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

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Wildflower Hunt


Wildflower-Hunt-1

Do you love wild flowers? Would you like to know more about them? And help save them for the future? So would we.

Wildflower-Hunt-2

About the Wildflower Hunt

People have less contact with wild flowers than previous generations. There are fewer flowers around us and we seem to have less time to enjoy them.

Taking part in the GBWFH is a great way to enjoy flowers, whether you’re familiar with them or not. And by letting Plantlife know what you’re found, you’ll help our work to make sure that there are more flowers and that people can enjoy them.

www.plantlife.org.uk/wildflowerhunt/

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Primrose Day


Primroses at Embankment Coppice 17th March

Tomorrow, 19th April, is Primrose Day. This is when primroses are placed by Disraeli’s statue outside Westminster Abbey. This is to commemorate the death of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, in 1881. Primroses were his favorite flower.

The name Primrose comes from the Latin meaning “first rose”; they herald in the spring season. At New Ferry Butterfly Park spring is well on its way, with primroses in full flower amongst the coppice stools in Embankment Coppice. There are approximately 45 primroses in flower. 50 primroses were plug planted into the embankment using money from a Love Wirral Grant in 2014. Nearly all of the primroses have survived and there are many small immature primroses coming up too. This planting has been very successful and they are starting to spread of their own accord. This location on thin skeletal soils in amongst the coppice stools with summer shade has proved to be ideal habitat for them.

The early nectar source provided by the primrose flowers is appreciated by early flying butterflies with long proboscises (tongues) such as Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell. Long tongues are required to reach down the 10mm long corolla (flower tube) to reach the nectar at the bottom of the flower. The early flying queen bumble bees, especially the common carder and the hairy-footed flower bee, a recent arrival at the park in 2014, will also make use of the primrose flowers.

Following this successful project, it is hope to extend this primrose area by further planting along the embankment. En masse they will produce a wonderful floral display. This area lies in the sanctuary area of the park, so the pale yellow flowers with the egg yolk centres will be enjoyed undisturbed by the wildlife and by Merseyrail passengers as the trains coast slowly past the railway embankment decelerating towards Bebington Station.

Paul Loughnane

Friday, 6 April 2018

Grafters


Apple grafting in the cold with David Ellwand. Photo: Paul Loughane

Hedge laying spectators are often surprised how much wood is cut through to bend down the stems. The hawthorn stem should be cut 80% through so that the upright stem can be bent over. There is enough of the cambium layer left for the bent stem to survive and give maximum regrowth from the stool. Even more of a miracle for them would be apple grafting, cutting an apple variety stem, the scion, completely and then grafting it on to a root stock. Wirral Countryside Volunteers and Wirral Tree Wardens held an apple grafting day at New Ferry Butterfly Park with an impressive total of 18 varieties of scions which came from orchards in Malpas, Willaston and Chester.

Apple Grafting - the cut. Photo: Paul Loughnane

Despite the cold, 3oC with snow and wind which made the fingers numb and stiff, under the gentle tutelage of David Ellwand 36 apple scions were grafted to either dwarfing or semi-dwarfing stocks. This was achieved using the whip-and-tongue groove method and then firmly bound with tape. Lining up the scion can be difficult and if the rootstock is larger than the scion you have to graft the scion to one side for the graft to be successful, making sure the cambium layers of both knit together so there is a free flow of sap.

Whip-and-tongue grafting sequence

Several Cheshire varieties of apple were grafted. There are no named Wirral apple varieties. The nearest name variety is the Elton Beauty, raised at Ince Nursery in 1954. However, one apple seedling at the park was thought worthy of grafting the “Adam and Eve tree” which produces a crisp dessert apple, with a good, sweet flavour. This was christened the “Adam and Eve” tree by raconteur Mel Roberts, the Park’s founder. The story goes the tree arose following a domestic argument; when the green grocer’s wife dumped the green grocer’s produce including apples in the park when it was abandoned land.

David Elwand took a tour of the park assessing the apple trees growing there. They were bought as wild crab apple trees but turned out to be varieties of apple trees. He gave us advice on pruning them. Right at the north end of the park up the steep embankment, David was rewarded; identifying a golden hornet crab tree, the apples of which would be very useful for his Pomona cider project.

Potted up grafted trees. Photo: Paul Loughnane

The grafted trees are well-labelled, potted up and placed in a shady corner in the park to slow growth just in time for the union to take before the scion comes into full leaf and draws on the rootstock. In addition to cloning the apple varieties, the dwarfing rootstocks were propagated by both coppice stooling and trench layering.

Paul Loughnane

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Wildlife Identification Workshops


Community Nature Hub

RECORD are very excited to announce they are now taking bookings for the first batch of Wildlife Identification Workshops as part of their new Community Nature Hub project.

To book onto the workshops please follow the links and book via Eventbrite.

