Friday, 21 August 2020

Bringing Beavers Back To Cheshire

Cheshire Wildlife Trust made an exciting announcement this week...


Beaver



It’s with great pleasure and excitement that we can share the news - Cheshire Wildlife Trust are planning to release a pair of beavers at Hatchmere Brook this autumn. After 400 years of local extinction, beavers will be returning to Cheshire!

If Hatchmere Nature Reserve can be made ready to receive the beavers by October, there’s every chance it could be home to the first beaver kits (baby beavers) next year!


Beavers in Britain

The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) is a large herbivore, a mammal that was formerly native to these shores and once played an important part in our landscape from prehistoric times until it was hunted to extinction in the 16th century for its fur, meat and scent glands. The loss of this charismatic species also led to loss of the mosaic of lakes, meres, mires, tarns and boggy places that it so brilliantly built.

Wildlife Trusts across the country are working hard to bring these fantastic mammals back to Britain.


Why do we need beavers?


Beaver building a dam


This isn't just about the reintroduction of a species - it's about the reintroduction of an entire ecosystem that's been lost.

Beavers are often referred to as 'ecosystem engineers'. They make changes to their habitats, such as digging canal systems, damming water courses and coppicing tree and shrub species, which create diverse wetlands. In turn these wetlands can bring enormous benefits to other species, such as otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates (especially dragonflies) and breeding fish.


Dragonfly

Beavers and the landscapes they generate benefit both people and wildlife because:

• They help to reduce downstream flooding - the channels, dams and wetland habitats that beavers create hold back water and release it more slowly after heavy rain.

• They increase water retention.

• They clean water.

• They reduce siltation, which pollutes water.


Why Hatchmere?


Hatchmere

• Man-made problems are destroying rare habitats at Hatchmere Nature Reserve, and killing aquatic life in the wetlands and in Hatch Mere lake.

• Peat bogs are delicate habitats which need nutrient-poor water. But the brook flowing into the site has become far too rich and nutrient-packed, so the peat bog plants and animals are losing their fight for survival.

• Invasive species like nettles and bramble are thriving on the rich water supply – reducing sunlight and accelerating the loss of peat bog life.

By beavers doing what they do naturally along Hatchmere brook, they will create new habitats and remove nutrient flow into the mere and mosslands. They will also help to remove the invasive species along the brook.


We're not out of the woods yet

Map of beaver release area

Before we can bring beavers back, we must first secure a 10-acre area next to Hatchmere Nature Reserve with 870 metres of beaver-proof fencing.

To do this, we need to raise £30,000 - that’s £34 a metre.


Help bring beavers back to Cheshire and make a donation here:

www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/beaver-appeal


£30,000 needed before 18th September 2020

Work must begin before the ground becomes too wet, otherwise it’ll be next year before we can bring beavers back. We have until 18th September 2020 to raise £30,000 – that’s less than five weeks.

Members of Cheshire Wildlife Trust will shortly receive a pack in the post with more information about the project and how you can help to bring beavers back. As this is such an exciting moment, we’re offering all members that donate an opportunity to watch the beaver release live online.

Since launching the appeal on Monday evening, we’ve already raised £4,445. Thank you so much to all those that have already kindly given.

Together we can bring wildlife back to Cheshire.


Thursday, 20 August 2020

Surveying Heswall Dales


Hilary Ash surveying the heathland at Heswall Dales
Hilary Ash surveying the heathland at Heswall Dales

Recording teams from Wirral Wildlife, led by Dr Hilary Ash, have just spent three, mostly enjoyable, days on a major botanical survey of Heswall Dales. The recording group make a point of surveying all SSSI sites on Wirral on a 10-year cycle. The idea is to keep track of all species growing there, with particular attention to the features listed in the SSSI citation. In the case of Heswall Dales, the main features relate to its Lowland Heath characteristics.

At this time of year one sees a beautiful palette of colours: the light pink is the Common Heather, the yellow is Western Gorse in bloom and the deep purples and browns are the Bell Heather now moving into the seeding stage. This was a real treat for us. The weather was wonderful on the first day, so the only real hardship was cutting our way through encroaching scrub to reveal these lovely panels and wading through the mostly healthy and vigorous heather and compact western gorse.




Part of our duties was to assess the level of scrub encroachment and so identify scrub control priorities to help with site management. For reporting purposes, the entire site of some 50 acres or so of heathland was divided up into compartments where complete lists of species were recorded along with estimates of relative abundance.  In the case of the heather we also noted the condition and age structure, again with a view to site management. The data and associated notes will be made available to the land owner, in this case Wirral Borough Council, as well as Natural England who are entrusted with monitoring the status of sites with special designations.


Interesting finds at Heswall Dales
Interesting finds at Heswall Dales

The woodland areas will be surveyed next spring when the bracken has died back and the woodland plants start to bloom making identification easier. While on the heathland survey, we also noted down anything interesting we happened to come across, for example: birds, bees, dragonflies, butterflies, lizards, lichens and fungi. The young lizard pictured above was discovered hiding in a bag the day after the survey was completed when bracken pulling restarted in the Dales. There seems be lots of interesting stuff around in Heswall Dales just waiting to be discovered. Overall, the impression of the heathland was that quite a lot of it is in a very healthy state but a lot of management effort is needed both to protect these areas and to reduce the rate of further succession into scrub of the heathland fringes.


Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Prize Quiz Autumn/ Winter 2020



Water, water everywhere! John has been busy setting another quiz, this time with a watery theme. Click here to download the questions.


The answers are all things you might expect to come across in or near fresh water such as lakes, rivers, streams, ponds or ditches. See if you can crack the cryptic clues for a chance to win a £10 gift voucher.


