Thursday, July 29, 2021

Before the Storm... Thurs July 29th

A day out Emperoring in Heart of England Forest, SW Warwicks, in rather marginal weather conditions (too windy, too cloudy, too cool much of the time). Managed 8 males and an old female. The core area, just north of Alcester, is set to become a top national site for this butterfly.

Great to hear of a recent sighting in a park at Ebgbaston. I wrote in the book that the butterfly would get into Birmingham soon, if not already there - sallows abound along the railway line in and out of Come Friendly Bombs and Fall on New Street Station, and along the canals.

Also good to hear that the Emperor has at last been seen at BC's Grafton Wood reserve, in the Forest of Feckenham east of Worcester, and of another even more exciting sighting in a newly planted area of Heart of England Forest at Honeybourne, just east of Evesham on the Glos border. Worcestershire has Come Out...

 Also, via Twitter, a dead Empress in a polytunnel, south of Rugby - another part of Warwicks becomes Purple.  

Elsewhere today, seven in 2 hours this afternoon by the Campbells in Waterperry Wood, Oxon; six in Abbots Wood Inclosure and four in Straits Inclosure, Alice Holt Forest, Hants, by Mark Tutton. 

However, the GALE forecast for tonight could well do considerable damage, especially in the western parts of The Empire. It could effectively end the season. Watch this space...


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

28th July...

Back to wet and windy... Emperors are difficult to work in windy weather, as males are often displaced out of their favoured territories into more sheltered but secondary territories. 

Sunny spells were very hit and miss today (my rain gauge recorded 17mm).  Nonetheless, Brian Duncan managed seven Emperors in two hours in Alice Holt Forest.  

Great news from Lincolnshire (one of only two English counties I don't know well), where Toby Ludlow and Pete Smith have found 12 new sites so far this year. This seems to be mirroring the spread from the two 2004 introduction sites in Warwickshire.  

Hope to go out tomorrow, to Heart of England Forest in Warwicks, though it will be windy.

Bit worried about the mini gale forecast for SW and Central Southern England on Thursday night. It could be quite damaging...


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

26th & 27th July Update

I counted 26 on the Knepp PE 'transect' on Mon 26th, down a bit from 32 the previously Friday, which was almost certainly peak day there. Many males were still quite dark and fresh-looking, though most must now be middle aged gents. A few were still sallow searching, suggesting that some females are still emerging. My guess is that the butterfly will last at Knepp until about August 10th, maybe longer if the weather is kind, though they will become increasingly localised and males will only be active during the afternoons, on territory.  

Elsewhere yesterday, Mark Tutton did well at Botley Wood / Whiteley Pastures in S Hants, including watching males sallow searching, but people are now struggling to see the butterfly at all in Fermyn Woods - which has a rather short season (it's a difficult site to work once the males have stopped sallow searching and descending to the ride surfaces to feed, as there are few good male territories).  

Today, Tuesday 27th, I accidentally found a new site very near me in Glos. Herself, no less, was flying in front of me along the lane past Cherington Lake (a wooded valley between Tetbury and Minchinhampton, with plenty of nice sallows). I've long suspected that the butterfly might be there. Yet another record from the southern Cotswolds.     

Monday, July 26, 2021

 Northern Update

The jewel in the crown here is Chambers Farm Wood, Lincolnshire, from which good numbers have been reported in the last two weeks. In particular, Toby Ludlow saw upwards of 26 there a couple of days ago, and his sighting of a magnificent lugenda ab has already been posted on this site. Richard Smyth has been following iris in Cotgrave Wood for a number of years, and, for the first time,  recorded double figures there. The Brownleys discovered iris in Sherwood Forest last summer: the last records were from about 40 years ago. They were able to follow larvae and pupae through this season, including observing emergences. We have only seen up to two or three adults each day, but this is such a vast forest, that we may well be missing some territories and assembly and breeding areas. Recently, the Brownleys found several eggs. The species is holding its own in Wellow Wood, although never more than three are seen in  a day.  Three more new habitats have been discovered in Nottinghamshire, bringing the number of known sites to six.  Lacking in this report is data from Leicestershire and Rutland, but this will be rectified soon. We still await a Derbyshire sighting!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Rains Return...

Back to Square One in the South East, with a thundery low overhead, producing rain for much of the day.

At 11am, Herself appeared at Knepp, flying along a line of veteran oaks, before settling to bask, forewings pulled back over hind wings, high up in a blackthorn bush - in steady rain. No idea why she flew in the first place, let alone why she then chose to bask in persistent rain, but that's The Empress for you, an enigma...  Her she is - 

No other records received today, though it was dry away from the South East.

Tomorrow is July 26th, which used to be National Purple Emperor Day, when the butterfly was at peak season. They'll be at or slightly past peak tomorrow, making this an old-fashioned season.  

Fifty years ago, on 25/7/1971, I discovered my first 'master tree', and watched 2-3 males soaring around it. That clump of trees blew down in the 1987 Hurricane, but another clump has grown up instead. I'm going back...


Saturday, July 24, 2021

After the Storms...

