Hampshire Duke of Burgundy
co-ordinator notes for 2023
A few Male Dukes were very worn by the time many females emerged at the end of April beginning of May
Female Duke of Burgundy, these were quite common on Butser Hill at the beginning of May despite the weather not being adequate for good egg-laying
An amorous male trying to mate with a fresh female, however his advances were met in vain, it looked like to me that the females rear end was deformed in the pupua, and wasn't able to breed.
The Duke of Burgundy emerged at Noar Hill in 2023 on the 18th April after a long and cool spell of wet and cold weather. March was one of the wettest months on record and April was also cold and damp. The butterfly remained very reluctant to emerge in numbers well into the month of May, as the beginning of May was also very cool. At Oxenbourne Down on the 3rd May it appeared and three days later it had emerged in numbers at Butser Hill its stronghold in Hampshire.
Their foodplant was showing well after all the damp weather with some sites having excellent Cowslip and females were investigating good patches on Oxenbourne Down on the 10th May.
In the west of the county the species was seen again in the woodland complex around Stockbridge Down, and on the National Trust site itself where there has been much work clearing scrub, it still remains extant, although there is very little Cowslip. There were good counts on an Industrial site close to Bentley Wood, and it also appeared again in a wood close to Mottisfont Abbey.
In a wood to the west of Winchester the butterfly was still to be seen although the butterfly now has utilised a corridor created by HCC and BC into an adjoining wood, which will hopefully aid the butterflies’ presence in both woods. In the north of the county the butterfly still flies in the area in and around Andover, although assessing the butterflies’ presence there is difficult due to the size of the wood and complexity of gaining access there.
Some sites in the Meon Valley struggled with numbers, mainly due to scrub encroachment and foodplant absence. It re-appeared in a small isolated site in Queen Elizabeth Country Park in May where (3) individuals were seen. The species has not been recorded there for a number of years. It may well have come from a nearby site in the extreme west of the county of Sussex.
The last two weeks of May were complete contrast weather wise to the first two weeks however there was still a cool north-easterly breeze keeping numbers down, and for this reason there was very little evidence of the butterfly flying into June, except for the odd one or two at Noar Hill and Butser Hill.
Left: Freshly emerged male awaiting the sun to come out. Above a male Duke at West Wood in an area which had just been coppiced through to the adjoining wood. Here there were a few males on territory which bodes well for the species to re-colonise this wood after so many years
Some Duke of Burgundy sites aren't always obvious, with no areas of obvious Cowslip, but areas like these need good searching over a period of years to lay claim to being a site.
On the opposite end of the scale you would consider a site like this to harbour the odd Duke within the site, however this is Fort Widley on Portsdown Hill ,and this site has never laid claim to ever having any Dukes. But there is always the remote chance that a gravid female may find its way here one day?
Hampshire Purple Emperor Coordinators notes for 2023
The first male seen in Hampshire was this one at Longstock by Catherine Hernon on the 21st June 2023
Male Purple Emperor utilizing a 'new' Assembly Tree during the warm but windy period in July. There was at least three males on territory but this 'Assembly Tree' was only used temporarily, during the windy conditions in Alice Holt Forest.
The Purple Emperor arrived in Hampshire almost the same time as Knepp in Sussex on the 21st June at Longstock close to Stockbridge, and other sightings on the day came from Havant Thicket and Straits Inclosure. The weather was glorious, and it took four days before the Emperor was recorded in double figures at Alice Holt Forest where on the 25th June there was a count of (10). It looked as the season was going to be phenomenal, on a par if not better than 2002.
The season sped on and other sites had good sightings, like West Wood, West Walk, Whiteley Pastures, Botley Wood, Havant Thicket, and other sites like Creech Wood, we even had a twitter report from Winchester City centre where a male Emperor had to be rescued from the main road! The hottest June on record then changed everything when July came along and we had cooler winds and breezy conditions in the tree tops which the butterfly does not favour. Cloudy formations blanketing the second week and into the third and the sightings on the ground dried up, the Male
Emperors were now Oak and Sallow searching for his female. Good numbers were still being recorded up in the treetops but he does suffer in the wind and many males will succumb to this bad weather. How much longer will he last well weather is the key factor good hot weather he gets fagged out by about 11:00 and disappears into the Hazel thickets, in cooler weather he doesn’t fly that much only at the Assembly points in the afternoon, and could last into the third week of July, especially females egg laying.
