Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Autumn 2019 at Cleaver Heath


Cleaver Heath in November (above) and August (below)

I recently got back from a trip to South America where spring was in progress. Further north in the tropics, the ‘seasons’ were described as simply rainy or dry. Returning to Cleaver I was reassured that normal service had resumed and autumn colours were starting to show. Above is a comparison of our reserve in August and November.

You will know that our native broadleaf trees turn off photosynthesis in autumn losing their green colour and preserve energy by absorbing nutrients back down from the leaves. Below (left) is an oak sapling in Cleaver in the transition phase where the leaf is yellowing while the leaf veins are still green as the chlorophyll drains back. Now that the predominant fluid flow is down rather than up, we can carry out our glyphosate stump treatment more effectively. The glyphosate is colourless but we add a blue dye to make sure we can see what has been done and also reduce the trip hazard (below right).

Oak leaves (left) and stump treatment (right)

The last Oldfield swallows left on 22 September just a few days earlier usual. I saw 2 Chiffchaff in Cleaver on 14 September. One of them was actually singing and continued to do so for a few more days. In autumn, Wirral sees quite few birds on passage back to warmer climes while the first of the winter visitors start to arrive. We had a couple of Redwings in our rowan tree as early as 9 October this year.

Spotted flycatcher

Local resident Frank Burns, whose garden backs on to Cleaver, was lucky enough to spot, and photograph, this Spotted Flycatcher in late September (above). It stayed a couple of days and then, presumably, continued its journey south suitably refuelled with Cleaver insects. Frank was able to observe, from his kitchen window, the typical flycatcher behaviour where the bird darts off following an unseen prey then loops round back onto its chosen perch.

As well as plentiful insects, we have been seeing lots of spiders tending their webs in the heather. These are most visible in the morning when the low sun and moisture make them stand out. As well as the traditional spiral webs (below left) we saw lots of ‘sheet’ or ‘hammock’ webs (below right).

Spider webs

Sometime this winter, we hope to get access to a list of the invertebrates found on Cleaver during a series of visits this summer by colleagues from the World Museum (Liverpool). The sightings are being logged in the rECOrd biological database at www.record-lrc.co.uk. It should be interesting.

We are being visited soon by a reptile expert who is going to advise us on reptile conservation and survey techniques. As far as we know our only resident reptile is the Common Lizard. Larger lowland heath sites also have Adders. We don’t know of any recent sightings on Wirral.

On the subject of surveys, we duly completed our 26-week transect survey from Cleaver to Church Farm. The summary which went to Butterfly Conservation along with our data said:
‘This 2km transect, which is mainly along farmland footpaths, yielded similar numbers overall to last year with a few anomalies: Painted Ladies (70 this year, none last year); fewer whites particularly the early ones, and especially the Large Whites; many fewer Common Blues; Commas and Small Skippers were down: Red Admirals and Speckled Woods were up. The overall species count (17) was typical. We didn’t see anything we hadn’t seen before.’

Workday at Cleaver Heath

We have now had 3 formal Autumn/Winter workdays in the 2019-20 session. Birch control on the upper heathland panels is now complete and we took the opportunity to extend the stoning on the main path using the spanking new wheelbarrow provided by the trust (above). There is always something to do no matter the weather. In this case we were waiting to be sure the rain would clear to allow stump cutting to go ahead. There is little point in cutting if you don’t treat the stumps more or less straight away, or if the rain is about to return and wash it out.

As well as continuing birch control in the lower panel, our next sessions will include coppicing of the tallest birch saplings in our designated scrub area and European gorse in the main stand between heathland panels. Oh, and we still haven’t cleaned our nesting boxes. We certainly need to get on with the Tawny Owl box as these early nesters will soon be scouting for accommodation.

Birch Milkcap (Lactarius tabidus)

Fungi are present all year round in woodland and an essential part of the ecosystem but it is in autumn that we tend to be more aware of them via their fruiting bodies. One of our local volunteers is particularly interested in fungi and we have been drawing on his expertise to log what is present in Cleaver. At the latest count, some 15 species have been identified. In last year’s Autumn Newsletter, I was able to highlight quite an array of colourful fungi all showing well. There were Fly Agaric (the spotty red poisonous ones) everywhere. This year, I don’t recall seeing a single Fly Agaric here or in Heswall Dales. Presumably the state of the ground plays a role. We had quite dry conditions in the summer and now quite a bit of water-logging in the reserve. Nevertheless there are many interesting fungi to look for including this Birch Milkcap (Lactarius tabidus) photographed by Gianfranco Uli (above). Note the latex dripping from the damaged gills. The milky substance gives rise to its name.

