Monday 28 November 2022

June Receives Volunteer Award from Cheshire Wildlife Trust

June Mortazavi (centre) with Felicity Goodey, President of Cheshire Wildlife Trust (left)
and Charlotte Harris CEO of 
Cheshire Wildlife Trust (right)

At the Cheshire Wildlife Trust AGM on November 26th Wirral Wildlife volunteer June Mortazavi was presented with the Eric Thurston Award. This is the highest accolade for volunteering given by Cheshire Wildlife Trust. It is given to acknowledge the Trust’s most inspirational and outstanding volunteers. Winners are awarded a limited edition of a Roger Stephens print of peregrines circling above Beeston Castle.

Here is a taste of why June was nominated.

June arrived with a burst of enthusiasm on the Wildlife Trust scene in 2017 and has made an impact across several Cheshire Wildlife Trust areas. At New Ferry Butterfly Park, she rapidly got involved in practical habitat management and also as a warden, an active committee member and helping host courses and open days. Her impact is Wirral-wide, being an active and encouraging part of the Wirral Wildlife biological recording team. June started with little plant knowledge but has developed her confidence in carrying out botanical surveys and this year is in charge of her own survey. June is a real support to some over stretched volunteers e.g. helping Dr Hilary Ash by writing up flora records. June has become very adept at deciphering Hilary’s annotations of plant names in Latin!

She was trusted to help the Wirral Wildlife recording team process data and publish a peer reviewed paper on quadrat survey carry out at Thurstaston common for 39 years. That is a lot of data!

June gets out and fights for nature, for example liaising with neighbours over injured hedgehogs found at the New Ferry Butterfly Park. June is also a stalwart of the Friends of Lowfields Wood, Eastham, which was set up by Cheshire Wildlife Trust's Natural Futures programme in January 2019 and continues to flourish. June works beyond Wirral with CWT staff in the Delamere area.

All this tremendous activity and sustained and growing enthusiasm is on top of a part time job.  June has not retired yet and achieves so much for the Trust locally on the Wirral and further afield. June is prepared to both do the spade work in the field and in the digital world with alacrity.

She is a deserving recipient of this Award and we are grateful for her commitment and drive.

Friday 25 November 2022

Tribute to Eric Fairgrieve Greenwood 1938 - 2022

Eric Greenwood surveying Dipsacus laciniatus (cutleaf teasel) on the old tip at Bidston, August 2022
Eric Greenwood surveying Dipsacus laciniatus (cutleaf teasel)
on the old tip at Bidston, August 2022

A regular attender at Wirral Wildlife events and our ‘go to’ botanist to identify a particularly tricky sedge, grass or orchid, Eric Greenwood died from cancer on 18th October. He was born on 15 Feb 1938 in Preston and as a wartime child helped turn the family garden into a smallholding. This developed into him having his own allotment where he grew prize-winning vegetables and fruit. He was always alert to the plants around him and his first record sent to the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) was when he was 12 and spotted mistletoe on a local tree. He was a BSBI member from 1963 and was vice-county recorder for V.C. 60 (West Lancaster) for over 50 years. It is hardly surprising that he graduated in Botany from the University of Durham and later received his MSc from the University of Newcastle.

In 1966, after teaching for a short while, Eric joined the then City of Liverpool Museum as Keeper of Botany. It was here he met his future wife Barbara. When he started at the Museum there was only one temporary display gallery open following wartime bombing, and when he retired in 1998 as Keeper of the World Museum Liverpool it had become a multi award winning National Museum. He was responsible for securing the £35 million Lottery grant which enabled the Museum’s major redevelopment. During his career at the Museum Eric was involved in many aspects of its development including the JASON project from 1993 to 1996. This was an American educational project designed to bring the excitement of live scientific exploration to students via satellite links from expeditions in Mexico, Belize, Hawaii and Florida. Students could interact with the expedition site, operate remotely controlled cameras and equipment, and ask questions of the research scientists. He was responsible for setting up the North West Biological Field Data Bank at the Museum ensuring that local naturalists’ records did not get lost. This eventually led to RECORD and Mersey Biobank, who today do the same work electronically, and pass records to the National Biodiversity Network.

Eric with his wife Barbara on the occasion of him being presented with the President’s Medal of the Royal Society of Biology in July 2022
Eric with his wife Barbara on the occasion of him being presented with
the President’s Medal of the Royal Society of Biology in July 2022 

Although not a founder member of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, he was involved from the very early days and served a total of 53 years as either Council member, Trustee or member of its Conservation and Scientific Committees. Even though living in Wirral since 1973 he continued as a very active member of LWT. President of the Liverpool Botanical Society for many years and council member for 56 years, he continued to lead field meetings until 2021.

