Sunday 28th June - Sale Water Park

A short trip to Sale Water Park was prompted, after an evening the previous week with the local specialist, Dave Bishop.

Close to home and a well trodden area still provides much interest.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata)
Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata)
Bee Orchid (Orchis apifera)
The Large Skipper butterfly and many spikes of Bee Orchid were found not far from the cafe and the M60.

Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea)
Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea)
Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea)
Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea)
Purple Toadflax was seen at the bridge over the stream from the Mersey overflow.

Pick-a-back plant (Tolmiea menziesii)
Pick-a-back plant (Tolmiea menziesii)
The unusual Pick-a-back plant was found a little way up the stream from the bridge. Surprisingly it is a member of the Saxifrage family.
Cathy and Mike Pettipher

Saturday 27th June 2015 - Woolston Eyes and Rixton Claypits

We were lucky with the weather for this full day excursion. In the morning we visited number 3 bed of the Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve.On sitting down in the palatial John Morgan hide, the first thing we noticed was this Poplar Hawkmoth on the window sill, and it was reluctant to move from its comfortable spot.

Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothoe populi)
Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothoe populi)
For a few of us the main objective was to see the species known to be a speciality here - the Black-necked Grebe. We were pleased to see a number of them, perhaps 6 adults and 2 juveniles, but too distant and fleetingly for any acceptable photos.

View from John Morgan hide.
View from John Morgan hide.

Other birds seen included: Common Buzzard, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Greater Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Ruddy Duck, Eurasian Teal, Grey Heron, Northern Lapwing,  Common Bullfinc, Great Crested Grebe, (Black-necked Grebe), Common Coot, Common Shelduck and Winter Wren.

Shelduck with young (Tadorna tadorna)
Shelduck and chicks (Tadorna tadorna)
Canada Geese with goslings (Branta candensis)
Canada Geese, goslings (Branta candensis)
While the main attraction of Woolston Eyes is the birdlife on the water, much effort has been made to provide a habitat for other birds and wildlife within the boundaries of the reserve. There is an area used for growing plants to provide winter seed, and two meadows of wild flowers, as well as a variety of patches of woodland. In a brief walk around these areas there were attractive specimens of: Corncockle, White Campion and Yellow-rattle.

Corncockle (Agrostemma githago)
Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris)

Umbellifers were well represented with: Wild Angelica, Cow Parsley, Hogweed  and Hemlock Water-dropwort,

Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)
Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
Giant Hogweed was seen in profusion outside the reserve, along the banks of the old Mersey (which now runs more directly via the weir, rather than the loops), and Ground Elder was common on Weir Lane, north of the reserve. Just inside the reserve before crossing the fortified, padlocked bridge was an unfamilar tree - False Acacia, with thorns and drooping flower spikes. It is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae.
Giant Hogweed
(Heracleum mantegazzianum)

False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia)
(Note the photos for the Shelduck, Canada Geese, Cow Parsley, Angelica and False Acacia were taken two weeks earlier than this visit.)

We then moved about 3 miles to spend the afternoon at Rixton Claypits. Once a brick quarry, Rixton Claypits was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 1996 and is now a Special Area for Conservation (S.A.C.), mostly because Great Crested newts breed there. Since 1979 the meadows have been a Site of Special Scientific Interest (S.S.S.I) because of the rich mix of wild plants. (

It would have been easy to spend all day here - a couple of hours allowed only a glimpse of the variety on show at this time of year.

Fauna seen included: Common Frog, Buzzard, Kestrel, House Martin, