Summer Notes from the Commons
The summer months of June, July and August have been very hot on occasions with daily highs of over 30 degrees Celsius and then towards the end of the period strong gale force winds and heavy rain, which caused flooding at times. Throughout these months, regular contributor Mark Clements and I recorded the day to day wildlife sightings of the Commons and interesting highlights are presented below.
The warm weather at the beginning of June saw lots of young birds about including three juvenile Garden Warblers (06 June), which means for two years running the warblers have had successful breeding. A Red Kite also passed over west. An unusual visitor was seen heading inland (08 June) – a Fulmar, a bird normally associated with the open sea and the cliffs at Beeston Regis where they nest. A moth trap run overnight (13 June) produced 45 species including four hawk moths – Elephant, Eyed, Poplar and Privet. A Hobby passed east (15 June) and a Red Kite west (16 June) with a Whimbrel and Woodcock west the following day (17 June). A Banded Demoiselle was also noted. Further sightings of Hobby and Red Kite occurred (20 June) and the first report of White-letter Hairstreaks from their single Wych Elm base was made. An unusual beetle was also discovered by Mark on a thistle stem. It is known as the Tortoise Beetle and they are well camouflaged as they have modified wing cases which are flattened at their margins, which effectively hide the head and most of the legs. A female Red-veined Darter was present on the central mire and John Furse also found the scarce hoverfly, Volucella inflata. Many Five-spot Burnet moths were about nectaring on the thistles (22 June). These day-flying moths are very distinctive, being a glossy black with red-spotted wings. A bird not seen very often nowadays around the Commons is Lapwing, however five were spotted overflying and heading southwest (24 June). The following day (25 June) another Fulmar was seen heading inland and four Crossbills headed west. A hobby headed southeast (27 June) and (30 June) a Cuckoo flew over the central marsh and landed in the trees to the west. A Pirate Wolf Spider was also present on the small pond. These remarkable spiders are able to hunt over the water as they have water repellent hairs on their legs.
The month (01 July) opened with another remarkable find by Mark. This time it was a sawfly, Allantus togatus, the fifth county record and only the second one since 1993. Four Crossbills also flew west and a visitor reported finding the rare white variety of the Marsh Helleborine. A Little Egret flew over (05 July) and a large female Adder and a Grass Snake were seen in the Back Marsh. Ian Dearing reported sightings of the Lunar Hornet Moth which had been attracted to a pheromone lure. The large and impressive Hornet Hoverfly was present (06 July). The large yellow flowers of Rough Hawkbit attracted the males of a very hairy bee known as the Pantaloon Bee because the female has oversized orange pollen brushes on their hind legs, which give the impression of a bee wearing pantaloons. Two Peregrine Falcons (possibly an adult and juvenile) drifted southeast (11 July) and two Purple Hairstreak butterflies were noted (12 July) for the first time this year although there had been reports of this species being seen earlier at other locations in the County. David Mower reported two Silver-washed Fritillaries (14 July) and many of the bright green planthopper, Cicadella viridis were present the following day (15 July). A Variable Nomad Bee turned up (17 July) for the first time on the Commons. This bee has been spreading northwards since being recorded for the first time in mainland Britain (Kent and Essex) in 2018. A Purple Emperor butterfly, which soared high between some oaks (20 July) made an impressive sight. This is the fourth year running that this butterfly has made an appearance on the Commons. It is highly likely that the butterflies are now present in the wider countryside at a low level and are breeding locally. A Parent Bug was found (21 July) with eggs and nearby was a leaf full of nymphs. The bug gets its name as the female is actively involved with brooding the eggs and young larvae. Another Hobby passed over the Common (24 July) and a Muntjac doe was seen with a fawn, also found was a snail-killing fly. The larvae of these flies are predators or parasitoids of living snails. These flies are useful as bio-indicators as wetland quality and character can be assessed by the number of species present. A further Hobby sighting and a report of a soldier-fly, the Banded General (26 July) was flowed by the discovery of a new dragonfly species for the site (28 July). This was the Southern Migrant Hawker, which is another continental insect that is beginning to establish a presence in the UK. It is also the 25th species of dragonfly/damselfly to be recorded for the Commons. A further sighting of a Purple Emperor (30 July) occurred at the same Sallow and Oak trees that the previous two years sightings were made. A total of 20 species of butterfly were recorded this day and a survey of the Back Common stream by the Norfolk Rivers Trust discovered a large Eel. A Brimstone butterfly (31 July) made the 21st species of butterfly this month and a bee, the Large-headed Resin Bee was new to the site having moved north from the Brecks to the coast in the last two years.
As the good weather continued at the beginning of August butterflies were averaging 15 species per day. A little seen insect was observed briefly (05 August) among some Golden-rod, it was the Horned Treehopper. These insects can produce sounds and jump like crickets. Also seen was the colourful parasitic fly, Phasia hemiptera, which preys on shieldbugs. A Greenshank flew south (09 August) calling with its distinctive rapid series of triple fluty notes and a Whinchat turned up the following day (10 August). A Hobby passed east (13 August) and the following day (14 August) a Fulmar was seen. A period of heavy thunderstorms occurred (16 August) which resulted in local flooding after which the weather for the remainder of the month was more unsettled. A Willow Emerald damselfly was noted (17 August) and the first Ivy Bee was also seen. Both insects are relative newcomers to the Uk, 2009 and 2013 respectively. There was a movement of hirundines noted (18/19 August) with 45 Swallows and 16 Sand Martins heading south, also a Willow Warbler and 14 Chiffchaffs were present. Further migrants turned up (23 August) with a Pied Flycatcher and two Willow Warblers noted along with two Hobbies. In addition a migrant butterfly, a Painted Lady was seen. A Box Bug nymph was seen (30 August) as the month ended with an autumnal feel.
The above is a summary of the wildlife seen this summer but for more wildlife information and daily sightings visit the website www.beestoncommon.org.uk.
Hon. Warden – Beeston Common SSSI/SAC