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Prees Heath Report February – March 2019

Prees Heath Report February – March 2019

 

Lucy and I do as much as we can to promote the reserve as a special place for wildlife. This was highlighted recently by the find of a beetle, Microhoriaterminata, which proved to be the first time this species has been recorded in Britain. In March we ran a stall at the Staffordshire Invertebrate Fair, which is held every year at Staffordshire University at Stoke-on-Trent. There was a really good turnout of people and a lot of interest in our stall, with free leaflets, past issues of The Comma, the magazine of the BC West Midlands Branch available, BC butterfly fact sheets, display panels about the heathland restoration work at Prees Heath and the Silver-studded Blue and activities for children to get involved in such as completing butterfly fact files. It was a really good day. 

 

IMG 6397

 

 

The volunteers have been active in the last couple of months, although we do not plan any more work parties now until late summer. We coppicedsome of the birch and willow trees that have grown around the margins of the pond. This was done to prevent them growing into large trees thereby shading out the pond and depositing large amounts of leaf litter into the pond and impairing the good water quality. As the trees were coppiced they will regrow from the base, and will be cut again in a few years’ time. We have also placed a couple of barley straw bales in the pond as they will release a chemical over the next few months that will reduce the amount of blanket weed that would otherwise carpet the pond in the summer months. 

 

 

IMG 6399

 

 

When Chris Packham visited Prees Heath last year he gave us £150 to spend in any way we sought fit on the reserve. After much thought and various suggestions we purchased 400g of Bird’s-foot Trefoil seed and 100g of Sheep’s Sorrel, all harvested from semi-natural sites in Britain rather than cultivated. The seed cost £140, and the balance of £10 was donated to the National Autistic Society. In March the volunteers sowed the seed at the southern end of the East of Runway field, scarifying the ground first with wire rakes to enhance germination. In addition, the volunteers did more sowing of Common Heather, Calluna vulgaris, seed on both the East of Runway and the Control Tower fields within 50 metres of the trees that we planted alongside the A41 road. 

 

IMG 6398

 

 

I continue to be available to give illustrated talks, and in March I gave a talk to the Market Drayton branch of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and I have another scheduled for April at the South Staffordshire branch of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need a speaker! I am now fully booked for guided walks on the reserve during the summer with various different community groups, but please make a note that there will be a public guided walk (no need to book) on Sunday 30th June at 2pm, and access to the interior of the control tower will be available on that day. 

 

At this time of year butterflies are starting to be seen, especially as I write this in a spell of warm weather. Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones are already evident, so fingers crossed for another fine summer. However it’s also worth looking out for a range of other insects – last week on one gorse bush I found several Gorse Shieldbugs as well as two 7-spot Ladybirds. Look closely as you never know what you might find.

 

 

IMG 6400

 

 

Stephen Lewis

Butterfly Conservation

Volunteer Warden, Prees Heath Common Reserve

07900 886809

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Prees Heath Report December 2018 to January 2019

Last year Natural England commissioned an invertebrate survey of the reserve, and this was carried out by Nigel Jones, Ian Cheeseborough, Carline Uff, Nigel Cane-Honeysett, Keith Fowler and Mike Shurmer. Around 780 species were recorded, and this total may increase as some samples are still awaiting further study for identification. Combined with previous records the total number of invertebrate species that have been recorded on the reserve since purchase in 2006 is 1,268. 

 

The survey found 34 species with conservation status, and 19 species that had not been previously recorded in Shropshire. One of these, an ant-like flower beetle Microhoriaterminatais the first British record for this species, with its identification confirmed by a specialist at the Natural History Museum in London. In December an article about this record, with some thoughts in answer to the obvious question as to why the first British record for this species has occurred at Prees Heath, appeared in The Coleopterist, and this is available for download from the home page of this website. The full report of the 2018 invertebrate survey will also be available once the final version is received. 