14th April 2018 - Reptile Identification
23rd June 2018 - Shieldbug Identification
30th June 2018 - Wildflower Identification

If you would like to be kept informed about the project and upcoming Wildlife Workshops and Recording Days, please subscribe to the Community Nature Hub mailing list here.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Small Mammal Survey Training


Wood mouse. Photo: Hans Hillewaert

Alan Smail, the Ranger at Brotherton Park and Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve, is sponsoring a short training course on Small Mammal Surveying.

Ron Warne will be running the course which will be held in the reserve's Visitor Centre on the morning of 12th May 2018.

Ron will set up the traps on 10th and 11th with a view to having some real animals to experience.  He expects to have completed the session by lunchtime.

The number of places will be limited to give everybody some 'hands-on' experience with the equipment and animals.

If you would like to attend, please contact Ron directly via email to book a place.  If this session is over subscribed there will be a further one in conjunction with the Wirral Tree Wardens a little later in the Spring/Summer.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Earth Hour


In case you haven't seen this email from Cheshire Wildlife Trust, here is their update about Earth Hour and the work being done to reduce the impact of climate change.


Whilst we at Cheshire Wildlife Trust spend a lot of our time working locally in Cheshire, much of our work does play a role in protecting the natural world on a larger scale. Whether it’s managing habitats of international importance or conserving our precious pockets of wildlife in Cheshire, we're working together to protect the environment.

With #EarthHourUK on Saturday 24th March at 8:30pm, we wanted to highlight some of the ways our work helps reduce the impact of climate change.


Mosslands


FACT: Peatland environments are the UK’s largest store of carbon. The carbon stored in UK peatlands is equivalent to 3 years of total UK carbon emissions!

In Delamere, we're helping to restore peatland which stores carbon from the atmosphere.

We’ve worked on 55 different sites across Delamere to restore peatland habitat through re-wetting. We’ve also surveyed new sites that need protection in the future.


Tree planting


We’re planting 1,000 trees in the Swettenham Valley to ensure woodland cover, capturing carbon in the area for centuries to come.


Reduce flooding


We’re working hard to hold more water upstream in the Peak District to prevent flooding downstream in Cheshire.

Pressures from climate change mean that floods have begun to occur more often and when they do occur, result in expensive damage.

As part of our five year Slowing the Flow project, we’re introducing flood prevention measures such as leaky dams to prevent flooding downstream during future storm events.


Minimise machinery


We’re working with local communities to teach traditional land management techniques as an alternative to machinery. In small, isolated meadows across Stockport the grass is scythed each summer, using no mowers or fuel.


Low food miles


As well as having our own allotment at our headquarters, we’re helping local Friends of Groups to manage Community Orchards, producing food locally and organically.


Working together




We're working with private landowners in the wider landscape, to create a landscape that is more permeable for wildlife to move through. This is necessary not just to protect populations, but also to enable species to extend their ranges in response to our changing climate. The combined effort of Wildlife Trusts nationally to create Living Landscapes is helping wildlife move around the British countryside.


What are you doing?

Is there something you’re doing to act against climate change? Perhaps you’re switching your lights off for just an hour at 8:30pm on Saturday, joining the likes of Buckingham Palace and Edinburgh Castle. No matter how big or small the action, do let us know what you're doing on Facebook, Twitter or email.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Hedgehog Rescue


Hedgehog rescue. Photo: Les Roberts

The return of ‘beast from the east’ reminds me that we also had some very cold weather in early December last year. On one particularly frosty Friday night we opened our front door to check no shoes had been left out under the porch. To our astonishment a small hedgehog was, quite literally, sitting on our front step and, we felt, looking rather sorry for itself.

Given the temperature, conditions and the time of year we realised this youngster was in trouble. A thick cardboard box was quickly found and we lined it with scrunched up newspaper, something which we hoped would retain the animal’s own heat and create some warmth. Into the box also went a plastic tub filled with water but we didn’t think we had any suitable food – we needed advice.

Given the hour it was not surprising that we could not contact the Hedgehog Rescue numbers we phoned but we did get through to RSPCA HQ. They asked us to weigh our guest which we did using kitchen scales and plastic container. Unfortunately, this showed that the little creature was underweight and would not survive hibernation even if it could induce that state. We were advised to go to our nearest supermarket and buy cat food, perfectly acceptable to hedgehogs apparently. We were also told to keep the animal warm overnight and find a rescue centre next day.

Finding an accommodating centre proved difficult. Not because the volunteers who ran them were unwilling, they were simply unable because of the numbers of such young, underweight or injured hedgehogs they were already housing – a winter long commitment. Thankfully a Wirral veterinary practice did offer to add our now very perky and endearing guest to those they were currently caring for. Why such numbers of these delightful creatures fail to reach the optimum weight and size to hibernate is worrying and sad. We presume it is down to changing land use and shrinking natural habitat. Gardens may be the salvation, especially if they offer ‘wilder’ areas, however small and are devoid of slug pellets. Well done the long-term rescuers who are giving their own time and money to help maintain the population of such charming animals.