A short but nasty thunderstorm here at Knepp around midnight, with squally winds. Then, full-frontal Armageddon either side of 5am, plus stair rod rain. 

Crucially, though, no wind. Emperors seem able to sit out downpours but, as we learnt last summer, it's the winds that damage them. So, looks like they got away with it this time...

Glowering morning, but the sun started to break through after 1pm and a still, warm and sunny afternoon ensued. Emperors were nicely active, especially around their oak sap 'feeder trees'. Some of the trees that were producing sap bleeds, though, have dried up, and were untenanted. All told, I saw 20 males and five females. All of the girls were around feeder trees, and were in excellent condition.

My guess is that the male emergence may now be complete here, but there should be quite a few more females to come...

Little news from elsewhere today. Looks like other districts weren't so fortunate with the afternoon sun, or folk had such a disturbed night that they didn't venture out Emperoring...

Friday, July 23, 2021

Peak Season Day at Knepp

Excellent day at Knepp, where I walked Week 3 of the Purple Emperor transect in good conditions. The temperature was much cooler today (25C max), due to a cooling Light to Moderate easterly breeze, and the Emperors were properly active and were not heat suppressed. 

I counted 32 on the transect, including five females. That's par for the course for peak season in an 'average' year here. Last year's peak count was a meagre 24, but then the Emperors got blasted away by gales before they'd reached a natural peak. The record transect count here is a staggering 66, back in 2018. Dream on...

All told I saw over fifty, which is good as I spent most of the morning looking for Brown Hairstreaks (none seen, but must be imminent).  

The forecast thunderstorms may knock out a few adults, but wont wash off many if any young larvae as few if any eggs will have hatched yet (baby larvae are vulnerable to being washed off).  

Emperors tend to go berserk in sun after thunderstorms, so get out tomorrow if you can. The butterfly is at or around peak season.

Not too much to report from elsewhere today. Mark Tutton struggled in one part of Alice Holt Forest, then cleaned up in another part. Emperors are very hit and miss this year. 

Well done to Liz Goodyear for looking for Emperors at Strumpshaw in The Norfolk Broads. She didn't find any but saw three Swallowtails instead.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Thurs July 22nd

Another day of stupefying heat... Not many Purple People out.

Spent three hours looking for egging females (no chance!) and male territories in Cirencester Park Woods, where previously only larvae had been found. A bit like the Battle of Waterloo but eventually found a linear rideside territory with three males behaving appallingly 90' up around the tops of tall beeches, I think they were getting tanked up on beech sap. 

Later, another territory, with just a lone occupant, again within a beech cathedral, Savernake style.

The Bathurst Estate is already doing a fantastic job keeping Pearl-bordered Fritillaries going in these woods. Purple Emperor will be much easier.  

I'm heading back to Knepp this evening...

Congrats to Mark Tutton for seeing 11+ Emperors in Creech Woods, S Hants, which had been a rather difficult site to work. Also to Lawrence Drummond for finding more Emperors in Hatfield Forest, Essex. 

Tomorrow could be much better, as lower temperatures are forecast, plus an easterly breeze - so work west-facing edges.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Wed July 21st

The heatwave continues. A lot of Purple People are either at work or shielding from the intense sun, so not too much to report today.

I've been hors de combat, with a severely arthritic knee. Had a cortisone jab this morning, which should get me through the rest of the season and my youngest daughter's wedding at the end of the month...

Managed an hour out this lunchtime, and saw a lazy male around a giant beech on the crest of the Frome valley just west of Sapperton, near Cirencester. This is an incised wooded valley, with good areas of sallow. I spotted the male around a classic laneside beech 'master tree' at the top of the slope. 

Today is 50 year's on from IRP Heslop's male 'iole' in Bentley Woods, netted after he'd been up all night watching the Apollo moon landing...

Two new sites turned up in Norfolk by Liz and Andrew.

Advise: throw a sicky on Friday and go Emperoring. The temperature is forecast to plummet down to a more reasonable 23C, in which case they should go berserk...


Jilted by an Empress

With all the goings on in Fermyn, I've been neglecting my local woods of late (Broxbourne NNR in Hertfordshire). The last few days I've stayed local and have been tracking a large Empress high in the Sallows. Unfortunately she is a bit of a diva and just will not come down. After last nights rains I thought these would be perfect conditions to tempt her down onto the moist track today. I arrived, full of hope, at the west car park at 8.45am to see an Emperor wheeling low over the car park surface. Could this be her? Not bothering to park, I jumped from the car, camera in hand, only to find this was a male. However, it was impossible to ignore as it grounded allowing a few early shots, before investigating my car and settling on the number plate then tyres of another. After having it's fill of the ethanol compounds of the tyres, it spiralled around me and gave me a right trousering. Time was getting on, I had a blind date with an Empress. Despite several circuits of the wood and some baitings it was clear that she had blown me out. Story of my life πŸ˜„ Ah well, there's always tomorrow


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Purple Emperor in Southampton.

 Chris Piatkiewicz writes on the Hampshire BC website that he saw a female Purple Emperor on a walk near Weston Shore, Southampton. He states that this is the first time he has seen a Purple Emperor in Southampton. I know Royal Victoria Country Park and Westwood Nature Reserve are nearby which is where it may of originated from. An excellent record.

