Friday 22 July 2022

Purple Emperors and Moths in the Heat

Saturday 16th July was hotter again and so I decided to head off to Bentley Woods near Salisbury for the day. I visited the woods back in June 2018 during another heatwave and had a great day out, seeing loads of butterflies including Purple Emperors, and I have wanted to revisit ever since. 

It was an early start (the alarm clock went off at 04:45hrs!) and my first train (of 3) on the journey to Dean in Wiltshire left Plymouth for Exeter on time at 05:27hrs. The journey continued smoothly with the next train leaving Exeter on time but as we neared Salisbury my train was held outside the station for a late running connecting train. On arriving into Salisbury station there was a further delay with the train doors kept locked so more carriages could be attached to my train with the result being that I missed my third and final train to Dean by 4 minutes! I then had to wait at Salisbury for another 56 minutes until the next train to Dean, losing an hour of my visiting time at the woods and an hour that would have been a cooler hour too on what became an unpleasantly hot day.

The train ticket was an eye-watering £69.10 but I used the Split Ticketing website and got the cost down to £43.80, a big saving but utterly ridiculous when I caught exactly the same trains as if I had paid the full price! With my delay of 1 hour I was able to claim compensation under the Delay Repay scheme and have received a refund of £11.75 bringing the cost of the journey down even more but I would have preferred to have not been delayed.

The 2 mile walk from the railway station at Dean to Bentley Woods was hot but often shaded by trees and along the way I was briefly distracted by a Red Kite soaring overhead.

Red Kite

The car park at Bentley Woods was surprisingly almost empty unlike on my last visit and also noticeable were lower numbers of butterflies than on my last visit. However as I wandered off along the rides I began to see more butterflies, mostly Ringlet, Brimstone, Large Skipper and Small Skipper with Large White, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Comma and Silver-washed Fritillary also seen.


A few birds were seen in the increasing heat of the day with the highlight being a fledgling Spotted Flycatcher along with 2 adult birds busily catching flies amongst the tree branches. Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Marsh Tit and Sparrowhawk were also seen and Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were also heard.

A few Purple Hairstreak were seen fidgeting about in the tree tops but there was no sign of any Purple Emperors and the 5 Butterfliers I met along the walk hadn't seen any either. I headed back towards the car park and finally managed to get a brief view of a Purple Emperor flying around in the tree tops by the footpath before it disappeared amongst the leaves, not the best views but at least I has seen one.

Purple Emperors are often seen around the car park and so I decided to hang around here in the shade and scan across the tree tops and within 5 minutes I found one flying around and gradually coming down towards the ground. Unfortunately it changed its mind and headed back up into the tree top but fortunately it settled on the leaves in full view and I had some nice binocular views of it.

Purple Emperor

Purple Emperor

I watched it for a while before it flew off over the tree tops and was gone but I was pleased with the views I had. I also had some better views of Purple Hairstreaks in the tree tops around the car park too.

Purple Hairstreak

It was soon time to walk back to the train station at Dean to start my journey back to Plymouth and the trains ran smoothly again until I arrived at Exeter where the trains to Plymouth were all running late (another Delay Repay claim in the offing!) and I eventually arrived home an hour later than expected. It had been a long and hot day out but an enjoyable one despite the train delays, I look forward to doing the trip again in the future.

With the hot weather I had the moth box out in the back yard that night and had a decentish haul of moths although less than expected considering the warm overnight temperatures but a Buff Tip, my second ever back yard Elephant Hawk Moth, Coronet, Marbled Green and Four-spotted Footman were the highlights.

Buff Tip

Elephant Hawk Moth

Acleris forsskaleana

Yellow Shell


Haworth's Pug

Monday 18th July and it was an incredibly hot day with temperatures here in Plymouth reaching above 32°c, not helped by very little wind and the breeze we did have being warm rather than cooling. We decided to take a walk around the coast path at Stoke Point although we did a shorter walk than usual, starting and ending at The Warren car park, and a large part of the walk was under the shade of the trees along the River Yealm so it wasnt too bad. We didn't encounter any Mad Dogs but there were other English Men out in the Midday Sun and it was bloody hot, we were very glad to stop and have cold beers at The Ship Inn at Noss Mayo along the way.

Butterflies were flitting about in the heat with Common Blue, Peacock, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Large White, Small White and Green-veined White all seen but a Clouded Yellow dashing past and flitty Wall Browns sheltering in the shade of a hedgerow were the highlights.



I had the moth box out in the back yard again that night with temperatures not dropping below 20°c and in the morning there were quite a few moths in the trap along with lots of flies and a few wasps. Unfortunately the wasps were tucking in to the docile male Four-spotted Footman in the trap, biting off their wings and nibbling away at their bodies. 

I had some of my favourite moths in the trap including 2 Marbled Green, 3 Coronet and 2 Mullein Wave along with Buff Ermine, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Cloaked Minor, Single-dotted Wave and Rustic. 

Cloaked Minor

Single-dotted Wave


The weather has now returned to more usual temperatures for the time of year here in Devon, a welcome relief from the hot weather we have just experienced although we really could do with some proper rain. Maybe this is just a taste of what is yet to come? 

No comments:

Post a Comment