Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sun June 30th

Purple Emperor activity was suppressed today by variable amounts of cloud and by a moderate to fresh afternoon wind, coming from the west.  

Only 26 were seen at Knepp Wildland today, which is way below par for the site. They seem to be emerging unusually slowly this year, so it's hard to tell exactly where we are in the season. No females have been seen yet, which suggests it's still early days.

If you're visiting Knepp, the best activity is being seen in the middle section of Green Lane, especially around the pond.  

Elsewhere, the first were seen today in Botany Bay, Chiddingfold Forest, on the Surrey / Sussex border.  

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Odiham Starts

Very slow generally in Odiham (N Hampshire) with SWF just on the wing and the first White Admiral today (Sat). But surprise, surprise, a male Emperor briefly sighted in the usually reliable Basingstoke Canal assembly area at around 4pm. It's a start.....

Sat June 29th News

Briefly, as I'm heat struck and shattered....

Alice Holt Forest and Havant Thicket (both Hants) kicked off today, but none was seen in Chiddingfold Forest and Fermyn Woods.  

There was a modest emergence at Knepp Wildland today, but not the numbers I'd expected. I struggled to see 21 - which is rubbish for Day 6 at Knepp. None was seen there before 11.20 today.

The emergence pattern is odd this year, slow and stuttery: they should be coming out with a bang in this heat, but they're not.

As an aside, I saw a freshly emerged Peacock this evening - June 29th. This is the first time I've seen a fresh Peacock in June. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Fri June 28th News

None seen today in Alice Holt Forest, Bentley Wood and Botany Bay (Chiddingfold).  

Neil and I struggled to see 16 males at Knepp, mostly along the Green Lane. 

PE seems to be coming out very slowly indeed this year, despite the weather picking up well. It's an odd year...

Tomorrow could see the first decent emergence of the year at Knepp, and a start elsewhere.  

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Coming Out at KneppS

Seven males seen today at Knepp, including a pair battling away. Tomorrow should see the first reasonable emergence of the year there, and there should be a major emergence on Saturday. 

See previous post re access arrangements. 

Good that there's a lot of feisty immigrant male Painted Ladies about - these guys can really mix it with the Emperors.

Good to learn of a sighting of a freshly emerged male in Richmond Park on Wed June 19th.  

Here's one of today's rivals, 'high on his leafy throne' - 

Please note, in this moderate to fresh NE wind Emperors drift downwind to establish afternoon territories along south-facing or west-facing wood edges (downwind of sallows).  GO LEEWARD!

Another Ditchling Empress

Another Ditchling Common Empress photographed by pruni-finder general Dave Cook today, along with several sightings of presumed males. A male also photographed on Bracken by Vincent Oates (no relation to HIM). Ditchling looks like an underrated/under-visited site. I noted extensive top quality breeding habitat last year while surveying Black Hairstreak.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Knepp Kicks Off!

A brief sighting of a male Emperor yesterday at Knepp, by me. Today, two were seen, one of them by Neil and me, the other by reliable recorders.

They should be quite well out by the weekend.

White Admiral, Comma, Small Skipper, Marbled White and Purple Hairstreak are all coming out nicely there now, though Silver-washed Fritillary (scarce at Knepp) hasn't been seen yet.

Please see my earlier post re visiting arrangements.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

First Empress

Sussex pruni-finder general Dave Cook found a freshly emerged Empress at Ditchling Common yesterday evening (25 June), being beaten only by a few hours by Matthew's glimpse of a male at Knepp. 

The BC Hants & IOW Branch reports a single Emperor at North Baddesley on 24 June. 

Little Happening Still...

The Purple Emperor season still hasn't got going properly. For example, none seen yet at Alice Holt Forest, Hants.  However, another sighting from Bookham Common today, and at last a sighting at Knepp (albeit all too brief). 

The season should erupt very soon...

But, I dont think numbers are going to be anything like as good as last year, not least because of the bad June (there's heavy mortality in the pupal stage: the longer they stay as pupae, the fewer fly).  

