Monday, 17 September 2018

Recording at Thurstaston Common


Quadrats at Thurstaston

Our recording team have been out doing the annual recording of 12 fixed quadrats on Thurstaston Common. This is a long-running programme of monitoring the heathland for the National Trust, started by Andrew Brockbank over 20 years ago.

So that is why Hilary, Tay and Mathilde are deep in heather and western gorse - photographed by the fourth member of this year's team, June.

Finding the pegs which mark each quadrat is half the job, especially when the heather is tall like this. A combination of GPS, measurements from landmarks, a metal detector - and good old-fashioned searching.

The data help assess how well the management programme is going, comparing quadrats inside and outside the grazing paddocks. So if you happen to see a metal bar sticking a few inches up from the ground when walking on Thurstaston Common - please leave it alone, it marks a permanent quadrat.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Open Day on the Heswall Dales













Saturday 15th September
11.00 am - 3.00 pm

Come and discover the ‘Treasures of the Dales’ - enjoy woodland walks, rare lowland heath and stunning views over the Dee estuary, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.

The Friends of Heswall Dales and the Ranger will be on hand to point out some of the interesting features of this beautiful local nature reserve.

Walking maps and information will be available from outside the Ranger’s Cottage, off Oldfield Road.

Go around our self-guided walk looking out for the ‘Treasures’ while learning a bit about the natural history of this jewel of Wirral as you go.

For more information check the Friends’ website:

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Dibbinsdale’s Birds Need Your Help!


Dibbinsdale breeding birds

Natural England are looking for volunteer surveyors to carry out breeding bird surveys at Dibbinsdale SSSI.


Friday, 24 August 2018

Heritage Open Day Walk at Butterfly Park


Lime truck 1966

Sunday 9th September
2 – 3.30 p.m.

A walk around New Ferry Butterfly Park as part of Wirral Heritage Open Days
‘New Ferry Butterfly Park: An Industrial Legacy To Butterfly Haven’

The walk will explore the industrial history of this former railway goods yard (brick-making and railway operation), and how this has contributed to the wildlife diversity of the park. Short walk of only about 600 metres, but much to see.

Location: Howell Road, New Ferry (approach road to Bebington Station Car Park).

The Park is signed from Bebington Road, and the access is between Aldi (CH62 5BG) and the railway overbridge. The lower half of the park is disabled-accessible.

Booking is not necessary. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

For more information contact: Paul Loughnane,
email or telephone 0151 645 8937

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Bat Walk at River Park


Bat Walk

Bat Walk at Port Sunlight River Park
Thursday 30th August

8.30 to 10 p.m.

£3 per person.
Book in advance.

Telephone 07587550060
or email anne.litherland@autismtogether.co.uk

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Seabird Conservation Talk



Seabird Conservation

Global Seabird Conservation: Hoisting The Mast For Hope On A Stormy Sea


A talk by Dr Cleo Small - RSPB and Birdlife International
University of Liverpool
3rd September 2018
6 p.m.

Free tickets available by email: seabirdconference@liverpool.ac.uk

Most seabird populations and species are declining, many to globally threatened levels. At sea, commercial fisheries and pollution are taking their toll; on land, alien invasive predators and habitat disturbance and destruction are impacting many colonies. Climate change may cause (or exacerbate) problems in both domains. However, the last two decades have also seen notable successes in eradicating alien predators (mainly on uninhabited islands) and in finding solutions to seabird bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries.

Dr Small will present the view from BirdLife International on whether there are reasons to be optimistic for the future of the world’s seabirds, by reviewing some current and prospective global initiatives, including the development of new research and monitoring techniques, as well as pioneering collaborations involving governments, non-governmental organisations, scientists and civil society.

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!”


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 www.wirralwildlife.org.uk or on the main Cheshire Wildlife site at www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.

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


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

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