Monday, 23 July 2012

Purple Emperor visit

Super weekend in Hertfordshire at a friend's wedding, which began with 3 Red Kites cavorting overhead as we enjoyed champagne and canopes on the lawn, and ended with crippling views of a near-mythical Butterfly species.
I had read somewhere (probably Birdforum) that there was a site in Northamptonshire were Purple Emperors were clinging on, but upon looking this up it turns out the wood in question was not really on the way home. However, my search turned up another site that was certainly within reach and so at 11am this morning I arrived at Broxbourne Woods to blow the cobwebs away after a night of dancing, eating and drinking with great company. 
There were certainly Butterflies on the wing, in numbers not seen so far this year. Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Red Admiral and Ringlet were all nice to see. A possible Silver-washed Frit powered through, lost to view. Despite the heat, there were some birds for company too. Crossbills called overhead, Nuthatch, Coal Tit and surprisingly a Ke-wicking Tawny Owl. 
Nearing the end of my circuit, I came across an open area and a friendly warden approached me and we began to discuss what was about. Before I could begin a species list, a large Butterfly flew up from beneath us. "Ah, Purple Emperor!" he exclaimed. I couldn't believe it. Apparently, this individual often rests up on the fence that borders the track, and feeds on the horse muck. I waited for his return, with another forest ranger who was passing. No luck. Still, I had been lucky to at least see one.
Walking back to the car in a shaded area, a Butterfly flew low across the track. Initially, I thought it was a White Admiral. Nope, this thing was huge. Take a look at these:

The purple sheen not really on show in these photos, although in the field when the light caught the wings this insect looked magnificent. I know I got lucky today. A real privilege and a wildlife memory to savour.


  1. A real cracker, well done Jim!

  2. Congratulations on not only seeing but photographing the Purple Emperors. There's a good bit in The Butterfly Isles about looking for them, I think they are referred to as "His Imperial Majesty" or something like that!

  3. Thanks for your comments guys.
    That is a book I am meaning to read James, Deb's mum has a copy so it will get read this Summer. Really enjoying tracking down Butterflies and Dragonflies this year, a lot to be learnt and I am amazed at how behaviour differs, say when comparing a Grayling to an Admiral or a Chaser to a Hawker. Great stuff.