Sunday, August 22, 2021

Late Female at Bookham

Rob Hill saw an egging female in good condition today at Bookham Common, whilst looking for Brown Hairstreaks. This is exceptionally late, and the female's condition prompted Rob to wonder whether she'll make it into September!

I've been through the BNM data base, which I have up to 2018 (by kind permission).  There are very few C20th records from mid-August, let alone from late August. Most are from Bucks and Oxon, recorded by folk looking for Brownies. Some stand out like sore thumbs (e.g. Rogate, W Sussex, 1/9/2006 and a 'field near Newbridge SP4001 on 31/8/2014). Some may be for larvae.

Seemingly kosher records are for Northaw, Middx, on 23/8/2012, Theberton Wood, Suffolk, on 26/8/2012, and Chicksands Wood, Beds, on 29/8/2012.

The fat lady ain't singing yet...

Friday, August 20, 2021

 Sherwood Forest update

Samantha and Nick Brownley continue their successful efforts in the most northerly known natural habitat [Chambers Farm Wood is on the same latitude, but iris was introduced there]. To date, they have found 7 larvae and 2 eggs, with two more, moved or predated, all within a small area of this forest, suggesting a healthy population. Several people spotted adults this July in different parts of the forest, but never more than ones or twos. There is an unconfirmed report of somebody having seen three at one spot. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Late Sightings

  Very few people look for the last Emperor of the year (I move on to Brown Hairstreaks and Emperor larvae), but Lawrence Drummond has been seeing the same territory-faithful male in Hertford Heath, for the last few days. It was there again today.

  Also, a battered specimen, sex uncertain, was seen at Knepp today.

  The latest sighting this century seems to be from Homefield Wood, Berks, on 21st August 2013 (a 'late' year). 

  Please note, this Blog continues all year round, as some of us follow the larvae.  The larvae I'll be following in the wild this time around will be named after great philosphers (the first 14 will be named after those in Monty Python's Australian philosophers song...)...  

Postscript: Purple Emperor seen in Hartshill Country Park, just NW of Nuneaton in the far north of Warwickshire, on 20th August. That's a good record, indicating northerly spread.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Closing Time at Knepp (and elsewhere)

Two days at Knepp (or rather afternoons, as I was working Brown Hairstreaks during the morning, seeing an impressive 63 on Tues morning - the best showing at Knepp since 2017).

Tues Aug 10th: Managed to see four males and a huge female, but it was very hard work and I visited nearly all the best territories (only three territories were occupied, by lone males).  

In addition today, Ashley Whitlock saw two males in Alice Holt Forest, Mick & Wendy Campbell saw a female in Bernwood Forest and Fiona Barclay saw a fresh-looking female in Fermyn Woods. 

Wed Aug 11th: I really struggled today, seeing two, possibly three, males and a possible female at a distance. 

Also, Lawrence Drummond saw two males in Hatfield Forest, Essex.  

Conclusion: The 2021 Purple Emperor season is ending fast, everywhere. 

ADVISE: DON'T VISIT KNEPP FOR PURPLE EMPERORS ANYMORE THIS YEAR, YOU'RE TOO LATE they got clobbered by heavy rain on Mon 9th, which followed a wet and windy weekend. 

Instead, we're starting to dream up the Great Purple Emperor Season of 2022, already...

'In my end is my beginning...'


Friday, August 6, 2021

Another Gale...

18mm of rain at home yesterday, and Fresh to Strong westerly winds today. That may be curtains for many sites...

Even I refuse to go out Emperoring in windy conditions this late in the season. The Campbells did venture out today, and saw a male in Waterperry Wood, Bernwood.  

Please note that this Blog functions all year round, as many of us work the immature stages too. I may even get round to posting some of this season's photos... 


Thursday, August 5, 2021

 Beacon Hill habitat.

This photo is of the area just below the summit where 12 iris were observed

 Bonanza at Beacon Hill, Leicestershire.

On July 25th, Nick Sparrow, his better half, and Ian Surman saw 12 individual specimens between 10.30 and 15.30. The habitat is just below the hill, 240m, oak parkland, grass and bracken. They were in a sheltered lee to the east down from the top of the hill. Conditions, hot and humid. 

Beacon Hill is about 2 to 3 miles south west of Loughborough.

This is the best Leicestershire result so far.

Photo of habitat to follow

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Hard Work at Knepp

 No two days of the Emperor season are the same, especially late on.

Today was bloody hard work, in almost identical weather to yesterday, when the Emperors flew strongly - I think because they'd just sat through a couple of poor weather days, and were keen to get going. Today, though, they behaved like ageing rock stars - think Keith Richards, perhaps... (Mick Jagger would have been watching the cricket).

My day's first, at 10.15, was a relatively fresh male, off oak edging and sallow searching - in August! He must have been on a very late-leafing sallow, unable to start feeding before early May.  

Thereafter they were loath to do anything other than visit sap runs and get plastered, in the company of numerous Red Admirals. The Red Ad, you will have noticed, is putting in a bid for Butterfly of theYear. Three males were feeding on one oak feeder tree in the company of 6-8 Red Ads until about 6.30 in the evening.  They'll last another week at Knepp.

Emperors are going to be difficult to see over the next few days, due to wind, cloud and pulses of rain. Afternoons only, leeward, and near oak sap feeder trees...

I'm going home tomorrow as my cat's missing me...

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Into August...

I said that this Emperor season would be a long one, especially in the south-eastern parts of The Empire - where many sallows came into leaf unusually late, in early or mid-May, after flowering profusely. 

Sure enough, the butterfly is still going reasonably well at Knepp, where I saw 25 yesterday (Tues), despite losing two key hours to dense cloud (1-3pm).  Most were middle aged specimens, and I only saw two on their last wings; a few still looked reasonably dark. My guess is that there's a week left in the flight season here, but we'll have to see how wet and windy the weekend is (another depression coming in...).

But they are now afternoon butterflies only, not getting up before midday, and they are highly localised - with activity centred around favoured feeder trees, with sap bleeds.  

Elsewhere, Ashley Whitlock found males still going nicely near Bucks Horn Oak in Alice Holt yesterday, though he struggled to see any at the favoured southern end of the forest; and the Campbells struggled to see a lone male in the good territory near Bicester.

Who will see the last Emperor of the year, and when?  

Sunday, August 1, 2021

End of July News...

Apols for lack of communication, but my youngest daughter got married yesterday... (why do they have to get married during the Emperor season?...)... It went brilliantly well, and a rare soldier fly landed in my drink (Pygmy Soldierfly Oxycera pygmaea). Had the wedding taken place two weeks earlier the marquee might have been stormed by an Emperor, as the venue (Cotswold Water Park on the Glos / Wilts border) is Purple.

Not much news from elsewhere, as the weather has been dodgy, with localised deluges. Storm Evert gave high winds the the central and south-eastern parts of The Empire on Friday 30th. That wont have done any good there, a shame as Emperors were still going nicely (Neil saw 26 at Knepp on Thurs 29th).

The season is definitely winding down now: Ashley Whitlock struggled to see two males today in Alice Holt, and first instar larvae have been spotted in Sherwood Forest. 

My guess is that the butterfly will last another week at the larger colonies, especially in the north and west of its range, where the season is later.