Sunday, July 27, 2014

Season Ending

Spent two hours checking the main male territories along Three Oak Hill Drive in Savernake this afternoon.  Managed to see four males, chasing pairs in two territories (and learnt of a 5th seen by The Column). 

One of these territories is used only late in the flight season, I know not why.  The other, the Dead Beech Glade, is the most favoured territory.  There was one, seemingly lone male on territory there throughout my visit, perched on top of a giant (90' tall) beech tree -

However, a minute after I took this photo a second male came in, and the duo flew off into the ether, spitting teeth and expletives.  That's the Purple Emperor for you, Britain's premier butterfly. 

This might well be my last encounter with the Emperor this year, as I'm heading up north tomorrow for the week.  Hopefully, there will be one or two left in Savernake next weekend, but the season may well end soon in this ongoing heat.

Who will record the last Emperor of 2014?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

iris in Richmond Park

Just received a (genuine) record of a Purple Emperor in Richmond Park on July 17th.  Not in the least surprised. 

Also, delighted to hear of one being seen near Cooling on the Cliffe peninsula in NE Kent on July 24th.  That's close to the Emperor's old heartland, Great Chattenden Wood.  I visited what's left of Chattenden a few years back and felt it was still suitable.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Latest Doings

I've just put my car through the car wash, to remove the last vestiges of shrimp paste solution.  That means the Emperor season is ending, though there should be another week left in it at 'late-flying' sites like Savernake. 

On Mon and Tues this week I worked the evening flight at Knepp Wildlands, W Sussex.  There the season is definitely winding down, but a handful of males were nicely active until about 7.15, beating the living daylights out of assorted aerial biodiversity up in the oaks. Purple Hairstreak was incredibly scarce, whereas it often abounds throughout that whole landscape.  Maybe they'd all been shot down by irate male iris?

However, on driving back from the pub at 9.30pm, on Tues 22nd, when it was darkening due to dense cloud, who should I catch in my headlights but Herself - flying along the hedge before disappearing into a sallow bush!  The minx!  I've long suspected that the females are active on warm evenings, or even nights...

Then, on Thurs 24th, Amy from Knepp saw one, sex uncertain, feeding on a low sap run on an oak there at 8.30pm! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Things come in Small Packages

A brief visit to Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, to find my first Purple Emperor ovum of the year - of the "plum pudding" variety! It's amazing how something so small can give so much pleasure :)

Iris in the Kent High Weald

Delighted to be able to report the discovery of The One Butterfly in Kilndown Woods, on NT's Scotney Castle estate, Lamberhurst, on Mon July 20th.

I was leading an event for staff and volunteers so only had a little time, but managed to see two males around an avenue of tall Beech trees which are prominent in the landscape, at the top of the slope - 

and seen from the famous garden (the moat there supports 23 breeding species of dragonfly!) -

That line of Beech is a classic high point territory.

I was also shown the wing of a male found in a garden just north of Lamberhurst.

This rather begs the question of how widespread iris is in the High Weald?  Very, I suspect...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Attraction Test2

Another short video detailing the exposure of more recently eclosed male A.ilia specimens to another potential male bait/attraction compound. Unlike the first rapidly dissipating compound, this second compound is much more stable and therefore emits a continuos flow of active volatiles. This second compound is also more along the lines of 'classical' attractants and is similar to some of those investigated by Honda (1973) on Sasakia charonda. More tests are to follow.


Honda, K. 1973. Olfactory response of adults of butterflies to odorous compounds I. Sasakia charonda Hewitson. Nat. Insect 8:21-24

Hertfordshire still hasn't stopped

I enjoyed a very agreeable afternoon watching one and then two Purple Emperors at the Northaw Assembly area. I arrived just after 2 as the cloud dispersed and good sunshine commenced and almost immediately an emperor made a flight across the gap. He was a bit bored at first so he chased some bees and then a crow and some more bees...........but about 2.45 he was joined by another emperor (almost the same time last week kicked off) and their tussles continued for about 30 minutes when one finally disappeared for good, never to return. Which one it was is hard to say although I suspect it was the first one I saw that went. Both appeared to be in good condition so no obvious identification points although the second one might have been just a tad bigger? I left at 4 with one still flying in the gap in the sunshine having also chased a pigeon and a Purple Hairstreak.