Arrival of wheatears and whinchats mark the end of the summer

Heading south: the bird life is changing, slowly, as migratories such as wheatears are spotted on Farthing Downs

The weather has turned.

And the City Commons Rangers have begun to notice the difference in the wild birds arriving on Farthing Downs, and noted in their latest newsletter.

September signifies a change in birdlife with many species on the move as breeding season comes to an end. Summer visitors begin to depart and head south for warmer climates. A handful of wheatear and whinchat on their journey south.

A temporary enclosure that the Rangers trialled over the summer to help protect ground-nesting skylarks has now been taken down. The Rangers say, “It has been really encouraging to see many people stopping to observe the posters around the enclosure and speaking with rangers. Hopefully, more people now know about these fascinating ground-nesting birds and what they can do to help them during their visit such as keeping dogs under close control.”

Scrubbing up: volunteers have been helping keep the commons’ scrub in check

The Rangers have been recruiting help, too.

Last month, a small group of corporate volunteers escaped the office to spend the day on Farthing Downs helping to maintain chalk grassland habitat by clearing young hawthorn and other types of scrub.

Scrub is an important component of chalk grassland but it needs management to maintain it in good condition for wildlife, and to ensure it does not spread into areas where it is not wanted.

Long-established scrub enriches the soil and, if removed, thick grasses will grow meaning it would take many years for the area to return to flower-rich grassland. In the space of the day, the group achieved an impressive amount, keeping conditions right for flowers such as wild marjoram, lady’s bedstraw and nationally rare greater yellow-rattle.

Most of the hay has now been cut, baled and removed from across the hay meadows on the four commons across Coulsdon.

These flower-rich meadows owe their wealth of species to a traditional system of hay-cutting or grazing that has mostly persisted for centuries.

Making hay while…: cutting the grasses across the Commons helps maintain the rich habitat

The annual removal of vegetation keeps rough plants and grasses in-check and allows more delicate species to flourish. The profusion of flowers in June and July often attracts colourful insects including the common blue and small copper butterfly.

City Commons Rangers stage a series of volunteer events and public events throughout the year.

To be added to the mailing list for volunteering and updates, please email

The next volunteer days are:

  • Kenley Common: Tue Sep 20 10am-3pm
  • Farthing Downs: Thu Sep 29 10am-3pm
  • Coulsdon Common: Thu Oct 6 10am-3pm

And the next event is:

Heritage Walk – Farthing Downs
Sun Sep 25 10am-12pm

Discover the fascinating history of Farthing Downs and its many uses from Iron Age farm to Anglo Saxon cemetery and WWII defensive position. Suggested donation £3 per person. To book via Eventbrite, click here

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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