Prees Heath Report February – March 2019
Lucy and I do as much as we can to promote the reserve as a special place for wildlife. This was highlighted recently by the find of a beetle, Microhoriaterminata, which proved to be the first time this species has been recorded in Britain. In March we ran a stall at the Staffordshire Invertebrate Fair, which is held every year at Staffordshire University at Stoke-on-Trent. There was a really good turnout of people and a lot of interest in our stall, with free leaflets, past issues of The Comma, the magazine of the BC West Midlands Branch available, BC butterfly fact sheets, display panels about the heathland restoration work at Prees Heath and the Silver-studded Blue and activities for children to get involved in such as completing butterfly fact files. It was a really good day.
The volunteers have been active in the last couple of months, although we do not plan any more work parties now until late summer. We coppicedsome of the birch and willow trees that have grown around the margins of the pond. This was done to prevent them growing into large trees thereby shading out the pond and depositing large amounts of leaf litter into the pond and impairing the good water quality. As the trees were coppiced they will regrow from the base, and will be cut again in a few years’ time. We have also placed a couple of barley straw bales in the pond as they will release a chemical over the next few months that will reduce the amount of blanket weed that would otherwise carpet the pond in the summer months.
When Chris Packham visited Prees Heath last year he gave us £150 to spend in any way we sought fit on the reserve. After much thought and various suggestions we purchased 400g of Bird’s-foot Trefoil seed and 100g of Sheep’s Sorrel, all harvested from semi-natural sites in Britain rather than cultivated. The seed cost £140, and the balance of £10 was donated to the National Autistic Society. In March the volunteers sowed the seed at the southern end of the East of Runway field, scarifying the ground first with wire rakes to enhance germination. In addition, the volunteers did more sowing of Common Heather, Calluna vulgaris, seed on both the East of Runway and the Control Tower fields within 50 metres of the trees that we planted alongside the A41 road.
I continue to be available to give illustrated talks, and in March I gave a talk to the Market Drayton branch of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and I have another scheduled for April at the South Staffordshire branch of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need a speaker! I am now fully booked for guided walks on the reserve during the summer with various different community groups, but please make a note that there will be a public guided walk (no need to book) on Sunday 30th June at 2pm, and access to the interior of the control tower will be available on that day.
At this time of year butterflies are starting to be seen, especially as I write this in a spell of warm weather. Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones are already evident, so fingers crossed for another fine summer. However it’s also worth looking out for a range of other insects – last week on one gorse bush I found several Gorse Shieldbugs as well as two 7-spot Ladybirds. Look closely as you never know what you might find.
Volunteer Warden, Prees Heath Common Reserve