Tues July 20th

 Fellow fan's of BB's Brendon Chase will remember the sentence, 'July dragged on in sullen heat...'.  It does indeed...

Not many of us were out in the woods today. I'm still hors de combat and others took a Purple week's holiday last week (the entire country should close down during the Emperor season, obviously...) and were at work today.

Good to hear of new sites being discovered today in the Lincs Lime Woods NNR, and to the north of Thetford Chase in Norfolk, and between Norwich and Dereham - congrats to Toby Ludlow and Andrew Middleton for those findings. The message is simple, look and thou shalt find - only don't look during the main heat of the afternoon.     

Most of us are finding the Emperors quiescent from about 1pm in this extreme heat, or even earlier. A BC Hants branch field meeting at West Wood, Winchester, saw 7 males and a female, but the butterfly then conked out at midday. A nice evening flight at Knepp, after a major afternoon conk out. 

Thunderstorms drifting SE over East Midlands region in the evening.

I'm hoping to get back out tomorrow...

Monday, July 19, 2021

19th July... Oates Limps Home...

I left Knepp at dawn and spent the day crashed out at home... 

Back at Knepp, Neil saw about 55 Emperors, including a fresh male down on horse dung in the morning. Males are still emerging there. Both sexes were heat suppressed for quite a while, but became nicely active when a bank of thin cloud came over in mid-afternoon. 

Elsewhere, Dennis and friends saw a good ten individuals in just under two hours at Chambers Farm Wood this morning. Later, they searched unsuccessfully in Southrey Wood, another of the famous Lincs lime woods.  

A few more sightings in Sherwood Forest, but a small select gang failed to find the butterfly just over the border in south Yorkshire - it's important that Yorkshire declares itself Purple before Lancashire does... 

A female was seen on Martin Down NNR in extreme west Hants, indicating once more that this is a butterfly of scrubland rather than woodland...  Eight were seen in 4 hours at West Wood, Winchester, which is good for there.  

Tale of two Woods

 Tale of two Woods.

Saturday and I took a trip over to Fermyn for the first time in a couple of years.  Yes it was hot, very hot.  Made my way over to Souther Wood and got buzzed at 8.30am but HIM would not come to ground just sat on a leaf taking the mick.  Through the morning I had ten sightings in various spots but groundings were only for seconds.  Found one interested in a bit of moss and coaxed it onto my finger where it took a liking to the sweat (questionable tastes Derek?).  The last seen had spent apparently over an hour on it's favourite meal, we'll call him Richard the Turd.  Sadly no open wing shots. 

My first grounded Norfolk Emperor

Today (Monday) and I decided to stick closer to home (30 mins as opposed to 2 and a half hours) and check out Foxley Wood in Nth Norfolk where Iris has been recorded for the last two years.  What have I been missing!  From the first car park and along the main ride a total of thirteen sightings.  Several sallow searching and one on the deck to give me my first Norfolk Emperor photo, with wings open as an added bonus.  Thanks Iris.

Hmmm love the taste of humans!

Foxley Wood beauty!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Questionable tastes

 July 18th 2021

From Alexander Henderson

After the heat of the day had eased, at ten past seven this evening, an emperor came down to the floor at Savernake. The various offerings of dried banana skins, belachan, etc., were roundly ignored as His Majesty alighted on an altogether superior dining experience; a squirrel carcass. 

Sun July 18th: Hotter Still...

 A lot of us found today too hot. The Emperor certainly did, and started to conk out around 2.30 (apart from the odd pair of sparring males).

At Knepp, one was seen flying low across a scrubby field at 7am, begging the question of what else was going on then...  

I was only out for part of the day as my left knee is playing up badly (needs a replacement kneecap).  Two males visited Operation Wallacea's marquees and portaloos midmorning (environmental science students). I walked the main PE transect from 12.30, and totalled just 18 - a poor count, fractionally up on Friday. I managed to get nearly all of it done before they conked. One nearly settled on top of a sow wallowing in the edge of a pond! 

Elsewhere, a very encouraging report from Savernake where three were seen down on the rides and a bundle of six was seen in flight. I thought they were going to be good in Sav this year. 

Another very positive report from Bernwood Forest, of about 25 on the wind there.

Good to hear reports on individuals from three spots in the Kentish High Weald, including a garden in Goudhurst.  


The Champagne is on Ice

 I have searched and searched and searched. I've waited and waited and waited...

...for over 50 years in fact. I never ever thought that this moment would come. But now it has!

I now have a bottle of Moet & Chandon in my fridge and, when it is suitably chilled, I shall raise a glass to this amazing creature. I shall then raise another glass to mark the occasion: one incredible encounter, which has produced a moment of sublime happiness. I shall then raise a further glass to my Emperoring buddies (John Wiltshire, Richard Smyth, Mark Joy et al. and, especially, my son Elliott), who are all out there pursuing their dreams, hoping to capture a similar experience. And, lastly, (you probably get the picture by now!) I raise a glass to all of you and hope you have your moment like this sometime in the not-too-distant future, because if you are reading this you will no doubt realise what this moment means.

