Sunday, August 23, 2015

Infertile Eggs

Infertile eggs are not that infrequent, perhaps especially after hot weather flight seasons.  Either that or I find every one laid...

This egg is empty.  I bunged it under the microscope at x 60 and couldn't find any hole, so it hadn't been sucked (by a weevil, or other malicious invertebrate).  The conclusion is that a male was firing blanks, or a female had run out of sperm...

(Fermyn Woods, 20th Aug 2015 - and I saw 14 Silver-washed Fritillaries, 2 old Ringlet and, incredibly, 2 old Large Skipper - my first of the month).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Knepp Highlights

Thanks to David Land for forwarding these magnificent photos of Emperors on the favoured sap oak at Knepp this July -

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dogfighting emperors

I'm a long-time fan of HIM but new to this site.  I thought I'd share my very grainy pic of a couple of upside-down male emperors, which I snapped from afar as they were engaged in dogfights above the canopy at Buck's Horn Oak, Alice Holt Forest, one day in mid July this year.

That was the best view I had of emperors that day, but a couple of days later my brother and I came across a very obliging male taking salts in the middle of the main ride in nearby Straits Inclosure.  I've put the pics on my Flickr site here:

Though I hail from Hampshire, I now live the other side of the world, in Tasmania, so I doubt I'll get another chance to watch the emperors again for a while.  But the happy memories will linger.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Late News

The Emperor season must have ended now.  It seems to have been rather a short one, curtailed prematurely by high winds and spells of hot weather.  Indeed, this was the windiest Emperor season I've known (or at least the windiest since 1973).  The flight season in Savernake Forest was remarkably short, commencing just before mid-July and only just lasting into early August - I had expected them to last to mid-August there, but they'd finished by the 8th.  

Apart from at Knepp, in West Sussex, numbers were at best average, and were generally comparable to last year's modest showing.  At Bookham, where Ken Willmott has data on male occupancy in the main territory running back to the late 1970s, it was another average year.  At several sites numbers were even lower than in 2014.  Strangely, the population at mighty Fermyn Woods declined significantly - not due to any obvious habitat deterioration. Knepp bucked the trend wondrously, and is now Britain's premier Emperor site. 

The butterfly was discovered or rediscovered in several new districts, including Hampstead Heath in north London and at Great Chattenden Wood in Kent, where the passion for this the best of all possible butterflies began, back in mid-Victorian times.  Great to have regular news of the Emperor in Notts and Cambs too.  And Gloucestershire has come out again, producing a male in woodland south-east of Stowe-on-the-Wold in mid-July. 

My guess is that the egg lay will prove to be distinctly poor, perhaps even down on last year's dismal figure.  Watch this space. Here's a recent photo of a larva, which has just changed into the second instar - 

Please remember that this blog functions all year round.  Keep posting things on, and follow the progress of larvae through autumn and winter, and into the spring - and next year's a biggie because it's 40 years on from the Long Hot Summer of 1976...

Monday, August 10, 2015

News from Hampstead Heath

This news came from Frank Nugent who has been watching the newly found assembly area on a regular basis since the beginning of July! "Reports of the Emperors demise have been greatly exaggerated! I'm beside myself with joy; here's my news: I'm overjoyed to report after no sighting whatsoever yesterday that the Purple Emperor put on a right regal show today on Hampstead Heath. Photos I took today show much wear and tear but you'd never have known it from his behaviour. He seemed extraordinarily active, first appearing at 13:11 and chasing everything in sight: Woodpigeons seemed to really aggrevate him, a Parakeet was escorted off the premises and Purple Hairstreaks and Red Admiral summarily dispensed with. Don't know what was eating him but he spent the day variously seeing off intruders and perching obligingly. HIM remained visible until 17:20 when I watched him leap from his perch and appeared to glide through one of the assembly trees to be seen no more."

Saturday, August 8, 2015

All OverAt Bentley

A 2 hour walk at Bentley failed to throw up a single Emperor . White Admirals also finished but still a few tired Silver Washed Frits hanging on , but not for much longer . That soon took the shine off England regaining The Ashes .

Monday, August 3, 2015

News from Cotgrave Woods (Cotgrave Forest) South Notts

Warm afternoon yesterday.
Patience was required to see two Purple Emperors - a male and female.