Monday 28 December 2009

December Watch Meeting

Thankyou to everyone who came to the last Watch meeting, especially Steve Harris and his wonderful friend Eric the Barn Owl. It was a fantastic way for me to end my time as Watch leader, as everyone was captivated by Eric and fascinated by dissecting the owl pellets to reveal the bones of the small mammals that had been caught as food.

The star attraction, Eric...

Investigating the owl pellets...

Thankyou to everyone for the lovely flowers and other gifts but most of all thankyou to anyone who came to a Watch meeting over the last 10 years.

As always thanks to Sue and Margaret for the photographs.

Matt, Margaret and Sue would be willing to carry on running the Watch group BUT WE NEED A NEW LEADER. If you are interested, please email us for more information.

Saturday 19 December 2009

New Ferry Butterfly Park petition download

If anyone would like to collect signatures to support the campaign to keep New Ferry Butterfly Park open, you can now download a form and a poster to print yourself.

Forms need to be returned to 5 Dearnford Avenue, Bromborough, Wirral, CH62 6DX by January 8th.

Friday 18 December 2009

New Ferry Butterfly Park campaign update

We are delighted at the support we have received for the Butterfly Park over the last week. On Monday night, Cllr Steve Niblock was able to present a paper petition of 735 signatures to Wirral Borough Council - the first tranche, with more to come. An e-petition has topped 1300 people already.

Both petitions are still open. Find the paper one at Ben Chapman's constituency office and Andy's Aquatics in New Ferry, and the e-petition at

Hilary Ash and Michelle Stamp, who were collecting signatures outside the Farmers Market last Saturday, said "It was heart-warming how many people were eager to sign the petition. Thanks to excellent publicity from the local press, most people already knew about the campaign. We had so many supportive comments, it made up for standing in the cold!"

The Butterfly Park's monthly workday went ahead as normal last Sunday, mowing grass and coppicing hazel. The regular volunteers were joined by two Chinese students from Liverpool University, who much enjoyed themselves helping the wildlife.

Brock plc, who have ordered the closure of the Park by the end of January 2010, still refuse to comment.

Did you know?

New Ferry Butterfly Park supports:
  • 18 species of butterfly breeding on site, plus another 8 recorded as visitors
  • 60+ species of moth
  • 36 species of spider, 3 of them rare in Cheshire (it's all right, most of them hide in the vegetation and don't frighten visitors)
  • All 6 widespread species of bumble bee
  • 5 species of shieldbug including a blue one which is rare in Cheshire
  • At least 9 species of hoverfly
  • 2 ponds with smooth newts and frogs, and a good collection of water invertebrates, including dragonflies and damselflies
  • Loads of minibeasts which haven't been identified yet, especially beetles, true flies and solitary wasps

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Butterfly Park petition website

There was a fault with the petition website over the weekend. This glitch has now been repaired so if anyone was unable to sign, please have another go...

Tuesday 8 December 2009

New Ferry Butterfly Park campaign update

Hilary and and Linda were interviewed on Tony Snell's show on Radio Merseyside this morning.
You can listen again on the BBC iPlayer until Tuesday 15th December.
There is discussion about the park at 50 minutes and the interview itself is 1 hour 42 minutes into the programme.

Hilary and the Butterfly Park are now starring on You Tube.

If you haven't already signed the e-petition, please take a few moments to do so.

Monday 7 December 2009

Nature Reserve Threatened With Closure - We Need Your Help

New Ferry Butterfly Park, the community-run nature reserve next to Bebington Station, is threatened with closure. Brock plc have told the Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT), which holds the lease, to vacate the Park by the end of January 2010, and have refused repeated offers by CWT to buy it. The Park site, already a nature reserve and Site of Biological Importance, was sold at auction in 1997, when British Rail was told by the then Government to sell much of its land.

The Butterfly Park is one of the best butterfly sites in Cheshire, and also home to many other mini-beasts such as spiders, moths, bumble bees, grasshoppers, shield bugs, woodlice, snails and hoverflies. It is used for education and training, from infant schoolchildren up to post-graduate professionals, as well as quiet recreation and enjoyment of wildlife. Its unusual management has featured in national scientific journals.

Hilary Ash, one of its management team and Hon Conservation Officer for Wirral Wildlife, says "There is simply no equivalent site in Wirral or Cheshire. Its ecology is unique, which is why Cheshire Wildlife Trust leased it in 1993. It is also in the urban area, with excellent public transport access, more than 2000 schoolchildren within walking distance, and in an area with little natural open space. It will be a huge loss to people and wildlife if it is destroyed."