No more words; the picture says it all!

Male Purple Emperor ab. lugenda, Chambers Farm Wood, Lincolnshire

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Sat July 17th: Scorchio!

Briefly, as I'm knackered after working a rather poor evening flight till 8pm...

The Purple Emperor is now at or rapidly approaching peak just about everywhere. Numbers seem low (similar to 2020) in most of the South East and much of Essex, due to the impact of last August's heatwave there. Elsewhere, it looks as though numbers are up on last year, but it's early days still...

At Knepp, males are still emerging and there are probably a good number of females still to come. Males are busy sallow searching during the mornings, then setting up territories in the oaks, but becoming quiscent from 2.30 before rousing a little in the evening. Females are about. Crucially, the sallows are now in excellent condition for the laying females, and will be for 1st instar larvae.

Good to hear that numbers have picked up considerably in Bucks Best Wood (a privately owned wood managed with Emperors strongly in mind), after a shocker there last year; and that 19 were seen today in Hatfield Forest; and that the butterfly was behaving badly at Woodwalton Fen today.  

Tomorrow, go early or late; skip the heatwave part from 3-5pm.  

Two Days at Fermyn.

Decided to take the plunge and visit Fermyn Woods on Friday and Saturday. I arrived at 7.30 and left at around 17.30 on the first day. As predicted Friday was very hot and the Purple Emperors I saw were coming down but not staying long, lots of action overhead with at least one female seen. Others had more success but groundings seemed relatively brief. Altogether I saw around 20+. I did have the added bonus of also seeing Black, White-letter and Purple Hairstreaks well at the end of the day, and I was told a Lunar Hornet Clearwing was also seen.

Saturday morning was much better Emperor wise. No sooner had I arrive around 9.00 than I was soundly 'trousered', a few steps later and one, two, three and four males were down tucking into delights that the kind dog walkers had left them. These four were down for a good time, so observers had one each to photograph as they arrived. The main activity of groundings seemed to tail off at around 10.00 but one or two were still coming down up to 11.00. I left for home at around 12.00, having seen around 10 in a small area near the wood piles in Lady Wood.


Friday, July 16, 2021

FRi July 16th

Briefly, as I didn't finish until 8pm (when the Emperor was still flying...)

Redid the Knepp PE transect (too windy and cloudy yesterday) but only got 16, including 3 females. Par would have been 22. I probably should have started half an hour earlier as they became heat suppressed from 2.30.

Crucially, a lot of territories only have single occupants this year, and there's little other aerial biodiversity flying around the oak tops - so males are not very active. So I may have under-recorded.

At least 4 males feeding down on the ground at Knepp today, the first from 9 to 10am, the last at 6.30pm.

Female seen egg laying at 11.15, laying 4 eggs in 2 broad-leaved sallows. 

Very poor year for Purple Hairsreak here - oaks damaged by late frosts.

Elsewhere, good to hear of one seen down on a ride at Dene Park, Kent today - We hardly hear from Kent...  Also, several seen at Bentley Wood, Wilts, today. 

Best of all, PEs have been seen in Leics and Rutland these last two days, including at Bardon Hill and in Coalville Meadows - been seen at 7 Leics & Ruts Wildlife Trust reserves these last three years!

The butterfly will be at peak everywhere this weekend. To the woods, the lot of you: get trousered. NB the A43 is closed at Silverstone. NB PEs likely to conk out between 2.30 and 5.30 in the forecast heat, but will put on good evening flights if calm. Enjoy...


Thursday, July 15, 2021




St Swithun...

Clouded up at Knepp around lunchtime. Thereafter, activity was intermittent and highly localised. A brisk N wind didn't help, though it dropped late on as the cloud thickened. Attempted the Knepp PE transect but had to give it up, will try again tomorrow.

I saw 40 Emperors (all male), the last of which I nearly ran over on my ebike at 6.30pm, down feeding in very dull conditions. Two other fresh males seen down on the rides at Knepp today, which is a lot for here (they're primarily oak sap feeders here). Around 1pm Neil had a tumbledown (mated female rejecting male advances by spiralling down) land between his feet! Again, some appalling intra-male behaviour and scenes of drunkeness and brawling, especially around sap bleed oaks.

Elsewhere, first Emperors of the year seen in Hatfield Forest today (Essex was also hit by the severe drought that wilted sallows in the SE last August).  

One male seen in Sherwood Forest, Notts; 6-8 males seen in Foxley Wood, Norfolk. Incredibly, Chiddingfold Forest on the Sussex  / Surrey border only kicked off yesterday.  

This butterfly is now at peak at most sites. Make the most of the coming weekend...  Enjoy...

