Hill Wildlife


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 © Marbled white
 by Abi Stubbs

Spring Flora     Summer Flora     Fungi & Mushrooms

Butterflies    Moths and Invertebrates    Lichen

'Polytrichum' meaning many hairs - refers to the light brown covering to the young capsule, and 'piliferum' meaning hairlike! I think this refers to the hair-tipped leavesThe 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. However, 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.

This page gives a brief description of some of the wildlife you might find, but the best way to see it is to visit the hill for yourself. When you do visit 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' (click on the photo to enlarge and see the full detail). Nick has also found a large Polytrichum moss, for which Troopers Hill is the only known site in Bristol, you can read his report here. Nick notes in his report that certain invasive species threaten the future survival of the moss, you can help us remove these by joining us at our regular Work Parties.

More detail about how the site is being managed to protect this unique habitat can be found Management Plan for the site. Results of more recent monitoring of moths and other invertebrates can be seen here together with photographs of some of the moths found taken on other sites. A full list of wildlife surveys is on our Hill Information page.


Essex Skipper - photograph by Ian Draycott, 1st July 2011Troopers 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. The grassland is home to thousands of crickets and grasshoppers that can be heard as well as seen.

In addition to butterflies there are many smaller less noticeable invertebrates on Troopers Hill and for many of these it is the most important site of its type in the Bristol region. 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 mining 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.

Photos of Mining Bees on Troopers Hill >>

Evening Post Article - The Bees of Troopers Hill Aug 2011 >>

Male Bombylius discolor by David Gibbs

The importance of the site for invertebrates 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.

Results of recent monitoring >>

 Chart showing butterflies seen on Troopers Hill and when you are likely to see them.

Heathland & Grassland

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. The grassland is also home to three different types of grasshopper including the mottled grasshopper which is rare in the city.

Bell Heather
Broom and Silver Birch

Woodland and Scrub

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.

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 the right to listen to the dawn chorus and download the report.

Magpies on Troopers Hill

 Listen to the dawn chorus on Troopers Hill

 2007 Bird Nesting Report by Rupert Higgins

  Photos of a Green Woodpecker and a Wheatear taken in August 2007

Lichen on Troopers Hill

Mosses, Fungi & Lichens

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, while 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.

 Photos of Lichen on Troopers Hill

 2009 Report on Mosses & Lichens by Justin Smith

  Photos of Fungi & links to Fungi Foray Reports

More Photographs

The links below take you to pages with more photos taken on Troopers Hill at different times of the year. You will also find some wildlife photographs on our Hill Photos page. The Photo Survey page shows how the flora has changed over the years.

Spring Flora     Summer Flora     Fungi & Mushrooms

Butterflies    Moths and Invertebrates    Lichen

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