As I crossed the Common on my way out this morning , for once , it wasn't Purple Hairsteaks that were my target species , but the colour was the same . I was heading for a site just outside of Tonbridge that I visited last year , thanks to information from fellow Blogger Adam/East Malling , Ditton and Barming , and only just outside the patch of fellow Blogger Warren / Pittswood Birds . It wouldn't have been any good knocking for a cuppa though , as he would be working . Arriving at the site , the conditions were perfect , and in a large Bramble patch , started to record species taking a nectar breakfast . Like many other sites this year , Large Skippers were very well represented , though not surprisingly , they are showing wear from a long time on the wing now . Several White Admirals were arriving to nectar , but most were damaged from mating/fighting , again surprising as the species at High Elms is only just emerging . Comma also was well represented , with the usual aerial battles between males seemingly more important than breakfast . As the temperature started to rise , I walked up the track to the spot where I saw three of my target species last year . It was still before 1000 , the witching hour when the males of the species hopefully fly down from their high perches to take salts from the ground . Several dog walkers passed by with a look of 'what's that dodgy looking bloke doing here' on their faces . Another hopeful with camera and binoculars arrived , but decided to look further into the woodland . Still no movement in the treetops , so I had a walk back to the large Bramble patch , where Meadow Brown , Speckled Wood , Red Admiral and Large , Small and Green-veined White were added to the list . With 1000 approaching , I walked back up the path and in the distance saw two butterflies land on it some distance in front . My pace quickened , but , as I approached , realised that they were two more Red Admirals , one very fresh that didn't want to be photographed , and a very tatty one that did . As I reached the spot for viewing the tree tops , my heart stopped as I looked down and saw my target species , a male Purple Emperor , 'His Majesty' , down in the grass at the side of the track . With pounding heart and shaking hands , I fired off shots as he 'bumbled' his way through the grass . Eventually , he made his way onto the path , where his colours could be seen much better . By now , I must have taken some 50 shots or so , when he took off . That's it I thought , but at least I saw him . After a charge down the path away from me , he turned around and headed back , and on reaching me , flew around me several times , before landing on the tripod leg , into which the camera was attached . I watched as he started to lick , what I can only think were left over salts from my sweat , whilst carrying the tripod in the recent heat . Carefully , I managed to remove the camera from the tripod head , but now , with the 100mm. lens on and my arm outstretched , The butterfly was too close to focus the camera . The male seemed content with my salts , so I decided to lay the tripod on the grassy area , and move back a bit , hoping that he would stay . I soon realised that he wasn't bothered with me as long as the salts lasted , and I was able to move around the tripod to get the refracted light right to show the magnificence of his fully opened wings . Had I been standing at the top of this shot , his wings would show brown . During this time , miraculously , no dog walkers or anybody else for that matter came along the path , but then two ladies with several dogs approached , so I picked up the tripod again , and he stayed . One of the ladies spotted 'His Majesty' and was over the moon to see him close up , as she was a regular , knew they were about , but had never seen one . They move on , and I got back to photographing . Eventually the sun went in , and he took off into the surrounding trees . No sooner had he gone , then two chaps came along with binoculars , but when they stopped to chat , it turned out that they were birders doing a tetrad search for Firecrest , for BTO . They also mentioned that they surveyed for breeding birds of prey too . I mentioned the fledged Common Buzzards up on the Greensand Ridge , and they took the approximate location to record the successful breeding on that tetrad , and I even had some shots still on the card to prove it . We also talked about the Purple Emperor , but with little sign of the sun returning , they went on their way . Five minutes later , the sun did come out , and so did you know who . I resumed my position , on my knees , well , wouldn't you in front of 'His Majesty' ? and started shooting again . Soon after , I saw movement down the track , it was the two birders , taking a chance that he might have showed up again . A wave from me speeded up their pace , and they too were able to get great views of the butterfly . Then the chap who passed by earlier came down the path from the other end and my wave to him almost had him throwing away his walking stick and running to where we were . He too 'filled his boots' , or should that be card with shots . He then headed for the car park , so there was only one other thing to try ! Well , it had to be ! Eventually more clouds rolled in and he flew off , this time , for good . I did see a Purple Emperor fly from the top of the Oak a bit later , but it could well have been the same individual , so have just recorded the one . I mentioned earlier that the Purple Emperor 'bumbled' it's way when walking on the ground , a movement that looked very strange , but when it was ready to go , no trouble at all , up and away , and when it was flying around me , I could hear the sound of it's wing beats .
On the way back to the car park , I did manage to find a fresh White Admiral , probably a female from the size of it , and in a last snippet of sunshine , another provided the underwing shot .Whilst looking at the tree tops earlier , I had another opportunity to get Volucella pullecens in flight .
I must admit , I drove home with a smile on my face .