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Prees Heath Report – August-September 2020



 

Click HERE to view Prees Heath Report – Aug-Sept 2020

 

 

Prees Heath Report - June & July 2020

Click HERE to view.

Prees Heath Report December 2019 and January 2020

The Prees Heath volunteers have been busy during this period. A litter pick throughout the reserve has now become a traditional pre-Christmas fixture. Although it is open to the public to come and join in, with all tools and gloves provided, it was disappointing that nobody apart from our regular volunteers came to help. This is despite the huge numbers of people who visit the reserve on an almost daily basis. I appeal to everyone who comes to the reserve to help Butterfly Conservation, a charity,keep the reserve in good condition by picking up litter safely and disposing of it responsibly.

 

Another way visitors to the reserve can help is by helping us deal with the killing of rabbits, which recently appears to have become more prevalent on the reserve. As well as reports of people taking rabbits using dogs, ferrets and hawks, mainly at weekends, I have also received reports of a snare being found on the reserve and a tame ferret. I have met with the Police to discuss how we can deal with this problem, as killing rabbits of the reserve, which provides a haven for all wildlife, is not permitted. The Police have been very helpful in coming on to the reserve when alerted and dealing with the matter appropriately. I would encourage any member of the public who witnesses people taking rabbits to contact the Police immediately, in accordance with the notice placed at the reserve entrance, and I would like to thank everyone who has done this to date. 

The experimental turf stripped plots have now been seeded as appropriate, some with Common Heather seed, some with Bell Heather seed and some with no seed. Some have chicken wire to prevent disturbance by rabbits, and some have no such protection. Students from Harper Adams University will be helping us to monitor what germinates. All seed was harvested on the reserve. I would be grateful if visitors could keep their dogs off these plots.

 

The volunteers have also spread Common Heather brash containing seed which was mown on the Hangars field in November on an area towards the pond.

 

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Finally I have been delighted by the response to myshort novel entitled ‘Postcard from the Common’, which is loosely based on what happened to Prees Heath Common in the postwar period. You can still buy a copy, with all royalties going towards Butterfly Conservation’s work at Prees Heath, either at BookShrop in Whitchurch or online at Amazon. 

 

 

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Stephen Lewis

Prees Heath Volunteer Warden

Butterfly Conservation

07900 886809

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

Prees Heath Report: April & May 2020

 

The Coronavirus outbreak has affected every aspect of our lives, and the reserve has been no exception. Parking vehicles on the access track to visit the reserve was prohibited for a period of time 8as the country went into lockdown, and I did not visit the reserve for 7 weeks. During that time it is reasonable to assume that all the wildlife, especially the birds, thrived in the absence of human disturbance. The track is now available again for parking, but only as far as the gates in order to ensure that large vehicles and lorries, including the emergency services, can access the two properties at the end of the track at all times. There have been instances when vehicles have been parked in places making access to the properties difficult or impossible. During the lockdown there was some fly-tipping on the reserve, and if anyone has any information about this I would be grateful if they would contact the Police – it is a serious criminal offence and anyone guilty faces a substantial fine.

 

Restrictions to keep us all safe mean that there will be no further Volunteer Work Parties or Guided Walks for the foreseeable future. Everyone who visits the reserve is advised to maintain social distancing apart from with members of their household. 

 

During the second half of May I started the weekly butterfly count, which normally starts in the first week in April. As well as reasonable numbers of butterflies, what has been evident has been the huge amount of birdsong, particularly Skylarks, Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroats. Another feature has been the fact that the reserve has not seen any rain as far as I am aware, or any significant rain, for at least two months. It all looks very parched, and we are only in May and with no appreciable rain in the forecast. Given the above average temperatures I would expect an earlier than usual emergence of Silver-studded Blues.

 

The pond continues to hold a high level of water. When we built the pond in 2009 we feared it may dry out during the summers, but this has never proved to be the case, so far. The first species of dragonfly to emerge has been the Four-spotted Chaser and now species of Hawker dragonflies have emerged earlier than usual. These two photos were taken on 29th May.

 

 

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 Large Red Damselflies 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Lewis

 

Butterfly Conservation Volunteer Warden

 

07900 886809

 

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

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

Prees Heath Report October & November 2019

 

The weather in November was generally wet and dreary, but this did not stop various pieces of work being carried out on the reserve. The most obviously visible of these is the improvements made to where the access track joins the A49 road. The work, paid for by Butterfly Conservation, was completed to a professional specification by local contractors McFour. The main purpose of this work was to make it safer for vehicle users. As regards the rest of the track no further works are planned as regards the potholes, and drivers are advised to drive VERY SLOWLY and abide by the 5mph speed limit. 

The work to restore the heathland for the benefit of heathland wildlife and for visitors to enjoy is a long term project that has already shown some remarkable successes. However there is always more work to be done, and this time of year is generally a good time to carry out improvements. So we have had three different contractors on site carrying out three different pieces of work. Firstly people may have noticed some turf stripped plots on the grassy area before you reach the old airfield hangars. This is an experimental project to determine the prospect of establishing heather on this area carried out in partnership with Harper Adams University. There are 21 plots in all, with 3 of each of the following interventions:

 

• Seeded with Common Heather with chicken wire applied
• Seeded with Common Heather with no chicken wire
• Seeded with Bell Heather with chicken wire applied
• Seeded with Bell Heather with no chicken wire
• Not seeded with chicken wire applied
• Not seeded with no chicken wire
• Not turf stripped, not seeded and no chicken wire (Control)
 

 

 

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The vegetation on the plots will be surveyed over the forthcoming years.  It is known that this area of the reserve was in arable cultivation and used to grow crops at least 30 years ago, but that it probably was not as intensively farmed as other areas of the reserve.

 

The taller heather on the Hangars field has been mown in patches and the resulting brash, which contains seed, taken to the grassy areas of the East of Runway field where it will be spread by the volunteers. Mowing or grazing keeps heather in good condition as it can regenerate from the base. The third piece of work has been brush harvesting heather seed on the East of Runway field. The resulting seed will be used on some of the turf stripped plotsand elsewhere where more heather needs to be established. We are also considering sowing seed of some fine leaved heathland grasses, fescues and bents, in the spring. 

 

 

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This year Butterfly Conservation held its National Annual General Meeting and Members Day in Shropshire for the first time. Around 200 people attended and I was invited to give a talk entitled The Restoration of PreesHeath Common and the Silver-studded Blue. I also sold some copies of a short novel I have written, loosely based on events at Prees Heath Common in the postwar period, called ‘Postcard from the Common’. All royalties from sales of the book will be donated to Butterfly Conservation, and it can be purchased from the bookshop in Whitchurch or by contacting me at the email address below. 

 

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In October we held a Fungi Foray on the reserve, led by local fungi expert John Hughes. A total of 35 species were recorded, some of them with evocative names such as Poison Pie, Fairies’ Bonnet and Amethyst Deceiver.Finally the next event on the reserve is a Public Litter Pick on Wednesday 11th December from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Everyone is welcome to come and help – gloves, litter pickers and bags will be provided. 

 

 

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A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who cares for the reserve and the plants and creatures whose home it is.

 

Stephen Lewis

Butterfly Conservation Prees Heath Warden

07900 886809

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

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