As well as the New Forest being a black hole in Hampshire the lack of reports from the northern part of Hampshire is a cause for concern, although there was a report from Fleet where rangers had seen a couple of males over the tops of the trees in a park in the Forest of Eversley.
Sightings on the Isle of Wight over the last couple of seasons would probably have been deliberate releases from Weddings fairs, although this isn’t conclusive, the sighting in 2023 was close to where a wedding had just taken place.
St Swithun’s day and it was all change with many males succumbing to the high winds, and the season petered out into the third week of July as it turned out to be one of the wettest July’s on record.
One male Purple Emperor was observed being attacked by a Hobby in Alice Holt Forest as well one unfortunate male being beheaded by a Dragonfly
This isn't the first time the Purple Emperor has graced us with its presence in the Winchester high street. In 2023 this male was rescued in the road, put back in a relatively safe place. As you can see its done a fair bit of flying. There is probably a Assembly point at the eastern end of Winchester, which will need checking out in the future.
Photographs by Mark Tutton: This poor male Purple Emperor was attacked in Alice Holt Forest by a Dragonfly which proceeded to be-head the male. A grizzly picture but that is mother nature for you.
Matthew Oates writes.....Perhaps the key point about the 2023 Purple Emperor season is that it arrived earlier than anyone anticipated and caught us with our trousers down... By the time many observers had realised that the butterfly was in fact well out, the weather was deteriorating. The St Swithun's Day gale effectively ended the season at many sites.
Numbers were excellent, if not superb, in central southern England - even in places where sallows were severely affected by drought in July and August 2022, and shed many leaves. This suggests that the Emperor may be becoming drought proof, like the White Admiral.
Elsewhere, numbers were at best modest - but many recorders got out rather too late in the flight season, and the butterfly may have been under-recorded.
Freshly emerged Male imbibing on a pair of Jeans. Clothing is a favourite feeding platform for newly hatched Emperors. These were taken in the Straits Inclosure.
June being such a hot month made most encounters with males on sweaty clothes or skin especially your hands. If left to themselves they would imbibe for many minutes giving the lucky recorder a grandstand view of the magnificence of the butterfly
West Walk is a large tract of woodland owned by the forestry commission and is popular in the summer with dog-walkers and kiddies playing in the play area. Not everybody's cup of tea, but you can certainly get away from the car-park area, like I did and find good areas of sallow. I espied up to 6 males flying in and around sallow stands in a ride which was very good for sallow. Also the rangers have seen several males imbibing on horse manure close to the entrance of the wood in the past. I also found the assembly point in one area, although no males being seen because of the constant windy conditions.
In the car-park now is a coffee and cake horse box, an ideal way to relax and look up at the woodland canopy and hopefully see that illusive Purple Emperor
The car park is the highest point in the wood and here there is a good chance of seeing sparring males in the canopy in good weather attempting to claim a territory to attract a female..
Hampshire Duke of Burgundy
co-ordinator notes for 2022
The Duke of Burgundy male in a typical pose on his favourite perch taken at Stephens Castle Down in May on a field trip.
A fresh female Duke of Burgundy at Old Winchester Hill which surprises me every year. Sheep grazing has all but wiped out the Cowslip at this site, but it still manages to survive.
A male sheltering under a leaf during frequent storms in the Meon Valley during a warm period in May in 2022.
During a period in May 2022 I espied three different 'aberrations of the Duke of Burgundy in one day. To see one aberration is quite a triumph but three well that was just insane. On the right is a photograph of a female at West Wood inside a Primrose plant testing out the leaves for egg-laying........
