Tuesday 17th June - Teggs Nose Country Park

It was a beautiful evening for our visit to Teggs Nose Country Park. The Park is on the western edge of the Peak District with extensive views over the Cheshire plain.
Cheshire plain from Teggs Nose Country Park
Cheshire plain from Teggs Nose Country Park

Ox-eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare)
Ox-eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare)
The four fields known as the meadows are at their best at the moment, with a stunning display of wild flowers, including in particular vast numbers of Ox-eye Daisies and Common Spotted Orchids. Other species seen were: Yarrow, Marsh Thistle, Pignut, Hogweed, Meadow Buttercup, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Red and White Clover, Germander and Heath Speedwell, Heath Bedstraw, Tormentil, Red Campion, Rowan, Bush Vetch, Ribwort Plantain, Foxglove and Eyebright.

One of the spcialities of the area is Mountain Pansy, found on the higher slopes with shorter grass. It was pleasing to see a number of these delicate flowers, all except one yellow, as in the picture, but one a deep bluish violet.

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea)
Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea)

Grasses identified were: Crested Dog's-tail, Cock's-Foot, Yorkshire Fog and Quaking Grass, and Scaly Male Fern was common in the quarry area.

Birds seen included Great Tit, Skylark, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Swallow, Swift and a Heron.

Unfortunately we did not see the Weasel family, seen last year at the same time in the quarry.

A wonderful sunset brought a photographer up just as we were leaving - a fitting end to a very pleasant evening.

Tuesday 17th June - Stretford

'Trimming' conifers is never very satisfying - it usually involves cutting off all the green material, leaving a mass of brown dying needles and exposed stumps. At least in this example, a healthy growth of fresh green ivy could be spread over much of the unattractive remains. However there is always something interesting to be found in such operations. A large, apparently golden (seen from below in bright sunlight) dragonfly perched on the top of one of the cut branches. It was tolerant of fetching a camera and climbing halfway up the ladder with it before deciding this was close enough, but not close enough for a photo nor for identification.
Green Lacewing ? eggs (Chrysopidae)
Green Lacewing ? eggs (Chrysopidae)
Something rather less mobile was found on a very small dead twig, as in this photo. It is a collection of eggs on stalks (thanks to Liz Blackman for recognising them probably as insect eggs). The eggs are 1-2mm and the stalks about 5-10mm. Some searching suggested they may be Green Lacewing (family Chrysopidae) eggs. Certainly Green (and other) Lacewings do lay their eggs in this way, but this is not a definitive identification, and suggestions are welcomed. If they are lacewing eggs and if they hatch, they will become voracious predators particularly of soft-bodied forms of insects such as aphids, other larvae and eggs, before turnng into the delicate and beautiful net-winged adults.
John Fulton

Thursday 12th June - Woodhead Pass and Howden Moors

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
 On reaching the top of the Woodhead Pass (A628 - Manchester to Sheffield Road), I was surprised to see a small colony of the impressive Giant Hogweed. I do not recall seeing it there before, although the old stems make it clear that it was there in at least one previous year. It frequently grows to about 3 metres, but supposedly up to about 5 metres! It is frequently seen by waterways, which help in seed dispersal - there are vast numbers by the river Bollin.  It is a phototoxic plant - the sap can cause severe skin blisters, when exposed to sunlight or UV. It was introduced from the Caucasus in the 19th century primarily for ornamental reasons, but is now widespread. As a result of its toxicity and its ability to spread it has been an offence of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to plant or otherwise encourage it to grow in the wild. It is now frequently removed. (Ref: Wikipedia and Flora Britannica)

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
Pond Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus peltatus)
In the marshy area nearby was a marsh orchid, and this Water Crowfoot (a member of the Buttercup family) - probably Pond Water Crowfoot.
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Walking up on to the moors at this time of year, you are quite likely to see the distinctive leaf and solitary flower of the Cloudberry (the Rose family, like the Strawberry and Blackberry). Hunt around and you may also find the fruit - a clearly recognisable berry.
Cloudberry - the berry
The berry
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
However the main reason for this short walk was to look for the Mountain Hare. I frequently search for it in winter when it has turned white, and is easy to spot in mild winters without snow. It is certainly better camouflaged in summer, although now still showing some of the pale winter coat. They do have a habit of sitting upright to gain a good view of potential dangers, such as the buzzard not too far away, but are most obvious, if only briefly, when startled and speeding away. I was pleasantly surprised how many I saw - perhaps a dozen, in quite a short time, and that they did allow a couple of photos....

Mike Pettipher

Sunday 8th June - Hilbre Island

The forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms resulted in a last minute change for this visit from Saturday to Sunday, which in fact was a very pleasant, sunny day.

On previous visits to Hilbre Island we had stayed on Hilbre during the high tide, but on this occasion we visited during low tide, allowing access to coastal areas previously inaccessible.

With its special location just off the Wirral coast, Hilbre Island is known for some unusual plants. It is also an important feeding ground for migrating birds in spring and autumn - although these were, unsurprisingly, not in evidence during early June.

Two of the specialities liking coastal and rocky environments are Rock Sea Spurrey, a member of the Pink family:

Rock Sea Spurrey(Spergularia rupicola)
Rock Sea Spurrey (Spergularia rupicola)
and a subspecies of Rock Sea Lavender, a member of the Leadwort family not related to lavenders (the Mint family). This was only just starting to flower.

