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April - May 2014 Report


Butterfly Conservation has historic butterfly and moth records for Prees Heath Common, and these tell us what was present several years ago. Amongst the species that had been recorded there but had not been seen since the site was purchased by Butterfly Conservation in 2006 are Dingy Skipper (a delightful springtime butterfly), Dark Green Fritillary (the only Fritillary to have been recorded on the Common) and Green Hairstreak (Britain’s sole green butterfly). 24 species have however been recorded since purchase, but that figure has now increased to 25! On Sunday 18th May I accompanied a group of people on the Whitchurch Walking Weekend across Prees Heath, and one of the party spotted a Green Hairstreak on a willow tree on the main runway. Lucy Lewis was able to photograph it later that day, and here it is:


The caterpillars of Green Hairstreak will feed on a variety of plants, including Gorse, Broom, Bramble and Bird’s-foot Trefoil, all of which are present on the site. It has been a mystery to us that the butterfly has not been seen previously, but its appearance now has been very welcome. We think it was probably a male searching for females within a territory. It flies throughout May and June, so it is still worth keeping a look-out for it over the next few weeks – it cannot be confused with anything else!

The building work on the exterior of the control tower was completed at the end of March. Attention has now shifted to the interior, where many of the walls were covered in obscene graffiti. During the weekend of 10th/11th May twelve trainees and two staff from RAF Shawbury donned overalls and gave some of the walls two coats of white paint to cover the graffiti and to increase the light factor on the inside. They also constructed two nesting boxes and some roosting sites for bats for the interior. They were a good group and were a pleasure to work with. The photo shows Cpl Williams with AC Harrison holding a bat box they made:


Six swift boxes have been installed on the exterior, and so far a family of Blue Tits and a family of House Sparrows have occupied two of them. I will be encouraging swifts to take up occupancy by playing a CD of swift calls (available from the Swift Conservation Trust) to attract them. Funding for the control tower project came from the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Meres & Mosses Project and Natural England through Higher Level Stewardship. In May the members of the Meres & Mosses Board, including people from the RSPB, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, Natural England and Shropshire Council visited the building prior to holding a Board Meeting at Tilstock.

In April the volunteers helped to dig up birch seedlings on the East of Runway field. They also stripped the turf in two small plots in the grassy area on the other side of the runway – heather seed was sown in one of these plots as an experiment. The turf was used to repair part of the footpath in the centre of the runway that had become very eroded and was nothing more than a sandpit. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to volunteer to help to look after the reserve – we always work on a Wednesday, and the next date is 9th July when we will be ragwort pulling.

Finally, there has been a fair amount of rain around recently, and I spotted these wet Common Blues butterflies on a piece of grass recently. They are not to be confused with the Silver-studded Blue which usually emerges around mid June – the white patches near the centre of the undersides of the hindwings clearly visible in this photograph tell us they are Common Blues.


Stephen Lewis

Prees Heath Warden