Today’s Treasures – Prees Heath Common
With the help of many volunteers, Prees Heath Common is managed by the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation.
The old WWII airfield and surrounding land were restored to heathland to provide a haven for the few remaining silver-studded blue butterflies. Heather brash was brought from Cannock Chase to provide food plants and the heath is now covered with many nectar rich flowers for the butterflies who are thriving.
The heath has become a patchwork of yellow bird’s foot trefoil and pink-purple bell heather, interspersed with musk thistles, mulleins and evening primroses. Larks soar overhead, buzzards sweep across the heath, chiffchaffs chatter in the crab apple trees, and yellowhammers sing their ‘little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese’ in the hedgerows.
The caterpillars of the silver-studded blue have a symbiotic relationship with ants. The ants protect the caterpillars from predators and parasites and, in return, get to feed on a sugary substance produced by the caterpillars. When the caterpillars pupate – often in ant nests just below the ground, the ants protect them – and they also look after the newly-emerged butterflies until their wings are dry and they can fly away.
The musk thistle (Carduus nutans) is loved by bees – and goldfinches love the seeds. It is also called the nodding thistle because of the way it gracefully bows it elegant deep purple-pink flowerheads.
Find out more: www.preesheathcommonreserve.co.uk
Published in the August edition of the Whitchurch Gossip