 Sherwood Forest Nottinghamshire

Iris had not been seen in this ancient forest for about 40 years. Then, last July, Nick Brownley came across this damaged specimen on a cycle path. Subsequently, he and his wife Sam found four larvae in the vicinity. They lost track of these four during the winter. This year, they found another five larvae, and eventually eight pupae [!], two of which were not from the larvae. Two of the pupae were predated, and, of the six left, five adults emerged with one to go at the time of writing this blog. Considering Nick and Sam had no previous iris experience, this is a remarkable achievement. It suggests that there is a reasonable population in this vast forest. Yesterday, Nick saw the first wild specimen. Together with Chambers Farm Wood Lincolnshire, this is the most northerly habitat in the UK so far recorded.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Fun at Fermyn with a tinge of sadness

Up to 40 Emperors seen on a good day at Fermyn today. Despite the morning cloud, the sun finally broke through, if a little breezy, making HIM somewhat flighty at times. However, the Emperor was largely good humoured and allowed plenty of opportunities for lighthearted banter and encounters. 

A moment of melancholy though, when a pristine male unexpectedly landed on one of the Cypress Tree stumps in Souther Wood ride (these trees were recently felled by Forestry England). The Purple faithful will remember, they were formerly the epicentre of the Purple Empire at Fermyn and where I photographed my first Emperor aberration (ab.afflicta). I think the photo of this male resting on one of the stumps is a fitting epitaph to those wonderful trees. RIP 🌲πŸͺ΅πŸ¦‹πŸ˜ͺ 

14th July: Fermyn Outscores Knepp!

Briefly, or I'll never get any supper...

Mart Tutton counted 48 in a ten hour innings in Fermyn Woods today. I only managed 44 at Knepp, though in a shorter time. Neil managed 33 whilst leading two PE Safari groups. 

At 11am Neil and I watched a female lay two eggs. These are the first eggs seen laid this year, already...

I ended the day watching at least six males behaving appalling around a sap run oak, between 5.15 and 6.30 (probably more like 8-9, but included a vista of 6 - 5 squabbling together, the other getting plastered on oak sap). The Home Secretary has been informed.

Dave Law saw 7 males along Three Oak Hill Drive in Savernake Forest, some using the Dead Beech Glade territory which I discovered in 2001.

Liz Goodyear turned up two more sites local to her home in Herts. 

One seen today on Sherwood Forest.

Any news from Leics yet, on our northern fringes?


Bentley Revs Up!

I arrived at Bentley Wood  at around 10.15 today and had barely left the car park when I noticed a group of people along the main track. As I approached I was told that a male Purple Emperor was down on a pile of dung and another was in a nearby oak. Apparently the one on the dung had been down for over an hour and had a car pass over it but it had returned to it's feast. On looking closer it looked like it had been out a little while and it had part of it's hindwings missing. Without warning off it flew, not to return. I walked on until I lost the crowd, (mid-week and the car park was full up)! My second encounter was with a really fresh male, it stayed down but only for a short time. Well worth making the effort for. I would have loved it to stay down a little longer though. Altogether I saw 8, the others were high in the canopy along the rides. A look at the logbook showed that one had been seen yesterday, so it appears the season has just started here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

July 13th - Summer Returns

 Anticyclone nudging in from the SW, as welcome as the first Orange Tip of the spring.

Knepp (still largely a quagmire): Neil had counted 52 Emperors when we separated at 6pm, having batted all day. Last year's peak day count here was 84 on June 24th, so it looks as though this year's peak count will be similar. The butterfly will be at peak here from Thurs to Sun (and maybe a little beyond). The first females were seen here today, both being ardently courted (but I failed to locate a mating pair as the cattle were in my way!). 

Males only intermittently active as there's very little moving up in the oak crowns to wind them up - hardly any Purple Hairstreaks this year [so far] and very few other winged insects up top, and no tit flocks.  

Not too much reported from elsewhere today, apart from in Fermyn Woods where males are still coming down to the ride surfaces nicely [NB the A43 will be closed at Silverstone this weekend]. 

Apparently, none has been seen so far this year in Chiddingfold Forest on the Sussex / Surrey border.  

Monday, July 12, 2021

Mon July 12th News

More stagnant gloom over most of The Empire again today. Random holes in the gloom stirred the odd Emperor into action, for example at Bookham Common. Biblical rainfall reported from the South Coast late on, after a day of warm dense cloud.

Today's most exciting record comes from a garden next to Putney Heath, with a photo of a nice male. This is the third year running that iris has been seen there!  [per Twitter]

Also, from Twitter, a nice photo of a male down on the ground at Chalkney Wood, near Colchester. 

Slightly older records of note are from Chicksands Wood, Beds, and Foxley Wood, Norfolk.  

News from Fermyn Woods: 20 Emperors seen there today in 4hrs 30 mins by Dr David Jenner, 17 of them on the ground.  

Advice: if you're planning on visiting Fermyn Woods to see fresh males on the ground, go very soon, the weekend at the latest. Don't leave it till next week, the grounding season there doesn't last long.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Sun July 11th News

 Briefly, because of the football...

Large parts of The Empire were clouded off today, with rain spreading in from the SW, again...  nothing flew today in Wilts & Glos, for example.

Morning sunshine in Northants saw some good action in Fermyn Woods, with fresh males coming down to the rides, as they are so want to do there. David Jenner saw 15 males there today, all bar one on the ground.

