We spent more than two hours wandering through the woods searching. Half an hour before we got there someone had seen a male Emperor flying high up in the canopy, but despite our best efforts the flutter eluded us.
|Emperors were seen in Donkey Copse only yesterday.|
The woods were full, however, of men sporting binoculars and cameras. They had all adopted identical postures: standing stationary in front of oak trees staring upwards with their heads craned back as they scanned the tree tops for this most elusive of butterflies. It looked like some Impish Fairy had cast a spell on them and turned them all into statues doomed to gaze eternally upwards.....
|This is a Familiar And Recognisable Stance in Purple Emperor woods during Summer. I believe it leads to a condition known as 'Purple Emperor Neck'|
There had been a couple of Purple Hairstreaks spotted (Dave saw one). These are like tiny versions of the Emperor, but The Man Himself eluded everyone. Never Mind. There is always next time.
Dave, (eagle eyes) spotted this White Admiral flitting about at Ground Level, which is unusual as they, like the Emperor, are canopy-dwellers and therefore aren't seen all that regularly. It's the Next Best Thing to an Emperor, so I was happy :-)
When they do come down to the ground it is usually to drink nectar from brambles, as this one is doing. They are described in my butterfly book as 'unrivalled among British butterflies for their graceful and agile flight' and, having watched this one glide among the trees, I fully concur. They whirr their wings quickly then take long smooth glides among woodland rides. It's mesmerising to watch and leaves you feeling very peaceful and light.
The White Admiral can be mistaken for the Emp- they are similarly marked, although the Admiral is a bit smaller and lacks the purple sheen of male Emperors and the eye markings of both sexes.
Also present in the woods were Silver-washed fritillaries, the first I've seen this year. They were Very Reluctant To Land, but very eager to fly all around me. I snapped this one as fast as I could....
There was also a Brimstone pretending to be a leaf....
And this freshly hatched Gatekeeper.....
Signs of Autumn are beginning to creep into the woods. Along with that indefinable crispness on the air, Hazelnuts are already well-formed on the boughs (and I've been noticing small mushrooms springing up at home too).....
Anyway, the soft thump sounded like something falling out of the sky and when I looked round I saw both dogs looking extremely interested in something that was lying on the ground. I went to investigate (realising it was bound to be an animal or Poppy wouldn't have been licking it in that way that was both excited and curious) and when I got there I realised it was a snake.
I don't know where it came from. Perhaps a buzzard dropped it, or maybe one of the dogs had found it and flung it down there (seems less likely because I'd been with them). Anyway, it had a very damaged tail and its mouth was gaping open with its head thrown back and I realised it was dead. I picked the poor thing up and put it on the veranda of the wooden play house (which, since it stopped being used as a play house has proved immensely useful as a short-term repository for Poor Dead Creatures that need to be kept beyond dog reach until burial is possible).
I went to the house, got the camera, returned, and realised it had moved.
I took some pictures.
It moved again.
And I mean Proper Moved.
Not death throes then: Very Much Alive.
And I remembered that grass snakes, being devoid of any poisonous means of protecting themselves, have as their next-best line of defence the ability to play dead, which I can personally testify they do to Oscar-winning proportions.
I shooed the dogs away and locked them in the house, then returned to the wooden house and lifted the snake down, placing her (they're always female to me) in the long grass by the fence where she would hopefully be safe from predators.
She is still there now and it's an hour and a half later, and I am worried that the damage to her tail is too great and that she will die, but I'm not sure there is much you can do to nurse a wild snake. I rather suspect they might die of fright if you tried. Some creatures are not made for captivity, even the short-term variety that intends to help them (wood peckers are a good example of this). Best let nature take it's course I think. She's in the undergrowth where she is safe anyway.
|Note the diagnostic yellow collar in the pic above. Adders (poisonous) don't have this, and they also have a much more obvious black or dark brown zigzag pattern down their backs.|
Grass snakes are protected by law in this country. Under the 1981 wildlife act it is an offence (illegal) to kill or sell them. It is not illegal to handle them, but they are very nervous creatures and as such it is better to let them alone, unless they are injured and need to be moved for their own safety, as with this one.
I will go back up the garden later to check on her and will let you all know how she is. I hope I don't find her, because that will mean she is alright.
I'm off looking for glow worms again tonight, then on Wednesday I have a bat survey to do which should be interesting because I've not done one before. We're looking for Daubenton's bats, which characteristically fly low over water at dusk. My bat detector arrived this morning so I am dying to try it out. We have Pipistrelles nesting in the roof here and often seem them flying around at dusk, so we shall be out this evening seeing whether it works! I will report back to you all on that score too.
Wishing you all a lovely peaceful evening.