The Purple Empire

During July, Fermyn Woods in Northamptonshire offers one of Britain's quirkiest wildlife spectacles. From mid to late morning, dozens of our most aristocratic butterfly, the Purple Emperor, descend from the treetops to imbibe salts along the rough track through the woods. So intent that they seem oblivious to human disturbance, sometimes they settle on clothing, legs and arms to drink sweat. The purple of male Emperors is a structural colour, caused by light refraction in the scales of their wings, and can only be seen when viewed from the right angle. I was able to lean right over this Emperor, camera mounted on a monopod looking straight down, to get the colour showing in all four wings. Purple Emperor is the 50th species of British butterfly I have photographed and images of all these species can be seen in my website galleries.