A species of butterfly in this country that has near mythical status, that’s the purple emperor. Living deep in ancient oak forests, out of sight in the canopy. This insect has captivated the imagination of naturalists for centuries. It is the emperor that started my quest this year, I just had to see one!
It is not difficult to locate emperors. The internet is invaluable. This butterfly has such a devoted following of admirers with its own web site ‘The Purple Empire’ What is crucial is timing, to have a chance to see them on the ground you must go early in the flight season, this is when the males search for salts and minerals. 2017 everything is 2 weeks early, so on 25th of June, one week after the first emergence. I went to Fermyn Woods near Corby Northants.
Arrived at 8am, morning is the best time, and walked the northern bridleway. Saw nothing here so crossed the field into Lady Wood. Within a few minutes I was watching my first emperor on the ground, stunning! Photos obtained, walked further another came down then another this was magical. The purple/blue sheen is caused by the light reflecting off the scales, it usually only appears on one wing, I tried very hard to get an image with the colour on both wings but just could not get the angle right.
The best moment of the day was when an emperor landed on my jacket. I eased it onto my finger there it sat happily for five minutes licking the sweat. If only I had my short lens on! In total I saw about a dozen purple emperors.
There were lots of other butterflies in the woods. White admirals were abundant and silver washed fritillaries plus more commoner species.
For the afternoon I went to Robert’s Field. This reserve is located between the villages of Pickworth and Hollywell north of Stamford Lincs.
The sweeping hill is carpeted in wild flowers and orchids. Here large numbers of marbled whites and dark green fritillaries flitted from bloom to bloom, a wonderful sight. It was only as recently as 1994 that this site was cleared of a conifer plantation and restored to limestone grassland. Historically it was famous for rare butterflies like the Duke of Burgundy though these can no longer be found here.
It has been a fantastic weeks holiday. I have been to some beautiful places and seen so much.