Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Butterfly Count 2020


Red admiral
Red admiral

Paul Loughnane, Secretary of New Ferry Butterfly Park, has just collated butterfly records for 2020. It has proved to be one of the poorest years ever – apart from Red Admirals. However two new species were recorded at the Butterfly Park, an Essex Skipper and a Purple Hairstreak. So there was a little more diversity in species but a drop in abundance.


Purple hairstreak
Purple hairstreak. Photo: Wikipedia

The numbers may reflect fewer recordings than usual due to Covid19 but the wet weather in July and August will also have had an effect.

This year Pat Thurston has started carrying out regular transect monitoring and his report is below.


Essex skipper
Essex skipper


New Ferry Butterfly Park, Transect Report

Pat Thurston

The first counts were not carried until late May and so a full season of monitoring has still not been carried out on this transect. However, despite its relatively small size and its urban location, this transect has a variety of habitats and is very well managed. As well as a good planting of various larval food plants there are also good sources of nectar throughout the season. Most predominant species are small white and speckled wood. There are very healthy populations of gatekeeper and meadow brown and other meadow butterflies such as common blue, and small and large skipper are also present. Of note, whilst not recorded on my transect counts this year, there has been a confirmed sighting of the Essex skipper during a separate study. Hopefully it will be possible to carry out a full set of counts next year.


Friday, 6 November 2020

Spectacular Silver Jubilee Butterfly Park Gates


Artwork for the new gates at the Butterfly Park
Artwork for the new gates at the Butterfly Park


As part of continuing improvements in New Ferry, and to celebrate the park’s Silver Jubilee, New Ferry Butterfly Park has received a £5,000 grant from the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund (i.e. HM The Queen, Duke of Lancaster) towards the cost of new spectacular butterfly-themed gates. This award was given in recognition of the work the park does for the local community in providing a safe wildlife haven, an education space, a space for outdoor art works, and youth work with groups such as the Princes Trust, Guides and Scouts. 

The aim of the new gate design is to provide a welcoming feature to the park, giving a flavour of what is beyond the entrance way. Currently, a dilapidated understated standard black metal gate with barbed wire is present, which is not very aesthetic, not very welcoming and does not give any indication of the park or what it stands for. The Comma butterfly is a strong recognizable image and it, along with the name clearly stated, will be visible from a distance and on approach to the Butterfly Park. These spectacular gates will help secure the site but offer the opportunity to provide a welcoming entrance and celebrate the Butterfly Park. The gates have been sensitively designed by Ed Snell of Above Zero Landscape Architecture.  

Paul Loughnane, Hon. Secretary, New Ferry Butterfly Park exclaimed “This is really excellent news. Along with the murals in New Ferry town centre this is certainly brightening up the area. With various covid disruptions it has been a long journey to secure funding for these gates. The project has been supported by New Ferry and Port Sunlight Community Fund, Wirral Wildlife and Wirral Farmer’s Market Community Fund. Paul added “The park’s opening day on the first May Day Bank Holiday Sunday is a regular and well-loved feature of the New Ferry calendar. It is hoped to invite the Queen’s representative, the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside to have an unveiling event then, Covid permitting. Next spring we hope to welcome back our visiting groups, as well as being open to anyone on Sunday afternoons.”


Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Autumn 2020 at Cleaver Heath


Autumn at Cleaver Heath
Autumn at Cleaver Heath


It’s been a strange autumn here. The leaves are being prematurely ripped from the branches by a series of gales and a sequence of showery periods has contributed to some flooded paths.

Of course, the weather has not been the only complication in getting conservation work started this year - COVID has played its part. We need guaranteed dry spells for carrying out stump treatment within the heather panels but we also need a number of willing volunteers to help with that and other routine task such as birch and gorse coppicing. We have nevertheless been able to carry out some COVID-safe jobs working independently in the fresh air. Even if the socialising aspect is a bit restricted, I found many volunteers grateful for the excuse to get out, spend time in a nice place and help the environment.

Common lizards found during the survey at Cleaver Heath
Common lizards found during the survey at Cleaver Heath

So, what else has been happening at Cleaver since the summer newsletter? The Common Lizard survey has drawn to a close. There were a total of 16 sightings between July and September. The good news was that most of the sightings were juveniles including some quite tiny ones. So we have breeding lizards at Cleaver. Less good news was that the sightings were confined to one particular panel east of the main path. Strangely, there were no sightings in the many refugia deployed in the less frequented areas of the reserve. We will be pondering this when planning future surveys.

Butterflies and spider web at Cleaver Heath
Butterflies and spider web at Cleaver Heath

As summer moved into autumn there were still quite few second brood butterflies on the wing. As well as large numbers of whites we had regular sightings of Holly Blues (top right), plenty of Red Admirals feeding on holly flowers (bottom left) and a nice Small Copper seen right at the end of September (top left). On the colder bright mornings, much of heather was adorned with ‘hammock’ spider webs (bottom right) as well as the more conventional concentric circle webs.

Fungi in the woodland at Cleaver Heath
Fungi in the woodland at Cleaver Heath


Lots of fungi are to be seen in any walk round the reserve these days. The path through the south woodland area had lot of Earthballs (genus Scleroderma) like the ones shown on the top left here. The others are all from the Amanita genus: continuing clockwise Tawny Grisette (A fulva), Blusher (A rubescens), Fly Agaric (A muscaria)…. I think!


Long-tailed tits
Long-tailed tits


On the bird front, there was a spell in September when the now less frequent Easyjet and Ryanair flights tracking over our house and the reserve were replaced by skeins of Pink Feet all heading for the Dee. Their musical calls as they agree final landing arrangements are always a welcome sign of autumn. The tits are starting to go around in flocks, especially the Long-tailed Tits whose gang sizes are growing. Redwing and Fieldfares have been appearing around Wirral but I have not yet spotted any in the reserve or in my garden. We had a very good, early crop of Rowan berries which the Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds finished off in short order, leaving nothing much for the other winter thrushes. On a couple of mornings we observed 8 Mistle Thrushes at a time on the garden Rowan.

Mistle thrush
Mistle thrush


Following the increased footfall through Cleaver, particularly on sunny Sundays, a member recruitment officer from the Trust visited recently and had some success showing that the face-to-socially-distanced-face recruitment still works. This is Will Robinson pictured in a brief spell between his sign-up activities and bird spotting. As a keen birder he particularly enjoyed his day out even with his mask on.

Will Robinson, Cheshire Wildlife Trust Member Recruitment Officer
Will Robinson, Cheshire Wildlife Trust Member Recruitment Officer 


Here is my usual seasonally-updated photo of the reserve entrance. Do you notice that the gate has finally been painted to match the railings?


Cleaver Heath entrance
Cleaver Heath entrance


Alan Irving
Volunteer Reserve Warden for CWT

Cleaver Heath
November 2020