The Duke of Burgundies season started well in 2022 with hot sunny weather and my first viewing of the males at Noar Hill was on the 16th April, again rather later than some recent years but still early from a few decades ago, due to global warming. The weather stayed set fair for another week or so when we started to have breezier conditions and these were quiet cool in temperature, and the species does not like cold and windy conditions, and the numbers failed to get going throughout the rest of the month. I visited several well-known sites in the third week of April and drew a complete blank for the Duke of Burgundy. Frustratingly only four had shown themselves at the largest site in Hampshire at Butser on the 25th April with a cold wind but partly sunnier conditions, this was obviously suppressing the numbers.
I spent two solid days wandering around a site at the end of April with sunny and cool conditions but in the ‘’scallops’’ created in the Dogwood on top of the flat chalk downland I found about 24 individuals which equates to the largest count at this site for many years. Here there were three ‘aberrations’ of the Duke of Burgundy seen, as shown in the photographs. This is a record for me as I normally only see one type of abb at any site at any one time.
The beginning of May and the weather had turned Hot and sunny which obviously brought on the species and their number soon went up. Sites like Beacon Hill NNR at Exton still have small populations of this species but they are very hard to find in such large swathes of scrubby downland. Stephen’s Castle Down still had a token presence and its isolation is a bit of a concern the site at Beacon Hill is the nearest site, which is where a wandering female may have found this site to its liking and a small colony here was created. Good numbers also came from Old Winchester Hill however the Cowslip content is very sparse, and the grazing regime there has almost created a landscape where the Cowslip is a rare commodity.
West Wood west of Winchester probably had one of the best woodland counts in the country this year record of at least twenty individuals were seen in the area where the trees of Oak saplings are now growing quite tall, but the Primroses are still not affected by shading. It’s only a matter of a few years when either the Oaks will have to be thinned out, or this will leave the Primroses shaded out which will not be suitable for the Duke of Burgundy. It would seem the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary has already been lost from this site.
Very warm and sunny weather well into the middle of May created some great counts, ten or more were seen at Walbury Hill at Stockbridge, and Twenty Five Dukes were seen again at West Wood on the 18th May in perfect conditions, with females flying into Primrose flowers looking for suitable egg-laying sites. There is the potential now for an introduction at Magdalen Hill Down for the Duke of Burgundy where conditions seem very good for the species, good areas of scrub interspersed with excellent Cowslip plants, this would greatly enhance the species count on the opposite side of the downland at Deacon Hill where the species has suffered through ineffective management in the past.
No records came to me from Martin Down but I suspect there were a few seen, and at Shipton Bellinger several individuals were seen, these being wanderers from the Wiltshire strongholds on Salisbury Plain. There were a few individuals seen on the North-Western slopes of Hampshire and Wiltshire into June, and the butterfly just made it into the second week of June, with a decent count of over 40 individuals at the end of May, with a few dozen making it into June, at Butser Hill NNR although numbers here have plummeted over the last couple of years, due to lack of management I feel at Ramsdean Down.
Aberrations noted in 2022 were as follows: 'abb.gracilans' which is normally associated with the female of the species, and is very heavily patterned all over both wings. 'abb.semibrunnea' which has a dark pigmentation to the general colour and very little colouration or patterning on the hind wings, and above the 'abb.furva' which is a very pale coloration of the patterning on the wings.
The most common of the Duke of Burgundy aberration is the female called 'abb gracilans', which has very bright and heavy coloured orange panelling on the fore-wings and hind wings as well.
A tired looking female re-fuelling after a bout of egg-laying feeding on Bramble. Over the last couple of seasons I have seen the Duke feeding on a host of plants, as its described in many articles and references that it very rarely feeds on flowers.
A large area of Conifer plantation which has been felled in West Wood near Winchester, which has been replaced by Oak trees. These are at the moment not that tall to overshadow the Primroses in the gaps between the lines of trees. The Bramble scrub seems to have been removed over the last season which makes counting of the Duke of Butterfly much easier. However in a few years these Oak trees will be quite tall and the spread of their canopy will be shadowing out some of the Primrose. This will not be a problem initially however the Oaks will have to be thinned out in the future. How the Duke of Burgundy got to this site is open to question, whether their was a small colony in Crab Wood which remained undiscovered which hopped over the boundary into West Wood when conditions became more suitable or a very adventurous female may have ventured over from Stockbridge Down, this is highly unlikely. There could well have been a undiscovered colony close-by to West Wood where a female found the ideal area to lay her eggs. This is not that far-fetched as an 'undiscovered' Duke site was found after a ten years in a wood in West Sussex.