 

 

Microhoria-terminata

 

Also available for download from the website home page are species lists for various different groups. These lists include historic records so they may not accurately reflect what has been recorded in recent years. They are just species lists, with no details of who recorded what and when, but if anyone needs more information about any of the species listed then please do not hesitate to send me an email.My thanks to Lucy Lewis for putting together these spreadsheets.One species group that lacks a list at present is fungi, and last year the Shropshire Fungus Group did intend to visit the reserve, only to cancel due to the very unsuitable dry conditions. Hopefully they will visit this year, and I am also arranging a Fungus Foray in October. 

 

The volunteers were busy before Christmas clearing litter. I am aware that some members of the public do litter pick on and around the access track when they visit, and to me they are public-spirited heroes, whilst those who leave litter are the exact opposite. In December we arranged for a contractor to mow parts of the restored Hangars field, where some of the heather was already becoming tall and dense. The resulting brash, which contained seed, was spread around the East of Runway field in January by the volunteers, who also cleared scrub from the margins of the pond to prevent shading and the water quality deteriorating due to leaf litter. More of this clearance work will take place on Wednesday 13th February – do please get in touch if you would like to help. 

 

 

Volunteers-spreading-heather--brash

 

 

 

 

Volunteers-clearing-scrub-from-the--pondside Lunchtime!

 

 

In December a Barn Owl with a broken wing was found on the reserve by a member of the public, and commendably she took it to CuanWildlife Rescue in Much Wenlock, which looks after sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. Sadly, when the staff there examined the bird they found that the injury was severe and the bird was put down. It brought to my mind what the Shropshire Barn Owl Group had told me when I asked if we should install a Barn Owl box on the former RAF control tower. The answer was a definite no, because Barn Owls fly very low and they would inevitably get hit by vehicles on the two main roads bordering the reserve. It seems likely that this is what happened to this particular bird.

First British record at Prees Heath.

News Flash  - - First British record of the Beetle Microhoria terminata at Prees Heath. 

Please download the attached article from The Coleopterist by clicking HERE

Prees Heath Report October – November 2018

November saw the centenary of the signing of the armistice which brought the First World War to an end. Many people are aware that Prees Heath Common was during the war a trench warfare training camp, a 600 bed military hospital and, at the end of the war, a demobilisation centre. In 2015 MediaActive based in Wem produced an imaginative six minute film about the camp and how it has now become a nature reserve, using some of the words of the Shropshire-born poet Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action on 4th November 1918. You can view the film on Youtube by following this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frc-QXRbO0Q

 

This autumn we arranged for a drone to be flown over the reserve, having first received clearance from the nearby parachute club. The results were very impressive, and our thanks go to the ‘pilot’ Bob Kemp. Here are a few screenshots from his filming. You can see the darker patches on the restoration areas where the heather has flourished. The photographs also give a sense of the scale of the site. If you look very closely in one photograph you can see our volunteers working on the Hangars field. You can also see patches on the Hangars field which have been mown, and more mowing here of the taller heather, some of which has been attacked by Heather Beetle, where it is dominant is to be carried out shortly. Hopefully the mowing will helpthe area become more diverse botanically.

 

 

East-of-runway-field   Hangars-field-showing-mown---areas
                                             East of runway field                                           Hangars field showing mown areas
IMG 6798   Pond
                                                Corner field                                                          Pond
Prees-Heath-from-a-drone,-showing---restored-areas-left-and-right-(Bob-Kemp)   Reserve-from-near-the-entrance
                 Prees Heath showing restored areas left and right                                        Reserve from the entrance

 

 

The volunteers in the photo were busy clearing birch seedlings and saplings. They have also been active in clearing tree damage on the old runway, and they installed a post by the entrance gates which will be used for notices about events on the reserve. The next volunteer work party will be on Wednesday 12thDecember, from 10.30am to 12.30pm, when anyone is welcome to come and help to clear the reserve of litter. Bags, gloves and litter pickers will be provided. 

