Purple Patch

Sunday 12th July 2015
Purple Emperor, Oversley Wood, Warwickshire
After refusing to not let an unfavourable weather forecast put me off last Sunday, and successfully ticking White Admiral in Glos., I applied the same optimism this Sunday. Setting off for Warwickshire in cloudy conditions, with rain forecast and no apparent prospect of sunshine, I pinned any hopes of seeing Purple Emperor on the weather differing from the forecast. As I travelled towards Tewkesbury northbound on the M5, some patches of blue sky were already appearing. Not only that, but the car's temperature gauge was showing 19oC, already 3 degrees higher than forecast. But had I left it too late in the day, it was already nearly 11am as I reached Ashchurch, to see any PE's at low level? I reached Oversley Wood at just before 11.30am, and some sunshine was coming through, and it felt warm. I soon spotted a couple of White Admirals and five Silver-washed Fritillaries, and a Hornet.
Silver-washed Fritillary
White Admiral
No PE's by midday however, and the sun was giving way to cloud and some spots of light rain. I decided to walk the circuit and stop for tea and a snack half way round. By then the rain had become more frequent and it felt colder. By the time I reached the furthest point from the car park, it started raining heavily. I sheltered under trees, but the water soon began dripping through. I was getting wet. The heavy rain lasted for around 20 minutes, enough to soak me quite successfully, and lead me to think the game was over, and time to get back to the car. Had the rain started nearer the car park, I would have given up and headed for home. The fact that I was a good 30 minutes walk from the car allowed time for the rain to stop, the sky to clear, and the sun to shine. Within a matter of five minutes from the last rain drop, it was a different day. By now it was gone 2.00pm, and so I thought my best chances of PE would be distant treetop views, or seeing an egg-laying female come down later if I could stick at it long enough. Several Silver-washed Fritillaries and a few more White Admirals later, a large butterfly floated past me. It was on the ground. 20yards in front of me. It was a male PURPLE EMPEROR.
Purple Emperor showing the incredible 'eye' marking
The photographs here were taken over the course of the next hour as it obliged by tucking in to a lump of animal faeces on the path, occasionally flying up to perch in a nearby Hazel, but always returning. It was still there when I left it, and after a several passers-by had admired it and photographed it. The moral of this tale: don't be put off by a rubbish forecast. I left in glorious sunshine and 23oC.
What a show-off, and who can blame it?
My longest ever views of Purple Emperor
Taking a short rest from licking poo
On the ground and, briefly at least, not on poo
The sunshine really intensified the colours in this shot
A different perspective
Habitat shot - Oversley Wood

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