Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Purple Haze, all in my mind

Bernwood Forest, this morning. I was searching for Purple Emperors. These guys for Purple Hearts:

It was a strange morning. Things were jumping out all over the place:

But I met some good people, including Oliver Cooper (above), who took this remarkable picture of his arm last week. Oliver introduced me to Dave, who co-ordinates counts of Purple Emperor butterflys. Today Dave was walking through the forest wearing a pair of yellow marigolds and carrying a bag of Fox faeces, fresh from Mrs Tiggy Winkle's animal rescue centre. I kid you not. Dave then smeared Fox faeces at strategic points in order to attract the butterflys. Usually Purple Emperor butterflies, despite their regal name, feed on dog faeces, so I assume Fox faeces were a nice change. To make things really neat, Dave also left a little blue spoon by each pile, so you knew you were close to really fresh Emperor food:

And so, with the military manoeuvres, yellow marigolds and Fox faeces out of the way, my search for The Emperor began. In fact, this being a good year for sightings, it was not too difficult to find one and in traditional style my first male was feeding hungrily on a fresh dog turd a little way up the main track. I was determined to get some photographs of what the UK Butterflies website describes as a "magnificent and elusive insect". However, I was equally determined not to photograph the dog turd. So I waited and as always, patience paid off:

But where was the purple? Unfortunately for me today was hot. Really hot. And too hot, even by 11am, for the Emperors. When perching they actively sought out shade, making capturing the iridescence tricky. I got close on a few occasions, but could not, in the time available, capture a full spread of blue in the way I had hoped:

Here is some video action of Purple Emperor Butterflies holding their wings tightly closed:

By lunchtime it was time to depart, but even the carpark held butterfly interest, with 3 White Admirals and this enigmatically posing Purple Hairstreak:

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