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Prees Heath August & September 2015

Weed control continues to be a significant issue, and in particular ragwort, docks, thistles, rosebay willowherb and birch. We try to tackle this problem in a number of different ways, always seeking new and better approaches. This year we had contractors spot spraying ragwort rosettes in the spring and hand-pulling it in August. On the East of Runway field there is far too much rosebay willowherb, as well as a proliferation of birch seedlings. However there is a pot of heather growing underneath these weeds, and so we decided that using a mechanical weed wiper – a rotating brush containing herbicide, set at the desired height – would hopefully control the weeds without affecting the heather. We were able to borrow a weed wiper from the National Trust, and in August a contractor weed wiped the weed-infested areas of the East of Runway field. To date results seem encouraging, but this is something we will have to repeat year on year. 

 

Weed-wiper

 

 

Birch regeneration is a problem not just on the restoration areas but also on the runway and other parts of the SSSI. We now have a new tool to deal with this problem – a Tree-popper! This is in effect a big lever which grips the base of the stem and then, with pressure applied, levers the sapling out of the ground, roots and all. It can remove quite big saplings, but they have to get to a minimum size before the tool can be used otherwise the sapling just snaps off and will regrow. Many of the birch saplings on the runway have now been removed. The photo shows a volunteer using the tree-popper on a birch sapling.

 

Student-from-Stafford-College-using-the-Tree-popper

 

Prees Heath continues to attract wildlife recorders from across the county. The Shropshire Invertebrate Group had a productive day on the reserve early in September – it is amazing how many different species of insects the reserve supports. The photo shows a Tree Damsel Bug found on the day. 

 

Tree-Damsel-Bug

 

 

The pond keeps providing a number of new records for the reserve. This year there were several Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies flying over and around the pond. Janet Vernon, one of our dedicated volunteers and also a botanist, found some new species around the pond – Oregano, Wild Basil and Greater Spearwort - and in addition I found Devil’s-bit Scabious there as well. Since some ornamental goldfish, which are harmful to our native wildlife, were introduced into the pond we have had a heron as a welcome regular visitor, and an angler has been busy fishing as many as possible out and passing them to a local school. 

 

 

Devil's-bit-Scabious

 

 

The heathland restoration work on the reserve continues to receive national attention. In September I gave a talk about Prees Heath to the Heathland Forum of the South Downs National Park in Sussex, where a lot of heathland restoration work is being carried out. 

Stephen Lewis

Prees Heath Warden