Monday, 16 July 2018

Local Wildlife Rescue Groups


Pawprints

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

Friday, 8 June 2018

Catwoman and Potter take up residence at Butterfly Park


Hedgehog house. Photo: flyingcanadianphotography.com

Who are Catwoman and Potter? They sound like Batman’s archenemies. Well Catwoman is a 1,200g female hedgehog and Potter an 800g male hedgehog. They are rescue hedgehogs from Wirral Animal Rescue Centre based near Hoylake Station. Their names were pulled out of a jar when they arrived at the centre.

Hedgehog. Photo: flyingcanadianphotography.com

They were released on a fine summer evening at New Ferry Butterfly Park. They have been given their own hog house and bespoke hog feeding station just to help them get started off in their new natural habitat. Both the hog house and the hog feeder were expertly made by Martin Sharp of Wirral Animal Rescue Centre. Martin thought that the habitat at New Ferry Butterfly Park superb for hedgehogs. There are lots of mature dead wood habitat piles which they like and extensive woodland edge habitat as well as 400 metres of native laid hedgerow with dense bases. I was surprised at their limited lifespan of only two years in the wild. Martin brought leaflets about the danger of rubbish and litter causes to hedgehogs. It is good to be reminded.

Dusk at the Butterfly Park. Photo: flyingcanadianphotography.com

At dusk with hushed excitement, we put the hogs into the hog house. We left the newly arrived hogs snuffling in the hog house and occasionally sticking their noses out to sniff the new surroundings. We will monitor them closely but it is expected that they will leave the hog house and make their own arrangements.

Martin gruesomely warned us about the increasingly cunning foxes who play the long game and lay in wait behind the curled hedgehog and until it unfurls and catches the unsuspecting hedgehog by the hind leg as it moves off.

The centre rescues about 400 hedgehogs a year! If you see a hedgehog in the day it is it definitely in trouble. They are always looking for further support, financial, volunteer time, names for the hedgehogs and welcome visitors to the centre. In spring time they are looking for suitable sites to house the rescued hedgehogs. Please get in touch with them:

Paul Loughnane

For more photographs of Potter and Catwoman and their release, take a look at the Flying Canadian Photography blog:
flyingcanadianphotography.blog/a-day-in-the-life-of-wirral-animal-sanctuarys-hedgehog-centre/

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A New Welcome Awaits You at New Ferry Butterfly Park


Pam Brown MBE, Her Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside, unveiled a new interactive and exciting educational welcome board at New Ferry Butterfly Park. This was part of New Ferry Butterfly Park’s Opening Day. The event, which attracted 870 visitors, marked the start of the Sunday afternoon opening season which goes on until Wirral Heritage week in September. 

The Welcome Board. Photo Pam Sullivan



















The welcome board has been fashioned with all the familiar elements such as secret doors, the creepy crawly bucket and the newt pond, but also has some new features. Centre stage is a new bee jigsaw, asking important questions like, can bees dance?  

The Bee Jigsaw.  Photo : Pam Sullivan

























There are lots of new facts to learn about the insects in the park and an important message about recycling and not leaving rubbish lying around. The board has been designed and painted by artist Pamela Sullivan with thanks to Graham Smillie and Frank Moore for their help with the build and installation of the board and support with the more fiddly elements of the design. 

An earlier version of this welcome board was created by Pam Sullivan in 2013. It was a great focus for many of the beaver and cubs groups who visited the park in the last five years. Streams of 15 or so excited cubs and beavers all having a go at the board took their toll, wearing it out by their enthusiasm and love of it. This new improved version has more interaction components and is in a more robust and weather proof format which can be enjoyed by visitors over an extended number of years.

The welcome board is a brilliant addition to the park, and a great hit with children and adults. Being near the entrance, the welcome board sets the tone of the park as somewhere to explore nature thoroughly.  It will be wonderful when assembling visiting beaver/cub groups; a good starter for them to interact with before starting their nature sessions. 

The record breaking warm bank holiday weather meant there was a record breaking number of butterflies on the wing for the opening day. There was an increased number of stalls this year spread further round the park. There was a BBQ, cake stand, plant stall and the healthy cycle smoothie stand. There was Flourish promoting honeybees, a spider stand, local artists demonstrating their talents, spoon carving and, being the May Day bank holiday weekend, May Pole dancing was enjoyed too.  

Pond Dipping on Open Day



















Do come and visit on quieter days when there is more nature to see as the summer season progresses. 

