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Prees Heath Report Feb-March 2020

The Coronavirus outbreak is affecting us all, and it is vitally important that we all act responsibly to save lives and protect the NHS. As far as the Reserve is concerned, on the advice of the Police the access track is now closed for car parking. People are expected to take exercise from their homes without using a car to drive somewhere, so the Reserve remains open but only to those who can get there on foot. Those who can visit the Reserve are required to maintain social distancing by keeping two metres apart except from members of the same household. All planned events, volunteer work parties and butterfly and moth recording have been cancelled until further notice.


The owners of the two properties at the end of the track both run businesses which require accessing their properties with large vehicles, JCBs and lorries. For a while now some visitors have been parking beyond the gates where the track narrows and have thereby blocked vehicle access to these properties. So in future, and once the Coronavirus restrictions are lifted, no parking will be permitted beyond the gates. 


Back in February, in other words back in times of normal life, the volunteers were busy thinning out the trees around the pond to prevent shading and leaf litter entering the water. It was good to see plenty of frogspawn in the pond again this year, mainly at the far end. We are keeping a close eye on the Bulrush, Common Reed and Greater Spearwort as, over time, these plants may significantly reduce the extent of open water, although they do provide nesting habitat for wetland birds.  

 

The pond after thinning the  trees

 

 

 

 

Frogspawn in the pond in March

 

 

In recent years we have been monitoring the numbers of hibernating Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies and Herald moths on the walls and ceilings inside the former RAF control tower. This year numbers were well down, and the reason seemed clear when we started looking at the floor, which was littered with many butterfly wings. This suggests that bats are continuing to use the building. 

 

Butterfly wings in the control  tower

 

 

 

Mature students from Reaseheath College near Nantwich enjoyed a guided walk with me on a Saturday morning in early March, prior to the recent restrictions. They were very knowledgeable and it was a pleasure to show them round and explain the heathland re-creation work we have been doing. Many of them are contemplating a career change into environmental work. 

We have been liaising closely with the Police on the issue of killing rabbits, which is not permitted on the Reserve. The Police have spoken to those who have been seen taking rabbits, and hopefully the problem has been resolved, and I am grateful to the Police for this. The important point is for anyone to contact the Police by phoning 101 if and when they see people rabbiting, and they can do this with confidence that the Police will take the matter seriously and intervene as they are able to, bearing in mind that other matters may need their attention at any given time.

 

 

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Stephen Lewis, Volunteer Warden

 

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

07900 886809

Rabbits

 

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Green Tiger Beetle

Thanks to Kate Long for providing photographs of the Green Tiger Beetle she sighted on Prees Heath Common Reserve on the 29th June 2014.

 

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Press Heath Report October-November 2016

The volunteers have been busy over the last couple of months levering out birch seedlings on one of the restoration areas, cutting back brambles on the side of the runway and hand harvesting Bell Heather seed. For the bramble bash we were joined by Lucy Morton, Butterfly Conservation’s Reserves Officer, who tackled some of the denser bramble with a brushcutter. The Bell Heather seed will be used to grow plants for transfer back to the reserve in a couple of years’ time. I have also done some mowing on the Hangars field of the heather that was attacked by the Heather Beetle, and more mowing is planned in December. 

 

Brushcutting-brambles Harvesting-Bell-Heather-seed    
                            Brushcutting brambles                Harvesring Bell Heather seed    

 

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Mown heather on the Hangars field 

 

 Undergraduate students from Harper Adams University have been on site to look at soil sampling and vegetation on the restoration areas. It is envisaged that this will become a long term partnership between Butterfly Conservation and the university so that we will receive useful data every two or three years on the progress of the heathland and grassland restoration. The restoration work continues to receive national publicity as it was recently featured in the State of Nature in England report, compiled by around 40 different nature conservation organisations. If you are interested you can see the report by going to: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/stateofnature2016_england_1_sept_pages.pdf and turning to pages 14 & 15. 

 

 

I continue to give illustrated talks about the reserve, its history and heritage, its wildlife and the restoration work. In November I talked to the Friends of Ness Botanic Gardens on the Wirral in a splendid lecture theatre they have there in the visitor centre. I am always willing to give talks to local community groups – do get in touch if you are interested.

 

 

 

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The autumn colours on the reserve this year were brilliant, especially as we had a run of bright autumnal days. The Kingfisher that has been seen on the pond has not been seen recently to my knowledge, although we have installed two perching posts for him/her. The control tower is again providing a winter home for some butterflies and moths, and this year we have also seen hundreds of Harlequin Ladybirds roosting in there in large clusters.  

 

 

 

 

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Stephen Lewis

Prees Heath Warden

Butterfly Conservation

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. 

 

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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. 

 

 

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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. 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.