The year's first butterfly came skimming over to join Penny and me for a sandwich lunch in the sunshine yesterday. It was a Peacock, a hibernator woken from its winter slumbers by the exceptionally warm weather. Its appearance was well-timed, too, because I had just been emailed these wonderful pictures of a Purple Emperor by Prof David Colquhoun of University College London whom I met with his wife Margaret at the Guardian Open Weekend.
He writes a fascinating blog called DC's Improbable Science which you can link to here and is also a Fellow of the Royal Society. So I'm specially proud, as someone who failed Physics with Chemistry O level (coming in the bottom two percent in the country according to my irate teachers at the time), that I helped him and Margaret with the complexities of the temporary car park.
He is a lucky man. He came across his Emperor quite by chance beside the Grand Union canal - at Deep Denham lock, he is almost sure - in July 2011. This is also appropriate for me, because one reason for my appalling performance in Phys with Chem is that there was a question about a barge displacing water in a canal lock which I couldn't understand. So I just drew a picture of a barge in a lock. (Quite a good one, because I did pass in Art, even at A level). Thanks very much to the Prof for allowing me to use his magnificent pics.
Update: Patrick my expert butterfly colleague has consulted his fellow-experts and is pretty sure that this is the first Purple Emperor to be recorded within the M25 London ring road. It was only a wingbeat inside that noisy boundary, but significant nonetheless. Prof Colquhoun's original blog entry is here.
PS: Sorry, I messed up on the links initially, duplicating the http thing, but they work now.