Knepp had a day of warm cloud and good sunny spells. Neil led group walks in the morning and afternoon. These saw 13 and 15 males  respectively. This, and the fact that Ben's surviving pupae up the road are starting to hatch, suggests lateness rather than severe collapse, though this is clearly not a good year for the Emperor at and around Knepp (it never was going to be, after the sallows wilted in the district last August).

Five males around a master tree near Bicester during a short sunny spell there (Wendy & Mick Campbell).

Nothing else.

The weather's set to improve from Tues, and it better...

Saturday, July 10, 2021

More Gloom & Doom

 Yet another poor weather day in The Empire, and on a key weekend day of the 2021 season. Rain moved slowly eastwards south of the M4 corridor. North of it, it was dry, but there was a lot of stagnant gloom. 

So, very few sightings reported, with few people venturing out. Neil Hulme led an afternoon Purple Emperor safari group at Knepp, which somehow managed to see five Emperors [it helps if you know where the favoured male territories are].

We are beginning to realise the extent of predation on Purple Emperor pupae. This is something I hinted at in the book, but this summer there has been a major scientific breakthrough, coupled with a technological breakthrough. 

The discovery is that PE pupa glow in the dark under strong UV torchlight, they flouresce. Some of us have been venturing out into the woods in the dark, suitably armed. 

Ben Greenaway found 13 pupae in woods in W Sussex: 8 have now been predated, one has emerged, only four remain. 

The cooler the weather, the longer the pupal period lasts, the more get crunched and the fewer Emperors we see on the wing.     

We still don't know who or what is doing the crunching, as we don't have trail cameras up. There's some evidence to suggest that predation is largely occurring at night, in which case the likes of the yellow-necked mouse and hazel dormouse come to mind. My cat is charged with sorting this out...

Friday, July 9, 2021

Numbers building at Fermyn

Whilst some were chasing the rare ab at Oversley, the real prize this week was a vacant parking space at the Glider Club entrance to Fermyn. Numbers have been steadily building this week, but it wasn't until yesterday that His Imperial subjects were actually outnumbered by the Emperor himself. It was great to get re-aquainted with so many old 'Purple Punters' from far and wide and to meet some new ones who I'd only previously corresponded with over social media. 

Even the 'Fermyn Light Horse' were in evidence, plying their trade down the rides. Sadly my own trusty steed, the famous 'Blue Afflicta' went lame on me (rear tyre went off with a bang) I was forced to borrow Shanks's Pony. Cheers for that Shanks.

Despite the valiant attempts of the Met Office to predict the weather in the Midlands they have got it all wrong this week, with rubbish days turning out to be great purple ones and the predicted 'Diamond Day' on Thursday never materialising. That said HIM is definitely gathering momentum. Yesterday I was surrounded by six pristine males all at my feet. A bewildering spectacle in terms of which one to get a portrait of. Numerous 'trouserings' 'bootings' and 'fingerings' were to be seen, much to the delight of the adoring crowd. I must have seen 20+ Emperors yesterday, all of them came to ground, perched on the logs and a couple low down in trees. Easy meat if you wanted to capture that regal flush.

The much feared ride clearances were nowhere near as bad as had been described at Souther and Lady Wood, with most Sallows spared Forestry England's woodman's axe.  In fact the stored cut timber piles provided numerous sap bleeds for the Emperor to feast on. Also good to see the gradual regeneration of the Cherry Lap ride, and more sightings along there yesterday than there have been in the last few years. So peak emergence is rapidly approaching at Fermyn, but the Empress has yet to make an appearance, but I suppose it's females' perogative to be a little late to the party.

People have been reporting a weird phenomenon at places along the Souther and Lady Wood rides. A strange aroma reminiscent of Billingsgate Market and seaside eating establishments. I must confer with my learned friend and Emperoring buddy, Toby Ludlow, as to what that could possibly be all about πŸ€”.

Rarest sighting of all this week was the afternoon appearance of Kasia Bukowska and Nigel Kitely. They simply do not do Emperors and definitely don't do afternoons 😁. There's something in the air at Fermyn.

Notts Kicks Off and the Sun Shines at Knepp...

First Emperors of the year seen today at Cotgrave, meaning that Notts joins the list of counties where Emperors are currently flying.

More sightings and photos in Fermyn Woods, where the butterfly now seems well out, and 20 were seen today in the SE sector of Alice Holt Forest, Hants. Also, some good sightings in Bernwood Forest,  which straddles the Bucks / Oxon border.

Find of the day was by Liz Goodyear and Andrew Middleton who turned up a new site in west Norfolk.

At Knepp, the sun shone gloriously for almost the entire day, for the first time in ages.... I walked the Knepp PE transect in the afternoon. This totalled six, which isn't at all impressive (the record is 66!). I'd looked for sallow-searching males during the morning and struggled to see seven. All told I managed to see 24 males at Knepp today. By Knepp's standards that's not good, but the emergence there may have been held up by persistent foul and abusive weather (Knepp really has drawn the short straw weather-wise since Midsummer Day...). We wont know what stage the Knepp season's at for a few days.

Technically, this should be a great weekend to look for Emperors just about everywhere, but the forecast is very poor indeed - and even worse for Monday and Tuesday. However, the Azores anticyclone is set to start nudging over from midweek next week, and redeem this thoroughly wretched season...    

Bernwood today

 Saw 2 in the first 5 minutes of arriving in the car park at 10.30am. Luckily the car park was relatively empty, I'm sure that will change over the next week. 

One was flying around the dog litter bin and then settled there..really purple and red? Got some shots of males on the hardcore path, they seemed relatively docile. Others had seen 6 or 7 so they are about. 

Mark Griffiths, Garsington, Oxford.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Rainy Day Blues...

 Another awful day at Knepp, which was under a shower convergence zone and must have had received 10mm of rain today. I struggled to see two males with a brave safari group. Tomorrow is supposed to see a weak ridge of high pressure, so I should at last be able to gain an impression of numbers here (as yet, I have no idea).

If you're visiting Knepp over the next week please be aware that the paths are seriously muddy. Water scarcely percolates through the Weald Clay, but just sits there; and the free-ranging cattle use the path system too...

Elsewhere, we have the first aberration of the year, a pristine male which is probably ab. afflicta, seen and photoed at Oversley Wood, S Warwicks (yes, yet another ab. in an introduced population [estab. 2004 if I remember right]). 

Also, the year's first female, again at Oversley, only she'd been damaged - probably because she emerged in yesterday's wind and got blown down before her wings were fully set, as happens in windy or wet weather.  

About 20 seen today in Fermyn Woods too.

That apart, a lot of people hanging about in The Empire, waiting for the clouds to part...

And the forecast for Saturday, Monday and Tuesday is Absolutely Foul. However, the Azores high is supposed to be coming over later next week (seeing is believing... #ItsComingHome).

To date, this is an old fashioned Purple Emperor season with the males taking to the air whenever the July rains relent.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Praying for Purple.

 After spending the day walking around Abbots Wood, Alice Holt with blanket cloud cover, things looked pretty grim searching for any Purple Emperors. It was my second visit here on both occasions meeting up with Mark Tutton. We covered the areas we were familiar with which had been good in previous years. At around 16.00 we met up and it turned out Mark had seen 2 males around an hour before very briefly, one putting the other up nearby over a sunny oak along a ride. As we spoke the sun came out and at last I had a one second view of a male which circled and then vanished. We both spoke to a young lady taking her dachshund for a walk who asked what we were looking for, we told her Purple Emperors. She immediately told us she had seen a male Purple Emperor on her window sill at the nearby convent at around 13.30. We had no reason to doubt her as she had seen it well and was very interested in butterflies. This all leads me to believe that there were a lot more around than we were able to see. They were probably just sitting motionless high above us waiting for a bit of sun to get them going. It does look like it could be a poor year not helped by the atrocious weather, I am hoping things are late with next week seeing numbers go up. All will no doubt be revealed once we get some settled sunny conditions. Tomorrow onwards could see things improving .

Dorset Kicks Off

First Emperor of the year seen today in the main Dorset site, by Dave Law. 

New colony discovered on Monday near Tiptree in Essex by Laurence Drummond. Top work!

I got into double figures at Knepp today by working leeward oak edges - west and south-facing edges were far too windswept, it's a very wind-prone site. I think they're only just getting going at Knepp now. 

Three males during a ten minute sunny spell in a wood north of the main block of Bernwood Forest today by Wendy and Mick Campbell, then a deluge. 

A couple of fighting males seen in Alice Holt Forest.

Conclusion: still early days but they're getting going now...

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Savernake Kicks Off

Pretty dire weather in The Empire today, especially in the south-eastern part, but the wind wasn't as strong as feared, so it's unlikely that any significant damage was done (especially as most of the 2021 Emperors are still pupae). 

Pleased to see the first Savernake Emperor of the year, before showers curtailed the visit. I'd called in, on route back to Knepp, to look for the pupa of my last larva there, a female - found the witch 4m up, through binoculars. So Wiltshire is now purple for the season.

The only other records I've received from today are of four males seen in Fermyn Woods, in fairly poor weather.

There's been a major breakthrough in finding Purple Emperor pupae this summer. The revelation that the pupae flouresce under UV light has prompted several of us to splash out on expensive UV torches (from Amazon USA) and scan for pupae in the dark. They show up strongly under UV light. Inspired, some of us have successfully found pupae by day too. A good dozen wild pupae are currently under observation, in W Sussex, Sherwood Forest and Lincs. Congrats to all those who've found them - ground-breaking stuff (and not in my book).  

There should be a reasonable emergence tomorrow, weather permitting...

Monday, July 5, 2021

Fermyn kicks off

 It is very rare to be alone at Fermyn during the flight period of the Purple Emperor. I read Dave James first sighting message this morning and bombed down to Fermyn with my bike, this afternoon. Within two minutes I saw my first Emperor of the year just beyond the bend on Cherry Lap. After the forestry work, a couple of years ago now, the sallows are growing back nicely with some 4m trees. I rode into Lady Wood with some trepidation, based on comments regarding forestry work, but was pleasantly surprised. There has clearly been attention to preservation of sallows both in Lady Wood and Souther Wood. Extensive logging has widened the rides and let in more light, however, there was lots of sallow preserved and in good condition.