Eric never stopped his botanical investigations and research. North Lancashire flora was always his passion. In 2012 his ‘Flora of North Lancashire’ was a hugely important new publication, for which he gained the Joint Presidents Award from the BSBI and the Wildflower Society. It is an essential work of reference for the flora and ecology of Lancashire north of the Ribble, both now and into the future. Detailed and exhaustively researched, it represents a unique and indispensable 'snapshot' to act as a baseline for the ongoing analysis of changes in our natural environment. Eric put years of meticulous work into presenting this authoritative 656-page account, which also contains hundreds of distribution maps. This book highlights the world-wide significance of Lancashire's temperate, oceanic deciduous woodland and bog communities, and tries to explain changes including the impact of humans and climate.

In 2016 his book ’Hunting plants: the story of those who discovered the flowering plants and ferns of the North’ was published. During lockdown Eric spent more time researching Wirral’s flora and produced four papers this year alone. Two have already been published and one (on Wirral heaths) is due to be published in January.  In the last weeks of his life he put the finishing touches to his paper on the changing coastal flora of Wirral which will hopefully be published next year.

Eric at the summit of Clougha Pike (416m) on his 80th birthday, 15th February 2018
Eric at the summit of Clougha Pike (416m) on his 80th birthday, 15th February 2018

Eric never slowed down and to celebrate his 80th birthday climbed Clougha Pike in Lancashire with his family. On a cold February day the mist cleared just in time to give extensive views over the Lancashire plain and Morecambe Bay. He was following his illustrious predecessor, Albert Wilson, co-author of the Flora of West Lancashire (1907) who was photographed on the summit of nearby Ingleborough on his 80th birthday in 1942. 

Eric was awarded the President’s Medal of the Royal Society of Biology in 2020 in recognition of his work with the local RSB branch, but was unable to receive it due to Covid restrictions. However Eric was presented with the Medal by members of the North Western branch of the RSB surrounded by friends and family in his Heswall garden this July.

He will be sadly missed.

Monday 21 November 2022

Cleaver Heath Invertebrate Survey

Cleaver Heath and some of the invertebrates recorded on 6th July. Photos: The Tanyptera Trust
Cleaver Heath and some of the invertebrates recorded on 6th July.
Photos: The Tanyptera Trust

The Tanyptera Trust is funding a 7.5 year project to promote the study and conservation of insects and other invertebrates in the Lancashire and Cheshire region of NW England. This project is hosted by National Museums Liverpool. Every year, the Trust runs an invertebrate recording day programme to bring together the invert recording community and increase the coverage of invert records on selected important and under-recorded sites.

On July 6th this year, the Trust organised a recording day at Cleaver Heath on the Wirral and a detailed species list obtained has recently been published and can be viewed on their website.

Summary of number of species by invertebrate order

48 species of spider (Araneae)

51 species of beetle (Coleoptera)

92 species of fly (Diptera)

38 species of true bug (Hemiptera)

18 species of bee/wasp/ant (Hymenoptera)

15 species of butterfly/moth (Lepidoptera)

2 species of centipede (Lithobiomorpha)

2 species of lacewing (Neuroptera)

1 species of harvestman (Opiliones)

1 species of grasshopper(Orthoptera)

1 species of booklouse (Psocoptera)

Notable records in terms of scarcity

Two flies, Helina ciliatocosta and Dolichopus virgultorum - New to VC58 (Cheshire)

A spider, Cheiracanthium virescens - Nationally scarce, only 3rd record for VC58 (Cheshire). On heathland, favours areas with short heather growth.

A true bug Alydus calcaratus  - Nationally scarce.  Very local distribution in the North West, only 3rd record for VC 58 (Cheshire),  one previous Wirral record on Thurstaston Common and  recorded on Cleaver this year prior to this event. Nymphs are ant-mimics and are often found in ant nests.

There were also six separate records of the impressive Emperor moth caterpillars (Saturnia pavonia) on heather and other plants.

Overall a very impressive list of species for a single recording day. Looking through the list, inverts associated with all the main vegetation types such as heather, gorse, wild flowers and birch/oak are evident as well as those found in the ground/litter layer. The former car park, now a nectar-rich wildflower area, was of particular interest for hoverflies and butterflies.

As a general rule regarding the management of lowland heathland for invertebrates, structural diversity across all the vegetation is important to support the greatest range of species and included in this would be the need to create and maintain a range of different age structures within the dominant plant species. These objectives are well accounted for within the Cleaver management plan and are also reflected practically in the work day tasks carried out by the volunteers.

John McGaw, Cleaver Heath Reserve Manager