After reading about everyones success at Fermyn Woods this week, i decided to take the plunge and visit for the first time today. Arriving just after 9am, i found myself shivering as i got out of the car. It was cool, overcast and i was starting to get a bad feeling. Walking through Fermyn, there were no Emperor’s in sight and after talking with a few people along the way, it appeared as though we weren’t the only ones having trouble! We power-walked over to Lady’s Wood and thankfully, by this time, the sun had started to come out and we spotted our first Emperor flying around the tops of the trees before briefly landing on the path and taking off again. Encouraged, we moved further on and met up with Neil Hulme on his bike. This morning, i’d mixed up a nice soup of spiced anchovy paste that smelled suspiciously like fishy cat food and diarrohea. Neil had also brought a soup lure with him, no doubt some equally foul smelling concoction, which he had been putting down all morning. After walking all around Lady’s Wood and not finding any Emperor’s, we walked back up through Souther Wood and low and behold, about 10 people were crowded around something on the ground. His Imperial Majesty had finally decided to grace us with his presence!
I immediately threw myself onto the ground to get some photos (and i believe there were some sneaky, embarassing photos taken of me in the process!). H.I.M hung around for at least 45 minutes, feeding from the salts/minerals on the ground, and also from various t-shirts and jeans. However, by this point, i was starting to have a mild panic attack. None of my photos were in focus! What on earth was going on? I spent the next 30 minutes taking photos of random things to try and figure out what was wrong. Photos taken with both my 100mm L and 300mm L lenses were slightly out of focus. I later came to the conclusion that my 500D was playing up. WHY DID IT HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL I WAS PHOTOGRAPHING THE PURPLE EMPEROR???? After having a mini tantrum and a bigger one inside my head (which involved so much foul cursing that i couldn’t possibly repeat it on here), i resigned myself to the fact that i wasn’t going to get any decent photos today. Absolutely gutted, it became clear to me that i was going to have to leave early to stop myself becoming too depressed at seeing all of the Emperor’s on the ground and not being able to take any photos of them. Despite making this decision, for the next hour or so, there was plenty of frolicking around with some fellow photographers, taking photos of Emperor’s landing on each other and my camera bag etc. I also made sure that everyone had a nice whiff of my Emperor soup. Thankfully, we are all still alive to tell the tale, including the dog “Bramble” that physically ingested it by licking it off the path. Walking back towards the car, we saw another 2 Emperor’s, a few Purple Hairstreak, a couple of White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary and then another Emperor that didn’t seem to have a clue what it was doing by the car park. It flew in circles for a bit, then crossed the road, flew into a corn field, circled some more, flew into an oak tree, descended again, inspected a car, flew back into the oak, came back to have another look at the car, then disappeared. Maybe the smell of my Emperor soup confused it?
Despite having the worst day EVER photography-wise, i saw about 8 Purple Emperor, 6 of which were grounded. It was a great experience and i always love visiting new sites. Its at the top of my list for a re-visit in 2013, hopefully with a working camera next time! I also discovered later that i’d lost my lens cap. All in a days work, eh?