An early start , picking Keith up at 0730 , and hoping that the traffic chaos on the M25 would not repeat itself , had us heading off into deepest Surrey on our quest for the Purple Emperor butterfly . But first , whilst filling up at a petrol station , the sound of hirondine in the clear blue sky , turned out to be House Martins and a single Swift collecting their breakfasts , and also calls from youngsters , out of the nest now , and waiting on the roof .
Driving through mist on the motorway , and driving into cloudier conditions , did not look great as we arrived at the site at about 0845 . Undeterred , we started the search , knowing that by 1130/1200 o'clock , any sightings would finish , as this species spends most of the day high up in the Oak canopy . I took some well rotted Banana skins , extracted from the compost heap , and Keith , a vile smelling 'concoction' to lure down the males onto the ground . We encountered a family of Marsh Tits , moving constantly through the vegetation , and managed a poor shot . The sun started to show through and that brought out the Silver Washed Fritillaries in good numbers , with more than six mating pairs being seen , this being one of them . A bonus was the sighting of several Wood Whites , which could have been either late 1st. brood or early 2nd. , opinions on the site with other hopeful searchers varied on this point , this one nectaring on Self-heal -Prunella vulgaris , another of the Labiate family . Also on site were good numbers of White Admirals , and with the similar top and underwing colouration , needed a good check before continuing the search . Having put down our 'lures' we walked the paths searching . At one point we came back to where some other searchers had stopped , to be told they had a male on the ground 5 minutes ago , and got shots . Returning to the same general area later , another chap had had a male down , but it didn't stop for photos . This made us stay in that area , hoping for a third sighting . Whilst waiting , a freshly emerged male Brimstone , stopped to nectar on Betony -Betonica officinalis , yet another Labiate , with it's saw-toothed edged leaves .
We did get about 4/5 fleeting glances of male Purple Emperors , but they were just that , fleeting , as they came in to check the Goat Willows , on which the females lay their eggs . My rotten Banana skins , Keith's 'concoction' , and even the Shrimp paste , put down by a chap who led a walk on the site last weekend , and found a number males on the ground , all failed to attract any interest at all .
As we walked back to the car about midday , all we could say was that we gave it a good shot , but failed to get the prize of a shot of a male on the ground . By now the SWFs were everywhere , and the purpose of being here continued , as another male courted another female , with the hope that he can encourage her to mate .
19 hours ago