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Emerging froglets Beneath the surface of the Spring Park pond, the tadpoles have now started to absorb their tails and will soon venture from the water as small but perfectly formed froglets.
Out from the sanctuary of the water, these tiny amphibians are vulnerable to predation. The froglets make an attractive meal for a vast array of wildlife including small mammals and birds such as grey herons; their reproductive strategy is one of sheer numbers to ensure that at least some of the young frogs make it to adulthood. With a good population of adults returning each year to the Spring Pond, their key to surviving clearly pays off!
Photo: Tim Hamlett
First flight of the year: brown hairstreaks
Late July marks the time when the first adult brown hairstreak butterflies emerge at Spring Park. You might remember back in earlier editions of the newsletter this year that there had been a bumper count of brown hairstreak eggs found on young blackthorn – a plant that this particular butterfly bases its lifecycle around. We’re now eagerly waiting to see if this will equally be a strong year for the adult butterflies!
The brown hairstreak is one of the largest butterflies known as hairstreaks, with brown upperwings and small ‘tails’ protruding from the hindwings. Females have a brilliant orange patch in the top corner of each forewing. The underwings are a distinctive bright orange, with two white lines ‘streaked’ across them. These butterflies can be spotted on the woodland edges and along hedgerows at Spring Park over the next few months.
Why meadows matter
Most of the wildflower species in the Spring Park meadows have flowered and their browning heads indicate their readiness to spread their seeds. Now is the time when they are cut, bailed and collected for hay. Cutting and removing the bulk of the plants at this time of year lessens the amount of nutrients that would otherwise enrich the soil by vegetation rotting down each winter. The bales produced from Spring Park also help to feed Sussex cows in the winter when they are not grazing the downland landscape of the nearby Coulsdon Commons.
After the cut it is a long wait to see the first flowering heads of spring out of the depths of a winter lull – a fine time to reflect on why meadows are important. Meadows are very much shaped by humans and developed as a result of traditional farming practices. They were an intrinsic part of agriculture in the UK. Small farms would have permanent pasture for grazing, and meadows for hay that were cut and stored to feed the livestock over winter. The turning point for these habitats came at the time of the Second World War when millions of acres of grassland were ploughed to grow cereal crops. What remains today is mostly scattered fragments of just a few acres and vulnerable to urbanisation, climate change and changing farming practices.
According to Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity, all that remain are just 26,000 acres (10,500 hectares) of lowland wildflower meadow. This habitat is hugely important for biodiversity and the meadows on Spring Park alive each spring and summer with brightly-coloured butterflies and a vivid display of wildflowers.COVID-19 During the current COVID-19 crisis, please follow the UK Government’s current guidance. Please see notices on sites for details. If you are visiting, please remember:✅keep 2m apart✅you can meet outdoors in a group of up to two households (max 30 people)✅you can meet outdoors in a group of multiple households (max 6 people)✅be considerate of others✅take litter home and pick up after your dog waste X no BBQs
For more details, please visit the GOV.UK website
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The City of London Corporation has seven green spaces in South London and Surrey covered by three charities: Ashtead Common, Coulsdon Commons and West Wickham Commons. Each charity has its own Newsletter and you can now:
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