Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)
Chiddingfold Forest, 2016
For the last two weeks I have been spending a substantial amount of time walking both the known and lesser-known sectors of Chiddingfold Forest. The forest, situated in southwest Surrey and West Sussex, consists of a number of areas of mixed woodland, which together form the largest more or less continuous area of oakwoods in the region. Importantly, some areas hold Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designation. The variety of woodland types, the gills, and the rides provide habitats for a rich variety of insects and the site supports many nationally rare invertebrates and a number of regionally scarce bryophytes and lichens. The site is also noted for its diverse community of breeding birds.
Late June and early July is the time to search for that enigmatic of species the Purple Emperor. One thing that I have noticed this season is the apparent lack of aerial activity. During typical seasons, whatever typical may be, I’d expect to see males tree-topping and sallow-searching for females whilst ruthlessly defending their territories; I haven’t seen this once this year. With no basis for my conclusion other than gut instinct, I put this down to the generally less than favourable weather conditions experienced during this flight season - frequently cloudy, though warm and humid, and often with a strong breeze blowing. They’ve certainly been harder to find this season but putting in the time has certainly produced the results - I’d hate to think how many miles I’ve walked!
The above image shows a male photographed imbibing nutrients from dry horse dung on 8th July 2016. It was one of two seen grounded during this session.