Cleaver Heath entrance

Alan Irving
Volunteer Reserve Warden for CWT
Cleaver Heath
November 2019

Saturday, 9 November 2019

What’s On In Cheshire This Winter




Wild Question Time

Friday 15th November 2019, 5:30pm
Parkgate Road, University of Chester

Are you aged between 16-25 and want to speak up for the environment?! Come along to our Wild Question Time!

On Friday 15th November, Cheshire Wildlife Trust are hosting a Wild Question Time with the University of Chester. This is for anyone aged 16-25 who wants to be part of the environmental debate. Our panel will include councillors, parliamentary candidates and sitting MPs from parties across the political spectrum. This is your chance to ask your political leaders specific questions about our natural world and hear what they are going to do to put nature into recovery.

Cost: Free, however donations to the charity are always welcome




Annual General Meeting, followed by Eric Thurston Memorial Science Forum

Saturday 16th November 2019, 10:00am - 3:00pm
Ness Botanic Gardens, Ness

Are you a member of Cheshire Wildlife Trust? Would you like to hear about our achievements this year, plans for the year going forward and to have your say on how we are governed? Well join us for our AGM within the beautiful surroundings of Ness Botanic Gardens.

This year's AGM will be followed by our Eric Thurston Memorial Science Forum, where you can hear from the researchers we're working with about their findings of the local state of nature in the North West.

Cost: Free without lunch or £8 with lunch included




Searching for rare mossland spiders by Richard Gallon

Wednesday 20th November 2019, 8:00pm - 10:00pm

Nantwich Methodist Church, Nantwich

Join South Group local group for their monthly winter talk.

Cost: £3 on the door

No booking required



The birds and insects of Gowy Meadows

Friday 6th December 2019, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Holly Bank House, Thornton-le-Moors

The wildlife of Gowy Meadows Nature Reserve changes dramatically throughout the seasons, from wintering waders and water birds, to breeding warblers and a diverse insect life. Join naturalist and site surveyor Steve Holmes as he looks through some highlights from every month of the year. Whether you're planning a trip to Gowy Meadows or wonder what you've missed, this is essential listening to really get the most from the reserve.

Cost: £5 per adult, £4 per adult for members



Family events this November and December


Family Forest School

Family Forest School is an event for all the family. Activities may include den building, fire lighting, exploring the woodlands wildlife, environmental art, games and free play.
(Not suitable for children aged under four years old - take a look at our Nature Tots sessions below.)

Saturday 9th November 2019, 10:30am - 12:30pm

Sunday 17th November 2019, 10:30am - 12:30pm

Cost: Free thanks to players of the People's Postcode Lottery

Booking essential for both sessions.



Nature Tots

Nature Tots is our toddler group aimed at encouraging pre-school children, aged 2-4, to gain a love for nature and wildlife. Join us for lots of different activities; hunt for mini-beasts, play games, search for twigs, leaves, seeds and make natural crafts to take home, listen to stories and have lots of fun exploring.

Nature Tots at Spud Wood, Warrington

Wednesdays 13th, 20th and 27th November and 4th and 11th December, 10:00am - 11:30am

Cost: Free thanks to players of the People's Postcode Lottery

Booking essential each week


Nature Tots at Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington

Thursdays 14th, 21st and 28th November and 5th and 12th December, 10:00am - 11:30am
Cost: Free thanks to players of the People's Postcode Lottery

Booking essential each week


Six weekly sessions, starts Tuesday 5th November, 10:00am - 11:30am

Cost: £30 per child or £24 for members, for all six sessions


Friday, 1 November 2019

A Light In The Dark


Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s latest newsletter shares some fascinating facts about fungi.

Mycena chlorophus

Imagine taking an evening autumn stroll through your local woodland, crunching over the crispy fallen leaves and watching the light slowly fade. Something catches your eye in the now dark surroundings, a dim light, almost like a comforting bedside night light. The closer you get the more obvious it becomes that the small glowing hummocks are in fact fungi.

Bioluminescent fungi are fungi that, incredibly, glow in the dark. There are around 80 species worldwide that produce the fairy-like luminosity which has caught many a dreamer’s imagination. Mark Twain even noted the phenomenon in his book,The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, writing, "Rotten chunks that’s called ‘Foxfire’ that just makes a soft kind of glow when you lay them in a dark place."