Magdalen Hill Down is ear marked for an introduction of the Duke of Burgundy in a medium sized site in the photograph you can see the scrub and the amount of Cowslip there is dotted around the site. It will enhance the Duke's presence in the area of Winchester as the site opposite called Deacon Hill has a small colony of the Duke of Burgundy, which half of the site has been purchased by the Hants and Isle of Wight Wildlife trust, and Hants Butterfly Conservation.
Hampshire Purple Emperor Coordinators notes for 2022
A male Purple Emperor on the ground imbibing on mineral salts. This is the best way to see the Purple Emperor, although it requires a lot of patience. He was initially sat in a Hazel tree (see photograph below) for a good 20 odd minutes, getting bashed by constant wind gusts, how he managed to stay on the leaf is remarkable, but stay on he did, and was well photographed, with his wings outstretched looking down at me. He then alighted to the floor but well away from me, and I had to chase him up the ride, until he calmed down and was happy with me towering over him and flashing away. He became very tame, and such remarkable visual delights, seeing his wings waving open and shut showing me his purple sheen.
There was a prospect of a bumper year following on from the egg-lay in 2021 and in Hampshire the Purple Emperor had one of the best years for well over a decade. The species started quite slowly despite it emerging during a heatwave, but ‘numbers’ built up over a couple of weeks into the first week of July, where at Alice Holt Forest many males were seen Oak edging and sallow searching. But like most years the temperatures subsided due to winds from the North-West, and consequently some of the male Assembly Points were unoccupied on higher ground, and males had been noted further down into the depths of the woods in the afternoons.
Most of the end of June was cloudy and fresh winds with sunny intervals, but at Alice Holt in one of the Inclosures a dozen males were espied in the lofty tree tops with several alighting to the ground, and in Straits Inclosure there were reports of this insect coming to the ground along the main ride. Some heavy showers persisted into the first days of July affecting sightings of the insect, on the first day of July I saw the Purple Emperor in warm bouts of sun into the afternoon about twenty times.
There were also good sightings in woods in and around Winchester, and at Farley Mount there was good views of the males on patrol on the 3rd of July in cloudy with bright spells with light winds.
By the second week of July another heatwave had arrived and temperatures had reached into the 80’s and good sightings were witnessed at Whiteley Pastures with males patrolling in and around the main ride, being seen a record amount of times around 20 plus times.
The Purple Emperor was seen in many different sites in 2022, and Queen Elizabeth Country Park was no exception, it’s part of a number of big woods, and on the Eastern edge of Hampshire and the Sussex border is an area I find fascinating, with a huge amount of sallow, on the chalk which is quite unusual, however the male Purple Emperor was certainly in evidence on the 13th July, with a male seen imbibing on the ground at one of the summits, and a female was seen on the ground also obviously looking for moisture as where she was seen she was shuffling around the leaves on the ground, quite unusual behaviour, hoping to find a damper patch.
Being so dry, a drought was on the cards, and consequently many females were seen in parts of Hampshire not seen before. A female was seen on a Golf Course getting moisture from a water spray, they were also seen in gardens, and in nature reserves not ever been recorded before. Again the butterfly was not noted in the New Forest, or on the Isle of Wight, and the butterfly was much unrecorded in the Northern part of Hampshire, being just recorded in Pamber Forest, Odiham, Basingstoke Canal, Harewood Forest, Yateley Common, and Basing Wood.
During the Purple Emperor season I count quite a few Purple Emperors doing there Oak edging and and sallow searching, this normally happens into their second week. This picture was taken around an Ash tree, I could read where the butterfly was going to fly and consequently I could photograph him as he patrolled in and around the leaves, being Ash I could see him better than if it had been on an Oak tree.
Talking of wind gusts we do seem to have very windy early summer months especially in May and June and this has led to the Purple Emperor males re-adjusting some of their Assembly points, especially in Alice Holt Forest where the wood does underlate quite a lot and consequently it gets hit by the windy conditions. In Abbotts Wood Inclosure I took this picture of a male on a Oak sprig in the main ride, utilising a oak which was in a more sheltered position. This was in their first two weeks in middle of June, by July they had gone back to their original Assembly points in the wood.
