Friday, July 3, 2015

Knepp madness

Knepp goes nuts!

Hi all, 

After reading Mr Hulme's recent blog on this site and desperate for emperor action my girlfriend and I took the day off and headed to Knepp wildlife safaris today (after drawing a blank, not very surprisingly, at Alice Holt this morning). It was our first time at Knepp and we will be going back..a lot. I have no doubt that Mssrs Oates and Hulme will elaborate more knowledgeably after their emperor tours there, but in brief, Knepp was amazing. 

We saw dozens of Iris there today, between the hours of about 2 and 5.30 pm. From the first tree hide and thereafter along the purple emperor tour on the map that they give you at the visitor centre, it was consistently good with particular hotspots here and there, one just after the pond heading away from the hide. I am no expert and I don't know how many were repeat sightings, but there were a lot around, behaving much more accessibly than at Alice; flying lower, showing in much greater numbers and going to ground (in the distance, in our case). I had to pinch myself at how many there were and how well they were showing. 

At one stage we had three battling a couple of metres above us along the pathway, with another two oak-edging higher up. Later on, we saw one swoop down behind an oak and appear to land on the far side of the trunk, so we crept around behind the tree and there it was, drinking sap. I got to within a metre of it but it was in shade and we saw no purple; still a great moment though. 

We also saw two on the ground but did not get close, alas. The day was rounded off when a large adult common frog plonked itself on my good lady's exposed big toe, eliciting a shriek. And of course we saw deer, buzzards, red kites....and pigs. 

I don't know Knepp but all I can say is that based on the numbers of Iris we saw today, it must be a fabulous site. Not surprising given the huge stands of sallows which are everywhere. Given that it's only the fourth day or so of the season there, we saw a crazy amount of this usual here or have we witnessed the start of a bumper season at Knepp? I will be returning next weekend to find out. 

Knepp Goes Large - Again!

Just in time for the annual Festival of Purple at Knepp Castle Estate Wildland (, the current heatwave has triggered the expected Big Bang event. Matthew turned up for an afternoon recce (3.7.15), logging 27 individuals, including two clashes of x3, numerous x2 altercations, and violent behaviour towards tits, corvids, Turtle Dove and Brother Quercus (indications of a welcome, very strong recovery). Come to Knepp and enjoy the show.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

berksbucksoxon kicks off

How's this for dedication to the cause? E-mail from Wendy and Mick Campbell:
"We arrived at Little Wood Oxon at 1pm [30th]. With refreshment we sat down with a good view of the best territory and waited......and 2.30 HE made his first appearance with a brief flight around the top of the big Ash. We had to wait another 50 minutes before we saw him again, followed by another three flights before we left at 4pm: that is an average of one flight every 36 minutes; obviously conserving energy for the battles and courtship[s] to come!"
None of my 7 home bred specimens have emerged yet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Apatura Ilia

Some shots from Chris Rickard:

Here are a few shots of Apatura ilia on the first day of emergence
here in Brittany, France. 28th June 2015.
Taken with a 500mm lens, males a long way up.

ilia is a delightful butterfly,  occurring in two quite different forms, the normal as here and form clytie, where the 
male has an orange colouring to the upperside. It is found throughout much of Europe, as close to the UK as the Channel coast of France, and usually emerges about a week before iris.

Sussex Kicks Off

A single male heralded the start of the Sussex Silly Season at 15:49 on 30.6.15. Unsurprisingly at Knepp, which now supports the UK's second largest population. This heat wave is likely to trigger a Big Bang event, just in time for the first of two weekend Purple Festivals here. Happy days are here again!

Bookham Battle

I visited Bookham Common today as did a few other optimistic individuals. The morning was fairly quiet with no iris sightings. It was only in the afternoon, after 14.00 when 2 males possibly more were seen around the Hill Farm car park area. The activity was fairly infrequent but over the course of an hour or so, the 2 males chased around the top of the oaks staying in the same area. It was possible there could have been up to 4, but only 2 were seen at one time. No doubt the heat limited too much activity. Starting to look good.

Middlesex kicks off

At 13:23 after waiting since 12:30 a single male flew across the Whitewebbs Assembly area not to be seen again. Liz and Andrew