There is a £1 cost for entry and all money raised will go to Wirral Wildlife. The closing date is 31st January 2021.


Saturday, 15 August 2020

Hilary's Hornet Hoverfly


Hornet hoverfly. Photo: Hilary Ash
Hornet hoverfly. Photo: Hilary Ash

A big hoverfly turned up this weekend in my garden and two allotment colleague's gardens. About the length of a buff-tailed bumblebee worker, but slightly slimmer. Chloe at RECORD identified it as "Volucella zonaria, Hornet hoverfly.  So a hornet mimic, a good defence! It's about at the northern end of its range here, and not uncommon."

Chief differences between the Hornet and its mimic hoverfly are that the hornet has a typical wasp waist, which the fly doesn't, and the hornet has fairly small eyes, while the hoverfly has big eyes like other flies. Hoverflies of course cannot sting.


Hornet hoverfly. Photo: Hilary Ash
Hornet hoverfly. Photo: Hilary Ash


Hornets (which despite their reputation are not particular aggressive except in defence of their nest) have been recorded across Cheshire in the last 5 years, the nearest record in the system being west Wirral. So both insects are moving north, but the mimic may be slightly in advance of the thing it mimics!

Dr Hilary Ash


Thursday, 13 August 2020

The Hills Are Alive!: Spring/Summer 2020 Wildlife Quiz Answers


Stonechat: the answer to the first question of the quiz
Stonechat: the answer to the first question of the quiz.
Photo: Charles J Sharp, Wikipedia

The judging for the latest prize quiz has been completed and the winner is Viv Pitcher of Greasby. She got 50 marks out of 50 and was chosen as the winner in a random draw from seven all-correct entries.

Here are the answers:

1


Good man, one talks about birds.


10

Stonechats


2


Sources of seasonal railway.

6, 4

Spring line


3


Feature of dish with gold symbol.

7

Plateau


4


Water feature bound up in the choice between buying a flat or renting a house.

7

Torrent


5


With platinum limb I started game.

9

Ptarmigan


6


Irrigate autumn feature.

9

Waterfall


7


A wintry bird - rock star digests this instant roll.

4, 7

Snow bunting


8


Bird stirred up green pool, valid with no artificial intelligence.

6, 6

Golden plover


9


"Plant angry Brexit vote!" - dead PM.

5-6, 5

Cross-leaved heath


10


A short distance inside what bird?

8

Whinchat


11


Regarding theologist, 'e takes the queen for an animal.

3, 4

Red deer


12


24 mane, I hear animal.

8, 4

Mountain hare


13


Bird call at river Loire's source (alternative spelling).

4, 5

Ring ousel1


14


Feature common to river crossing and kitchen cooler.

5

Ridge


15


Insect, after 24, Radio Times wrapped around fireplace.

8, 7

Mountain ringlet


16


Plant needed when the lady is cold.  What's her name?

7

Heather


17


Red or black, good to wake for game.

6

Grouse


18


Shortened beak reportedly conceals fruit.

10

Bilberries


19


We hear male offspring expected, living on insects.

6

Sundew


20


Quite a small bird, unlike the Big one seen at fairgrounds!

6

Dipper


21


Shelley's "scorner of the ground".

7

Skylark


22


Feature of a hundred scraps of cloth.

5

Crags


23


Moorland features to sort out.

4

Tors


24


Scrambling unto main upland feature.

8

Mountain


25


Bird of Arthurian character.

6

Merlin


26


Predator - those are world-shaking!

5-5, 3

Short-eared owl


27


Mental torture he, the Frenchman, bears for a plant.

9

Tormentil2


28


Thank you, Royal Navy, for fresh water.

4

Tarn


29


Ice Age relic, i.e. Roman ruin.

7

Moraine


30


Is this a fire-breathing insect that was rewarded on the fifth day of Christmas?

6-6, 9

Golden-ringed dragonfly


31


Initially, big rooms and cold kitchens endear nobody to this fern.

7

Bracken


32


Angela or Maria perhaps follows grand ancient English bird (now rare in England).

6, 5

Golden eagle


33


Cudgel Kate took on Colm's bus?

8

Clubmoss


34


Worried, lest I'm one footpath feature.

9, 8

Limestone pavement


35


Wearing imperial colour, Margo Ross shivered on the heath.

6, 9

Purple moorgrass


36


Feature of 24, or short name of soap?

6

Corrie


37


Look through the windscreen for feature of 24.

5

Scree


38


Spread incomplete value in damp places.

10

Butterwort


39


Tree found in a few narrow and steep valleys in Snowdonia and the Lake District.

5

Rowan


40


This bird has a ringlet with opposite directions.

6

Curlew


41


Possible description of a saltire with draft legislation for a bird.

9

Crossbill


42


Catcall secures promotion - start of tennis after no. 1 seed finds a bird.

6, 5

Meadow pipit


43


Seen in summer, Graeme, a potter, takes an exciting Scottish dance.

8

Dotterel


44


Bird that zeroes worship I hear.

6

Osprey


45


VTOL plane pursues female bird.

3, 7

Hen harrier


46


One of fifty shades perhaps - what a happy dog does, usually at the waterside.

4, 7

Grey wagtail


47


Summer reptile.

5

Adder


48


First person, German, in magnifier produces symbiotic relations.

7

Lichens


49


Heads of government conferring on 24.

6

Summit


50


Corporal punishment after family treasure tree.

6, 5

Silver birch

Notes: 1We also accepted “Ring ouzel”.  2We also accepted “Hellebore”.


We will be shortly launching the Autumn/Winter quiz entitled “Water, Water, Everywhere!”. More details soon...