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Prees Heath Report August - September 2014

 

One of the many issues in managing Prees Heath is trying to control the spread of ragwort. The plant is beneficial to a range of insects but is also toxic to animals, and horses are especially vulnerable, so, although we have no livestock on the reserve, we are obliged to follow guidelines set out by Defra and Natural England to control its spread. We do this by keeping it back from the A41 and keeping as much as possible off the areas being restored to heathland/acid grassland. One of the best ways to control ragwort is to spot spray the rosettes with herbicide before a flowering stem emerges, and we do a great deal of this on selected areas. This year there was a large amount of ragwort flowering on the reserve, and we had to arrange for additional person power to clear much of it- thanks are due to West Mercia Probation Service for arranging for personnel to help with this task.

 

In addition our reserve volunteers helped with the work, and they had the additional treat of seeing not just one but two Clouded Yellow butterflies. These are migrants from continental Europe and are only seen on the reserve infrequently. They always sit with their wings closed and are a beautiful lemony yellow. On the day they were seen we had some butterfly enthusiasts on site and we were able to point them out to them.

 

 

Clouded-Yellow2

 

 

 

Ragwort is not the only plant we try to control to enable the heathland to flourish. On one of the restoration areas there is a large amount of Rosebay Willowherb, and this summer we has a contractor trying to control this. Birch seedlings on the restoration areas are another problem which the volunteers have been busy tackling. We always welcome new volunteers to join us – send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
 
Visitors to the reserve may have seen small pieces of roofing felt placed on various parts of the reserve recently. Please do not touch them - they are helping us with a reptile survey of the reserve. Many thanks to the Meres & Mosses team who are carrying out this work. 
 
The butterfly season is pretty much over now, although the Small Heaths, a delightful small light brown butterfly that breeds in the fine grasses, have continued to fly during the recent good weather. They have had a very good year, and they can be seen on the wing on the reserve throughout the summer as they have continuous generations, going through their life cycle three or even four times a year. It has also been a good year for birds, and this year we had Spotted Flycatchers, a species in rapid decline in the UK, breeding on the reserve.
 

 

 

Small-Heath-2

 

 

The Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme and Nature Improvement Area goes from strength to strength. The annual Merefest was held in September in the Cremorne Gardens on the shores of The Mere at Ellesmere. It was a huge success with around 2,000 people attending. Butterfly Conservation had a display there and I have never helped so many children make so many caterpillars and butterflies out of coloured pipe cleaners before!

 

Butterfly-Conservation-at-the-Merefest-in-Ellesmere

 

 

The Meres & Mosses project helped to fund the conservation work on the former RAF control tower. The interior of the tower will be open from 10.00am to 4.00pm on Sunday 7th December – just come along and I will be there and, hopefully, answer any of your questions. In addition to displays and artefacts in the interior, we will also have available a number of greetings cards for sale at £2.50 each showing Shropshire butterflies, and the free leaflet and identification chart for Butterflies and Day-flying Moths of the Meres & Mosses – please email me if you would like more details.

 

Finally, Prees Heath is, of course, not the only reserve owned and managed by Butterfly Conservation. In August I attended the official opening of Butterfly Conservation’s newest reserve, Rough Bank in the Cotswolds. The reserve is a steep south-facing slope (so unlike Prees Heath!) near the Slad valley, home of the writer Laurie Lee, and its species-rich grassland provides a home for a range of butterflies including Adonis Blue and Brown Argus. The reserve was opened by Andrew Sells, Chair of Natural England, and Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation, assisted by David Dennis, Chair of Butterfly Conservation and Sue Smith, Chair of Butterfly Conservation’s Gloucestershire Branch. Butterfly Conservation is a charity and relies on financial support provided by public donations and legacies – you can also support our work by becoming a member and enjoy our 3 national magazines and 3 local newsletters every year – go to www.butterfly-conservation.org for more details.

 

 

 

 Rough-Bank-Opening    Brown-Argus-at-Rough-Bank

 

 

Stephen Lewis

Prees Heath Warden