Ben Chapman, MP for Wirral South, who has often visited the Park, said “The Butterfly Park is a vital asset to New Ferry. Many local schools, societies and other organisations have visited and benefited from its presence. The Park Committee has put in a great deal of effort over the years to regenerate what was essentially a useless piece of land into a thriving urban nature reserve. The conservation work of Wirral Wildlife has also recently been recognised at a Downing Street Reception. I am very disappointed that the landowners have expressed their desire to close it and I very much hope we can reverse this decision”.

New Ferry Councillor Steve Niblock said “It is a disgrace that the future of the Park is under threat. This gem in New Ferry must be preserved at all costs. It is sad that the owners will not sell the land to the dedicated volunteers that manage the park. I am asking that the community rally round and sign the petition to save the park.

I have been pushing the Council to do all in its powers to help keep this oasis of wildlife for the people of New Ferry and the rest of Wirral. To help with this please sign the petition.”
Please write to your councillor (the local ones are Bob Moon, Alan Taylor and Steve Niblock) at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Wallasey, CH44 8ED asking Wirral Council to use all measures in its power to save the Park. Or sign the petition to be found around New Ferry including at the Farmers' Market on 12 December and the constituency office of Ben Chapman MP. The Park is normally closed for the winter, because the mini-beasts are in hibernation and we need to get management work done. However it will be open on Sundays 13 December and 10th January and possibly other times - contact Hilary on 327 5923 or Paul on 645 8937, or check the website at We are at the top of the access road to Bebington station car park, off Bebington Road between Aldi and the railway bridge. Look for the brown tourist sign, open when we are.
Mayor Peter Johnson opening a new interpretive board, April 2007

More pictures can be found at:

Thursday 19 November 2009

Marine and Coastal Access Bill 2009

Dr Kathryn Turner, Irish Sea Advocacy Officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts, has written to us with her comments on the new Marine and Coastal Access Bill, which received Royal Assent on 12th November and has now passed into UK law.

"This is great news for the species and habitats of our Irish sea. The future of marine species is intimately tied to what happens in the sandy muds of our local sea, and this new act will provide a statutory duty to protect representatives of all our marine habitats.

The act does this by allowing the designation of a set of marine conservation zones (MCZs). These will be placed to give all our marine habitats some protection. Each site will be placed because that area is a high quality example of one of these habitats. But each site will be managed differently. In very important and rare habitats there may be high protection (Highly Protected Marine Conservation Zones or HPMCZs) which means that little or no commercial activity is allowed. In many sites, some, but not all, activity will be allowed and possibly in some sites, all activity will be allowed. The marine bill states that where these sites have other key users, the socioeconomic factors may be taken into account.

We strongly support the designation of highly protected sites (HPMCZ) which will give our sea bed communities the best chance to recover from historical damage and allow the Irish sea to become a truly vibrant living sea once again. This will allow cuttlefish, sea mice, basking sharks, and countless other Irish sea natives to thrive.

It's a great day for marine life."

Thursday 12 November 2009

Autumnwatch at Thurstaston

Last weekend found the Watch group out and about looking for signs of Autumn. We thought about how plants and animals survive the winter...

...noticing the seeds and berries on the trees and bushes and remembering the birds we saw in spring which have now migrated.

When we got to The Dungeons we collected short branches from the woodland floor and placed them carefully, covering them with leaves to create a habitat pile. This will provide a winter home for many invertebrates.

Monday 9 November 2009

Award Winners

Four members of Wirral Wildlife's committee were honoured to be presented with Eric Thurston Awards at the recent Cheshire Wildlife Trust AGM at Burton Manor.

The award is given for their support of wildlife conservation and the work of the Trust.

Left to right:
John Somerville (North group), Linda Higginbottom, Ruth Dann, Paul Loughnane, Mike Maher

Thursday 8 October 2009

Apple Weekend

Another successful Apple Weekend with our annual events at Brimstage Hall and Eastham Country Park.

Lots of tasty local apples to sample...

The return of the 'Longest Apple Peel' competition...

For more pictures see the slideshow on the events page of our website.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Elephant Hawk Moth

After the success of our moth night, Fay Samuels has sent us some of her photographs of an Elephant Hawk Moth throughout its life cycle.



Beautiful moth...

