Friday, 17 August 2018

Green Flag Awarded To Butterfly Park

Raising the Green Flag

Chair of Wildlife Trust slices a brimstone butterfly in half with a billhook…

New Ferry Butterfly Park, adjacent to Bebington Station, has been recognised as one of the UK’s very best green spaces, receiving a prestigious Green Flag Community Award for 2018-2019.

To celebrate, the volunteers held a BBQ and invited Chris Koral, the Chair of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, to raise the Green Flag and join in the fun with the volunteers.

Chris Koral, before raising Green Flag, said "What a great community asset the park is and how it has moved on considerably in the last three years since my previous visit, with more bio-diverse habitats, artworks and a greater engagement with the public. It is a great tribute to the work of a dedicated volunteer group and is exactly where the wildlife trust movement should be.’ This is Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s only reserve with a Green Flag.

Cutting the cake with a billhook

Chris was handed a Yorkshire billhook to cut the yellow brimstone butterfly cake. Brimstone butterflies were first recorded breeding in Wirral at New Ferry Butterfly Park in 2014 and have remained constant residents ever since. As a thank you for being our guest of honour, Chris was given a fitting book, Butterflies of Cheshire, which contains a favourable mention of New Ferry Butterfly Park.

Presentation of a book, Butterflies of Cheshire

Paul Loughnane, Honorary Secretary of New Ferry Butterfly Park, said, “This is a record breaking summer season for the number of visiting groups to the park and for some of our butterfly residents at the park. It is great to have the volunteers’ BBQ where we can all relax instead of working. The Green Flag Award is a real pat on the back for all those volunteers involved with the habitat management and those who engage with the public and visiting groups. This year the park was judged by a mystery shopper!”

New Ferry Butterfly Park volunteers

The park is open on sunny summer Sunday afternoons, 12-4pm until the close of this year’s season on Sunday 9th September. On this date there will be a free heritage walk at 2 p.m. (no need to book, just turn up) describing how the industrial nature of the site has benefited wildlife here.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Summer 2018 at Cleaver Heath

Volunteers laying down gritstone at Cleaver Heath

The Tesco 'Bags of Help' grant is now making an impact on site. This grant along with Natural Futures funding provides help with new signage, an interpretation board, a proper northern gateway and some approved gritstone to reinforce the vulnerable main path through the heather.

Last week, some kind CWT volunteers helped lay down the first load of gritstone. It turned out to be the hottest day of the year. However, this hard work should make a real difference, turning what can be a mud bath in winter (below left) into an attractive path (below right) which will encourage visitors to respect the fragile heathland all year round.

New path at Cleaver Heath (before and after)

The grant will also provide us with signage to identify the recommended route to maximise visitors’ enjoyment of the reserve and its stunning views. No wildlife or visitors were harmed during those activities although I almost ran over a Common Lizard with my wheelbarrow full of stone.

Summer has now really arrived. We have had a continuous sequence of flowering plants and shrubs - from the Oxeye Daisies, Red Campion and Ragwort in our ‘insect nursery’ (ex-carpark) to the Common Heather (Calluna) and Western Gorse out on the reserve. The Bell Heather (both plants!) bloomed defiantly in June and then lapsed back into obscurity. The Common Heather is now starting to turn from white to purple.

Holly blue butterfly

The small butterfly shown above is a male Holly Blue. This has a blue underwing with black spots. It was photographed during a brief rest period in the stoning! There were plenty of Common Blue butterflies on the wing as well. We were also surrounded by Swallows and House Martins which were feeding low over the heather showing just how productive the heathland is in summer.

Swallows in flight over Cleaver Heath

Swallows in flight are very hard to photograph for us amateurs, as the photograph above  demonstrates. What with humming bees, swarms of insects, fluttering butterflies and swooping swallows, the reserve seems very alive following several weeks of warm weather. The downside of course is that some of the vegetation is visibly starting to wilt.

Swollen-thighed Beetle on Red Campion and and Oxeye Daisy and Buff-tailed Bumble bee on Foxglove

A new beetle for me this summer has been the Swollen-thighed Beetle seen on both Red Campion (above left) and Oxeye Daisy above centre). The shiny green colouring is quite striking and the name perfectly describes it. The Buff-tailed Bumble bee on the Foxlove (above right) is of course more familiar. There have been spectacular displays of Foxgloves around the woodland path edges providing a popular source of nectar. Foxgloves like the disturbance associated with paths.

Blue Tit in nest box at Cleaver Heath

The nest boxes installed last winter - see the Winter Newsletter - seem to have been used. I had firm sightings of Blue Tits (above) and Great Tits using at least 6 of the 10 boxes. No sign of occupancy at the Tawny Owl box however.

Linnet and Song Thrush

This year’s Common Bird Census took place between 5th April and 11th June. The overall numbers were down on 2017 probably due to the poor weather in the early breeding season. The Linnets were here again this year (above left) – possibly 2 pairs? Both Mistle and Song Thrush (above right) bred. We had the usual warblers holding territory – Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler. I am not sure if the Willow Warblers actually bred. They seemed to disappear at the end of May but returned in late June. I even heard one singing in the last week of July!

