I cycled over to Bernwood Forest today although the weather was cloudy and dull which never promises well for Purple Emperor-spotting. As soon as I arrived at the slightly grim entrance with its car park and dog-poo bin, which is one of the best places for seeing the butterflies swoop down from the oak tree canopy (often to investigate dog poo, which they like), I saw something pretty majestic gliding powerfully, low over the tarmac forest road.
I am sure that it was either an Emperor or a White Admiral but it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and I had no further luck during the couple of hours I spent in the forest and in Bernwood Meadows next door. Still, I had a happy time pottering around on the bike and on foot and got the top photo of a female Silver-washed Fritillary, a blurry one of the shining russet male, left, and the ones below of a couple of lusty Ringlets. Those (like me) who believe that married couples are as one will be pleased with the first.
The 25-mile round trip was worth it for the sheer number of butterflies, even with sun so reluctant to shine. Along the main track, almost every thistle flower had a Marbled White perched on it, along with several kinds of Skipper - the ones in the photo below are Large - Ringlets, Meadow and Hedge Browns and assorted Whites.
I was also lucky to get this extremely sinister photo below of a Devil's Coach Horse Beetle under attack - I think - by a Red Fire Ant. The beetle was scuttling about so fast that all I could see with my eyes and specs is that it was dragging something. It was only when I looked at my photos during a rest on the ride home that I saw what was actually going on. This episode between two Dark-looking Forces accounts for my exciting headline.
Bernwood Meadows were looking lovely with masses of yellow and purple wildflowers, but the butterflies were mostly taking shelter as the clouds thickened, the temperature fell and there was the occasional drop of rain. I thought a flutter of white was a Large, Small or Green-veined White but it turned out to be this White Satin moth, which I've only ever seen previously among the eggboxes in the trap here at home.