Close encounters of a purple kind

After the delights of Bookham Common yesterday afternoon it seemed a good idea to go back this morning, especially on the off-chance that I might find a grounded Purple Emperor. After parking the car at the 'Tunnel Car Park' (08.45hrs) I set off towards the grove of chosen oaks. I had got no further than 100m when my attention was drawn to the flashing wings of a large butterfly from the track a little ahead of me. I knew what it was before I lifted the binoculars - BINGO!

The male Purple Emperor was at a tiny damp patch on the ground and was quite happy for me to come up alongside and keep it company, taking pictures and even a video (which can be found at the bottom of this post, please excuse the sound of walker's boots on the gravel track). For five minutes it remained in place, ignoring a couple of cyclists, a jogger and a dog pack, although I was urging them all to give us a wide berth. It then took flight and alighted a short distance away in some brambles, from which I did not see it emerge. Later in the day (12.30hrs) at least two others were gliding above the crown of the same preferred oaks as yesterday. Soon afterwards a Purple Hairstreak descended from on high and alighted in a shady spot where it remained motionless (below).

If anything, numbers of Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral were down on yesterday, although today the heat was more oppressive and what butterflies were on the wing were very skittish. I did see a single White Admiral that lacked the white bands, but not well enough to give it a match to any named aberration.


Ric said…
Hi Steve, well done on that find.

I'm just back from seeing my own Purple Emperors. Top of Ruislip Woods in their regular patch. Two having a discussion fifty feet up.
Yet to see one at ground level. Next few days if I'm lucky.
Gavin Haig said…
That's really smart, Steve. I've never seen a Purple Emperor, but this post makes me think that one day I ought to. Perhaps I should start a bucket list... 😄
Steve Gale said…
Thanks Ric and Gav. Bookham Common is a great place to get a mid-Summer butterfly fix, but it is busy. Not just joggers, dog-walkers and cyclists, but other natural historians. Big enough to get away on your own though, many ‘hidden’ rides full of Frits and Admirals.
Chris Janman said…
It sounds like somebody walked right past without any enquiry about what you were photographing,typical Joe Bloggs ?
Steve Gale said…
True Chris, while I was watching it a jogger, cyclist and a couple of dog walker’s did exactly that.
Tim Saunders said…
Thanks Steve -enjoyed the video. Having visited Bookham annually with no success I took a trip out to Chiddingfold Forest on Tuesday. There were many eyes but no emperors, so it looks like it will be another year's wait.

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