Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Apatura Ilia

Some shots from Chris Rickard:

Here are a few shots of Apatura ilia on the first day of emergence
here in Brittany, France. 28th June 2015.
Taken with a 500mm lens, males a long way up.

ilia is a delightful butterfly,  occurring in two quite different forms, the normal as here and form clytie, where the 
male has an orange colouring to the upperside. It is found throughout much of Europe, as close to the UK as the Channel coast of France, and usually emerges about a week before iris.

Sussex Kicks Off

A single male heralded the start of the Sussex Silly Season at 15:49 on 30.6.15. Unsurprisingly at Knepp http://www.knepp.co.uk/, which now supports the UK's second largest population. This heat wave is likely to trigger a Big Bang event, just in time for the first of two weekend Purple Festivals here. Happy days are here again!

Bookham Battle

I visited Bookham Common today as did a few other optimistic individuals. The morning was fairly quiet with no iris sightings. It was only in the afternoon, after 14.00 when 2 males possibly more were seen around the Hill Farm car park area. The activity was fairly infrequent but over the course of an hour or so, the 2 males chased around the top of the oaks staying in the same area. It was possible there could have been up to 4, but only 2 were seen at one time. No doubt the heat limited too much activity. Starting to look good.

Middlesex kicks off

At 13:23 after waiting since 12:30 a single male flew across the Whitewebbs Assembly area not to be seen again. Liz and Andrew

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bookham Kicks Off!

Delighted to report that Ken & Lorraine Willmott saw the first 100% definite and utterly indisputable Purple Emperor of the 2015 season today at Bookham Common, Surrey, at 2.15 - chasing off a wood pigeon...

We have lift off...

Trousers on the head everyone.  

Hopefully they'll var in this heat wave and we'll see some good colour variants.

Note that many other sites may not start before the weekend (which is why I'm going up for the Mountain Ringlet...).  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is this the first official sighting of 2015?

According to the Hampshire BC site HIM has decided to surprise us by making an appearance at Axmansford, near Tadley. A male visited a garden briefly on 27th June at 16.30. I have booked this week off so I hope they continue to emerge, otherwise I have to make a few last minute arrangements.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

very early sightings

      A male was seen in Black Park Bucks on the 14th, and another near Rushbeds Wood Bucks on the 15th. I have spoken to both observers and I have no doubt that they saw iris. It is impossible, however,  to rule out the possibility that these were the result of releases, because no further sightings have been made in the Upper Thames region to date. We await, therefore, the 'proper' start to the season.

How Late A Season?

I was predicting iris to start appearing at early sites, such as Bookham Common, on June 30th, and elsewhere from about July 5th.  

That may be over optimistic.  

I visited Alice Holt Forest today, where camilla and paphia hadn't started.  By modern standards that's late.  I was expecting to see the first camilla there.  

The Emperor season begins when camilla is well out and the first paphia females are appearing.  Also, the oak leaves need to be turning blue-green.  Today, only the odd oak was blueing, the vast majority were still rather yellow-leaved.  

Back at the ranch, my third larva has only just pupated, a week after the other two.  It wont emerge before July 12th.  My larvae are synchronized with their North Wilts cousins, a late-flying race.  

It will be interesting to see when the 2015 Purple Emperor season gets going properly...

Friends of the Straits Inclosure in Alice Holt need to be aware that heavy thinning has taken place in the western half of the wood, and that many, if not most, of the breeding sallows in that sector have been destroyed.  The Emperor population in The Straits will have been significantly reduced...  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Oriental Emperors Eclose

As promised I'm just posting a short update to my earlier (March 15th) post along a similar thread title (and content). My first adult Sasakia charonda's have now just started to eclose, so thought some of you might like to see them. Like our native (and European) Apatura's these are again truly magnificent specimens, although their size is simply astonishing by comparison. Enjoy:

home breeding, late season?

I always keep the larvae in the open so that they are exposed to the elements, the only artificial factor is that my Sallow bush is enclosed in netting which reduces the wind chill factor somewhat. I have been doing this for 30 years and I have noticed that the home bred specimens emerge on average about one week earlier than those 'in the wild'.
This year seems different however. Of the seven which I have, three pupated between the 15th and 17th of June and the last four pupated while I have been away between the 19th and 22nd, suggesting emergences between about the 5th and 12th of July, which is certainly late for home bred specimens.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It is almost time...

A quickening of the heart-rate. Eyes straining to focus in the strong sunlight to keep in view the dark shadow flitting along just above head height. Is it? Yes - a Purple Emperor! No-one else is near, so this is a private encounter, the one you have been dreaming about during those long winter evenings. A shimmer of scales and a flash of the imperial purple wing colouring takes your breath away. Still, stand still - but don't lose sight of HIM whatever happens. The gorgeous blue colour floods into the eyes and is intoxicating. More - I must have more. The size, beauty and majesty of the insect is mesmerizing. He flies closer now, curious, perhaps investigating the sweat-smell? Amazingly, you can hear his wings beating in the hot air as he circles you: Flack, flack flack, and now he lands some ten yards in front of you on the metalled track; his wings opening and closing whilst he taxis towards the damp patch that is all that remains of last night's downpour, probing with his bright yellow proboscis for the leached minerals essential for his vitality. Slowly now, willing yourself to move achingly slowly towards him but with your heart racing and not wanting to miss the opportunity that now presents itself. Your field-craft at this moment in time is crucial to a successful outcome - the prize is close. His Imperial Majesty is settled now, and his wings stay closed as he imbibes. You can see the chestnut and white markings of the undersides and also the orange eye with the black pupil. But this is not the goal you seek. You sidle up and slowly cast your shadow on HIM as though a passing cloud has interrupted the light and warmth of the sun's rays. Long seconds pass, and finally HE obliges and opens his wings in anticipation of the sun's return, and at last you are treated to the sight of the 'double purple' wing exposure, or rather a glorious and intense electric blue accentuated by the white markings, a colour that brings forth an involuntary gasp, that seems to bathe the eyes, perhaps even releasing endorphins into the brain? You bend your body from the waist towards HIM in acknowledgement of the presence of a higher being; Beep-Beep - Click. The digital camera records your triumphal moment. Your photograph may now be shared with others who will appreciate such natural beauty. Congratulations, it was well done.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

First emperors

Not iris yet, but ilia, flying in the valley not far from me:


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The 2015 Purple Emperor Season: Delayed Start

Predictions for the timing of the coming season - 

I very much doubt that the Emperor will be on the wing before the end of June anywhere this year.  

The first males may appear at the 'early' sites in Surrey and Sussex at the very end of June, but elsewhere the butterfly is unlikely to start before July 5th.  

At most sites, peak season seems likely to be from 10th - 20th July, possibly later.

All this, of course, depends on the weather - things may speed up or slow down. 

Just now, larvae are feeding up very slowly, hampered I think by cold nights.  None of the ones I'm following, in captivity and in the wild, is full grown yet.  One is stuck in the early 5th instar, most are in mid to late 5th instar stage, like this -

I doubt that numbers will be particularly good this year, but much depends on weather during the flight season.  

Watch this space...

Monday, June 1, 2015

Let us pray

Māyā is preparing for her fifth and final incarnation as a caterpillar:

After that she will become a goddess again ...