Monday, 16 July 2018

Hitting a Purple Patch

I've never seen a Purple Emperor butterfly, but have wanted to encounter one for a long time.  A decade ago, I believe the nearest colony was in Northamptonshire.   I couldn't really justify the long-distance car journey for a butterfly, no matter how much I wanted to see one.  However, I heard a rumour that there were some in Lincolnshire - only a 75 minute drive from the Humber Bridge.  I set off early this morning with 2 passengers, but when we arrived the temperature was already over 25 degrees in the shade.  The reserve had a number of walks, which weren't clearly marked from the car park.  We decided on the middle route, but later found out we were on the longest route.  In the first glade there were plenty of Ringlets, a few Peacocks, and Ben spotted a Purple Hairstreak.  There appeared to be White Admirals (a new species for me) chasing each other and gliding along the top of the trees, but then a Purple Emperor fluttered among the leaves of an Oak.  We also saw a Comma and then a Silver-Washed Fritillary flew past us at speed.  It was then we realised we had come the wrong way, and we headed back towards the car park.
Male Purple Emperor
 The same individual in better light
 No purple sheen showing
In the other direction Ben spotted a large butterfly flying around an oak tree with only a relatively small amount of leafage.  Then it landed on the side of the bole, so we moved round for a better view.  It started walking down the tree to where a branch had fallen off some time ago.  We were able to see it was a male Purple Emperor. it moved down to the base of the scar, and views through the binoculars and camera revealed that its yellow tongue appeared to be drinking sap from the tree.  Later, a search through a book revealed that drinking sap was one of the most pleasant food items of this stunning butterfly!  Several minutes later it flew across the path and landed above our heads where I was able to take some photos in better light.  A Silver-Washed Fritillary fluttered among the grass, but didn't remain for its photo to be taken.  At the same point we were able to spot at least 3 purple Hairstreaks high in the canopy, but later one landed on some Ash leaves.
 Record shot of Purple Hairstreak (c) 2018 Ben Coneyworth
 Record shot of Purple Hairstreak
 Second generation male Brimstone
Brimstone with hoverfly species
 Overexposed Purple Emperor - camera on wrong setting!
enhanced by Chris Cox
This was a very impressive location with some very attractive species, and it would be good to visit when it isn't quite so stifling.  The heat meant the butterflies were very active and flitting about constantly, so photo opportunities would probably have been better either earlier in the day, or on a day when the temperatures weren't quite so high.

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