This is always the quietest time of the year on the heath, and this year not much has happened at all. The mild weather has led a number of birds remaining present on the reserve rather than retreating into gardens as there has continued to be food available for them. Goldcrests have been seen on the reserve again, one of the smallest British birds.
The volunteers were busy before Christmas cutting back brambles on the area leading up to the old airfield hangars. Here, and elsewhere on the reserve, we are noticing an increasing amount of heather in the grassland. One theory as to why this is happening is that the rabbit numbers have decreased, leading to less nibbling of the heather. More work is due to be done this year on cutting back brambles, although we will make sure that sufficient are left as they do provide a food source for birds and for visitors. After their bramble bashing session the volunteers enjoyed a lunch at the Midway café.
We have now had the presence of bats confirmed in the old airfield control tower by an expert analysis of some droppings underneath one of the roosting structures we installed. This is good news, although we have to be very careful now not to disturb any bats in the future as they are legally protected animals. At this stage we are not able to identify which species of bat is using the building. As well as bats we have a number of hibernating butterflies and moths using the building – on 28th January this year 26 Small Tortoiseshells, 12 Peacocks and 6 Herald moths were counted in the building.
On 30th May 2006 Butterfly Conservation purchased the site, so this year marks the tenth anniversary of the reserve. It is good to think back to what the site looked like before purchase, with half of it used to grow crops, a long-standing traveller encampment, rubbish strewn all over, a feeling of dereliction and very few visitors, and compare it to what it is like today. In celebration we will be holding special public events, one on Sunday 29th May and another on Sunday 3rd July – keep an eye on the website for further details.
I continue to give talks about Prees Heath, and gave one in January to the Bridgnorth Branch of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, the 47th talk about the reserve I have given in the last 10 years. So I am always happy to give an illustrated talk to any interested group locally or further afield – last year I gave talks in Surrey and Sussex, and later this year I will be giving one on the Wirral – do contact me if you would like me to give a talk in your area.
Prees Heath Warden