Tuesday 28 June 2016

Take Part in the Big Garden Bee Count

White Tailed Bumblebee. Photo: Penny Frith

Cheshire Wildlife Trust is calling on local people to create a buzz next month and help build a picture of the status of the bumblebee in Cheshire.

The conservation charity has teamed up with RECORD, the local Biological Records Centre, which is producing a bumblebee distribution atlas for Cheshire, and wants you to record your sightings.

Charlotte Harris, Chief Executive, explains: "Bees and other pollinators such as moths and butterflies have lost much of their habitat in the past 60 years, including a staggering 97 per cent of wildflower meadows. They’re also under fire from pesticides, habitat loss, intensive agriculture and climate change.

"As the local Wildlife Trust for Cheshire, Halton, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Warrington and Wirral we’re ideally positioned to take practical action to help them across the local area and we already do lots of work across our reserves to restore and improve habitat for these vital species. But we want to do more, which is why we're taking the first steps of a long-term pollinator campaign so that we can help these vital insects for years to come.

"To do that we need to understand the bigger picture so this year we've teamed up with RECORD which is working with Carl Clee, the Cheshire County Aculeate Hymenoptera Recorder, to produce a bumblebee atlas for Cheshire.

"Once we know exactly what the picture is like for bees in Cheshire, we can plan how we can best manage our own reserves for these amazing pollinators and identify areas where we can join up the gaps to create 'bee roads' for pollinators across the county."

On Sunday, July 17th, the Trust wants as many people as possible to take part in its first Big Garden Bee Count and to report what type of bees they see on this day.

Tony Parker, Chair of RECORD, said: "Don't worry if you don't know a honeybee from a bumblebee, Carl Clee has produced some handy bee identification sheets to help. Sending sightings is simple. The team at RECORD just needs to know what you've seen, where, and when."

Identification sheets can be downloaded from www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/beescount where you'll also find a link to a special online form to send your sightings.

You don't have to wait until July 17th to send your findings, RECORD is already collecting data, and you can continue submitting sightings until the end of September.

Monday 27 June 2016

Have You Got Time To Help?

Our stall at Gardener's Question Time held at Ness Gardens in 2013

Wirral Wildlife maintains several local nature reserves. You may not be keen to get your hands dirty doing practical tasks but you could still provide invaluable support to our group, either by fundraising and running children's activities at local events or helping to keep New Ferry Butterfly Park open to the public, as explained below.

Wirral Wildlife take stalls at some local events in July, August and September. We publicise the work of Cheshire Wildlife Trust and Wirral Wildlife and raise funds by selling pocket-money toys and plants. We also provide children’s craft activities. This needs several people to transport, set up and staff. Volunteers are needed to help with this and in addition we would love someone to volunteer to co-ordinate these events. If you think you could help in either of these ways please email us or telephone Linda on 0151 342 1395.

New Ferry Butterfly Park
The Park continues to be very busy and we could do with a few more voluntary wardens on Sunday afternoons, either 12 – 2 p.m. or 2 – 4 p.m. No particular knowledge is needed – just a willingness to help keep this nature reserve open to the public on Sunday afternoons. New volunteers are paired up with two experienced volunteers for a couple of sessions to see what we do. For more information please email us or telephone Linda on 0151 342 1395.

Sunday 26 June 2016

A Tricolour of Spring Flowers

Bluebell, Celandine and Wood Anemone
at Dibbinsdale. Photo: Paul Loughnane

Flora Locale, a national education charity whose aim is to promote and advance the conservation and enhancement of native wild plant populations and plant communities, hosted a course on “Managing Woodlands for Ground Flora”. It was on my door step, Bromborough, Wirral. How could I not go? I asked Natural Futures would they sponsor the cost of my attendance, which they were pleased to do.

The course facilitators were Dr Phil Putwain, ecological consultant and Dr Hilary Ash, Wirral Wildlife. There was an initial hour background talk at Dibbinsdale Visitor Centre on ancient woodlands and the different classes of ancient woodland plant  indicator species, classes I to IV, within the Cheshire County context. It is a situation that is not static as previous ancient woodland indicators for example pendulous sedge, either by hybridisation from garden centre supplies or milder winters, are now considered invasive. Milder winters also mean that ivy, holly, bramble and yew are all more competitive, possibly future problem species! Woods are now the darkest they have been for 5,000 years. The hazel coppice regime of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Thornton Wood was highlighted in how it had benefited the ground flora by nutrient cropping.

Hilary Ash, explaining how to distinguish a
native black poplar from other black poplars.
Photo: Paul Loughnane

They then discussed how there been many successful tree planting schemes but they have often resulted in “boring” ground flora, as nettles and brambles have colonised the areas due to high phosphate and nitrogen levels in the soil. A good ground flora makes the woods more attractive and provides additional pollinator space. Woodlands are similar to wild flower grasslands in that reducing the nutrient status of the soil, especially phosphate, is the key to an attractive ground flora. The removal of the nutrient rich top soil prior to planting would be a good start and reduce the competition to new saplings.

Then into the field where nature led the discussion. Hilary has visited Dibbinsdale Woods for over thirty years, so knew exactly where isolated clumps of sanicle, barren strawberry and hairy woodrush could be found. Hilary was able to bring alive biological distinctions between species which are not readily appreciated by technical botanical descriptions, but easily understood in the field with actual samples to hand.

The party walked past the Trust’s own reserve, Patrick’s Wood, a non-intervention woodland as it is too difficult to access. Interestingly it has a calcareous spring from an undetermined geological source. Walking through Otter's Tunnel you could see the calcium deposits accumulating in the tunnel’s ceiling. On to Marford's Wood, part of Dibbinsdale SSSI and owned by the Poulton Lancelyn Estate. This was tremendous with tricolours of blue, white and yellow - bluebell, wood anemone and celandine flowers, roughly a third of each. Inspirational. Just to think I became excited earlier this spring to see a single flowering wood anemone which had appeared in Heavy Oak Coppice, Thornton Wood. Here in Marfords Wood the anemone grow in extensive carpets.

Please look at www.floralocale.org for further information on interesting courses.

Paul Loughnane
Honorary Reserve Warden Thornton Wood

Friday 10 June 2016

The Geology of Thurstaston Shore

On Saturday 21st May around eighty people came to Thurstaston for a guided geology walk presented by Hilary Davies of Liverpool Geological Society.

She provided a fascinating overview of the impact of glaciation on the Dee and Mersey Estuaries and explained how the ice sheets, when coming south, had been diverted eastward by the Welsh Mountains and had carved deep valleys as they moved inland. Apart from the visible sandstone outcrops in Wirral such as Thurstaston Hill the rest of the Peninsular is covered by glacial deposits of boulder clay – now called till. It is impermeable and so enables water courses to exist, such as the Arrowe Brook, Birkett, Dibbinsdale Brook and Fender.

We next walked along the beach and collected specimens of rock which were given to Hilary for comment. She detailed their individual geological age and history as igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary and told us of the locations from which the glacier had collected them, some from N.W. Scotland. Some samples demonstrated striation in which they had been scraped along rock whilst being gripped in the ice. Others showed where rock had been stressed and fractured allowing other quartz and minerals to enter in water and later to solidify. Even the rock armour forming the new sea defences below Dee Sailing Club revealed remarkable minerals and fossils and gave insight into the geology of North Wales from whence they had come.

We were treated to an inspirational presentation delivered with great clarity and detailed explanations and all in fine weather.

Stephen Ross