Also, the males may be unusually lethargic, unless there are rival males around, to wind them up. There may be a lot of hanging about waiting for something to happen this year.  

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Not out at Knepp, but starting around London

No Purple Emperors seen yesterday or today at Knepp Wildland, in excellent weather. Last night was very cold, which could well have delayed an emergence. No White Admirals, Silver-washed Fritillary or White-letter Hairstreak out locally, and only just the odd Purple Hairstreak. Summer Comma brood just starting. Knepp's PE's maybe two or three days off. 

However, males were seen yesterday or today near Slough, in Epping Forest and at Northaw in Middx. So it seems that the outer London area sites are kicking off first this year.

Interestingly, there have been no further sightings at Bookham Common.  

Postscript (Sunday 23rd). Again no PEs at Knepp today, but the first White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak is kicking off. Suspect Knepp's PEs will start tomorrow, but numbers will be way down on last year's level.  

Watch this space...

Monday, June 17, 2019

We're Off!!!

First Purple Emperor of 2019 seen today at the Hill Farm territory at Bookham Common, Surrey, by Rob Hill. 100% kosher. A male that flew through the territory around 12.45pm.  

However, no others were seen, by Rob at Bookham, by Neil Hulme and Andy Wilson at Knepp, or by Mark Tutton in Alice Holt - and no White Admirals or Silver-washed Fritillaries either (but Purple Hairstreak at Bookham and Knepp). 

This suggests it's very early days. The weather in the Empire looks a bit dodgy for the next two days, but Thursday and Friday are looking good. 

I'm off to monitor HBF in Heddon Valley. Please text any further sightings through to me (07771 971488) and I'll put them on this blog.  

Also, a reminder that people of extreme Purple persuasion are welcome to join the People of Purple Pursuasion WhatsApp group. Text me if you want in.   

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Delayed Start...

This last week has been fairly disastrous for Purple Emperors. Like the White Admiral, their numbers are greatly reduced by poor weather during the pupal stage. 

They are unlikely to emerge during this cool, showery / wet and windy weather. It may be that the season will start on Wednesday or, more likely, Thursday this week.  

The season could be quite a long one, nationally, as some larvae pupated early, before the weather collapsed, whilst some late ones are still pupating. The photos below are of a pupating larva (female) taken today in Savernake Forest -

She was pupating 4m up on the lower branch of a storm-damaged veteran sallow (100 years +). I found her as a late L2 larva on Sept 10th, as Alastair Cook reached his final century, against India at The Oval. She is unlikely to emerge before July 7th.  

In all honesty, I don't think this is going to be a great iris season, but so much depends on the weather over the next few weeks.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Visiting Knepp Wildland

Knepp Castle Estate is looking forward to welcoming visitors for the 2019 Purple Emperor season. 

The butterfly is likely to start to emerge there on or around June 18th, and finish around July 26th, but watch this space for updates.

Butterfly folk in the UK are used to open access sites. Only a few Swallowtail localities are pay-for-entry sites. Knepp Wildland is pay-for-entry away from on the few public rights of way, as the estate is trying to make a living from sustainable wildlife tourism, rather than from unsustainable and exploitative agriculture (see Wilding by Isabella Tree, the Knepp story; copies are on sale at Knepp Go Down). The estate deserves your support.

There will be a designated Purple Emperor visitor car park close to the campsite and safari reception centre. This will be clearly signed and will run throughout the Purple Emperor season. The SatNav code is RH13 8NN. Please drive past the main (campsite) car park (on your left), and through the automatic barrier. The Purple Emperor Car Park is immediately on your right, just past the barrier. For more details please visit:

The estate asks £10 per vehicle for a day’s parking. For this you will have access to tea and coffee-making facilities in the Go Down, the Go Down loos, and can pick up a detailed hand-out on the Purple Emperor at Knepp, which contains a map of the recommended route. You will also be given a Knepp Wildland Purple Emperor 2019 wristband.