A good way to find the larvae of the Purple Emperor is to use a Ultra-Violet light, which shows up the Chrysalis very well hanging down from a sallow leaf. However the downside of this is walking around a wood in the dead of night with night glasses to protect your eyes, and if you see anyone, explaining away what you may be doing! ( photograph Mark Tutton)
With the heatwave in full swing the butterfly soon burnt itself out and by the end of July there were very few or no reports of this butterfly still active in Hampshire, bringing to a close one of the best years for this butterfly.
Unfortunately the butterfly doesn’t cope very well with extremes of weather, and in the heatwave the males tend to ‘conk out’ by mid-day, hiding in the Hazel thickets and are not very active at the Assembly points in the early afternoon either, being only active again in the early evening, when the weather is somewhat cooler, in the woodland again.
A good egg-lay should ensure that with good weather, the Purple Emperor season should be equal or possibly better than 2022, in 2023. However due to the severe drought in July and August it would seem many of the leaves of the sallows have perished due to lack of water, and the eggs themselves have shrivelled up into nothing or have been predated more than usual, due to the fact there is very little moisture about.
The Purple Emperor which clung onto a Hazel leaf for grim death it would seem every few minutes, I was awestruck by this remarkable insect getting bashed by these gusts but managed to cling on. The photograph does not show this obviously, it looks all very calm and serene which is just as well as I wouldnt have this photograph which is one of my best in 2022 season.
This magnificent Male Purple Emperor had got trapped in Phillip Nangles friends car, and he was asked to rescue it near Farnham, just north of Alice Holt Forest (it does count!) It stayed on his hand and then he put on a log and then it went on the ground to feed. It had probably just hatched out and was confused and disorientated, but hopefully it found its way back to a woodland area to mate and enjoy their short brief life! (photo Phillip Nangle)
A female Purple Emperor on the ground imbibing for moisture, this is a very unusual occurrence, but there has been very little rain in July and so far into August as I write this. This female was actually turning over leaves looking purposefully for damp patches. (Photograph by Bryn Jones)
2022 was one of those years when the Purple Emperor turned up at some very odd and interesting places. It seems to have helped spread the butterfly about, hopefully into new colonies which will thrive. One such place was Wildern Local Nature Reserve near Hedge End near Southampton. It hasn't been noted here before but several females were seen and hopefully have managed to find good sallows and egg-layed in the area. It will be interesting if it turns up in 2023.
Close to Alice Holt Forest is and area called Oakhanger, which in the past has produced good sightings of the Purple Emperor. It also has a good cafe called the 'Chocolate Frog', which I recommend when your in the area. This picture you would be forgiven thinking it was taken from an aeroplane, helicopter or a drone, but I was standing on a hill, and looking down giving Alice Holt Forest a whole new perspective.
Hampshire Duke of Burgundy
co-ordinator notes for 2021
Duke of Burgundy's are not renown for taking nectar from plants, I've seen them mainly on Hawkbit, and Wild Strawberry, however this female decided to have a feed on Hawthorn, this photograph wasn't easy either, with many branches in the way with large spikes, I had to contend with a far away shot, which I think with the flowers gives it an interesting depth of field.
One of the lesser known sites in the Meon Valley Old Winchester Hill has several colonies of the Duke of Burgundy quite widely spread out, and they were still emerging at the beginning of June.
Several areas on the Northern and Western slopes of Old Winchester Hill have large areas of scrub with good Cowslip content, which suits the female Duke of Burgundy's to lay their eggs.
The first Duke of Burgundy in 2021 appeared on transect at Noar Hill on the 19th April, where four individuals were recorded. Most years this site has warmer temperatures at ground level in the small flint and chalk pits where the Duke of Burgundy caterpillars can pupate quicker than on average chalk downland sites, especially northern slopes which are susceptible to cooler temperatures due to wind and frosts. The weather always plays a big part in all butterfly species none more so than the Duke of Burgundy, and it starts to fly during bouts of warm sunshine, however the temperatures at night time were some of the coldest on record. April turned out to be the coolest for over 90 years, also one of the driest on record and most nights having a frost.
