Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Emperor!

Huge thanks go to Mark, Kate, Jason, Terri, Mark and Sarah for their massive efforts over the working weekend. Overall we managed to bash the bracken down across New Meadow and on Sunday finally dig a pond. The bracken will ensure more and more grass and flower species get a chance to grow through as well as more bramble around the edges, beneficial to both wildlife and myself as some of those blackberries are beginning to form. It is a slow monotonous task and I am massively grateful to both Mark and Kate for their help and company.
The pond is now dug, and the old donated and repaired liner is down; I'm sorry but I am praying for rain to fill it as soon as possible, one of those huge torrential downpours would be perfect, overnight if possible, or maybe I'm asking too much. While we worked, as if to encourage us, we were joined by an emperor dragonfly and 2 brown hawker dragonflies that hunted across the top of the bracken, occasionally clashing with each other. One of the brown hawkers even had an interspecies spat with a silver-washed fritillary!
Overnight we had a short badger watch with the regular sow providing excellent animated viewing as she yanked over logs to get at the hidden peanuts. There is still no sign of the rest of the clan yet and although I am certain that no disturbance has led to their, hopefully merely temporary move, I am a little concerned and would very much like to see them back.
For me the highlight of the weekend and also a very significant event for the woodland as whole occurred while taking a short break from pond digging. A large, active butterfly caught my attention because it was repeatedly flying around me, very close. At first it had the appearance of a white admiral but was too big and flew too aggressively. After a minute or so it eventually settled on my sweaty shirt, presumably to lap up the salt. I was amazed. It was a male Purple Emperor butterfly. It snapped open it's wings and revealed the iridescent purple on the upperside. This is a magnificent insect and I have only seen 2 before, so to actually have one land on me and in Scrag Copse is a coup by any standards. Even if I had had a camera to hand it would have been way too close to take a shot. After a while, it flew onto a camera bag for enough time to allow everyone to respond to Mark and myself's insistent shouting and run over to get a good and close view.
So, a truly royal insect has graced Scrag Copse and this means that there could easily be more across the whole complex. Purple Emperor males adopt territories and chase each other around assembly areas. These assembly areas are at canopy level and as such are hard to find. I know, however, that I will be losing a few hours this week in my search for more Emperors!

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