Monday, 30 March 2020

RECORD My Patch


RECORD have launched a new campaign called ‘My Patch’ and would love you to join in…



We’re challenging you to keep enjoying nature, whilst staying at home. Explore your garden and appreciate the amazing diversity of wildlife found there. We’re aiming to gain an insight into the species found across Cheshire’s garden habitats and would love you to join us through recording the wildlife you see in your patch.


Throughout the next few weeks we’ll show you how easy it is for ANYONE to contribute to conservation through biological recording at home. Gardens provide crucial habitat for many of our, often threatened, UK species. Yet these mini-ecosystems right on our doorstep are often ignored when it comes to wildlife recording. The more we understand about what lives there, the better we can help and protect it.

Each week, we’ll share tips, guides, resources and activities for all ages to get involved with. This is all about working together (whilst keeping apart) to get as many good quality biological records as we can whilst having fun and enjoying the outdoors.

Please remember to follow government advice at all times whilst recording wildlife.

Follow us on social media keep an eye on your emails to stay up to date.



How Do We Join In?

Upload your garden wildlife records to our new iNaturalist Page

We'll be uploading resources and useful links to this page on our website.

Where you can, we'd love you to share our posts, news etc. about the campaign with your contacts and encourage as many people as possible to get involved. You can also post your own sightings with the hashtag #MyPatch to help spread the word and share with others what you've been up to.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Wildlife-Friendly Gardening Notes


In these unsettling times you may be able to spend more time in your garden. Why not make it more wildlife friendly with these tips from Dr Hilary Ash.

White-faced darter dragonfly. Photo: John Balcombe


Peat

Have you bought your potting compost for spring sowings? Remember to buy only bags labelled “peat-free”. Peat bogs are marvellous places. They store lots of carbon, indefinitely. They store rainwater, lessening flooding downstream. And they support some unusual wildlife such as sundew and butterwort, both insect-eating plants. Ponds in peat support white-faced darter dragonflies, which Cheshire Wildlife Trust recently re-introduced to Delamere. Digging up peat releases all that stored carbon and water, as well as destroying the wildlife. So only buy compost labelled as “peat-free” – these days compost is just as good as peat-based brands. And if you buy plants, ask for ones grown in peat-free compost.


Bumblebee on pussy willow catkins. Photo: Linda Moving Ahead, Flickr


Pollen and Nectar – Spring

Insects coming out of hibernation need food. For many that food is nectar for energy and pollen for protein to make their eggs and feed their young. Look around your garden and neighbourhood: are there flowers around to supply their food? If not, maybe you could plant suitable flowers in your garden. Good early spring ones are pussy willow, creeping comfrey and bulbs such as daffodils. Follow on with primroses and cowslips, tree and soft fruit, and spring-flowering shrubs such as hawthorn and cotoneasters. Remember to avoid double flowered varieties, which often lack pollen.


Cocksfoot grass. Photo: Ian Alexander, obsessedbynature.com


Shelter

Our climate is famously variable. Most invertebrates need somewhere to hibernate in winter. Even in June a wet day can mean butterflies, bees, hoverflies and other creatures need somewhere to hide from the rain. Look round your garden – are there places to shelter? Maybe a dense hedge or group of shrubs, a loose pile of large stones or bricks, or a”log-pile” of larger prunings. Dead leaves heaped in a corner are useful to some species, as are tussocks of unmown grasses such as cocksfoot. If space is limited, how about an evergreen climber up a wall or fence.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Bridging The Gap


Bridging the gap between Heavy Oak and Lamperloons Coppices. Photo: Fiona Megarrell

Fiona Magerrell, Living Landscapes Officer North, Cheshire Wildlife Trust and her volunteer team bridged the gap between Heavy Oak Coppice and Lamperloons Coppice in Thornton Wood. The bridge will make it easier to get into the coppice with tools and also will make it easier to extract the coppiced crop of hedge stakes from the coppices.

Last time Lamperloons Coppice was cut, in the autumn of 2018, 464 hedge stakes were harvested. That is nearly 30 times we had to cross the ditch with the hedging stakes and finally with our tools. The bridge, made from reclaimed recycled plastic, will make it much safer and easier to cross. It will also be much easier for visitors when giving a guided tour around the wood. The next guided tour to view the ancient woodland flora is on Saturday 25th April at 2pm. This bridge was funded by money raised by the Wirral Wildlife Group, so please keep on coming to our excellent talks and buying raffle tickets!

Monday, 2 March 2020

Nature's Wild Drummers


We are sharing Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s newsletter about woodpeckers.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Did you know while our resident songbirds like the robin, great tit, chaffinch, wren and blackbird sing the melody, it's our woodpeckers that bring the rhythm. And it's this time of year when the great spotted woodpecker and their smaller, rarer cousin, the lesser spotted woodpecker can be heard drumming their beaks against trees or other hard surfaces; excavating holes for nests and food.

We have three species in the UK: the great spotted woodpecker, the green woodpecker and the lesser spotted woodpecker.


Built-in shock absorbers

So how can woodpeckers drum their beaks against a tree over and over again without hurting themselves? The answer lies inside its head. The bones of the woodpecker’s skull are a durable combination of spongy ‘shock absorbers’ and a specially-adapted tongue bone that acts as a ‘seat belt’. This holds the brain tightly in place while they drum with impressive force in bursts of up to 20 times per second!

Both males and females ‘drum’ for food, but the male also uses it a way of proclaiming his territory and to advertise for a mate.


Super feet

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Most birds have four 'toes' with three that face forwards and one that faces backwards to help them cling to branches. Woodpeckers like to do things a little differently. Instead of the usual toe arrangement, woodpeckers have 'zygodactyl' feet. This means they have two toes that face forwards and two that face backwards.

This arrangement of toes, along with a short strong tail which they use as a prop, enables woodpeckers to climb up and hang onto vertical tree trunks with ease.


Tongue twister

Green Woodpecker

Woodpeckers have super long sticky tongues which they use to slurp up insects and grubs that they find in tree trunks. The green woodpecker's tongue is an amazing 10cm long! It's so long that it curls around the back of its skull to fit inside its head.


Where to see or hear woodpeckers

Woodpeckers usually live in woodland, but even with their brightly coloured feathers they can be hard to spot. Instead listen for their drumming to try to work out where they are.

So wrap up warm and go out into the woodlands near you on a still, clear day. Ancient, broadleaved woodlands are the best, with enough big old trees to give places for woodpeckers to nest. Great spotted woodpeckers drum in short bursts that fade out at the end. The drumming of the lesser spotted woodpecker is higher pitched, in a longer burst that stops abruptly. It's sometimes possible to entice a woodpecker closer or to encourage him to reply by hitting a dead branch with a stone.

Here are just some of the places we know are great for hearing woodpeckers:

- Bickley Hall Farm, Malpas
- Cleaver Heath, Heswall
- Compstall Nature Reserve within Etherow Country Park
- Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve, Bromborough
- Gowy Meadows, Thornton-le-Moors
- Hatchmere, near Delamere Forest
- Hockenhull Platts, Waverton
- Owley Wood, Weaverham
- Swettenham Valley Nature Reserve and across the Dane Valley
- Warburton's Wood and Hunter's Wood in Frodsham

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great spotted woodpeckers are also frequent visitors to bird feeders, so put some seeds and peanuts out and you might be lucky enough to spot one in your garden.