I planned this route. It goes through many of the best parts of the Wildland for Purple Emperors. It is clearly marked on the map and on site by purple-topped posts and purple ribbon on bushes and trees.

Please keep to this designated route, to avoid disturbance to sensitive wildlife and to prevent people getting lost (last year people were getting lost in the 458 hectare Wildland on a daily basis, in extreme heat). 

We would welcome your sightings. Please record these in the Records book on the Go Down table, or email them through to me on Neil Hulme and I are volunteers at Knepp Wildland, running Purple Emperor safaris (which were fully booked by the end of January) and conducting detailed monitoring. 

A few public rights of way cross the Wildland. Several of these do not run through good Purple Emperor areas but the green lane bridleway which goes from Countryman Lane, Shipley, down to Blonks Lane at the southern end does run through prime Purple Emperor country. There is a limited amount of roadside parking along Countryman Lane, but it is often taken up by dog walkers. The footpaths in from Dial Post also go through some reasonable Emperor terrain. Unfortunately, the Wildland is covered by two 1:2500 maps: No 134 for Crawley & Horsham and No 121 for Arundel & Pulborough. The best route is the designated Purple Emperor route from the Go Down, explained above.

The Wildland is grazed by longhorn cattle all year round, and is on Weald Clay. This combination means that paths can be hard and bumpy in dry weather, and very sticky in wet weather. Those of us with dodgy ankles and knees (#MeToo) take heed! First Aid assistance is available at The Go Down. The cattle are docile (but don’t walk between cow and young calf). Dogs on leads or under close control please.

The mobile phone signal is very bad in the Wildland, best near the villages. 

Note that Purple Emperors are unlikely to appear in last year’s numbers, due to the impact of the drought (no rain fell at Knepp between May 31st and July 28th 2018, and much foliage wilted). Many sallows are now dying (mainly the less favoured narrow-leaved varieties). It may be a season of quality rather than quantity.

See and     Enjoy your Emperors!

Sunday, June 9, 2019


As we battle the first of our big winter rains sweeping in off the Indian Ocean here in Australia, I remind myself that somewhere half a world away the days will soon be at their longest, and iris will be stirring. I'd like to wish all my fellow emperor subjects a wonderful few weeks, and if you wish to be added to the list of bloggers this season, please let me know before the end of June, as after that I'll be in the field myself and well out of range.

Here's the relevant page from Sandars' "Butterfly Book for the Pocket", published in 1939. He has iris emerging the second week in July. 

I wouldn't wait that long if I were you!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Sallows at Fermyn

From Dave Phillips

I took this picture this week at Bearshanks Wood, near Fermyn, where the sallows are very looking extremely poorly thanks to the "sallow spit" moths infestation. In Fermyn it is just as bad, if not worse thanks to the ride widening that has removed many of the sallows in the area with the highest concentration of emerging purple emperors (we all know where that is). 

Poor Weather Delay and State of Sallows News

Singletons of Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral have already been seen this year, in Sussex. However, the current poor weather should delay the start of the Emperor season. At this rate I think He will start on June 18th (which is what Neil Hulme has said all along). Emperors can get delayed for ages in the pupal stage by poor June weather.

Several observers have noted the poor state of sallows in various places. There are several causes: primarily, the impact of last year's drought and local infestations of small moth larvae, especially of the Mottled Umber. A large number of sallows are dying, though these are mainly the narrow-leaved varieties which are less favoured by the butterfly. More information is needed on this, please...  Where else are sallows badly affected? Let's share necessary information.

Here's a pic showing struggling sallows at Clappers field in Knepp Wildland, taken on May 17th. The broad-leaved sallows (behind and to the right) are fine, but the central narrow-leaveds are flowering profusely before dying.

Here's a Mottled Umber larva (det. Mark Parsons). They're highly variable, it seems with different colour forms prevailing locally.

Thursday, June 6, 2019


Her Royal Highness the Queen of the Broads is on the wing and requests that His Imperial Majesty is not late to the party.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Fermyn sallows

Has anyone noticed the devastation to the sallows at Fermyn? These scale bugs are the culprits.