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Prees Heath August & September 2015

Weed control continues to be a significant issue, and in particular ragwort, docks, thistles, rosebay willowherb and birch. We try to tackle this problem in a number of different ways, always seeking new and better approaches. This year we had contractors spot spraying ragwort rosettes in the spring and hand-pulling it in August. On the East of Runway field there is far too much rosebay willowherb, as well as a proliferation of birch seedlings. However there is a pot of heather growing underneath these weeds, and so we decided that using a mechanical weed wiper – a rotating brush containing herbicide, set at the desired height – would hopefully control the weeds without affecting the heather. We were able to borrow a weed wiper from the National Trust, and in August a contractor weed wiped the weed-infested areas of the East of Runway field. To date results seem encouraging, but this is something we will have to repeat year on year. 





Birch regeneration is a problem not just on the restoration areas but also on the runway and other parts of the SSSI. We now have a new tool to deal with this problem – a Tree-popper! This is in effect a big lever which grips the base of the stem and then, with pressure applied, levers the sapling out of the ground, roots and all. It can remove quite big saplings, but they have to get to a minimum size before the tool can be used otherwise the sapling just snaps off and will regrow. Many of the birch saplings on the runway have now been removed. The photo shows a volunteer using the tree-popper on a birch sapling.




Prees Heath continues to attract wildlife recorders from across the county. The Shropshire Invertebrate Group had a productive day on the reserve early in September – it is amazing how many different species of insects the reserve supports. The photo shows a Tree Damsel Bug found on the day. 





The pond keeps providing a number of new records for the reserve. This year there were several Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies flying over and around the pond. Janet Vernon, one of our dedicated volunteers and also a botanist, found some new species around the pond – Oregano, Wild Basil and Greater Spearwort - and in addition I found Devil’s-bit Scabious there as well. Since some ornamental goldfish, which are harmful to our native wildlife, were introduced into the pond we have had a heron as a welcome regular visitor, and an angler has been busy fishing as many as possible out and passing them to a local school. 






The heathland restoration work on the reserve continues to receive national attention. In September I gave a talk about Prees Heath to the Heathland Forum of the South Downs National Park in Sussex, where a lot of heathland restoration work is being carried out. 

Stephen Lewis

Prees Heath Warden

Moth Evening

Butterfly Conservation will be hosting a Moth Evening at Prees Heath Common Reserve on Friday 11th September starting at 8.00pm. We hope to see the wonderfully camouflaged Merveille du Jour and the beautiful Canary-shouldered Thorn amongst others. 


canary-shouldered-thorn   Merveille-du-Jour
 Canary-shouldered Thorn   Merveille du Jour


 The event is free. Please bring a torch and some warm clothing. Meet on the access track opposite the Steel Heath turning off the A49. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For more information contact Stephen Lewis, Warden, on 07900 886809, especially in the event of poor weather.

Polecat at Prees Heath

The photographs of the same animal were taken by Tim Glenny at Prees Heath. It has been confirmed as a Polecat rather than a Hybrid Ferret by Stuart Edmunds at Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

 PoleCat1   PoleCat2 

Big Butterfly Count

This year’s Big Butterfly Count runs from 17th July to 9th August, so there is still time to get counting butterflies anywhere you like – your garden, nearby fields and hedgerows, Prees Heath, on your holidays if you are going away. It only takes 15 minutes. For more details go to http://butterfly-conservation.org/9323/big-butterfly-count-2015.html

June-July 2015 Report

Prees Heath Report June – July 2015


Charles Darwin was a Shropshire Lad. He was born in the family home in Shrewsbury and he went to Shrewsbury School. After Cambridge University and the voyage on HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere he returned to the family home. There is, however, no record that he ever went to Prees Heath during some of his field trips in the county. Nevertheless it was good to have 15 pupils and two staff from his alma mater, Shrewsbury School, on the reserve in June. They enjoyed a guided walk around the reserve and afterwards helped to fork out some ragwort rosettes.





Shrewsbury School


The control tower open day in July was a success, with 49 people enjoying a look around the interior of this historic building. It coincided with a guided walk around the reserve to see the Silver-studded Blues. They have had a good season, with numbers up from last year. The especially exciting aspect is that more were seen on the former arable areas that have been restored to heathland, which demonstrates that all the work that was put in some years ago, and in particular the deep ploughing, now is bearing fruit.




Silver-studded Blue female



BBC Midlands Today came very early one morning in July and filmed a photography course led by professional photographer Mark Sisson – the course started at 6.00am so that people could photograph the Silver-studded Blues at rest with wings closed, then as it warmed up they opened their wings until finally it was warm enough for them to start flying. The course was very well attended, and the short film was broadcast on the BBC Midlands Today in their lunchtime, early and late evening reports. The photography competition ‘My Meres & Mosses – What’s in Your Landscape?’ is open for entries until Friday 21st August, with the first prize being a one day photography workshop with Mark. For more details please contact Luke Neal, Meres & Mosses Community Officer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone on 01743 284275.





Photography Course



Pied Flycatcher has been seen on the reserve this summer, and we think Spotted Flycatchers have raised families in two different areas of the reserve. Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies have been seen at the pond. More evidence that the range of wildlife on the reserve is increasing.


This year’s Big Butterfly Count runs from 17th July to 9th August, so there is still time to get counting butterflies anywhere you like – your garden, nearby fields and hedgerows, Prees Heath, on your holidays if you are going away. It only takes 15 minutes. For more details go to www.butterfly-conservation.org  Lucy and I spent a day at Holly Farm Garden Centre near the reserve publicising the Big Butterfly Count. 


Stephen Lewis

Prees Heath Warden