Paul Loughnane

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Spring 2018 at Cleaver Heath


Cleaver Heath 1

Spring seems to have arrived several times this year – the temperatures rose, then dropped, rose, then dropped and so on, with bouts of hail, rain and snow and just a bit of sunshine. This has had obvious implications for our visitors both human and wildlife.

Cleaver Heath 2


Avian migrants

I have been keeping tabs on the arrival dates of our spring visitors from the south - these notes are being written at the end of April.

Swallow and House Martins

In order of arrival, I have observed singing Chiffchaff from March 25, Willow Warblers from April 8, pairs of Swallows at Oldfield Farm also from April 8 and singing Blackcaps from April 15. House Martins appeared locally on April 26. I have not seen or heard Whitethroats yet at Cleaver although they are already around elsewhere on Wirral. These photos are of ‘Oldfield’ Swallows and House Martins. The poor weather is presumably responsible for the roughly 10-14 days delay of most warbler arrivals compared with 2017. However, the Swallows bucked the trend by arriving a week early this year! I began this year’s Common Bird Census at Cleaver on April 5. I described the technique in last year’s Early Summer Newsletter. Basically I make 10 visits (roughly every week) noting on a large scale map where I see or hear the birds. The idea is to get a picture, for each species, of where the territories are. I reported the outcome from last year in the Late Summer Newsletter.

Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon

This year, the numbers so far seem to be quite a bit down. One new feature this year has been the observation of a few Collared Doves. These are quite common on Wirral but are a first for Cleaver Heath. Note how dainty they are compared with a Woodpigeon. There is no white on them, just a half collar of black. They have a wheezy flight sound rather than the clumsy clapping of the Woodpigeon. Their song is Coo-Coo-Coo rather than Coo- Coooo- Coo- CooCoo.

We will be holding our annual Dawn Chorus Walk on Cleaver Heath and Heswall Dales on Sunday May 6. This is an opportunity for us all to brush up our bird song and call ID skills and also marvel at one of nature’s spectacular sound spectacles.


Butterflies

If the crazy spring weather confused the birds, it was even more confusing for the butterflies. Nectar- bearing plans have been well behind schedule while the low temperatures and high rainfall have had also inhibited flight for the early butterflies including those over-wintering as butterflies (e.g. Peacock) or as pupae (e.g. Green-veined White and Orange Tip). We started our Butterfly transect survey on April 5 and the total sightings in the first 3 weeks were 0, 1 and 2 respectively! The three species seen were the three mentioned above. Last year, the corresponding 3 weeks resulted in sightings of 2, 9 and 6 respectively. We are currently struggling to find days in each week when the weather is butterfly-friendly. Today, the last day of April, it is 6 degrees and wind force 4. I don’t feel I should have to wear a woolly hat and gloves while I do a butterfly survey.


Plants

This month we completed the botanical survey of the reserve started in 2016. This meant gaining access to the NW corner of the reserve before the bracken started to grow tall again. There was little new there to add to our existing tally of around 140 species of plants, shrubs, trees and mosses. We keep records of species in each habitat area of the reserve as a way on monitoring its health and suitability for supporting wildlife.

The first bracken shoots are now pushing through. It does look like the annual Asulox spraying is having an effect.

Bracken

These photos show the same area in July last year before spraying (left) and as it looks now at the end of April (right). If there are new shoots there, I have not yet found any. The green and red shoots you can see are rosebay willowherb and bramble.

As far as the heathland birch control is concerned, it is also a bit early to assess properly the effectiveness of our stump treatment over the autumn/winter. However, I can just about convince myself that there is a difference in the extent of regrowth in those areas where we treated and in those where we didn’t get it done.

Birch Regrowth

This photo shows quite vigorous birch regrowth at the edge of the upper heathland where the stumps were deemed too small to cut and treat as compared with the surrounding area where we did treat. There are a few multi-stem stumps in the foreground which seem to have succumbed. The real test will be in the autumn when our work groups go over each heathland panel systematically. Will we have less work to do this year? I hope so.

Gorse

The dominant colour (and smell) on the reserve is currently provided by the European Gorse which is also providing nesting cover for the birds. The various shrubs and tree species add their own shades of green as they come into leaf. The ex-car park area is starting to look really colourful with whites, yellows and blues all around. The forget-me-nots are quite spectacular. What we really want now is some more warmth to bring out all the butterflies and other insects to take advantage of them.

Forget-Me-Nots

Alan Irving
Volunteer Reserve Warden for CWT
Cleaver Heath
April 2018