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?|
|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....
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|
|a small crowd of excited Purple Emperor Worshippers- one had been waiting SEVEN YEARS to see one!|
|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.