Saturday, 29 August 2009

Visit to Cleaver Heath

The summer committee meeting is always held at one of the reserves and this year we visited Cleaver Heath in Heswall.

This lowland heath has a wonderful display of heather and western gorse...

... and fantastic views over the Dee Estuary to Wales.

In the 10 years since the reserve was purchased by Cheshire Wildlife Trust the site has been managed by removing birch trees which create shade and prevent heather growing...

In the cleared areas heather is regenerating to help maintain this lowland heath...

It takes many hours of work by Mike and his volunteers to keep the birch at bay. If you want to help maintain the biodiversity on this reserve you can join in the work days on the first Sunday of every month through the autumn and winter. The next one is September 6th so contact Mike via email if you are interested.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mourning Gnats

Fungus gnats Sciara hemerobioides. Photo: John Gill
Click on the photo to see the gnats in all their glory.

On Monday, at our open air committee meeting at Cleaver Heath, we spotted several fungus gnats. John Gill, Wirral Wildlife's Treasurer, has been interested in these insects since first seeing them 5 years ago:

"Back in 2004 I first noticed these flies on Thurstaston Common when there were large numbers of them, all associated with the purple moor grass. I managed to get them positively identified as Sciara hemerobioides. This is a species of the group known as fungus gnats and doesn’t seem to have an accepted English name. The German name though translates as “mourning gnats” which I think is very appropriate with their black colouration.

2005 saw about one tenth of the numbers of mourning gnats at Thurstaston, and 2006 was even leaner with just a few individuals to be found (late July to early September seems to the period to find them, with August being the best time). 2007 saw an increase in numbers and 2008 was a big year again. I haven’t been to Thurstaston since the beginning of August yet so I don’t know how they are faring this year; but I found none in July.

Monday was the first time I have spotted mourning gnats anywhere other than Thurstaston Common, so finding about a dozen at Cleaver Heath was very good. As an update, this afternoon (Wednesday) I visited Heswall Dales and found another 11 mourning gnats on the purple moor grass there. Another first for me!"

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Visit to Number 10

Hilary Ash shakes hands with Gordon Brown

Environmental activists left their waterproofs and wellies at home and dressed up for a unique opportunity last week. The Prime Minister held a reception at 10 Downing Street "to celebrate the contribution that people make every day in support of their local environmental wildlife projects and organisations". Hilary Ash, volunteer conservation officer in Wirral for over 20 years, represented Cheshire Wildlife Trust at the event, as one of over 40 people from the national Wildlife Trusts movement.

Hilary says, "While the Prime Minister moved through the throng shaking as many hands as possible, we were able to talk to other politicians present. In particular I was able to discuss improvements to the forthcoming Marine Bill with Hilary Benn, and measures to get action on global climate change with Ed Milliband. It was also an interesting opportunity to talk to like-minded people in other organisations, such as Sustrans and the Womens Institute".

Gordon Brown made a short speech thanking those present for their hard work over many years to protect our environment and wildlife, long before the current rise in interest. He said that thanks to his children the garden at Number 10 is being made more environment-friendly, with a vegetable plot and bird boxes. The reception was held in the garden of Number 10, and Hilary noted that the pond installed a few years ago by The Wildife Trusts is still flourishing, though a heron has eaten the goldfish! The event is a welcome sign of government appreciation of the environment, and of the work done by volunteers in protecting it for the benefit of everyone. Hilary adds, " For those of us who have been involved as long as I have, and remember lobbying when national government took little notice of the environment, it is a pleasure to be listened to at national level. But the job is not finished - we need to continue to talk to government to encourage real and fast action on global climate change, or all our efforts over decades will be wasted."

Lobbying Time: Hilary Ash talks to Hilary Benn about the Marine Bill, while Gwent Wildlife Trust representative tackles Gordon Brown about the Severn Barrage