Foxfire, is just one of the many words through the ages that has been used to describe the glowing fungi. The bioluminescence emitted has also been mistaken for strange fixations such as a ghostly presence or fairy light.

So what is it about certain species of fungi that makes them glow? Well, it’s caused by a chemical reaction between oxygen and the compound luciferin in the presence of an enzyme. This results in the formation of oxidized luciferin (oxyluciferin), which when it decomposes, gives off light. The bioluminescence of fungi is produced without heat and still glows in the daylight - it’s just not easy to see. The luciferin found in fungi of this kind is actually the same compound that is found within glow worms and those deep sea curiosities we watch on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet.

Sulphur tuft

Why would fungi glow?

There have been many debates as to the reason. Some argue it is to attract more insects to carry off their spores; some say it’s just an unusual by-product of fungal metabolism. Whatever the reason it’s been supplying us with endless entertainment for years and even sometimes been put to use. It’s been said that the soldiers in the WWI trenches fixed bits of rotten wood to their helmets to guide their way in the dark.

The luminescent species we have in the UK include the likes of Sulphur tuft (above) and Mycena chlorophus (top). They don’t however give off as much light as some species overseas. In the United states, Omphalotus illudens' ability to glow in the dark has given it its common name of Jack O’Lantern.

So, you now know it’s not all doom and gloom in the decaying world of fungi - there is always a light in the dark to be found.

Fungi detective

Be a fungi detective

Autumn is the perfect time of year to get out there and look for fungi. Use our above guide to help you ID some of the most common species.

Don't know where to begin? Our nature reserves are a great place to start the search:


Let us know what you find and where by sharing your pictures with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Charity Spectacular at Gordale


Have an evening at Gordale Garden Centre and help raise money for Cheshire Wildlife Trust.


Monday 11th November

6 – 9 pm

Gordale Garden Centre, Chester High Road, Burton, CH64 8TF

£6 (£3 from every ticket sold goes to charity)

Tickets available at Gordale or from the Cheshire Wildlife Trust website:

Ticket includes a welcome drink and nibbles, food tasting, musical entertainment, live demonstrations.

Also enjoy a 15% discount on all purchases sold during the evening.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Thank You Ed and John



At our recent AGM two committee members retired. We will miss them both as they have made significant contributions to the group and for wildlife in Wirral.

Ed (on the left) and John received Thank You certificates from Cheshire Wildlife Trust.


Dr John Gill

John has been our Treasurer for the last 19 years. He has not only kept excellent accounts but has always taken a full and active part in our affairs, from helping remove invasive rhododendron and coppicing hazel to participating in events such as Ness Children’s Day, Apple Day, Walks, Events and Talks. His skills at proof reading were much appreciated when we produced our paper and online newsletters and he would always scrutinise our draft papers and propose wise and thoughtful amendments. John’s abilities as a photographer have helped us keep a good record of our activities such as New Ferry Butterfly Park Open Day and Apple Days. John has completed the Wirral Coastal Walk on 15 occasions, each time raising considerable donations for Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Each year he devises a brain-teasing cryptic quiz – look on our website or buy a copy at our next talk – and has promised to continue with this tradition.



Dr Edwin Samuels

Ed, who is a skilled botanist and bird watcher, spent his final pre-retirement year from Unilever at Cheshire Wildlife Trust so it was perhaps inevitable that he would find a role with Wirral Wildlife. On his retirement he took up Recording for Wirral Wildlife and for over ten years he has organised all our vital Recording work. For decades Ed has been a recorder of Wetland Birds and undertaken monthly counts of wintering birds on our estuaries and wetlands. He is also a Licenced Ringer and completed a long running study of breeding birds in a Welsh Woodland. As well as completing such painstaking work Ed has been a keen helper at our Apple Days and knows the intricacies of our mincer and apple press, even creating a modification to make it safer for children to help with the machinery. Ed has made an invaluable contribution for which we are all most grateful. It says much for his contribution that we have replaced him with two people.


Ed (wearing the hat) with the apple pressing equipment.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Out In All Weathers



Recording flora and fauna on our Reserves and other local sites is a vital part of the work of Wirral Wildlife.

Whatever the weather our Recorders will be there at the appointed time.

The photo above shows some very wet volunteers doing the annual survey of the fixed quadrats at Thurstaston Common - inspected by some equally wet Galloway heifers.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Monitoring Wildlife at Chester Zoo Nature Reserve




RECORD are holding another Wildlife Exchange Session at Chester Zoo this month.

