I went on my annual hunt for Purple Emperor butterflies yesterday with the usual result: peeking from the top branches of oak trees in Bernwood Forest, they might have seen me. But I did not see them. As happened last time, a solitary White Admiral was the closest I got. At least it's a relation of theirs.
More on Bernwood in a minute, but the top picture shows a very interesting butterfly spectacle which came my way a day earlier when we took the grandchildren to a little sandy beach on our nearby river. It was Penny who spotted the Green-veined Whites in the picture and told our granddaughter: "Look! The butterflies are mud-pudding." Both sight and word went down well with her, as the word did with P when I brought it back from a work trip on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi 30-odd years ago.
My second two pictures show much larger numbers of more exotic butterflies mud-puddling on the River Toraut in the Dumoga Bone national park; apologies for the quality - they are iPad pictures of photos in an old album of mine. But I hope they give the idea. The butterflies are taking up water and mineral salts with their long probosces, both in the exotic East and here in cosy Oxfordshire.
Notoriously, the Purple Emperors of Bernwood (and elsewhere) apply a similar procedure to such delicious sources of 'nectar' and minerals as animal dung and fermenting fruit. Both are used by enthusiats (and in season, you will never be alone at Bernwood) to lure the majestic butterflies down to ground level to have their pictures taken. No luck for me, but I was more than happy with the beautiful, swooping Silver-washed Fritillaries shown above and below. Quite a few were carrying out their dramatic mating flight rituals which are very well described by the website Learn About Butterflies :
The courtship ritual of the Silver-washed Fritillary is one of the most endearing and familiar sights of the English summer. The female flies in a straight line along woodland tracks at a height of about 2 metres, and as she does so she emits an aphrodisiac scent from the tip of her abdomen. The male responds by following her closely, repeatedly looping under and over her, and showering her with pheromones released from the 4 black bars of androconial scales which run along the veins of his forewings. In many cases this tantalising display fails to entice the female into mating, but if she is receptive she leads the male to a clump of leaves high in an oak tree where copulation takes place. Periodically the pair fly down to settle on bracken or hazel, or to nectar at bramble, but return to the tree tops if disturbed. Copulation lasts about 2 hours and usually takes place in late morning.
|Up in the trees , but not copulating|
|The same view from ground level, showing why Purple Emperor spotting can be a bit frustrating|
|Endotricha flammealis from the side|
|and from above|
|Heart and Club|
|Treble Lines and Herald|
|Um Update: My commentor helpfully suggests Chrystotechia culmella which has been here before and does indeed look the chap|
|Er Update: One of the Scoparia, suggests the same ace Commentor. I would go for S pyralella|
|Bramble-shoot moth and two friends|