June is one of the best months for seeking out and spotting beetles. This enigmatic group of invertebrates that form the order Coleoptera, play an essential role in pollinating flowers, breaking down decaying wood and recycling organic matter to make fertile soils.
There are more than 4,200 beetle species in the UK alone. Over millions of years beetles have developed a bewildering array of survival strategies. Keep an eye out for brightly coloured species such as the 7-spot ladybird and red-headed cardinal beetle who advertise their horrid taste through warning colours on their wing cases. Some are equipped with fearsome antlers to fend off rivals such as the impressive stag beetle or, like the cockchafer, have hairy bodies to irritate the mouths of predators.
Stag beetles have been in steep decline across Europe, but Greater London remains a hotspot due to the presence of veteran trees and deadwood in which they lay their eggs and spend the majority of their lives.+ If you see a stag beetle, you can help build a national picture of their distribution by recording your sighting.
Birds thriving in lockdown?
Birds have been thriving during lockdown thanks to lower sound pollution levels and a slowdown in road traffic according to the British Trust for Ornithology. The current lack of noise might indeed be helping singing birds to be heard by potential mates and rivals, thus increasing their breeding success. Despite their small size, birds such as the robin, wren and chiffchaff can be easily heard with songs erupting from the hedges and trees on Spring Park and West Wickham Common.
No BBQs on the West Wickham Commons
The exceptional spring weather has not let up and, with the warm weather, we can be complacent about the damage that BBQs and fires can have on our open spaces and the important habitats that lie within. In the last month, a 180ha woodland in Dorset was burnt and there have been similar blazes devastating woods and heathland in Surrey.
With less than one day of rain in over 2 months, there remains an exceptionally high risk of fire, so please, if you are visiting any of the Commons, do not have any BBQs or bonfires, maintain vigilance, take your litter home and report any signs of fires immediately to the fire service.
Our response to the ongoing pandemic
It has been great to see many visitors getting out and about and discovering (or rediscovering) the amazing countryside on their doorstep. We are pleased that the West Wickham Commons have been so well used in the crisis and glad that so many more now appreciate its value as a special place for wildlife and people to enjoy.
Whilst the lockdown restrictions on exercise and travel have been partially lifted, current social distancing rules still apply. When using the Commons please respect others and keep at least 2m away from anyone not in your household. Groups of up to 6 people will be able to gather outdoors as long as individuals from two different households continue to stay 2m apart. A reminder that fires and BBQs are not permitted. Until it is safe, the water fountain will not be turned on so please plan ahead before your visit and bring your own bottle.
Our operation has changed significantly during this period to focus on safety critical work. Unfortunately, this means that volunteering remains suspended for the foreseeable future. If you do see anything that you feel should be reported to the office, please do so by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the office 01372 279 083 (8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday). For out of office hours please call our emergency line on 01372 279 488 and a member of the team will be notified.