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  The Fauna Of Tunbridge Wells And Rusthall Commons - Part 2

The three British species of woodpecker are all to be found on the Commons, although the Great Spotted and Lesser Spotted are much less conspicuous than the Green. The latter has been noted feeding at anthills in the grassland near Wellington Rocks. Among the birds of prey, examples of the Kestrel and Sparrowhawk have been observed actively hunting in recent times, the former in open spots and the latter in more wooded areas. The Little Owl, Tawny Owl, and Long-eared Owl also have recent records. Few water birds occur on the Commons, but Mallard and Moorhen may be seen at Brighton Lake, and a Kingfisher has been seen there recently. Summer visitors include the ubiquitous Cuckoo, generally heard rather than seen, as well as the Spotted Flycatcher, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Wood Warbler, Garden Warbler and Blackcap. Swallows and House Martins are to be seen hunting insects over open ground such as that between Victoria Grove and Wellington Rocks. Winter visitors include the Fieldfare and the Redwing.

A full list of mammals has yet to be compiled, but several species occur in addition to the substantial populations of grey squirrels and rabbits. Foxes are often to be seen, even in daylight, while badgers forage on the Commons at night from sets situated around the perimeter. Small deer undoubtedly occur on both Commons, although it is unclear whether they are a permanent feature or occasional visitors from the contiguous open countryside. Roe Deer have been seen on Rusthall Common, and there is some evidence for the introduced Muntjac. Mole hills are a familiar feature of some grassy areas such as that near Brighton Lake, and hedgehogs are also resident. Weasels have been recorded on Tunbridge Wells Common, and a Common Dormouse near Toad Rock. The areas of acid grassland with their tussocks and anthills are ideal for small rodents to feed while keeping themselves hidden from predators: voles, mice and shrews all occur, although particular species have not been identified. In the evening bats may be seen, mostly the Pipistrelle, a small and very common species, although the larger Noctule has also been reported.

The heathland environment of the Commons, along with their various ponds, have historically supported a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Despite the more recent decline of heathland, species such as the Common Lizard have managed to survive in more open areas. Lizards are seen quite regularly sunning themselves on anthills or similar exposed situations, although they are easily disturbed and rapidly vanish out of sight among the grass. They are most likely to be spotted in the grassland near Highbury or along Mount Ephraim. The Slow worm, a legless lizard, has also been recorded, but is much more elusive. Another conspicuous reptile is the Grass Snake, which is most often seen near water. It can swim very effectively, and is regularly seen doing so in Brighton Lake. The Adder, a characteristic heathland species, is much less likely to be observed. The most widespread and abundant amphibians are the Common Frog and Common Toad, which breed prolifically in all the ponds on both Commons. The adults may be seen quite some distance from water. The three British species of newts are also found breeding in ponds on the Commons, although the rarer Great Crested in more restricted than the Smooth and Palmate.

Fish occur only in Brighton Lake, where they must originally have been introduced, as this pond was only created in 1858. However, they undoubtedly flourish there, and some surprisingly large specimens are in evidence. The population of sizable Carp is the most conspicuous, but Perch, Tench, Roach and Rudd are also present. A small Pike was recorded recently. Sticklebacks are also to be found.

  Female Common Blue Butterfly

The most prominent and widespread members of the Commons’ insect fauna are the butterflies, of which twenty-five species have been recorded to date. Some are permanent residents, sedentary species with old established colonies breeding on site generation after generation, while other more mobile species are regular or occasional visitors. The majority of the permanent residents are species characteristic of open grassland and heathland, and at their appropriate season most of them can be seen in areas such as (on Tunbridge Wells Common) the acid grassland along Mount Ephraim and overlooking London Road, the vicinity of Gibraltar Cottage, the north-west corner, and the space between Wellington Rocks and Victoria Grove; and (on Rusthall Common) Denny Bottom, and the grassland at the north-west corner, around the Marl Pits and in front of Rusthall Church. Such butterflies avoid dense woodland, but can be quite numerous along the open fringes of the wider footpaths like Pope’s Terrace Walk.

Page last updated: 12/03/2007