Some sites in the Meon Valley recorded temperatures below freezing for a fortnight with -4 on consecutive nights. The Duke did emerge in small numbers up to the end of April with singletons being seen at Oxenbourne Down and at Butser Hill.
May turned out to be the total opposite of April, with gale force winds coming in from the south and west and a deluge of rain, which turned May into one of the wettest and windiest on record with constant low pressure sat on top of the UK for well over a fortnight, keeping the Duke of Burgundy marking time for much of this period. This really delayed the main core of any emergence to well into May and it wasn’t really until the third week of May when most of the species had emerged.
Woodland specimens had now started to emerge at West Wood and in and around Stockbridge, also in the Meon Valley at West Meon, about the 18th May.
But the specie was struggling and the best count, especially in the Meon Valley, was (32) at Butser Hill in the third week of May, which is very poor compared to some years. Although if I had visited and counted the specie on Ramsdean Down close by then the count may have been quite respectable, as Ramsdean Down normally produces good counts most years.
It wasn’t all bad news as Martin Down had some of it’s best counts for years, as several recorders saw at least two Duke of Burgundy’s in the Bockerley Ditch and on scrubby ditches close to the Sillens Lane car-park. Fresh males were still being seen at Old Winchester Hill on 2nd June and in the north of the county several specimens were seen in the Vernham Dean area, and in and around Andover.
The butterfly was still flying well into June with worn individuals being seen at Bentley Wood, Oxenbourne Down and Noar Hill on the 12th June. Conservation work at Porton Down (Isle of Wight Hill) in May included work to keep the Duke of Burgundy’s presence there stable, and it was noted flying but numbers where about (20) or more. Also conservation work has been in progress at Deacon Hill and Noar Hill keeping scrub from becoming overgrown and too dense for the Dukes liking.
Good scrub clearance at Oxenbourne Down has enabled Cowslip growth to expand and Duke of Burgundy counts there were well in excess of (15) at peak time.
The Duke season has produced some odd sightings, with females being seen feeding on Hawthorn flowers, the species are not noted for feeding on flowers for nectar. Also a female was seen laying eggs on Wild Strawberry, while Cowslips were not so far away from her.
It will be interesting to see how the Duke of Burgundy fares in 2022, weather permitting.
This female on Oxenbourne Down decided to lay some of her eggs on a Wild Strawberry plant, which in all my butterflying years is unheard of as their foodplant for the caterpillar is the Cowslip or Primrose. The female tested the leaf with her feet and maneuvered herself around the leaf and bent her abdomen around underneath the leaf, keeping her balance with her six legs. A Cowslip was very close by whether they will hatch out and crawl onto the Cowslip leaf is anybody's guess. It was fascinating to watch though, I just hope other females got it right throughout the flight season.
2021 turned out to be a very protracted season for the Duke of Burgundy but it didn’t make it any easier looking for the caterpillars or evidence of eaten leaves on the cowslips. With the weather going from a drought in April, and then a deluge of rainfall in May and then a very cool June and also being wetter than average towards the end of the month, the cowslips on chalk downland slopes quickly became overshadowed by tall grasses, and this required extra effort to locate the plants, luckily the plants manage to keep their flower and seed pods just above the herbage and flower height, and can be located but it’s quite a fight to get down to the ground level to find the small and eaten leaves, if you find any.
Hampshire Purple Emperor Coordinators notes for 2021
The Purple Emperor can tolerate high temperatures but after a good mornings activity of sallow searching and Oak edging they tend to disappear in and around mid-day, and take up station in Hazel thickets, or go up to Assembly Points
Male Purple Emperor at a Assembly Point in Abbotts Wood Inclosure car-park , these are not obvious, especially if you are looking for them on Oak, as most of them are on Conifer in some woods.
After a very poor season in 2020 the season in 2021 has been marginally better at some sites in Hampshire. The season was very late compared with how it has been in the past couple of decades. It was predicted it was going to be an extremely poor year, but several sites in Hampshire the butterfly seemed to have done extremely well.