Saturday 3 October 2009

National Moth Night - update

David, our Events Organiser, has sent this species list following the moth night event.

Wirral Wildlife: Moth Night Event - Friday 18th September 2009 at Claremont Farm, Bebington (SJ325826)

Species List

Lamp on sheet

New Zealand apple moth E. postvittana - 11
Marbled Carpet C.truncata - 7
Satellite E. transversata - 1
Large Yellow Underwing N. pronuba - 13
Common Wainscot M. pallens - 8
Setaceous Hebrew Character A. c-nigrum (Xestia) - 9
Grey Pin Carpet T. obeliscata - 4
Centre-barred Sallow A. centrago - 1
Angle Shades P. meticulosa - 3

MV lamp

Blastobasis lignea - 2
Copper Underwing A. pyrimidea - 3
Flame Shoulder O. plecta - 1
Silver-Y A. gamma - 5
Smoky Wainscot M. impura - 1
Rosy Rustic H. micacea - 3
Shuttle-shaped Dart A. puta - 2
Red-green Carpet C. siterata - 2
Square-spot Rustic A.xanthographa (Xestia) - 3
Frosted Orange G. flavago - 1
*Oak nycteoline N. revayana - 1
Lesser Yellow Underwing N. comes - 3
N. fimbriata - 1
Peronea variegana/ Hedya nubiferana
Clepsis consimilana/ unifasciana Duponchel

Oak nycteoline

A total of 24 species.

* New species to Alan Creaser and new to grid reference SJ38.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Events at Ness Gardens

Andrew Lambie, co-ordinator of adult education at Ness Gardens has sent us information about courses and talks that might be of interest. Coming soon...

29th September
Autumn Fruit and Berries - Guided Walk

4th October
Talk from the Estate Manager at Dunham Massey

6th October
Gardening Club

7th October
Magnificent Trees - Guided Walk

The full list can be found on the 'Courses' page of the Ness Gardens website, along with booking details:

Monday 21 September 2009

National Moth Night

On Friday night seventeen intrepid members joined Alan Creaser to trap moths as part of the National Moth Weekend. Around the country about 500 similar events were taking place. Alan told us that although there are now more species of moths being caught, the number of specimens of each has decreased.

Passers-by might have wondered what a circle of people gathered around a bright light and a white sheet were up to in the darkness of a field at Claremont Farm...

The species attracted to the lamp were:

Light Brown Apple Moth
Carpet Moth
Satellite Moth
Large Yellow Underwing
Common Wainscot
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Grey Pine Carpet Moth

Here Alan Creaser and Ed Samuels, Wirral Wildlife's Recording Officer, are trying to identify one of their finds...

Friday 18 September 2009

Irish Sea Advocacy Officer

Sea heart urchin, Echinocardium cordatum. Photo: Wikipedia

The three wildlife trusts of the North West have recently employed an Irish Sea Marine Advocacy Officer, Dr Kathryn Turner. Kathryn says "I have ten years experience as a marine biologist. I ran and am still, the Director of the Fylde Coast Marine Life Project. I have also been a freshwater biologist for the last 15 years and my PhD was on the impacts of invaders on wetland/aquatic systems in the UK. I have taught biology at university level, for children's and adults groups and have a great enthusiasm for our local North West species, who needs tigers when we have octopi and cuttlefish on our doorsteps!

The role of Irish Sea Advocacy Officer is three fold: Firstly to bring together local knowledge about the Irish Sea. This includes talking with our local sea users, making contacts with local authorities, NGO's and other interest groups, locals and businesses and sharing information about what we have and how it’s used.

Secondly, maximising the local wildlife trusts marine expertise and ability to protect marine species and habitats, this by making the best possible use of our current biodiversity work and legislation and by adding marine species to education, campaigning and local training.

Thirdly, as the Marine Bill progresses ensuring that our local highly diverse marine hotspots are highlighted and go forward as marine protected areas and gain the maximum protection possible from the Bill.

I look forward to meeting and working with as many local groups as possible and in providing better protection and knowledge of our fragile marine habitats and species."

Kathryn produces an 'Irish Sea Species of the Month' email which contains fascinating information on marine species. This month it's an echinoderm, the Sea Heart Urchin. Recently thousands have been washed up on Wirral and south Blackpool beaches. If you would like to receive these monthly updates, email Kathryn and ask to be put on her distribution list.

