Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Butterflies Of Summer & Seeking Iris


Those kind souls among you who have stuck with C Tales these past few years may remember that I have a dear friend called Dave (also known in our house as Uncle B - Uncle Bulgaria from the wombles, I'm not sure why-) who is something of a Wildlife Expert (believe me, he deserves the capitals).

I have leant so much from Uncle B over the years, particularly in the field of birds, butterflies and wild plants. He has taught me to tell a White Throat's song from that of a Goldcrest; he has walked me up ancient Chalk Downs and shown me where the rare Bird's Nest Orchid blooms; he took me to a colony of the rare Adonis Blue flutter and showed me how to tell them apart from the other blues, and it was in his company that I saw my one and only Brown Hairstreak butterfly (another rarity). Over the years he has patiently answered my "I found this, what it is?" emails and has steered me in the direction of interesting wildlife-related courses. The only area I know more about than he does is moths, and then it's quite a pleasure when he sends me a photo to ID!

Every summer, Uncle B and I make our annual pilgrimage to Bentley Woods in Wiltshire, strong hold of that other rarity, the Purple Emperor. Purple Emperors hold Rock Star Status among butterfly enthusiasts. No other species pulls folk into the woods to sit beneath oaks and sallows for hours on end in hot sunshine awaiting the appearance of this extraordinary flutter. I've met people who have searched for the Emperor for a lifetime and never seen one.

For four summers now we have trudged the trackways of the woods during the end of June and the start of July staring up into oak trees or on lumps of poo on the ground, for the Emperor loves mineral salts and doesn't much care where he gets them. For four summers we have returned un-Emperored, yet every year the hope returns refreshed and undimmed that this summer will be the one when His Imperial Majesty (as the Emperor is known in flutter circles) will grace us with his company.

We saw all kinds of wonderful this morning as we wandered down the sun-dappled paths....

black-and-yellow longhorn beetle

female Brown Argus butterfly (orange dots go all the way up the wings- in the male they only go half way up)

female Emperor Dragonfly patrolling the rides (the males have less green on their bodies)

Lots of Marbled Whites

Lots of Meadow Browns

Lots of silver washed fritillaries. This is a male- the black streaks are longer on the boys

And this is the girl. She is more spotty than streaky. Small P is this what you saw?
But no Emperors. And then the first of some extra-special things appeared.....this pic below is also a female Silver Washed Fritillary, but a rare colour aberration called Valezina. I've never seen one before and it was Uncle B (of course) who spotted her. It made my day and went some way to making up for the lack of Emperors. Valezina's are a soft brown instead of a vibrant ginger/ orange, and they have a green shade to the underside of their wings instead of the creamy silver that's more common.

Valezina Silver Washed Fritillary

Mother Nature hadn't done with us, because we then saw a White Admiral. Like the Emperor whom it closely resembles, a flutter of ancient woodlands. Majestic, graceful, elegant and often the species we have to content ourselves with when we draw the usual Emperor-Blank....

White Admiral
We'd reconciled ourselves to drawing another blank, Emperor-wise, today, although we had seen record numbers of Purple Hairstreaks dotting about high up in the oak canopies, and these are like little Emperors, when two chaps appeared asking if we'd seen anything. Seconds before, an Emperor had swooped over our heads and flown up into the top of an oak, so I told them about it and they replied that there was an Emperor back at the carpark sitting on people.

We were a long way from the carpark and assumed it would be gone by the time we got there and sure enough, when we arrived, no Emperor, just lots of people telling us about it. We agreed to give it twenty minutes before calling it a day. The heat was rising and flutters don't like it too warm.

Then suddenly, a shape glowing purple as the light bounced off its wings swooshed down out of the oak and fluttered around us, eventually landing on the cap of a nice lady called Lynne.

male purple emperor
We all started taking pictures and chattering excitedly, then the Emperor took off and flew round us in a loop before flying around right in front of me. He really checked me out, as they are known to do. The noise of those wings! I honestly thought he was going to land on my nose. I could feel the air he was creating as he buzzed around my head and wondered whether this was what I'd read about: a male emperor telling someone to get off his patch. In the end he decided I was worth sitting on, rather than chasing off, and plumped for my cap, but only briefly, before flying off and alighting on Lynne's husband's shoulder, and then his leg, where he stayed for ages licking the salt off his skin.....





a small crowd of excited Purple Emperor Worshippers- one had been waiting SEVEN YEARS to see one!
Finally, the light changed enough to afford us a glimpse of the amazing purple sheen the male Emperors are known for. Only a glimpse mind, but it was enough. It made my day!

tiny speck of purple visible bottom right of wing. Just :o)

So, the motto of that story is: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I shall be holding on to that thought for the next ten months because I've just entered the Edinburgh Marathon which happens next May. Yikes! There is no turning back now, eh?

Hope you're all well. 

CT :o)



44 comments:

  1. Lovely interesting post and beautiful photo's, so glad you were able to get such nice shots.

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  2. Am always pleased to see butterflies and moths. We have a field set aside in a village near here which has lots of varieties including the Emperor, but they were high up in the trees when we visited so no luck.Ah well. Looks like you had a great day! Arilx

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    1. That is typical emperor behaviour. Very frustrating! X

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  3. The photographs of the butterflies are absolutely stunning and it must have been such a joy for you to see the elusive Purple Emperor.
    We saw lot of butterflies on our walk yesterday but I'm sorry to say I wouldn't be able to name any of them.
    Exciting news about the marathon. X

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    1. I think it's a good year for flutters. Am v excited about the marathon- something new to aim for x

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  4. How exciting! I'm so pleased you got to see it in the end. It's so useful having someone knowledgeable to spot things with. x

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  5. Incredible photos. I'm a Butterflier. poemblog6.blogspot.com Can't believe the Purple Emperors, need to read Brendan Chase again! Regards, Mark.