I was reminded by Toby Ludlow that last year there were more females seen than in many previous years and, with both the rides and the sallows looking good, I am hopeful for this years flight season at Fermyn, after a poor year last year.

The rides were damp with puddles and I saw three Iris, all grounded. At the junction between Lady Wood and Souther Wood, this newly emerged male kept me company for 45 minutes. He inspected the logs and took a particular liking for the dirt on my bike, before flying into the oaks around 14.30pm.

Finally, I saw my third and final Emperor on the main ride in Souther Wood. I couldn't get close but it looked darker than normal. I can't claim an ab but if anyone sees an ab male at Souther, tomorrow, then I saw it first :-)

Fabulous to be at Fermyn again and you forget how wonderful it is to see Emperors close up. Fingers crossed for the season ahead.

Mon July 5th

 The first decent emergence of the year today, by all accounts (doubtless because I had to take the day off).

First Emperors of the year were seen today in Alice Holt Forest, E Hants, and at Whiteley Pastures in south Hants. These are the first records for Hants for 2021.

Also, Northants kicked off, with close encounters in Fermyn Woods and Salcey Forest. Note that there are a lot of forestry operations taking place in Lady and Souther Woods (Fermyn) this summer.

Significantly, the first sightings of the year were also made today in Chambers Farm Wood in Lincs, and also near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.

Emperors were also seen in Waterperry Wood, Bernwood Forest, on the Bucks / Oxon border today too.

Tomorrow, though, sounds very worrying. The last thing this butterfly needs is a gale... ... ...

Sun July 4th

Very little progress today, due to an extensive blanket of cloud over much of the Empire, and heavy showers. 

Knepp produced only a lone sallow-searching male and another male resettling high in an oak top, but the weather from 2pm was awful. I was in a copse at the N end of the Knepp estate during the best weather of the day, just before 1pm, but none was seen there.

Rob Hill watched 3 males sparring at Bookham.

None seen in Alice Holt or in S Hants - and no records from Hampshire yet this season.

None in Bernwood.  

Worried about high winds forecast for Tuesday...

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Male Courtship Displays?

Hi all, We are very interested in the fine details of Apatura courtship, with the attached youtube clip being the only one that I have so far been able to find which details any possible male displays in front of a female: We are extremely interested to try and verify the male wing beat frequency by comparing this clip to any others that maybe out there? If anyone therefore please has any personal clips of such displays, or alternatively knows of the location of any other similar clips please can they let me know in the comments below. Enjoy the up-coming season. Mark

Saturday, July 3, 2021


Far too cloudy and showery at Knepp today. The sun came out at 4pm but with it came a cooling wind, which hindered or even prevented any flight. I doubt any pupae hatched here today.

However, the first Emperors of the year were seen in Oxfordshire, by Wendy and Mick Campbell, and there's a very interesting record from a wood near Worcester. It looks as though Worcestershire is being recolonised from the burgeoning population in SW Warwickshire. 

No records yet from several SE counties: Hants, Berks, Bucks and especially Kent.  

At present seven counties are showing purple so far this season...


Friday, July 2, 2021

Kick Off!

 Delighted to report that battling males were seen at the Hill Farm territory on Bookham Commons, Surrey, today and in the Buckhurst Hill part of Epping Forest. The Home Secretary has been informed and is speeding back to Whitehall from the Straits of Dover, where she'd been dealing with a Painted Lady invasion. 

Also, at last Knepp kicked off, with a male on territory at Green Lane Pond [for those who know the site] and another seen near Hammer Pond. Here's the Green Lane male. 

He'd arrived early at the party, found that the others were still down the pub, and had made himself a coffee and was reading a smutty book on the stairs... 

Note that I am not expecting a sizeable emergence at Knepp this year, where many sallows wilted in a severe drought last early August. It may be a year of Quality rather than Quantity...

Also, just heard that one was seen in Havering Country Park, Essex, today, and a male was photographed in Oversley Wood, Warwicks. But none seen in Bernwood Forest. 

Tomorrow's looking good, in the more south-eastern parts of the Empire, so to the woods, the lot of you, and Enjoy...

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Minimal Progress

A lot of Purple people out looking for Emperors today, in several counties. An intensive search took place at Knepp, in very good weather. The only one seen anywhere was a 'probable' seen at a distance, twice, at Bookham Common, Surrey, by Colin Kemp. Colin may be being a little cautious about this sighting.

At Knepp, still no hairstreaks [Purple and White-letter], both of which should appear before the Emperor; and we still haven't seen any White Admirals there this year [only a small colony present], though it's well out in woods 2 miles to the north.

Ben Greenaway is following a few pupae through in the wild near Knepp. None is showing through yet, though they may be late developers and some are female.

This year is outside my box so I really don't know when the butterfly is going to start properly... It may be imminent, but I just don't know...

It may be a year of quality rather than quantity... ... ...