Wildlife Update

The Common has slowly turned crispy and brown, with plants withering, trees dropping leaves and, in some cases, branches.  Although thankfully, our tree inspection programme has meant that incidents of "Summer Branch Drop", have been minimal.

Although most of the vegetation has stopped growing or died back, and it is is a naturally quiet time for our bird life, other species of flora and fauna are thriving. 

Yarrow is a tough plant found in our grasslands. It has dark green, finely divided, feathery leaves and flat-topped clusters of white flower heads, each comprising yellowish disc florets and pinky-white ray florets - together they give the impression of one flower with a yellow centre and white petals.  It is currently provides an oasis of green in the midst of the dry and brown grassland.  A member of the very large sunflower family, Asteraceae, it is quite closely related to wild and cultivated chamomiles.   



Yarrow is steeped in myth and legend; it is a plant that many cultures of the world have widely used and revered. Achillea millefolium was named in honour of the Greek god Achilles; who according to legend, had course to widely employ this wound staunching herb on the battlefield.



The Purple Hairstreak butterfly is commonly seen here, if you know where to look. The hot weather has brought it down from its usual treetop haunt to seek what moisture it needs from the ground. The Purple Hairstreak is the only butterfly in the UK which is entirely reliant on the oak tree. It can use our two native species - Sessile Oak and Pedunculate Oak - as well as the introduced Turkey and Evergreen Oaks.  The butterfly pictured here was photographed on the beach area of Kingsmere pond.  






A rarely seen butterfly here on the Commons, but one that has been spotted several times during this hot spell is the Silver-washed Fritillary. 

The largest of the Fritillary species, it gets its name from the beautiful streaks of silver found on the underside of the wings.  With its orange colouring and strong, fast flight, it is quite distinctive as it flies through sunny glades and rides, stopping to feed on flowers such as Bramble.



Dragonflies also seem to be enjoying the heat, with a Southern Migrant Hawker (below) on a nearly dry Bluegate Pond being only the second for the vice-county of Surrey. 



A Keeled Skimmer (below) seen on Farm Bog on 16th July is the first seen on the Common since 1996.  It is locally common in some areas of the UK, but has a patchy distribution. It can mainly be found on heaths and commons with shallow pools, so Farm Bog is its ideal habitat.

Although not uncommon here, Herons are so majestic and graceful that they are a delight to watch.  This one on Kingsmere was no exception.  Usually quite a shy bird, one that frequents Rushmere is allowing people to get really close as it stalks its prey in the pond. 




The Common Tern, whilst not uncommon in the South East, is uncommon on the Common (are you still with me!?)  This video taken by one of our staff shows the wonderfully nicknamed "Sea Swallow" at its best.

YouTube - Common Tern