Hill Wildlife


On this page: IntroductionInvertebratesHeathland & GrasslandReptilesWoodland and ScrubBirdlifeMosses, Fungi & LichensMammalsMore Photos |

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'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).

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.

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.

More information about the rocks of Troopers Hill and research carried out in 2012 into the acidity of the soil can be seen on our Geology Page.

 See wildlife records on and around Troopers Hill on iNaturalist >>


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 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.

You can learn more about solitary bees and their lifecycle in this excellent Youtube video by Team Candiru:
The Solitary Bees - Team Candiru >>

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.

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.

The total number of different bee species recorded on Troopers Hill is now 83 - see link to list below. This was reported as 84 early in 2020, but we have since noted that one of the bees was recorded under two different species names as the name used has changed.

Photos of invertebrates taken on Troopers Hill >>

Crickets of Troopers Hill

The wonderful sound of the crickets & grasshoppers on the Hill were 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 >>

Grayling Butterfly

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.

 Full results of recent invertebrate monitoring >>

 83 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

Heathland & Grassland

Bell Heather 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


Common Lizard 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.

Woodland and Scrub

Broom and Silver Birch 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 the right to listen to the dawn chorus and download the report.

 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

Mosses, Liverworts, Fungi & Lichens

Lichen on Troopers Hill 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.

 A new species record for Troopers Hill - Common Haircap - Nick Hudson Jan 2007

 Photos and report of 2015 Lichen Walk

 Close-up lichen photos taken on the 2015 walk by 'thinmanonabicycle' on Flickr

 Close-up photos of Lichen on Troopers Hill on facebook

 2009 Report on Mosses & Lichens by Justin Smith

 2021 Survey of Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) by Rupert Higgins

Photos of Fungi & links to Fungi Foray Reports >>


Deer near Troopers HillTroopers 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.

More Photographs

The links below take you to pages with more photos taken on Troopers Hill at different times of the year (many posted on our now closed forum). 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 | Butterflies | Invertebrates |
Lichen on facebook |

 Harlequins - don't squish unless you are sure! August 2010

 Harlequin Ladybird Larva August 2010

 Ermine moths on the Greendown Hedge August 2010

 Spring is Sprung on Troopers Hill March/April 2011

 Sheep Sorrel on Troopers Hill May 2011

 Scarlet Tiger on Troopers Hill July 2011

 Heath Bedstraw on Troopers Hill July 2011

 Summer flowers on Troopers Hill July 2011

 Where do hazel nuts come from? Feb 2012

 Gorse or Broom? Feb 2012

 Which is golden rod? Aug 2014

On this page: IntroductionInvertebratesHeathland & GrasslandReptilesWoodland and ScrubBirdlifeMosses, Fungi & LichensMammalsMore Photos |

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