Butterflies at Cleaver Heath

Butterfly sightings have picked up after a slow start – the Cleaver to Thurstaston survey numbers are now running at roughly double those to the same point in 2017: 800 up from 400. Top left is a rare (for me) photo of a male Orange Tip at rest. These were quickly replaced by the other small whites then Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper (top right) and other smaller things such as the Small and Large Skipper (bottom left) and the Blues. The Speckled Woods (bottom right) have been present throughout the surveys. We have had the odd Small Copper, Peacock and Red Admiral and a few Commas, but still no Painted Ladies (as of end July). Our Species Count for the transect this summer remains stubbornly at 15.

Further activities in the pipeline include another round of bracken spraying. This needs to be done annually in a relatively narrow window in time and weather conditions. We also hope to get some of the new signage infrastructure installed in the autumn.

Looking ahead to the monthly workdays, there is plenty to be done. We need to check and clean out the bird boxes, tidy up some path work, remove some non-native shrubs and saplings, start on the annual birch control work using the new pull or cut and treat methods. The first date is Sunday 2nd September from 10 a.m.

Volunteers at a workday at Cleaver Heath

This year’s ‘Beauty of Heswall’s Heathland’ guided walk will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday 19th August. More details on the Wirral Wildlife website at or on the main Cheshire Wildlife site at

Alan Irving
Volunteer Reserve Warden for CWT
Cleaver Heath

Monday, 23 July 2018

New Ferry Butterfly Park Pond

Butterfly Park pond 12.7.18

No doubt your gardens are showing the effect of lack of rain and you will have seen the yellow grass verges.

The pond at the Butterfly Park got really low and this was Thursday July 12th. Luckily the centre is about 5 feet deep so there was somewhere for the newts and invertebrates to survive. The recent rain has helped a bit so it is looking better now but still too low to do any pond dipping.

shallow water dish

Don’t forget to put water out in your garden for wildlife. A shallow tray with some pebbles and water helps bees to drink without getting wet.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Local Wildlife Rescue Groups


We sometimes get asked for advice about helping injured animals. Since we look after nature reserves we do not have that sort of expertise so we are very pleased to hear about two Wirral groups who do.

Pawprints Wildlife Rescue have set up their own charity to create a good refuge for wildlife in need​. They dream of opening a wildlife centre of excellence in the heart of West Wirral, supported and endorsed by local and national wildlife experts. It would be open to the public to teach visitors about our native wildlife, while the animals can recover in safety, receive expert clinical care and be safely released to live full and independent lives.

You can call Pawprints for advice on 07747 301 423. Their website can be found at

Their Facebook page is

Wirral Animal Samaritans will help if you find an injured animal. They have a Facebook group where you can post your questions or ask for assistance:

If you want to speak to someone at Wirral Animal Samaritans in person you can ring them on 07484 110127.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Mud, Glorious Mud!

mud glorious mud

Thank you to Cheshire Wildlife Trust for letting us know about International Mud Day.

It’s International Mud Day on 29th June so let’s dig deep and look at the wonderful, wriggly creatures that live in the soil, find out what fun can be had in mud, and look at ways for you to get stuck in.

Worms are wonderful!
"It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly organised creatures."
Charles Darwin on earthworms

Did you know...?
  • We have 29 different species of worm in the UK.
  • A single worm can eat its own weight in soil in one day.
  • Worms absorb oxygen through their skin.

The early bird may well catch the worm, but it’s not just our feathered friends that benefit from this amazing creature. Worms are vital food source for other wildlife like toads, beetles, shrews and badgers.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Dragon Hunters

dragon hunters

Could you be a dragon hunter in July?

The British Dragonfly Society is in the process of launching a new citizen science project called the Dragonfly Challenge. This is a fun, educational activity to encourage people to spend more time outdoors over the summer.

Participants, known as ‘Dragon Hunters’, will have to try and find as many of the Challenge's six special species as possible within July. To do this they will have to learn about the species and their habitats, then explore different types of wetlands to find them all.

The species are: Large Red Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Common Darter, Southern Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser, and Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

To access and download all the Dragonfly Challenge resources, and for more information, please visit the project page:

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Wirral Rocks at the Butterfly Park

New Ferry Butterfly Park has been hosting many pre-booked weekday and evening visits as well as being open every Sunday afternoon from noon to 4 pm.

This week 3 and 4 year olds from Small Steps Day Nursery in West Kirby came to visit.

Small Steps Day Nursery

They found this rock which had been hidden by 11th Bebington Beavers on an evening visit the previous week.

The nursery children have taken it away to hide it again somewhere else.

Wirral Rocks

See Facebook Wirral Rocks for more about this idea of hiding a painted rock to be found by someone and then hidden in a new place.

Wirral Rocks