish. Mating averages out at around 3 hours 40 minutes.

Lousy photos of course, due to distance -

Males are still emerging at Knepp, and the bulk of the females is probably yet to emerge - indicating, again, an unusually protracted emergence.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Numbers at Fermyn Woods

I was back again at Fermyn Woods on Monday (8th July) and on this occasion recorded 21 male Purple Emperors in the Lady/Souther Wood complex, along with my first sighting of a female Purple Emperor this year. No Purple Emperors were recorded from Cherry Lap Wood.

Last year, I made 3 trips to Fermyn whilst Purple Emperor was on the wing and was delighted to see 199 Purple Emperors. This year, on 3 similar visits, I have recorded 55 Purple Emperors. Based on this limited data, it would appear that numbers are between one quarter and one third of that experienced last year, which corresponds to Matthew Oates' observations that were reported in an earlier post.

Bentley off with a Bang!

After two previous unsuccessful visits to Bentley Wood looking for Purple Emperors I went today with high hopes. It was not long before I saw one over the car park with another gliding briefly high over the main track. The word got round that 3 were coming down low at the cross tracks, so another observer and myself moved swiftly along to where we saw one land on some horse manure, where it remained for around 25 minutes. Whilst the four observers were taking photos a horse wandered up to us which had apparently unseated it's rider, who later turned up unharmed, leading the horse off by foot. The Emperor remained down with this unfolding drama nearby. It was about to open it's wings when a large car came along, slowly went past, but that was our lot, it flew up and away. After a short wait it did return but only stayed down briefly. All this was happening from around 11 ish. Other observers witnessed a string of 5 flying over the trees and another grounded individual was seen near the car park. Altogether I would estimate around 10 were seen. I believe the first Emperors were seen here around 4th July from the log book. It was a great day for butterflies and watching scarce birds of prey in near perfect conditions.

Fresh male tucking in!

A quick snap before the car passed.