Sunday, July 24, 2016

Knepp Update: Sun July 24th

The season continues to age, with the first Knepp Brown Hairstreaks appearing this morning - Betulae, the Herald of Autumn, already...

However, the Emperor continues to perform most admirably, though activity becomes more and more localised and spasmodic. I managed to see 23 Emperors today, despite much cloud. This included four Empresses - one of which sat for 2 hours 20 mins in an elm, before suddenly scuttling off, the minx.  

The competition for Middle Aged Thug of the Year continues to hot up. Today's entries would have made Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones appear compassionate. Watch this space...

Here's a lovely lady feeding on an oak sap bleed this afternoon - these so-called sap runs are often tiny features, mere bleeds - 

Sadly, and absurdly, I've got to go to work for the next three days - but my heart is forever iris...

Alice Holt Purple Revolt

I made the trip up to Alice Holt on 23rd July in the hope of some purple entertainment. This was my first visit to a Hampshire Emperor site this year, having been lucky in Northamptonshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. I saw no Purple Emperors at Straits which had been a good site for me in previous years. I moved on to Abbotts Wood down the road, pacing up the track, nothing! Then on the way back a large female graced my horizon. She made her appearance at 12.50 from a large sallow and drifted off into the wood flying under the canopy, then lost to view.
I moved on to Goose Green, in the hope of an afternoon display, I was not to be disappointed. As I arrived a male flew past me and away, then the main performance began. Between 13.50 and 14.31 Males began soaring back and forth around the oak and Sweet Chestnut. One chased another away, then an unsuspecting finch and 2 Woodpigeons which flew over. It was an awesome experience watching them gliding in effortless slow motion, then powering up to speed off. There were certainly 3 but I suspect there could have been up to 5 from the directions of arrival. After hearing the news that Alice Holt was not doing well, it was good to see more than I expected. I hope the current warm weather will bring a new wave of activity as all the Purple Emperors seen looked undamaged and flew with vigour. Top entertainment!

Gloucestershire Report

From Richard Jones:

I found a butterfly on our farm that I had never seen before in my life which we duly identified we believe as a Purple emperor,  picture attached.

I see they are pretty rare especially where we are in Gloucestershire so I wanted to report to someone who would care about these things.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Golden Emperor

To be awarded for services to the Purple cause way beyond any semblance of sanity...

Today at Knepp...

 Iris is still going quite nicely here at Knepp, where it started on June 27th. Paul Fosterjohn and I counted 18 (including 1 female) on one of the two PE transects set up last year. That's as good as last week's count, though way down on last year's peak count.

However, it's now very much an afternoon and evening butterfly, inactive during the mornings. Today, none was seen until 12.10pm. They were then active until a little after 3pm, when they quietened down until after 5.30 when they kicked off again, finishing around 8pm. As the season advances they become more and more localised. 

The competition for Middle Aged Thug of the Year 2016 is hotting up nicely. Here's a photo of a Spotted Flycatcher before encountering a middle aged thug -

And here's the same bird after full evisceration -

Also today, a trio of Goldfinch was shot down in flames, two males blew up a Carrion Crow, and a posse of courting and squabbling Red Admirals was exterminated without mercy.  

Meanwhile, here's a preview of the 2017 Purple Emperor season - this egg will hatch on Monday - 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Squirrel Damage...

Today I searched unsuccessfully for iris in Haugh Wood in Herefordshire and in Dymock Woods on the Glos / Herefords border. Sallow quality is high in both woods, though they are both FC woods which means that sallow quantity is rationed. I was disappointed not to turn the species up, as weather conditions were perfect for performing males. I would particularly like Herefordshire to Come Out and declare itself in purpuratum. Maybe it will in a better iris year...

I was struck by the extent of squirrel damage to sallows in Haugh Wood.  In Savernake, almost an entire new generation of sallows that sprung up following FC thinning works along Three Oak Hills Drive has now been killed off by Grey Squirrels stripping bark, like this -

The wretched animals seem to favour the broader-leaved sallows, and female trees to boot - precisely the type of sallows most favoured by Herself.  

Is squirrel damage a significant issue elsewhere?

My cats have been instructed to crunch squirrels at will (they are already licensed to crunch tits).  

Tomorrow I'm off back to Knepp, having just gone two July days without seeing iris (albeit after seeing it for 21 consecutive days). Withdrawal symptoms are kicking in...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fermyn Report (14 July) - by Ian Armitage

Anxious iris devotees saw a break in the ongoing gloomy forecast from the past week and arrived at the same conclusion, that Thursday was the day to see iris in action at Fermyn. On my arrival at 10:45am, the sun was out and it was no surprise to see the verges of Harley Way rammed to hilt with vehicles on both sides of the road around the gliding club – certainly the busiest I’ve seen it in the 6 years I’ve been coming.
   But with an expanse the size of Fermyn and Lady Woods groups and individuals can disperse, and the huddles around grounded individuals were no more sizeable than the norm and cordiality prevailed.  For myself the track down Cherry Lap yielded just 2 grounded male emperors and a flyover at the southern exit.  Lady Wood proved more fertile and another 7 males were added (including one shadow flyover) before the sun vacated the woods around 12:45, after which I only added 2 more males from the Lyvden Way crossing onwards and back around.
   After re-fueliing with a generous slice of strawberry sponge at the café I made a second foray in the early evening sun.  Iriswas still active in Lady Wood with a group of 4 males reported having fish paste supper a short distance down the right hand leg. I saw two more iris imbibing at the junction of the two rides before being joined by a group from Cornwall and we made our way down the other side for an enthralling close encounter with freshly minted White Letter Hairstreaks. Their synchronised ballet, twisting and twirling parrot like on top of white valerian was a pure delight and we all agreed, a very satisfying end to the day. Returning to my now seemingly abandoned car at 7:15pm, the journey back to West Yorkshire seemed less of a chore.
   I didn’t encounter, or hear of any sightings of female emperor during the day. The paths off Cherry Lap were in a glutinous or sloppy state which suggests the wood had taken a battering previously, but the grounded males all looked in very good condition and with kinder weather now forecast from Sunday through until Tuesday they should still be available to show off to their adoring public