Les Roberts

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Wildlife Quiz 2017: Answers


Here are the answers to the Wirral Wildlife Prize Quiz 2017. 

Many congratulations to Vivienne Pitcher in Greasby who received the prize of a National Garden Gift Card.


Quiz Clue Number of Letters Answer
1 Girl accommodates 10 oriental insect appendages 8 ANTENNAE
2 Tabitha resettles here 7 HABITAT
3 Swindling breeding place? 7 ROOKERY
Gullery
4 Scottish football club loses one, wins nothing, draws a tie initially; a seasonal strategy 11 HIBERNATION
5 Soft mountain range appendages 5 PALPS
6 A Welsh Nationalist leaders bristle 3 AWN
7 Take a breather by Lakeland streams 5 GILLS
8 A bush in the British Rubber Co.’s factory in West Yorkshire yielded 25kg of latex in 2016 5 SHRUB
9 Swindle on condition that Arthur Daley’s wife has left the house for evergreen 7 CONIFER
10 Leaf-like structures support the beginnings of computed tomography scanners 6 BRACTS
11 Temporary home, property of mains electricity, the French feeler 8 TENTACLE
12 Seasonal strategy of fighter with quota 9 MIGRATION
13 2 is a danger to shipping – shorten sail! 4 REEF
14 Shedding leaves of French police department where French turn American 9 DECIDUOUS
15 Athletes trailing shoots 7 RUNNERS
16 Sailor initially, man on board, to reproduce 5 SPAWN
17 What follows when railway is removed is part of a flower 7 COROLLA
18 Grahame character’s implement yields a fruiting body 9 TOADSTOOL
19 Type of music before ball game is a 2 8 ROCKPOOL
20 Transformation of little sister having encountered a clay model animation with first from Oxford to start with 13 METAMORPHOSIS
21 Almost unnecessary leaves on some conifers 7 NEEDLES
22 A Greek character, cautious without a leader, makes a home for many insects 6 APIARY
23 Animal’s home found in Welsh settlement in Patagonia 4 SETT
24 Drown the rug unfortunately in vegetation 11 UNDERGROWTH
25 Able to work on unknown to cover 24 6 CANOPY
26 Prose phase surprisingly found on fronds 5,5 SPORE HEAPS
27 Sit on the fence before shouting match for 2 8 HEDGEROW
28 Male reservists in, e.g., Great Britain, find reproductive organs 7 STAMENS

In the following questions, you should find a word that can follow the first word, and can precede the second word, to give the names of two plants or animals. E.g.: For “Jersey -------- parsley” the answer might be “Cow” giving “Jersey cow” and “Cow parsley”.

1
Jersey
COW
Parsley
2
Road
RUNNER
Bean
3
Prairie
WOLF
Grass
Spider
4
Red
KNOT
Kangaroo, Deer
Grass
5
Destroying
ANGEL
Fish
6
Song
THRUSH
Nightingale
7
Wall
BROWN
Kiwi
8
Slippery
JACK
Snipe
9
Sham
ROCK
Pipit
10
Prickly
COCKLE
Bur
11
Hedge
HOG
Weed
12
Winter
GREEN
Woodpecker
13
Sparrow
HAWK
Bit
14
Saddle
OYSTER
Horse
Mushroom
15
Horseshoe
CRAB
Apple
16
Barn
SWALLOW
Tail
17
Wood
LARK
Cock
Spur
18
Small
COPPER
Beech
19
Harvest
MAN
Fly
Orchid
20
Marbled
WHITE
Grey, Moth
Wagtail
21
Mountain
GOAT
Moth
22
Large
BLUE
White
Whale

23
Yellow
RATTLE
Snake
24
Isle of Man
CABBAGE
Root fly
25
Painted
LADY
Bird
26
Cat’s
EAR
Wig
27
Great spotted
CUCKOO
Bee
28
Earth
STAR
Ling
29
Water
SOLDIER
Flea, Lily
Beetle
30
Sea
HOLLY
Blue
31
Purple
EMPEROR
King
Penguin
32
Russian
VINE
Weevil
33
Snow
LEOPARD
Seal
34
Meadow
SWEET
Chestnut
35
Guinea
PIG
Nut
36
Slow
WORM
Wood
37
Acorn
BARNACLE
Goose
38
Electric
EEL
Grass
39
Prong
HORN
Beam
40
African
GREY
Poplar
41
Long-tailed
DUCK
Weed
42
Sweet
PEA
Fowl
43
Snowdon
LILY
Beetle
44
Scots
PINE
Marten