Basing Forest in North Hampshire had several sightings in the early part of the season, which started on 5th July. Also Creech Wood has put on a good show, the butterfly is not very obvious in this wood, and has to be searched for in not so obvious places, and the Assembly Point has been found at the near to the main car-park.
Alice Holt Forest had some false starts, but numbers here were down at many of the sites, and there was very little activity at the well-known Assembly Points in the earlier part of the season. Straits Inclosure fared better in 2021 despite heavy Forestry work being carried out there in 2021.
There wasn’t as many sites visited in 2021, mainly the well-known sites, this could have been due to the excessive heat in the middle of July, putting people off, as the butterfly was well out and sallow searching and Oak edging in the woods by 09:00. Also they had almost 'conked' out by mid-day seeking shelter in the Hazel thickets...
It was a very protracted season, and fresh males were still being seen at woods like West Wood and Crab Wood in the latter part of July, and females were egg-laying in many of the woods by the third week of July.
The butterfly was noted again at Martin Down where there is a large area of woodland which straddles Hampshire to the west close to Kitts Grave, and it was noted along the Weston foreshore just East of the city of Southampton, which the proves the butterfly can survive in areas of scrubby sallow in an urban environment. The butterfly was noted at Alice Holt Forest, Ampfield Wood, Basing Wood, Bentley Wood, Botley Wood, Crab Wood, Creech Wood, Havant Thicket, Martin Down, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Southleigh Forest, Southampton, Straits Inclosure, West Wood, West Harting Down, Whiteley Pastures, and Wickham Common.
The butterflies Assembly Points have been found in Creech Wood and another Assembly Point in Whiteley/Botley Wood in the last few days , thanks to the perseverance of Mark Tutton.
Most seemed to have survived the stormy weather we had on the evening of 23rd of July / 24th July when the heatwave broke down to give way torrential rain and another low pressure sitting over the country, giving the Purple Emperor another bout of unfavourable weather. The weekend of 24th/25th July seems to be their peak in Hampshire, and from now on the butterfly will be flying less in the woods, as most of the females which have hatched would probably have been mated.
Probably my last post on the Purple Emperor season as we have just come through one of the worst storms of the evening of Monday 26th July and Tuesday 27th July, it may have affected many of the woods in and around the south coast like Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Havant Thicket, Whiteley Pastures, Creech Wood and many of the smaller woods. But the males would not have come through those storms unscathed, and I would suggest they are probably finished, maybe a few females may have survived as they tend to rest lower down on the branches of trees like Oak.
How the butterfly fares in 2022 is not easy to predict, but the butterfly has had a few bad seasons over the last few years so we must be due a good one?
Word soon gets around about certain sites where the butterfly will ascend to the floor of the wood , this is in Straits Inclosure. In the 1990's before the great sallow 'cull' I found four alighting on the ground all at once ...I didn't know where to look!
Male Purple Emperor flying around his Vista at an Assembly Point, looking for other males that may encroach on to his territory
Copyright 2021 : Sharon Broadway
The Purple Emperor is a creature of habit, and in the excessive heat wave they were out in the woods well before 10:00. This male in West Wood is on a hand imbibing on sweat, and if you look at the watch face it says 08:55.....I need say no more!
Male Purple Emperor Whiteley Pastures 13th July 2021
Photo by Ian Williamson
A field trip is a good way of seeing the Purple Emperor, however it can be detrimental in some ways as they are put off by too many people in the rides to come down and imbibe on the ride floor.
Whiteley Pastures and Botley Wood are important blocks of woodland in a very tight area of urban and Industrial complex's. The butterfly is probably as common as it once was as but it can be affected by disturbance, by dog-walkers and bike riders. Best time to see these butterflies is later on in the evening when they come back down to the rides after their Assembly Point shenanigans.
Straits Inclosure despite having been heavily logged again in 2021 by the Forestry Commission still remains one of the best woods to see the butterfly on the ground I have received many records of the butterfly alighting on the gravel path in the wood in favourable conditions and on the Deer Towers shown here in the picture.
