The pennant sandstone underlying Troopers Hill has resulted in acid soils, which are rare in Bristol. This has encouraged a wealth of plants to flourish that are found nowhere else in the City. You can also see and hear many different birds and if you are very lucky, especially early in the morning, you might even see deer.
The most important residents of the site are the many small invertebrates who live in the grassland and heathland; some of these are not only unique to Bristol but rare in a national context.
Take time to look closely at even the smallest plants, some of the most beautiful often go unnoticed; as shown by Nick's amazing photo of the moss Bristly Haircap 'Polytrichum piliferum'.
In order to ensure that Troopers Hill continues as such an important site it is important that it is managed so that a range of different habitats are maintained. It is particularly important that the grassland and heathland is preserved and the spread of scrub into these areas prevented; you can help with this by joining us at our regular Conservation Work Parties.
Full list of Troopers Hill wildlife surveys >>
See wildlife records on and around Troopers Hill on iNaturalist >>
The rocks and acidic soil of Troopers Hill >>
Troopers Hill is alive with butterflies in the spring and summer. Common blues, holly blues, small coppers, marbled white and the beautiful brimstone are all regularly seen. An Essex Skipper was seen in July 2011.
24 species of butterfly have seen in recent years on Troopers Hill
Troopers Hill is the most important site of its type in the Bristol region for bees. There are a large number local rarities and an endangered species, the mining bee, Nomada Guttulata was found in 2000. This and other more common solitary bees nest in the areas of erosion on the hill making these areas of bare ground one of the most important habitats on the site.
85 different species of bee have now been recorded on Troopers Hill.
Two additional species have been added in 2023.
In July 2023, a Patchwork Leafcutter Bee (Megachile centuncularis) was seen, with the ID confirmed via the Bees Wasps & Ants Recording Society (BWARS) facebook group (see upper photo, lower photo is an Ashy Mining Bee, with sunlight giving it the blue tinge). Though this was a new record for Troopers Hill, the Patchwork Leafcutter Bee is widespread in southern Britain and often found in gardens.
In May 2023 - a Variable Nomad Bee (Nomada zonata) was photographed as part of the City Nature Challenge. This bee appears to be slowly spreading north across the UK, possibly due to Climate Change. We believe this was the first recording of a Variable Nomad Bee in Bristol.
You can learn more about solitary bees and their lifecycle in this excellent Youtube video by Team Candiru:
The Solitary Bees - Team Candiru >>
Solitary bees are native to the UK and important pollinators. It is vital that sites like Troopers Hill are managed to protect their nesting areas and the flowering plants that support them.
You can help native solitary bees by planting plants for pollinators in your garden. Honeybees (Apis mellifera) are not native and if there are too many of them in an area they can out compete solitary bees in the hunt for pollen. There is more information on this suject on the Natural History Museum website.
The importance of Troopers Hill for solitary bees as well as invertebrates in general has been confirmed by a series of surveys carried out by local expert David Gibbs, and other local naturalists.
Just four visits in 2007 yielded 262 species of which 30 are considered to be of conservation significance and 6 have Red Data Book (RDB) or equivalent status. RDB status means that the invertebrates are considered to be rare in this country.
Over four visits to Troopers Hill in 2019, David recorded 321 species of invertebrates. This included 44 species of bee, 6 of which had not been included on our records for Troopers Hill before.
Beeflies are another important resident of Troopers Hill. The Dotted beefly is a robust furry insect with conspicuous spots on the wings and Troopers Hill is the most important colony in the City.
Formerly this was a widespread and frequent fly of the southern half of England and Wales but it has undergone a dramatic decline, it is a parasitoid of mining bees. The darkedge beefly is also present.
Another invertebrate you might spot digging holes in Troopers Hill are wasps. There is a wide range of wasp species in addition to the well known social wasps that might visit your picnic and also nest on Troopers Hill (Vespula vulgaris).
The photo here shows the 'bee wolf' (Philanthus triangulum) - this is a species that has recently been spreading across the UK; 20 years ago it was considered to be rare.
Whereas bees feed only on nectar & pollen, wasps often feed on other insects and carry the prey to their nests ready for when for their young hatch, the major prey of the 'bee wolf' is the honeybee (Apis mellifera).
Another wasp you might see on Troopers Hill carrying flies to its nest is Oxybelus uniglumis, it was recorded by David Gibbs in 2019 and also by a visitor on iNaturalist in 2023. This is black with white markings.
More photos of invertebrates taken on Troopers Hill >>
Crickets of Troopers Hill
The grassland of Troopers Hill is home to thousands of crickets and grasshoppers.Their wonderful sound was highlighted in the BBC Radio 4 'Outsiders' series first broadcast on the 26th March 2021.
Michael Malay, a lecturer in English literature and the environmental humanities at the University of Bristol, reflected on his personal experience of the past year and talks about his visits to Troopers Hill.
"Last spring, after the world changed – after the streets fell silent and the horizons seemed to shrink – I began going to a place called Troopers Hill. It’s a nature reserve in east Bristol, half a mile from where I live. It’s a beautiful place..."