Two others, which prefer the freshwater margins of the pond on the main Hilbre Island are:

Brookweed (Samolus valerandi)
Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima)
Brookweed, a member of the Primrose family, and Sea Milkwort (no relation of the common milkwort) which perhaps surprisingly is also member of the Primrose family (although along with some other members of the Primrose family it may be grouped within the Myrsinaceae).

A speciality of the interdidal zone is the Honeycomb Worm, which is a reef forming annelid (ringed) worm:

Honeycomb Worm (Sabellaria alveolata)
Honeycomb Worm (Sabellaria alveolata)

Its common name is derived from the honeycomb-like pattern it creates when building its tube reefs.

Unfortunately the large numbers of bluebells had now finished flowering, but much else was seen: Bird's-foot Trefoil, Sea Campion (particularly on Middle Eye), Thrift, Danish Scurvygrass, one small Sea Holly, Sea Beet, Knotgrass (possibly the rarer Ray's Knotgrass), Buckshorn, Sea and Ribwort Plantains and Sea Club-rush. Spear-leaved Orache and Bracken were widespread on Middle Eye. White Campion and Common Mallow were found near the gardens of the buildings on Hilbre, with the attractive Yellow-tail Moth caterpillar on mallow leaves:

Yellow-tail Moth (Euproctis similis)
Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja)

Equally appealing were the many Garden Tiger Moth caterpillars near the Bracken on Middle Eye.

While migrating birds were not present, there were large numbers of Oystercatchers, along with Herring Gulls and a couple of Herons. Meadow Pipits were the most visible, and vocal, birds on the islands..

From early on in the day on reaching Little Eye, the Atlantic Seals on West Hoyle Bank, could first be heard and then seen - probably well over 100 of them beached on the sand, 'enjoying' the sunshine.

An excellent day. Far more was seen than reported here, particularly the less colourful sedges and grasses, and a great variety of sea-shore flora and fauna - leaving great scope for future visits.

For further information on Hilbre see the book: Hilbre - Islands in the Dee Estuary by Margaret Sixsmith (who gave us a talk on Hilbre last December), and the Friends of Hilbre website: http://www.deeestuary.co.uk/hilbre/.

Tuesday 3rd June - Gib Lane Wood

Wythenshawe Park is a very large park in an urban area - it is claimed that 13 separate woodlands have been identified within the park (http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/200073/parks_playgrounds_and_open_spaces/2242/wythenshawe_park/11). At least two of these are quite sizeable and well worth exploring: Nan Nook Wood and Gib Lane Wood. Cheshire Wildlife Trust recently arranged a visit to Nan Nook Wood, and on this evening Liz Blackman took us to Gib Lane Wood.

En route from the main car park, we passed many very large trees, particularly some giant oaks, probably lining a former main route into the park. Gib Lane Wood itself also contains some very large trees of varied species and evidence that this is a long established woodland - Dog's Mercury and Enchanter's Nightshade are indicators of such.There had clearly been a good display of bluebells. most of which were now unfiortunately well past their best, as was the Wild Garlic, although its 'fragrance' was still overpowering in some areas! A few remaining specimens of Wood Avens were also present. Harts Tongue Fern was visible particularly near the small streams, and Giant Horsetail in at least one location. While not many plants were flowering, Meadow and Creeping Buttercups, Cow Parsley and Elder were fairly abundant.It was good to see a few specimens of Wych Elm, but not so the Japanese Knotweed.

Birds seen included Wood Pigeon, Crow, Blackbird, Robin, Song Thrush and Swallows and Swifts particularly near the Hall. The only fauna seen was a Grey Squirrel, although the presence of Midges was felt in the depths of the woodland on this humid evening.

It is always encouraging to see how much wildlife (including flora) still exists in the heart of our urban areas.

Sunday 1st June - Wigan Flashes

The plan was to take the train to Wigan and cycle back along the Leeds and Liverpool, and Bridgewater canal towpaths. The satisfaction of just getting on the train was tempered a little on finding out that it was going to Liverpool, rather than Wigan! However a change at Warrington to a delayed Glasgow train put us almost 'back on track'.

The canal bank near Scotsman's Flash was very rich with a variety of attractive flowers. It was particularly interesting to see two closely related plants side by side - at first glance they looked like the same species, so it was a good opportunity to see their similarities and differences:

Weld (Reseda luteola)- tall and floppy, and .... Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea)

They are both members of the Mignonette family. Weld is the taller plant typically flopping over (although the 2013 edition of the Blamey and Fitter guidebook indicates that Wild Mignonette is rather floppy), while Wild Mignonette is a stockier plant. Colours and individual flowers are quite similar.

Other flowers nearby included Hedgerow and Cut-leaved Cranesbills, Ox-eye Daisy, Creeping Cinquefoil,  Common Vetch, Sow Thistle and old spikes and new leaves of Evening Primrose.

Also nearby were both sexes of the Common Blue Butterfly:

Common Blue Butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) - Male

Common Blue Butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) - Female

Further down at Horrocks's Flash, the sounds of Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns preceded the views of them nesting on small muddy areas rising above the water surface. Common Blue Damselfly was frequent around the edge of the water.

While the area around Wigan Flashes was the richest for flora, the rest of the route alongside the canals provided much further interest, including many more birds at Pennington Flash, and Marsh Orchids by the Bridgewater canal.
Cathy and Mike Pettipher