Annual Summary 2020 Flowers 128 different flowers were recorded on the Common this year and the full list (together with all our other records) can be found in the spreadsheet below. We compare flowering times of some common species through the seasons, with respect to previous 3 years. Spring flowers (e.g. Snowdrop, Primrose, Celandine, Violet, Wood Anemone and Bluebell) were recorded nearly 4 weeks earlier in 2020 than for the three previous years. This may relate to the sunniest spring on record following the wettest February on record. However in the Summer (May to September), flowering times (e.g. Cow Parsley, Lesser Stitchwort, Common Meadow Buttercup, Common Spotted Orchid, Red Clover, Knapweed, Yarrow, Great Willowherb, Ragwort, Hedge Bindweed, Harebell and Scabious) were essentially the same as those for the previous three years despite the hot dry weather.
Butterflies and other Insects This year’s highlights were the Long-tailed Blue sighting, for its rarity, and the Purple Hairstreak because it has been seen 3 years on the trot, making it a regular! Both were photographed in a pond area that is surrounded and overlooked by oaks. The purple hairstreak spends most of the time high up in the oak canopies, coming down for fluid on hot days. This year we were able to separate out the Large, Essex and the Small Skippers, and the Brown Argus from the female Common Blue thanks to some high quality photographs. Comparing butterfly numbers this year, with last year, is difficult as we were not always able to walk the transects in the earlier months because of Covid 19 restrictions. However from the records we do have, it appears there were some winners: Small Coppers, Speckled Woods and Gatekeepers all did better than last year, and some losers: Skippers, Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns did less well than last year. Several day-flying, grass-veneer micromoths were identified on the common, thanks to the excellent photographic skills of 2 of the team members and in August, a moth trap was set up adjacent to the common that yielded 50 different species of moths. Finally, the spectacular Roesel’s Bush-cricket made a re-appearance on the Common.
Birds, and this month’s focus on the Tit family 59 species of birds were recorded this year and the full list is found in the spreadsheet below. The highlights of the year include some very tame Firecrests, a Raven, and Spotted Flycatchers that fledged nearby. At the turn of the century Bealeswood hosted all five species of the tit family that occur in England, but sadly one is now locally extinct (Willow) and its look-alike cousin (Marsh) is in very sharp decline. Blue Tit- Certainly the most unmistakable, communal and confiding of garden species. With care, individuals can be classified by the gloss of their blue crowns as males (brightest, see photo), females (less so) and first-winters (dull). Although remarkably faithful to one neighbourhood they regularly form parties foraging across the commons. Great Tit- Altogether a heavyweight compared to Blue Tit. Twenty per cent larger, long tail, black crown, white face, and a black breast-stripe all signal instant recognition (photo). Far more territorial than the Blue Tit, and bossing it at any garden feeding station. The first heard “see-saw” song of the male (usually mid-December) provides a sense of renewal, as daylight hours extend once more. It is one of our more varied of songsters, no two males possess quite the same repertoire. Coal Tit- Marginally smaller than Blue Tit, and with feet that are specially adapted for feeding on fir cone seeds. It is commonly seen on seed and nut feeders where it is bossed by the larger tits, and tends to take food for storage in a cache hidden from its rivals. Hence its highspeed forages that often hamper identification, but even if momentarily seen, the white neck patch behind the black cap is unmistakable. Viewed from below separation from Marsh Tit is problematic but look for the double white wing bars which clinches identification (see photo). Marsh Tit- The plainest of the tits, a smart black cap and buffy plumage without wing bars always make for a sleek, streamlined appearance. Highly sedentary and territorial. Indeed, its most characteristic feature is one of its calls, a loud pitchoo unlike any other tit. This is used exclusively as a territorial marker and not reported in 2020 from Bealeswood, which is of considerable concern. All sightings should be posted to the BWRG. Long-tailed Tit- The sole European member of a completely different family, encountered sporadically on Bealeswood in foraging groups when their penetrating repeated tsee-tsee calls, reveals their presence. Will rarely come to garden feeders but when they do, a spectacular array of long-tails will brighten the day.
Blue Tit (left) and Great Tit (right, not to scale!). Photos Alex Potts
Coal Tit (left) and Long-tailed Tit (right) on Bealeswood Oak. Photos Alex Potts Bealeswood Wildlife Reporting Group: Dan & Alison Bosence, Alan and Pauline Cox, Philippa and Colin Hall, Steve Luckett, Alex Potts, Christina Rasmussen, and Anne Tutt. 26th December 2020