Nature Notes

1st March marks the start of the “meteorological” spring and nature is taking heed, but hopefully not too prematurely with the cold snap forecast for next week.

So what should you be looking out for?  Well, Snowdrops are starting to appear; trees and shrubs are starting to bud - Catkins and Pussy Willow are now out around the Commons, and the small white flowers of the Blackthorn should be out very soon, providing a valuable early source of nectar and pollen for bees in spring.  

It may be cold outside but amphibians are already on the move and through January and February frogs and toads will be starting to spawn.  Do you know how to tell the difference between frog spawn and toad spawn?  Frog spawn is always laid in clumps, whilst toad spawn comes in long chains like strings of pearls draped over pond weed and submerged plants.  A very interesting article can be found on the Countryfile website here

Birds are starting to show signs of their mating rituals, and are looking for nesting sites.  Chiffchaff are early arrivals during March, listen for their call.  Wheatear and Ring Ouzel may also stop over on The Plain on their way north to their breeding grounds.

When we do get a warm sunny day, there is every chance you might see a Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell or Red Admiral butterfly taking advantage to warm its wings. 

We do occasionally get asked for advice on how to help butterflies that emerge perhaps a little too early from their dormant overwintering phase and Butterfly Conservation's Richard Fox has the following advice:

"Among the butterflies, it is only the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock that regularly overwinter inside houses. They come in during late summer/early autumn, when it is still warm outside and our houses appear to provide suitably cool, sheltered, dry conditions. However, come Christmas, when the central heating is cranked up, such butterflies may be awoken prematurely by high indoor temperatures. This presents a major problem for the butterfly as the outside weather conditions may be very hostile and there is little nectar available in gardens.

It is a problem for the concerned householder too. How best to help these poor confused butterflies unwittingly tricked into thinking spring has come early. The best solution is to rehouse the butterfly into a suitable location. Catch the butterfly carefully and place it into a cardboard box or similar, in a cool place for half and hour or so to see if it will calm down.

Once calmed down you might be able to gently encourage the sleepy butterfly out onto the wall or ceiling of an unheated room or building such as a shed, porch, garage or outhouse. Just remember that the butterfly will need to be able to escape when it awakens in early spring.

If you have no options at all for suitable hibernation places, then it would be best to keep the butterfly as cool as possible, to minimise activity, and then to release it outside during a spell of nice weather."

For a full copy of Richard's article, visit the Butterfly Conservation website

Facebook Nature Notes Group

We're always happy to receive information about our flora and fauna, so if you have an interest and would like to report sightings to us; if you have a question about anything you see or would like help to identify; or just want to share a photograph, why not join our Facebook Nature Notes Group?  It's a quick and easy way to share things with us!  

Whether it’s birds, butterflies, beetles, dragonflies or plants and flowers, these informal sightings, along with our more regular recording, helps us to build up a picture of the flora and fauna that are thriving here on the Commons. This, in turn, helps form the decisions on which our land management practices are based

Wimbledon and Putney Commons Nature Notes