If you, or anyone you know, can help Kathryn in her role, please email her.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Hop, hop, hurray for volunteers

by Paul Loughnane

In August the New Ferry Butterfly Park held its annual barbecue and boules match for park volunteers, Wirral Countryside Volunteers and friends of the park. We were very fortunate this year with good weather and a donation by local brewer Mike McGuigan from Betwixt Brewing Company of a cask of Skyline beer, which added to the conviviality of the barbecue. Mike set up a hand pump so that guests could enjoy having a have a chance to pull their own pint.
Hops. Photo: Wikipedia

Mike took a keen interest in one of our butterfly projects, the growing of hops as a food plant for the comma butterfly larvae. Previous hops we planted back in 1998 turned out to be male plants, so no good for the brewer, but acceptable to the larvae of the comma butterfly. Recently we took some cuttings of female hop from a hedgerow in Wirral. There was no fruit on the vines this year, as they have not built up enough energy reserves to flower and fruit, however they did grow an impressive 1.8 metres.

In future the brewer could collect some of the hop fruits to make a small batch of harvest beer made from fresh hops rather than pelleted hops. This will not effect the butterflies as, at this stage of the season, the larvae will have left the hop plants and the adult butterflies will have emerged, busily feeding on nectar to sustain themselves through the winter hibernation.

The numbers of comma butterflies at the park continue to rise reflecting the national trend. The park has been mentioned in the Cheshire and Peak Butterfly Conservation annual report a number of times as it had a significant number of commas.

Comma Butterfly. Photo:Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Comma butterflies suffered a tremendous decline in number and distribution in the 1910s being restricted to an area of garden hop yards in the Worcester area. It is thought the female butterflies lost their taste for hops but then developed a taste for a botanical relative of the hops, the ubiquitous stinging nettle. Since this change of preference of larval host plant the butterfly has made a great recovery.

We hope some butterflies can change their preference again and make use of hops as sometimes our nettle areas can be subsumed by bindweed. The hops give us some further habitat niches for the butterflies as the hops can climb up and beyond the reach of bindweed to sunnier aspects where they can be of benefit to egg-laying commas.

Year Number of Commas recorded
2003 20
2004 26
2005 29
2006 16
2007 38
2008 36
2009 44

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

Friday 24 July 2009

Memorial orchard

On July 10th, Wirral Wildlife dedicated a new orchard in the walled garden, Central Park, Wallasey to A. Graham Harrison, a former chairman of the group.

Representatives from Wirral Wildlife group welcomed members of the Harrison family to this special occasion.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Watch group at Royden Park

For our July meeting we had an interesting walk around Royden Park and discovered how to identify trees from their leaves and bark. Unlike last month it only rained for the last 15 minutes!

Matt explained how important dead trees are - this one had woodpeckers nesting in it in previous years.

Daniel is making a leafy picture - assisted by Sue.

Luke worked hard too and found somewhere handy to store his collection.

Some members had their Dad as an artistic advisor.

Thanks to Margaret for the photographs.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Bee Orchids at Butterfly Park

News from Paul Loughnane...

New Ferry Butterfly Park has had record numbers of visitors this year. Through the seasons the grassland species change. Initially on the lime grassland there was a host of golden cowslips heralding spring. These have now given way to some more unusual plants.

These are bee orchids, rather strange plants that give the striking illusion of a bumble bee nectaring on a pink flower. These plants are essentially a Mediterranean type plant, however they are expanding northwards.

Charles Darwin noticed that insects rarely visited bee orchids. Who would want to muscle in on a bumble bee? So why did they evolve into these bee shape flowers? These plants use bee-like scents instead of nectar to attract a pollinating bee to visit the flowers. Unfortunately for the bee orchid this species of solitary bee does not exist in Britain. So after all this show of flower and frustratingly no visitation from a pollinator, they go for the self pollinating approach. These bee mimics flower for a short time and disappear by the end of June.

More information about the Butterfly Park and its opening times can be found on our website.

Monday 22 June 2009

Sue's seagulls

Here are some photos from Sue, one of our Watch helpers...

This year there are 2 herring gull families on the top of Mount Pleasant car park (near the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool). Not sure if they are the same parents as last year but there are 3 chicks in the same lamp as last year.

Another pair also chose the car park roof as home to bring up their family of 3 chicks. The nest is situated behind 2 large bales of cable and the parents make sure the chicks are behind these when anyone comes close. Therefore, it's not easy to catch them all on camera but I thought you might be interested to see the photos.