Sunday, August 22, 2010


As a child in the late sixties I am ashamed to say that my interest in butterflies lay in catching and killing them. At this time I was never fortunate [!] enough not to even see his majesty let alone catch him.

Time passed and my interest waned but in more recent years a chance encounter with a Silver Spotted Skipper reignited my enthusiasm for butterflies and subsequently a camera replaced my net.

Obviously with this renewed interest I wanted to see those species that had eluded me in my youth - especially the Purple Emporer.

It was in 2009 that I trawled the internet to find the best local site to see himself and through Alan Thornbury's excellent website set forth for Straits Inclosure.

That year, during the first couple of weeks of July, I became thoroughly entranced with many close encounters of a butterfly that I once thought I would never see - even seeing a flypast of four at once!!!! During this time I found the Purple Empire website and was relieved to find that I was not the only one that had become similarly entranced by the same creature.

Plans were made to take advantage of my new found knowledge for various forays this year and my first - if distant - sighting was at Bentley Wood on the 2nd July.

The following day I made a hesistant return to Staits Inclosure as I had become aware of the havoc wreaked by FE and it was every bit as bad as I had feared. However just 50m along the track I found a pristine male displaying on the path for me and had a few further sightings during the course of the morning.

During this time I reestablished my acquaintance with Ashley Whitlock - the Hants and IoW Purple Emporer recorder- who I had met at Straits the previopus year. He quietly pointed me over the road to Abbots Wood Inclosure where he had some good sightings -THANKS!

Over the subsequent days I made a number of visits here, making frequent sightings of both himself and eventually herself. This culminated in a courting pair circling around me when I could clearly hear their wings clashing before the disinterested female dissappeared deep into an adjacent sallow.

Just as the season was drawing to a close my dad sadly died after ashort illness.

In order to console myself and reflect on dads life I took myself off to Abbotts Wood in the vain hope that I would get a final sighting.

I walked right through the wood and back again , checking all of the spots where I had sightings previously but despite good weather - nothing. Dissappointed I sat down by a large oak to eat my sandwiches before heading home.

Just then I spotted a movement in the gloom beneath the oak. Thinking to myself 'White Admiral' I casually walked across to see a very battered Emporer perched on the trunk where it seemed there was a sap run. I took a couple of poor snaps of what what was surely my last encounter of this year and felt very contented.

As I walked back across the track to get my bag I glimpsed a movement out of the corner of my eye and immediately froze. Sure enough it was himself come to say goodbye. As I stood there he circled me three times, clearly showing purple from his one intact wing, before landing on my shoulder for a second and flying back to the sap run.

It was the end of the season and I will leave it to you think what it meant to me in the circumstances - but it was a very special moment.

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