 

Stephen Lewis

Butterfly Conservation Prees Heath Volunteer Warden

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

07900 886809

Prees Heath Report August & September 2018

It is now 10 years since we set up the Prees Heath Butterfly Transect, which involves walking a set route around the reserve once each week from the beginning of April to the end of September (26 weeks) and recording numbers of all the different butterfly species 5 metres in front of you and 2.5 metres either side. So over the last ten years the transect has been walked 260 times, recording 15,464 butterfliesThis method is used by hundreds of Butterfly Conservation volunteers throughout the UK, and it produces valuable scientific evidence of how our butterflies are faring.

 

The table below shows the numbers of all the species recorded in the last 10 years. What is immediately apparent from the table is that 2018 was an outstanding year. It shows that this was particularly the case for three species – Small Copper, Silver-studded Blue and Common Blue – which all had their best year by a large margin. These are all members of the Lycaenid family of butterflies, and all have a symbiotic relationship with ants to some extent, with the Silver-studded Blue having notably the strongest relationship. It may prove that the hot weather of 2018 was not that good for ant populations, and so we may expect a decline in these butterfly numbers next year. 

 

   

   2009

  2010

     2011

   2012

   2013

   2014

   2015

   2016     

2017    2018                  

Small/Essex Skipper

3

12

4

2

10

42

45

106

62

45

Large Skipper

0

3

0

1

0

5

3

7

0

1

Dingy Skipper

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Brimstone

4

1

3

0

0

0

2

0

2

3

Large White

60

27

7

4

10

9

6

5

12

26

Small White

23

11

11

5

50

7

7

7

12

36

Green-veined White

37

20

21

1

4

12

2

5

19

18

Orange-tip

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

Purple Hairstreak

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

0

2

Small Copper

80

71

44

28

59

48

28

106

35

267

Silver-studded Blue

356

848

333

201

388

313

308

800

435

1670

Common Blue

66

49

26

14

41

69

18

32

32

196

Red Admiral

8

1

5

7

0

4

2

6

18

1

Painted Lady

79

1

1

0

2

2

1

7

0

8

Small Tortoiseshell

2

31

55

22

21

30

26

6

19

16

Peacock

5

7

9

17

27

15

30

7

9

10

Comma

2

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

3

2

Speckled Wood

10

0

1

4

2

4

6

9

9

5

Gatekeeper

50

33

31

36

40

96

48

46

54

43

Meadow Brown

425

243

71

198

452

360

313

308

147

198

Ringlet

18

61

16

13.5

38

77

13

40

32

22

Small Heath

303

281

181

196.5

774

489

269

216

349

498

All Butterflies

1531

1700

819

750

1918

1584

1129

1715

1249

3069

 

 

 

 

IMG 4826

 

 

Common Blue [©Mike Ashton]

 

The Prees Heath volunteers have been busy again. This time we planted another 2,000 bell heather plugs, the last of these at least for the time being. We also broadcast some common heather seed that was brush harvested on the Hangars field last year. Future plans include clearing birch scrub this winter and mowing some of the heather on the Hangars field, spreading the brash which contains seed on some of the restoration areas.

 

IMG 4827

 

 

One butterfly that continues to decline is the Small Tortoiseshell, once a common sight in gardens but now much less frequently seen. Many Small Tortoiseshells emerge from their chrysalis in the summer and immediately go into hibernation for the winter. On 13thSeptember Lucy counted 69 Small Tortoiseshells hibernating in the former RAF control tower, along with 3 Peacocks and 2 Herald moths. Subsequently professional photographer Andy Fusek Peters came and took some photographs – he admitted it was far from straightforward given their unusual location, but he obtained some excellent results. This photo shows a hibernating Peacock on one of the wooden bat boxes in the tower. 

 

IMG 4825

 

 

It has been reported to the Police that on Sunday 19thAugust a man was attacked on the reserve by two Alsatian dogs, and that he required hospital treatment for his wounds. Anyone with any information about this incident should contact the Police by dialling 101 and quoting Incident Number 769S dated 19th August. We try to ensure the reserve is a safe, friendly and welcoming place for visitors and incidents of this nature are taken seriously. 

Stephen Lewis

Volunteer Warden, Butterfly Conservation

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

07900 886809