Book your place on eventbrite here

Wednesday 30th October
7-9 pm
Cedar House, Chester Zoo

Come and find out about the regular wildlife monitoring that happens each year at the Chester Zoo Nature Reserve, and discover how you can get involved. Sarah Bird, Chester Zoo’s Biodiversity Officer will lead the session, with Eric Fletcher, RECORD Manager, telling us about the wildlife highlights.

In the last 3 years Andy Jennings-Giles has developed a range of systematic monitoring methods for various species groups, to help us to understand how wildlife is changing on the reserve. We now need volunteers to help with this monitoring. Whether you want to help with regular recording or just drop in now and then, its all valuable data and we want to know what you see. We will describe the monitoring techniques, and explain how RECORD can support you to help us, and develop your own wildlife identification skills too.

These evenings provide an opportunity for wildlife recorders, conservationists and anyone with an interest in local wildlife to get together in a relaxed environment and find out about our natural environment and how it is changing. The ‘exchange’ sessions also allow sharing of ideas, knowledge, experience and views on Cheshire’s natural history and how we can monitor and conserve it.

Tea/coffee and snacks will be provided.

Hosted by RECORD and Chester Zoo.

Please note photos may be taken at this event for use in RECORD publications.

If you would like to sign up to the RECORD mailing list to hear about future events please click here

Kind regards,
The RECORD Team
Tel: 01244 383749
RECORD LRC, Cedar House, Chester Zoo, Caughall Road, Upton, CH2 1LH.
WWW.RECORD-LRC.CO.UK

Friday, 6 September 2019

Wildlife Exchange Session


Here is information about this month’s RECORD event, held at Chester Zoo.

Meadow and Hedgerow

We would like to invite you to our upcoming Wildlife Exchange Session, book your place on eventbrite here.

Join us on our September Wildlife Exchange Session as we welcome back Dr Hilary Ash, who will take us through the whys and wherefores of hedgerow recording; detailing how recording hedges can make a vital contribution to conservation. Not only does hedgerow recording identify important habitats within our landscape, but it ensures these wildlife-rich havens are conserved.

Hedges perform vital functions within our environment, from preventing soil erosion, retaining livestock and providing valuable connectivity for wildlife to commute into the wider environment. However, if you’ll excuse the pun, our hedges are often overlooked and underappreciated! In 1946 the UK had an estimated 500,000 miles of hedgerow, over half of which was lost by 1993; when only 236,000 miles remained (figures from PTES).

Join us to find out how you can get involved in hedgerow recording and help prevent further loss of these important wildlife highways.

These evenings provide an opportunity for wildlife recorders, conservationists and anyone with an interest in local wildlife to get together in a relaxed environment and find out about our natural environment and how it is changing. The ‘exchange’ sessions also allow sharing of ideas, knowledge, experience and views on Cheshire’s natural history and how we can monitor and conserve it.

Tea/coffee and snacks will be provided.
Hosted by RECORD and Chester Zoo.

Please note photos may be taken at this event for use in RECORD publications.

If you would like to sign up to the RECORD mailing list to hear about future events please click here

Kind regards,
The RECORD Team
Tel: 01244 383749
RECORD LRC, Cedar House, Chester Zoo, Caughall Road, Upton, CH2 1LH.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

‘Trees In A Changing Climate’ conference



‘Trees In A Changing Climate’

Saturday 19th October
from 10 a.m.

Birkenhead Town Hall

£15

A conference for Tree Wardens, Friends of Parks Groups, Tree Officers, Councillors, Council officers and staff, volunteers and workers in Wildlife, Biodiversity and environmental groups.

An opportunity to network and provide commentary on issues relevant to realistic long-term and strategic planning for trees in the North of England. The new Wirral Borough Council collaborative Tree Strategy will be unveiled as an example of work-in hand, linked to Climate Change Strategies.

Book your ticket here:

As the Tree Council are hosting the meeting, there will be a cadre of Tree Wardens, but we are keen to say that the meeting is for everyone who wants a tree strategy for Wirral and is keen to get involved with the Wirral Tree Strategy, and management of trees in your local areas.  So if you can help get the word out as widely as possible, that would be great.

Wirral Council has also made a climate change statement and are looking across the Council to explore how this statement will affect and influence the working of the Council. The Tree Strategy is a Council wide strategy, cutting across all departments and teams.

If anyone who will be attending the event can help out on the day, please contact Helen Ellis (helen.ellis@mac.com) as she is one of the key organisers of the day at Birkenhead Town Hall.