What to look out for on the Commons this month!

Our summer recording has started in earnest on the Commons, and we are grateful to our volunteer recorders for their insights.  We thought it might you might find in interesting to read a little of the information they send through to us to perhaps inspire you to take a closer look at the beautiful flora and fauna we have here on the Commons!


From Dr Ros Taylor, Conservator (flora expert)

When I did my recent floral recording, the striking thing among shorter turf was buttercups!  It's their season, and although this might seem very obvious, on The Plain we have all three types: Bulbous buttercup, Meadow Buttercup and, the most often seen anywhere, Creeping buttercup.  According to a book I love Meadowland, The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel 2014, Meadow Buttercup is indicative of long-standing meadow history.



The other obvious feature of late spring/early summer is that it is the “white” season, lots of Hawthorn blossom and Cow Parsley with, at turf level, the small white flowers of Sticky Mouse Ear and I suspect coming soon, if not already out at Wimbledon, Stitchwort.  Dandelions which enhanced the early spring yellows are now fluffy white seed heads adding to this general theme.  There are also swathes of White Campion, particularly along Sunset Road leading to Springwell Car Park, and the Oxeye Daisies are putting on a fantastic show all over the Commons this year, as shown in the photograph at the top of this post..



Continuing the white theme, at Putney Lower Common, and in many other areas, White Clover has been growing in abundance - an excellent source of nectar for our bees.

To add a little diversity into the colour scheme, Foxgloves are now starting to flower in the area of woodland below the Sandy Ring that was cleared in 2015 - it’s good to see that work bearing fruit.


Soon, the prevalent yellow will be Tormentil which is just starting to come into bloom and (hopefully) by mid-June the pale yellow of Yellow Rattle will add to this theme interspersed with a diversity of vetches.


From Bill Budd, volunteer (Dragonflies and Damselflies)

Our Dragonflies and Damselflies have been few and far between.  Having visited most of the ponds in mid-May, there was very little flying, partly because of the intermittent sunshine and wind. Hookhamslade and Bluegate were both sheltered from the wind and once the sun became a bit more continuous, a male Broad-bodied Chaser felt able to move around a bit on each.  There were also a few Large Red Damselflies and Azure Damselflies at Bluegate.  


If the temperature improves, there may be a bit more activity and the species we will be specially looking out for is Hairy Dragonfly.

One week later…….Lots of Dragonfly activity on the Common today!  Red-eyed Damselfly on Queensmere,  Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers plus Hairy Dragonfly on Hookhamslade, and Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers plus Emperor Dragonfly on Bluegate. Plenty of Azure Damselfly and some Large Red Damselfly, but no Common Blue Damselflies so far.


From Simon Riley, Volunteer (butterflies/dragonflies)

Many of our spring butterflies have been on the wing for some time now.  Look out for Common Blue and Small Heath in the meadow areas as these have started to be seen. A species particularly associated with spring, the orange tip, has a short flight season which will end fairly soon.  Another species associated with spring, the Brimstone, in fact flies all the way through to autumn.  Brimstone abundance will start to tail off in June as they reach the end of their lifespan, however they are soon replaced by their offspring later in the summer. These Brimstones will winter as adults, making the brimstone one of our most long-lived butterflies. 

The really exciting news [as we have already reported] is two confirmed sightings of Green Hairstreak.  This is a rare London butterfly and looking at Middlesex and Surrey atlases it hasn’t been recorded on the Common since at least since 1980.  At that time, I don’t think there were any south west/west London records at all, however, since then there has been a slight recovery with records at Barnes Common as well as in the Houndslow/Feltham area.

Other flora and fauna to look out for…

The most likely day-flying moth to be seen at the moment is the Cinnabar.  This species is unmistakable with its stunning black and red markings.    Another you will see is the small Green Oak Tortrix - brush past an Oak tree at the moment and you will likely disturb swarms of them, particularly on a warm, sunny evening.


Birds - Swifts made a very noticeable arrival in the UK during the first week of May, and visitors to the Commons that week were treated to hundreds of them swooping high over the Commons. They will be with us until at least August.

We are really pleased that the Swallows have again returned to nest here at the Ranger’s Office - we have two pairs, one in our Stable Yard and another in the garages adjacent to the Information Centre - their flying antics never cease to delight!


Warblers have been in fine voice with Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff regularly being heard.   Grey Wagtails are breeding at Queensmere and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are breeding in the woodland. 

Stag beetles are also now on the move and as in previous years, our Conservation Officer, Peter Haldane, would be delighted to receive details of any you may see - on the Commons or in the immediate environs. 


Finally, the areas around the old Putney Hospital site at Putney Lower Common were, as part of the restoration of the site, planted with a wild flower mix that is now in full bloom, and looks amazing!



Don't forget we would be delighted to receive any records you may have of anything you've seen and recorded on the Commons - all data we receive is a big help in putting together our management plan.