Hampshire Duke of Burgundy co-ordinator notes for 2020
Male Duke of Burgundy
Female Duke of Burgundy
Second Instar Caterpillars on Cowslip
2019 set a new record for the first emerging Duke of Burgundies in Hampshire starting on April 1st at Noar Hill, due to such a mild winter in 2020 and a rather soggy January and February, but extremely mild. It was looking good for the 2019 record to be broken, but alas the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to any hope of seeing this species in its early emerging stages.
Records came from Noar Hill about mid April; several recorders seeing them in some numbers, (19) on the 23rd April. April was a very warm month, merging into a very warm May. At Oxenbourne Down the butterfly has been moving into more suitable habitat, where it is occupying more sparsely scrubby areas, with more Cowslip content. They are however still occupying the Gorse area in the North–East of the downland.
At Butser Hill sightings were recorded from the beginning of May but in very low numbers, (13) being seen on the 6th May, however numbers started to build in the middle of the month. At a woodland site close to Winchester it was out at the beginning of May, an early start for the woodland species, and reasonable numbers were seen there in the peak time, (8) individuals being noted, with good clumps of Primroses growing amongst the scrub. The species is still extant in and around Stockbridge where good numbers were seen on the 22nd May, (10) being seen.
The butterfly started to peak into the second week of May at some Meon Valley sites, but at Butser Hill the butterfly was seen in reasonable numbers on the 15th May, (47) individuals with many noted as being ‘fresh’ looking at Noar Hill which indicated there was a small staggered brood.
In the North-West of the county the butterfly was seen on the border of Wiltshire in a suitable scrubby habitat where it was noted a few years ago. Single records came from the far west of the county on the Dorset/Wiltshire border where it seems the butterfly still exists in small numbers (3) being noted these records were well spaced out, at this well known site.
May was the warmest on record however the butterfly was unlikely to survive in great numbers towards the end of the month as there were overnight frosts in the middle month. An egg count on Butser at the end of the month revealed several females were busy laying eggs, and one adult and eggs were seen in a wood close to Andover. Several worn females were seen on Butser Hill on the 1st June. 1st and second Instar caterpillars were seen feeding on Cowslip on Oxenbourne Down on the 7th June.
Cowslip on top of Ramsdean Down
Purple Emperor co-ordinator notes in Hampshire 2020
The Purple Emperor emerged in and around the 21st of June in Hampshire, during a heatwave, with a very mild winter and exceptionally mild spring, it looked like the Purple Emperor might be in for a bumper season. The week of very warm weather brought the males out in reasonable numbers but then as June turned into July early indications were this was not the great year as anticipated, due to losses during the cold spell in early June.
Note that in heatwaves both sexes are prone to conking out between 3:30pm and around 5:30pm in hot weather (days of max temperatures of more than 23c) the males tend to take a mid-afternoon siesta before coming active again in the early evening. Older males are particularly prone to do this. Late in the flight season they are often inactive during the mornings and are very much an afternoon or early evening butterfly.
The weather collapsed horrifically, as we entered July with the Emperor at or approaching peak season. The butterflies get decimated, (such that one in ten survive), by gales, especially nocturnal gales and in particular the males (the females tend to roost lower down). The wind during the night of June 28th-29th did untold damage.
Recording from Hampshire ultimately became very restricted being only noted from, Alice Holt Forest, Basing Wood, Basingstoke Canal, Botley Wood, Creech Wood, Crab Wood, Deacon Hill, Great Covert, Harewood Forest, Havant Thicket, Popley, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, West Wood, Whiteley Pastures, West Harting Down, Winchester, Southleigh Forest, and Straits Inclosure.
In the City of Winchester several females were seen, one escaping the clutches of a cat! This paints the city as one of the purplest in the south of England, as these butterflies are almost reported annually from this area.
Females were seen just into August making the flight season nearly seven weeks long but unless there was a good egg lay, then prospects look rather bleak for this spectacular butterfly in Hampshire in 2021.
Male Purple Emperor underside
Male Purple Emperor
Typical ride in a Hampshire Wood home of the Purple Emperor
Copyright 2021 Text Copyright Ashley Whitlock All Photographs Ashley Whitlock unless otherwise stated