Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Struggle at Savernake

Arrived at Savernake at 11am and within 10 minutes of walking the main ride was greeted by herself leaving an oak and diving into the heart of a sallow, presumably to drop some eggs . Not a bad start to the day but sadly that was to be the only sighting of a 4 hour search ! With Savernake being a late sight I was hopeful of a decent day but it wasn't to be . As Matthew previously said there has been some extensive damage by deers to some sallows near the monument , with massive die back already occurring. Hopefully few eggs have been laid on these trees as they may well not survive the winter . On a plus note I did locate an egg deep in a shady part of the wood so hopefully the girls have made the most of when the sun has appeared over the last few weeks .

Saturday, August 1, 2015

From Ashley Whitlock

Today I took a field trip up to West Harting Down on the Hampshire and Sussex border, and at 1230 we had male Purple Emperor down.

 The best encounter we had was at 12:30 about quarter of a mile from the summit of West Harting Down when we had a landed Purple Emperor, he was a bit skittish at first and we were not sure whether he was a male or female because the Purple on his wings being a bit faded. He landed back on the ride after flying into the bracken and hazel at the side of the ride, and started imbibing. Its fairly unusual at this time of the season I thought and being 1st August, but here he was content as we watched him gorging on the ground for minerals. There must be a few more females to be mated with after I had seen one on Thursday last week. He kept taking off up the ride for a few yards and started again. And then back up the ride again he did this at least six times. He was with us for up to 12:50, when he finally took off near to the wheres that Assembly Point?  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

From David Murdoch

At 1230 on 28 July 2015 Mrs Iris Small (I kid you not) was at lunch in Wonston, ~8 miles N of Winchester, when she noticed a large butterfly inside her kitchen that she thought was probably a White Admiral.  Mr. Small released it onto the buddleia in the garden, when He revealed Himself as His Imperial Majesty Apatura iris.  He graciously consented to remain nectaring on this buddleia for at least 2 hours and to permit his admiring subjects to photograph Himself.

A previous incarnation of His Majesty in rather better condition graced the same buddleia in Wonston for several hours in the summer of 2014. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

it's not over until the fat lady sings

In a tiny wood near Bicester, which always returns good numbers, four were seen today: three males  clashing on the main territory, with one perching for most of the time.
The sightings were made between 3.45 and 4.45 in intermittent sunshine, 17 degrees.
So keep looking folks: it is always interesting to note when the season ends to get an estimate of the flight period. Looking at the UT data over the last 11 years, it has  been 5 to 6 weeks.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Great Chattenden Wood

A year ago Twitter informed me of a record of iris at Cliffe, near Rochester in Kent.  Today I called in at Great Chattenden Wood, by Cliffe.  This is where the British obsession with iris really began, back in mid-Victorian times.  Anyone who has read Frohawk, Tutt or even Heslop (and Stockley) will appreciate the significance of the place.  Chattenden is also effectively the type locality for iole / lugenda vars, as it produced quite a few of them (the Fermyn of its day).  It is of immense importance in the history of butterflying in the UK, actually predating collecting in the New Forest.  It is therefore the spiritual homeland of the People of Purple Persuasion.

I am more than delighted to report that iris is indeed back in Great Chattenden Wood (if it ever left).  The weather was just a little too cloudy for adults today (a shame as there is a classic sheltered high point male territory, which is probably the same spot where the bulk of Victorian specimens were collected, an oak-crowned hill top as described by Frohawk and Tutt).  However, I found an egg on one of the abundant caprea-type sallows down the lower slopes.  Habitat conditions are really good for the butterfly, due to extensive coppicing in recent decades.  I was hugely impressed by the quality and quantity of the sallows.  
Chattenden is currently in the news, for the eastern half of it is Lodge Hill - the top Nightingale site under threat of development for housing, as an MOD sell off.  The War Dept took over Chattenden during WW1, much of it was turned into a camp.  We want it turned back into sallow jungle...  

leaf size for ovipositing

These two eggs were found on the same bush. Obviously, size of leaf does not play a role during ovipositing

Sunday, July 26, 2015

short season?

Looking at the last few blogs, it seems as if we've had a really short season, with numbers by about the 25th really low. In most places we agree about the peak being between the 8th and 12th. In a private wood in Bucks where I saw at least 20 [32 sightings] in one hour on the 11th, one week later  the numbers were down to single figures , and yesterday, two weeks later, I saw none [but found two eggs a few days old]; so, in the last two weeks the numbers have declined dramatically in Upper Thames. Yesterday, however, in two small neighbouring woods in Oxon, the Campbells, saw 6 on the three territories. The concentration is high in these two woods, making it easier to spot them, especially as, year after year,  they are very loyal to their high point territories.
The season in UT started properly on 30th June [I discount the two extraordinary sightings far apart on 14th and 15th June], so it will have lasted barely one month ; normally, it is about 6 weeks.
Matthew puts the rapid decline down to a mixture of high winds and poor weather after the peak.