BC small 12

June - July 2013 Report

The first Silver-studded Blues of the season were seen on Tuesday 25th June. Whilst this may have been somewhat later than in recent years, it is normal for them to start to emerge around the time the Wimbledon tournament begins, and it was not as late as some of the spring species have been. 
13 volunteers helped to carry out a count of the whole Silver-studded Blue colony on Friday 5th July – not just on the reserve but also on the runways on the other half of the common and in the hangars compound alongside the A49. The weather was fine and sunny, and the total count was 1,049. 1,012 males were recorded, and just 37 females. This begs the question, that has been asked many times, are there more males than females, or is it that the males emerge first and that the females are harder to spot because of their darker colour and because they tend to be lower down in the vegetation – or maybe a combination of these factors. What do you think? The last time the whole colony was counted was in 2011, when the total was 3,364, and the comparatively low count this year may be a reflection of the poor summer weather-wise in 2012. My thanks to everyone who took part, including two members of staff from the NFU Mutual office in Wem.
However, it now seems we did the Big Count a week too soon. A Silver-studded Blue transect has been walked annually at Prees Heath since 1991, and produces year-on-year data as to how the butterfly is faring. It not only includes the reserve but also runways on the other half of the common across the A41 and in the hangars compound alongside the A49. The transect was walked on 12th July and produced record results, slightly more than the previous record year of 2006. Doubtless this is connected to the fact that the weather recently has been hot and sunny. By contrast on a Silver-studded Blue emergence walk on 22nd June no Silver-studded Blues were seen – we were too early! See photo below of the people who came – at least they enjoyed a walk around the reserve and hearing about the heathland/grassland restoration work.
The guided walk ‘Butterflies & Bombers’ took place on the afternoon of Sunday 7th July, with a good attendance despite the fact that it turned out to be Andy Murray’s big day. As well as focusing on the ecology of the Silver-studded Blue the walk took people to the WW2 airfield control tower where we discussed our plans for the building, which include:
  • Conserving it as an historical artefact
  • Repairing the roof and the render, bricking up most of the windows and painting it     in camouflage colours as it was in the war
  • Installing a secure door so that it will be accessible on guided walks and  educational events
  • Installing a series of information panels around the exterior of the building telling the whole geological, natural, military and social history of Prees Heath Common
  • Providing suitable habitat for birds and bats
Work will be carried out by the Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme and delivered by Butterfly Conservation, members of the Partnership. The public are being asked to contribute their stories, images, photographs, memories, paintings, souvenirs etc so that the entire story of the common will be told, so please get in touch if you have anything that you feel may be of interest.
Children from Clive Primary School visited Prees Heath on 16th July and had a great time identifying and counting butterflies, other insects and doing some pond dipping – 
One of the Prees Heath commoners died recently, Reg Moreland. He had been a strong defender of the common for many years, including when it was threatened with sand and gravel extraction. Everyone who now visits the reserve to appreciate it as a beautiful place, a place for people and wildlife, owes much to him and his fellow commoners. He was a rare individual, with an unerring sense of the importance of fighting for justice for the common and the holders of commoners rights. A memorial gathering was held on the reserve on Saturday 20th July attended by his family and friends, around 60 people in all, including a horse and cart. Friends and family read out their own tributes and Eleanor Cooke, author of ‘Who Killed Prees Heath?’ read a poem she had written specially for the occasion. 
 Much of the work on the reserve involves the re-creation of heathland and grassland on the former arable areas, which constitute half the area of the site. Controlling weeds such as ragwort, docks, thistles and rosebay willowherb is essential. 8 volunteers did sterling work pulling up ragwort on Wednesday 10th July, and the next ragwort pulling session will be on Wednesday 7th August starting at 10.30am at the reserve entrance – please come if you can, if only for a couple of hours. Gloves and sacks are provided