You can listen to the programme here >>
Read the full script >>
The Crickets of Troopers Hill also feature in Michael's book, 'Late Light' published in July 2023.
The 1992 Management Plan focused on the grayling butterfly as one of the Hill's notable species and it was featured on a leaflet and interpretation board. Sadly the grayling has not been recorded on the Hill since the summer of 1996, it might be that the large fire on the Hill in 1995 reduced its population so that it was no longer present in sufficent numbers to maintain the colony.
85 species of bee found on Troopers Hill (pdf listing) >>
24 species of butterfly seen on Troopers Hill and when you are likely to see them >>
Photos of Mining Bees on Troopers Hill >> | Photos of Butterflies on the Hill >>
British Bees on flickr site (photos of 275 species of British and Irish bees) >>
Video - A Story For The Ivy Bee >>
- Very kindly written especially for The Friends of Troopers Hill by DD Storyteller
Ling and bell heather, more commonly found in places like Exmoor and Dartmoor, thrive on the acid soils on Troopers Hill. Look out for their purple flowers in late summer.
The grassland on Troopers Hill is unique to Bristol. Only plants that tolerate the acid soils survive. Look out for heath bedstraw and sheeps sorrel. There are also many different kinds of grasses and flowering plants such as mouse-ear hawkweed.
You can see photos of some of the wildflowers that can be found on the Hill in May here:
Virtual Wild Flower Walk May 2020
Keri, took this picture a few metres from the flag on the Greendown entrance in Spring 2020.
It shows a common lizard which is one of two species of reptile that can be seen on Troopers Hill if you are very lucky.
The other reptile known to be resident is the slow worm, which although it looks more like a snake is in fact a leggless lizard.
Local people also report that there used to be adders on the Hill, but there haven't been any recent confirmed sightings.
The lower slopes and richer soils on Troopers Hill are covered in scrubby areas and woodland. Trees and shrubs present include hawthorn, silver birch, oak, apple, broom and gorse.
The broom (for which Troopers Hill is the best site in the city) and gorse are easily recognised by their attractive yellow flowers.
The scrub is home to many small birds and mamals and notably the dark-bush cricket. There is also a lot of bramble which, while providing valuable wildlife habitat (and blackberries for local residents), needs control to stop it overwelming other species such as the broom.
Many birds make their home on Troopers Hill and the surrounding woodland including Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Goldcrests, Long Tailed Tits and Jays. There are also many of the more common songbirds such as Wrens, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins and Blackbirds.
If you are lucky you will see Green Woodpeckers with their distinctive yellow rump visible as they fly away. Magpies are always present and can sometimes be seen fighting with Crows.
There are frequent sightings of buzzards circling the site. Kestrels were often seen hovering over the Hill in the late 1990. After a period where they were scarce, a pair seems to have taken up residence near by in 2021 so that sightings are more frequent, this photograph was taken by a resident of Firtree Lane.
A bird nesting survey was carried out as part of our Breathing Places Project in 2007 and in May 2008 we recorded the dawn chorus. Use the links to listen to the dawn chorus and download the report. We have also run several Dawn Chorus walks over the years and two bird walks in 2023.
In autumn 2022 a single male Dartford Warbler was recorded at Troopers Hill and this was seen again in early 2023. Its presence attracted more birders than usual to the Hill.
These birds breed on heathlands and nest in either gorse or heather; both of which are present on Troopers Hill.
Management of the site to protect the heathland, primarily to benefit the bees and other invertebrates that live there has obviously created a habitat that is atractive to this amber listed bird.
Listen to the dawn chorus on Troopers Hill - May 2008
2007 Bird Nesting Report by Rupert Higgins
Photos of a Green Woodpecker and a Wheatear taken in August 2007
Audio Slideshow: Ed Drewitt talking about birds on Troopers Hill - April 2012
Sightings recorded on eBird for Crews Hole Woodland (includes Troopers Hill and the Field)
Photographs on eBird for Crews Hole Woodland
Bird Walks February 2023 report & photos
As well as the mosses mentioned at the top of this page the grassland and heathland on Troopers Hill houses an amazing range of fungi and lichen.
Seen close-up these have an amazing range of colours and textures.
Lichens are symbiotic relationships between fungi and cyanobacterium/green algae.
Mosses are similar to higher plants, but in miniature, with well developed stem and leaf structure, typically with a fully or part developed midrib on the leaf.
Mosses are bryophytes, a group that also includes liverworts; some of the species species of bryophytes recorded on Troopers Hill appear to be very rare locally.
Close-up photos of Lichen on Troopers Hill on facebook
2009 Report on Mosses & Lichens by Justin Smith
Survey of Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) by Rupert Higgins - Updated March 2023
Troopers Hill Looking at Lichens - March 2023
Troopers Hill and the adjacent woodland are home to badgers, foxes and deer, which move along the wildlife corridor of the Avon Valley. All are very secretive but you can come across them at anytime in the woodland and on the hill itself. This photo was taken in a garden near the hill and a deer can also be seen in this video on facebook.
As well as these larger animals there are numerous smaller mammals such as mice, shrews and voles. Some of these were identified in a Small Mammals Survey undertaken by Ivan Packer, a student at the University of Bristol in Janury 2008.