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    1. Thanks Mark. I loved the little grey men books but haven't read Brendan chase.

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  6. BRILLIANT! I am so thrilled for you, and to have such a good long sight of him as well, that really is fantastic. Great photos, well done you. And good that so many people got to see him. The silver washed fritillary is very beautiful too. CJ xx

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    1. A feast of flutters (but not literally!) x

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  7. Sounds like salmon fishing and butterfly spotting are very similar, you try like mad for years, them some idiot finds one in the car park! There is a moral there somewhere....

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    1. A salmon in a car park... now that's something I'd like to see :o).

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  8. Everyone needs an Uncle B in their life! I'm so pleased that you managed to see one - he looks beautiful and well worth the wait. xx

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  9. What a beautiful post post today ! The first photo of the Male Purple Emperor is one of your best photos yet. Just fabulous !
    You are so lucky to feel the flutter and hear the noise of the wings.

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

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  10. Wow how wonderful that the Emperor made an appearance at the last moment. It must have been so fantastic to see after searching for so many years. Sarah x

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    1. Restored my faith in our searching abilities! X

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  11. How wonderful!! So glad for you that your persistence paid off. Hope all goes well with the marathon!

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  12. The butterfly needs a worthy audience who realise who he is.

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  13. Oh what a magical post. How amazing to see one so rare and for him to be so friendly. Mine was a bit like that but it seemed to have a more delineated bottom edge to it. There is a photo on my instagram feed smallp23 if that helps. I'm rubbish and them there flutterbuy ID!!

    Fantastic news about Edinburgh! It is rumoured to be a lovely course. If you enjoy it perhaps I can persuade you to a trail one too ;-) xx

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    1. I'm wondering whether yours was a comma? More ragged wing edges and more common.

      I'm hoping I won't need too much persuading if all goes well- I chose Edinburgh because it's flat and I thought that might be wise first time round! But my heart is in the hills. Be great to do a race together some time (when I've got more miles in my legs and won't slow you down too much!!) xx

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    2. I don't think it was a comma but I am new to all this so who knows!!

      It would be great to race or even just do a training run. I am a proper slow coach. I cruise at ten minute miles unless it's an emergency like almost missing my first ever park run on Saturday!!!

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    3. Ooh! How did it go? I do love Parkrun. So good at getting all sorts of folk running. Which one did you do?

      I'm finding that I'm enjoying doing the longer distances at a slower pace rather than trying to run 3-6 miles quickly. BUT I do have unfinished Parkrun business, trying to get under 23 mins, which I will probably pick up in the autumn. A training run sounds a lovely idea xx

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    4. I was running with my partner who is only just starting to run so we did a nice 35 mins. It was Rushmoor which is just outside Farnborough. Not the most inspiring I have to say as it was two loops but the requirement was FLAT and it fitted the bill :-) Not sure how we exchange details. I think my google login has my old blog email attached to it. Hmmm. x

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    5. Well done to the new runner! If you leave me your email in comments I'll note it down then delete the comment so it isn't published. Snowdonia must be soon? Huge luck. Will be thinking of you x

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  14. That's a fantastic encounter! And the marbled whites, not uncommon round here, but I've enver seen one. Frits are another matter, not a numerous family in Notts

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    1. I only see marbled whites if I go to specific sights. We get them passing through only at home.

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  15. Well that's a WOW from me! I can only imagine how happy that's made you, I would be absolutely chuffed :-) And Edinburgh for a marathon sounds lovely.

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    1. They are every bit as wonderful when you do get to see one. Thanks re the marathon :o). X

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  16. What a wonderful ay out and you saw many and aried butterflies and were rewarded for your patience and perseverance in the end in seeing the Purplle Emperer

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  17. Oh how exciting! He came to say hello to you by the sound of things : ) My daughter Tamzin is in the Czech republic at the moment (with partner) and they had a Purple Emperor on the house and in the garden all day long earlier this week and she got some amazing photos.

    Thank you for sharing your butterfly pics - we have more here than in previous years, and had what I know is a fritillary in the garden this week, one which is very local to this area - think it could be a Dark Green Frit. Dratted thing flew so fast and didn't stop for a positive ID.

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    1. How wonderful to have one around while on hols. I haven't seen any dark green Frits here yet. They don't settle when it's hot :o(. Hope house viewing went well- will pop over for proper catch up x

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  18. Hey CT,
    Amazing. Truly. I'd have been happy with all the other flutters in the forest. Lots and lots of gatekeepers here. And some lovely moths; a magpie, brimstone, garden tiger and elephant hawk moth.
    Leanne xx

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    1. Garden tiger is an excellent spot, they are becoming rarities. We've got 2 crab spiders here at the mo. I think I will always associate them with olly from now on! Xx

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    2. I've become obsessed with finding one! Olly spotted the brimstone; took a snap, looked it up and everything!

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  19. Just catching up with this lovely post. Amazing pictures and I bet you were thrilled. Marathon eh, good on you. I've just returned from lots of butterfly sightings. Mainly marbled whites and some very bright yellow ones ?! Uncle B sounds like the perfect companion for your nature walks. B x

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    1. Probably female brimstones but they could have been clouded yellows too. Have you had a fab time? Hope so and shall look forward to catching up xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x