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Prees Heath Report August & September 2019

The season for counting all species of butterfly on the reserve has now ended. 2019 has been another good year, especially for the flagship species, the Silver-studded Blue, which has done particularly well on the heathland restoration areas. As I have written before, the transect that is used to give an indication of butterfly numbers gives us just a sample, but by walking it week on week, year on year, it provides a reliable guide to how the butterflies are faring. This was the eleventh year of walking the transect, which has now been walked 286 times. Here are the figures for the total number of butterflies recorded on the transect from 2014 to 2019:

 

2019

2442

2018

3094

2017

1724

2016

2129

2015

1518

2014

1821

 

You can see from these figures that 2019 was a good year, topped only by 2018, when we enjoyed a wonderfully warm and dry summer. It is always the case with butterflies that numbers go up and down according to the weather, but the figures also show an upward trend. This year I have been helped on the transect by Lottie Glover, who has recently graduated with a degree in zoology, and Will Brammer, who takes his GCSEs next year, so I would like to convey my thanks to them. They were both particularly helpful in catching then releasing species that are tricky to separate, such as Small Skipper and Essex Skipper where you have to examine the undersides of the tips of their antennae to determine which is which. Essex Skipper is a species that has spread northwards in recent years. 

On Friday 27th September I hosted a Moth Evening on the reserve, followed by a Moth Morning on the Saturday. This was part of National Moth Night, when many people throughout the UK record what moths are present. The evening started quite promisingly, with mild, dry and still weather, but by 10pm the rain and the wind had moved in and the temperature dropped. Nevertheless we found nine species, which were:

 

Pink-barred Sallow

Lunar Underwing

Snout

Autumnal Rustic

Setaceous Hebrew Character

Common Wainscot

Brindled Green

Brown-spot Pinion

Deep-brown Dart

 

The last one, Deep-brown Dart, which took us a while to identify, is a new record for the reserve. Many thanks to the nine people who came along. The date for National Moth Night, which has now been going for 20 years, has yet to be set for 2020, but it should be somewhat earlier in the year.

 

The day after the Moth Evening the Shropshire Fungus Group visited the reserve. The group recorded an impressive 52 species of fungus, which is the first set of fungus records for the reserve, so many thanks to them for this. The recent wet weather certainly helped the fruiting bodies to emerge. Some of them have enchanting English names, such as Wood Woolyfoot, The Flirt, Fool’s Funnel, Deceiver, White Brain and Clustered Toughshank. A Fungi Foray open to the public and led by John Hughes will take place on the reserve on Saturday 12th October at 2.00pm, so this will be an opportunity to see and identify the different fungi first hand.

 

Stephen Lewis, Butterfly Conservation Volunteer Warden

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