This year is Butterfly Conservation’s 50th anniversary. As part of the celebrations we will be hosting a BioBlitz on the reserve on Thursday 19th July, from 8.00am until 10.00pm. What is a BioBlitz? It’s an event to record as many living species – plants, birds, reptiles, insects, spiders, mammals, amphibians etc - in one day as possible, providing useful information as to what actually lives on the reserve and calls it home. It’s a public event so everyone is welcome to come along and join in – you don’t have to be an expert, but there will be experts on site so it will also be an opportunity for people to learn more about wildlife. There will be some guided walks timetabled so watch this website for further details nearer the time. A marquee, tables, chairs, refreshments and portaloos will also be provided. Make a note of the date in your diary! And, if that wasn’t enough to tempt you to come along, we will be joined by TV wildlife presenter and author Chris Packham in the late afternoon/evening.
After a cold early spring, the fine weather in May has really got everything buzzing. This summer Natural England has arranged for a survey of bees, wasps and ants on the reserve, to be done by local entomologists Ian Cheeseborough and Nigel Jones. In addition an MSc student from Harper Adams University is surveying leafhoppers and planthoppers.
Each week from April until September a fixed route is walked on the reserve to record the butterflies, called a transect. On 23rd May for the first time since the transectwas established several years ago a Dingy Skipper butterfly was recorded, and I managed to contain my surprise to photograph it before it flew off. The caterpillar food plant for this species is Bird’s-foot Trefoil, which is widely present on the reserve, so it is not a total surprise to find the butterfly. In fact we do have historical records for this butterfly here prior to purchase in 2006, and it was also seen, although not on the transect, in 2016.And another one was found later that afternoon well away from the transect route. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species, so it is very good news that it is present on the reserve.
The pond continues to do well. Visitors may have seen some straw bales in the pond – we have put two bales of barley straw into the pond each year as it contains a chemical that prevents a build-up of blanket weed. A Common Lizard has been seen basking on the concrete blocks by the reserve gates, a favourite spot for them. Silver-studded Blue caterpillars attended by ants have been seen on the restored area to the east of the old runway. Skylarks have been heard singing over the restored areas, but the presence of large numbers of Carrion Crows may well affect their fortunes as regards raising young. An immature male Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly has also been seen, as well as several damselflies.
We continue to have problems with unwanted plants on some areas of the reserve, and use herbicides to control Ragwort, Docks and Birch seedlings. A large poisonous plant called Hemlock is spreading in areas around the reserve entrance, and this will need to be controlled as well.
I have been contacted by a regular visitor to the reserve about rabbits being killed. Nobody is authorised to kill rabbits on the reserve, and I advise anyone who witnesses people engaged in this activity to contact the Police on their non-emergency number 101 rather than approach the individuals themselves. The Police have responded promptly before by coming on site and getting those responsible to leave.
Finally, we will be arranging for some repairs to the access track to be carried out in the next few weeks.
Prees Heath Volunteer Warden