Friday, July 21, 2017


Sorry, in fact there has been a nice discussion on dispersal! [but not yet on influence of light and temperature]

The last knockings

Matthew pointed out that, at the end  of the season, it is difficult to spot them unless you are experienced enough to know where and how to look. In Upper Thames we have two people who possess this quality in spades: Wendy & Mick Campbell. They have been out looking almost every day in many woods since they saw the first on June 17th. Yesterday, three were seen in Waterperry Wood [including a female ovipositing], and today, one in Little Wood. So, that is 5 weeks so far, which is a normal flight season length.
I agree with Matthew, because the end is nigh, it is no reason to stop blogging!
Why don't we discuss our experiences, where they add to knowledge of the ecology of HIM?
For example, I have written two blogs concerning possible influence of light and temperature on activity, and dispersal, but the response has been meagre!

That Other Purple Butterfly...

This is a remarkable year for the Purple Hairstreak, at least in the Sussex Weald where I've spent the season. This is odd because many Wealden oaks were partially defoliated by late frosts, which must surely have adversely affected numerous larvae. 

I've known better Purple Hairstreak years, most notably 1976 which was probably an order of magnitude greater - they roamed the oak woodland edges in loose swarms.

Although most active during the evenings, when they conduct their courtship and mating, and largely quiescent during the heat of the afternoon, this July they have been coming down to visit bramble and Creeping Thistle flowers, as they do in drought summers - it's just that we haven't had a drought July since 2006 and 2003. 

Alongside His Imperial Majesty, the Purple Emperor, this hairstreak seldom visits flowers.  Here's one feeding on bramble -

Here's a better one on Creeping Thistle - 

And one feeding below a faded Creeping Thistle flower, I'm not sure on what precisely... - 

They've also been probing around for moisture in damp grasses, first thing in the morning (which they did prolifically in early July 1976) - 

Best of all are the Purple Hairstreak Ash feeder trees - if you can find one. I found one at Knepp late on. Here, at least 20 quercus were in view, probing around on next year's ash buds and, seemingly, feeding on lenticels (secretion pores) along the stems -

They have remarkably short tongues.

Very much a candidate for Butterfly of the Year...

Closing Time...

The end of the fantastic 2017 Purple Emperor season is at hand... (unless, of course, they produce a second brood...)

I managed to see four males and two females at Knepp yesterday, July 20th, but only because I know precisely where to stand and look. 

The good news is that last Tuesday night's apocalyptic thunderstorm (which lasted for two hours at Knepp) didn't knock them all out! The rain fell steadily, rather than in stair-rods, and crucially there was no damaging wind. 

But the survivors looked like this final-day female -

Unless you are an experienced Emperorphile and know precisely where to stand and look it will not be worth travelling this weekend to see the butterfly. It's closing time.

Above all, please note that this website functions all year round, not just during the heady weeks of the Emperor flight season. In particular, I will give early indications of when the next brood is likely to emerge. Watch this space, and always look on the Purple side of life...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Saying Goodbye

One of the last stragglers, a worn and battered female, from what seems to have been a magnificent emperor season at Knepp. My first visit back there in over forty years - thanks to Matthew, Neil, Harry and everyone else for making it such an enjoyable trip. 


I presume most members of The Purple Empire can remember their first sighting of His Imperial Majesty.  For me this happened on June 25th this year.  With retirement looming over the horizon I realised there were many things I had not seen and decided to put this right.  I have a great love of all things nature in particular butterflies.  I am also a very keen amateur photographer and combine both interests.  At the start of this year I compiled my hit list, at the very top Purple Emperor!  Living in Norfolk does not offer many chances to see this mythical beast so I had to travel.  Plenty of internet research led me to this site and I decided my best chance, and nearest home, would be Fermyn.
By following the Empire I logged emergence dates and hoped weather and days off work would coincide, I had about 6 chances.  Set off early on the 25th, forecast not great but had to take the chance.  Arrived opposite the glider club at 8am surprised to see only 2 cars, I had expected mass crowds similar to a rare bird twitch!  Walked the northern bridleway seeing nothing so crossed into the Lady Wood complex taking the right hand path.  Within a few minutes I was transfixed by my first Emperor on the ground in front of me, a bit tatty but what a feeling of elation.
Within the next 100yds a second male, this time pristine, came down, seconds later another joined it.  This was fantastic, not a soul in sight and 3 magnificent creatures around me and then on me!  One decided to check me out, circled my face then landed on my jacket.  Gently I eased HIM on to my finger, there he sat for over 5 mins licking the sweat.  If only I had the short lens on the Nikon!  I tried to change lens one handed but he had had enough and went up onto a leaf giving me the eye.
The weather turned out o.k in the end and as I wandered around I had more and more encounters seeing at least 12 on the ground and others gliding overhead.  And they were very approachable so I obtained dozens of fantastic images.
It had been an incredible day and I must thank the Empire for putting me in the right place at the right time to fulfil a boyhood dream.  If any one wants to see my efforts in capturing other species on camera please check out my site  Butterflies to Dragsters.  Here's to next year!  Brian Hicks

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

'Rejection Drop' At Knepp

Here are some of the fantastic images of the 'rejection drop' taken by Bolton photographer Brian White on the 13 July Knepp Purple Emperor safari. An already-mated female is seen trying to out-manoeuvre two amorous males.