Chiddingfold Forest, 11 July 2012
Earlier today I joined good friend Nick Broomer in search of the elusive, beautiful and highly seductive Purple Emperor; a species that is several weeks late in showing in prime local territory this season.
Dressed in the very best Emperor hunting fashion (wellies and waterproofs) our day commenced under heavy cloud as we waded through chest high wet grass in search of Dark Green Fritillaries. These we soon found, including a freshly emerged female, though any approach other than for a quick record shot was not forthcoming. After several heavy showers, including a brief spell of thunder and lightening, the sun started to break through the cloud; the air became hot and humid. Although storm clouds still lingered, conditions were more promising for our target.
As we left the Dark Greens to play we slowly headed along the forestry track; eyes focused like that of an owl on the ground ahead. As we passed a small meadow, favoured for Dingy and Grizzled Skipper earlier in the year, we both instinctively froze and waited for the other to give the shout! Gracing us with his presence, a pristine male Purple Emperor was circling the track in front of us. At one point he took chase of a small bird as if saying “this is my territory keep out”, before finally landing on the track ahead. We moved with caution allowing him time to settle and commence taking salts, his characteristic yellow proboscis clearly visible. We then approached and took our shots of what I believe to be the first recorded Emperor in this location this season. Pleased with our find and pictures in the bag we headed on and found two further individuals, the first of which and the only one which showed its upperside clearly, carried extensive hindwing damage and wear suggesting emergence some days previous.
A great day in great company …