June and July have been remarkable for a long spell of hot and dry weather. People may have noticed that, apart from the grass looking very parched, some of the heather has turned a red/brown colour. There are two types of heather on Prees Heath, Common Heather or Ling, which flowers in August and September, and Bell Heather, which flowers from June through to October and which provides important nectar for the Silver-studded Blue. It is apparent that the heather which has turned a different colour is mainly the Common Heather, and this suggests that the reason for the discolouration may not be drought but rather the Heather Beetle, the larvae of which attack the foliage of the plant. We are aware from previous years that Heather Beetle is present on the reserve, and there is little we can do to combat it. We believe that often the Common Heather, although weakened and failing to flower, does survive.
There have been two highlights recently. Firstly the Prees Heath volunteers did a colony count of the Silver-studded Blues on the reserve and outlying areas on 27thJune 2018. The total count was 4,085, a record for the four times we have done this! The Silver-studded Blues emerged somewhat earlier than usual this year, peaked quickly, and then numbers fell away rapidly. What was particularly noteworthy was that many more were seen on the restored areas than previously, with a magnificent 700 being recorded on the hangars field. Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped.
Then there was the BioBlitz held on 19th July. This was part of Chris Packham’s UK Campaign ‘Nature Reserves are not Enough’ and we were joined by Chris for two hours from 5pm. He was very generous with his time, talking to everyone who wanted to meet him, giving an inspiring and passionate speech to the assembled crowd, learning about the restoration of the common, doing live BBC TV Midlands Today interviews etc. The day started at 8am with the opening of the moth traps led by Dave Grundy and the opening of the small mammal traps led by Malcolm Monie. Estelle Hughes led a bird walk, and this was followed by Andy Cherrillleading a grasshopper walk and an exploration of pondlife led by Clive and Jacki Dyer. Gavin Woodman and Lucy Lewis led a butterfly and day-flying moth walk which ended as Chris arrived. The sun shone, we recorded over 500 species by several species experts, some of which were not only new records for the reserve but also new for the county, all the walks were well attended, there was a great vibe in the marquee where much cake was consumed and all in all it was a fantastic day. All the photos were taken on the day.]
Common Field Grasshopper
© Mike Ashton
|Chris Packham Inspires||Small Scabious|
|Chris Packham||A young recorder's top work|
Several groups enjoyed guided walk on the reserve at other times in July. However I had to cancel a walk for one group, the Wirral Alpine Society, as the Silver-studded Blues were already pretty much over and the vegetation was so parched. Do get in touch now if you want me to lead a guided walk for your group in the summer of 2019.
Work has been carried out to fill in potholes on the access track, and visitors are asked to drive slowly along the track, not only to prevent further damage but also because of the presence of people, families and dogs arriving and departing. It is essential that the reserve is maintained as a quiet and safe place.
Volunteer Warden, Butterfly Conservation