Saturday 30 July 2016

Balsam Bashing

Himalayan Balsam. Photo: ceridwen

Many of you will know, over the past years there has been a concerted effort to control the Himalayan balsam in Thornton Woods nature reserve, through which Clatter Brook runs before joining the River Dibbin. This year a wider area has been tackled.

Over the past 3 years there has been a decrease in its density, and we have been able to clear the whole of the wood and the top wood west of the M53. Alas one cannot find every single plant and so they will grow and seed. This work has been carried out by day and evening tasks by Wirral Conservation Volunteers and work parties organised by the Wildlife Trust. Thornton Brook which runs through Foxes Wood is looked after by Tom. Further down the Dibbin is Dibbinsdale nature reserve where the Friends of Dibbinsdale volunteers and Alan the ranger have been doing their bit there. However, for successful control you need to go upstream as far as possible to get to, or close to the source, as the seeds are mainly carried by water.

This year we have forged upsteam of Thornton Woods for the first time for a few years. We gained permission from Wirral Hospitals Trust to go into the Clatterbridge Hospital grounds and clear the brook before it is culverted under the buildings. We did find some isolated plants there. We then tried to identify from maps and a site visit where the brook emerges from the Northern boundary of the hospital grounds to go across the fields in a small valley/ ditch towards Brimstage. This was complicated by the fact there are two brooks marked on the map, but we could only find one at the hospital. Anyway then we asked for and got permission from Leverhulme Estates to walk this stretch of the brook. We expected to be able to to walk and deal with any balsam between Brimstage and the hospital in a morning. Unfortunately heavy balsam growth and chocking vegetation in the deep ditch here impeded progress somewhat. It took over an hour and we were not even halfway to the hospital. We did not realise the course of the brook at this point narrows to a deep ditch in places. We need to go back in the winter to do a further survey of the brook, and find other access points. The main point is we are now pushing up upstream on the Clatter, which should in the future make things easier for control in the reserves downstream. We are getting to the end of the balsam pulling season as lot of it is flowering now.

Tim Gannicliffe

Friday 29 July 2016

Raising The Green Flag

The Butterfly Park has been awarded the Green Flag award again this year. The scheme, managed by Keep Britain Tidy, gives recognition to the best parks and green spaces in the country. Sites are assessed according to strict criteria, such as conservation and heritage, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.

Here are some photos showing volunteers from Scottish Power raising the flag at the Park.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Butterfly Park Pond Restored!

Yesterday saw the pond at New Ferry Butterfly Park repaired, replanted and restored. Here are some photos of all the hard work...

Installing the dipping edge and getting it properly flat, and cementing it in place. This is better than it has ever been!

Cleaning up - pond water is mucky, smelly stuff...

Putting some oxygenating plants back in, for the creatures in the water
- including many newts...

Our very best thanks and lots of appreciation to Scottish Power for their tremendous work.

Also thanks to Ian Jones for arranging the day. And Tim, Howard, Steve Y and Steve L for working alongside the volunteers, advising them - and making sure there was plenty of tea on offer!

The Fire and Rescue came at 4.30 p.m. to fill the pond, decided to do it straight away, got called to an emergency, and came back an hour later to finish! Thank you very much Merseyside Fire and Rescue, and Steve Niblock for arranging their help.

The fire engines arrive...

The water goes in...

A full pond...

All quiet - time for the pond creatures to recover...

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Summer Sundays at Port Sunlight River Park

Summer Sundays and School Holiday Events
Sundays 31st July, 7th August, 21st August and 28th August
1 - 4 p.m.

Family Friendly activities and refreshments.
Meet at the site office, Mersey View Picnic Area, CH62 4LN.

For a full list of events at the River Park, see their Facebook page:

Butterfly Park Pond Restoration

The photo above shows the pond at New Ferry Butterfly Park, with a very low water-level because of a leak. Yesterday Tim, Steve and Pete stripped the edge vegetation and moved it to the ditch, for re-planting later. They also took the opportunity to remove some unwelcome colonists - willow, reedmace and sweet flag. The picture below shows them hard at work.

A group of volunteers from Scottish Power arrived this morning to empty the pond, remove the old liner and install a new one! We are immensely grateful for their help on this large task. No doubt the newts, water boatmen, pond snails, dragonflies, caddis flies and all the other minibeasts of the pond will also be happy to have their home back to its normal size once the pond is re-filled.

More pictures coming soon!

Sunday 17 July 2016

Wading In For Wildlife

Michael Thorpe and Tim Ganniclife catching
invertebrates in the water. Photo: Ron Warne

We don't often feature photos of our recording team in action, but here is one of a survey in Clatter Brook, where it flows through our Thornton Wood nature reserve. Michael and Tim are catching and identifying invertebrates - which necessitates getting IN the stream. Fortunately not all our surveyors have to get that wet - though this summer, everyone has got damp regularly, even the botanists.

Dr Hilary Ash, Honorary Conservation Officer, Wirral Wildlife

Phil Spots An Emperor

Wirral Wildlife survey team have just started a detailed botanical survey of Cleaver Heath nature reserve, which is part of Heswall Dales SSSI. Sharp-eyed Phil Starkey spotted this striking caterpillar, which Matt Wallace confirmed as an Emperor Moth. He says it is a valuable record, as the last one for Wirral in the National Biodiversity Network database is from 1998. So keep an eye out if visiting Wirral's heathland sites this summer and see if you can spot any more.

Dr Hilary Ash, Honorary Conservation Officer, Wirral Wildlife

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Ban Driven Grouse Shooting Petition

Red Grouse. Photo: Lostajv, Wikipedia

Wirral Wildlife member Marc Parry has asked if we could publicise Mark Avery's petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

Grouse shooting depends on intensive habitat management which increases flood risk and greenhouse gas emissions, relies on killing Foxes, Stoats, Mountain Hares etc in large numbers and often leads to the deliberate illegal killing of protected birds of prey including Hen Harriers.

Driven grouse shooting uses animals for live target practice, with thousands killed every day. Native predators are killed because they eat Red Grouse. Mountain Hares are killed because they carry ticks that can spread diseases to grouse. Heather is burned to increase Red Grouse numbers for shooting. Grouse shooting is economically, ecologically and socially unnecessary. This is 'canned hunting'.

Although moorland intensively managed for grouse hunting is not found on the Wirral, as Marc Parry says: "Imagine if the Thurstaston Common heathland was burned regularly by its owners, drained with ditches, all predators killed (including birds of prey) and their nests destroyed. And everyone's water quality was spoiled as a result, and half of you got flooded out of your homes regularly too. That's the situation round grouse moors. And all so a few of the lets-kill-animals-for-fun brigade can indulge their blood lust, and investors can make a fortune."

Mark Avery is an author, campaigner and former Head of Conservation for the RSPB and has written about the issue on his blog:

You can sign the petition here:

New Zealand Flatworm Survey

Can you help to record the distribution of non – native New Zealand flatworms?

They were first recorded in the UK in Belfast in 1963 and near Edinburgh in 1965. They feed on earthworms and it is feared they could reduce earthworm populations and affect soil structure. The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network, led by Imperial College, London is running the survey along with the James Hutton Institute and University of Aberdeen.

To participate you need to do a 10 minute survey, looking under wood, stones and plastic for the flatworms. Details are given on the survey sheets shown above, which you can download:

It is just as important to record where the flatworms are not found in order to build up a picture of their distribution.

Monday 4 July 2016

Open Garden at Fieldcrest

Paul Wallington has kindly sent us some photographs that he took at Fieldcrest on June 19th, when the Gardens were open to raise funds for Cheshire Wildlife Trust.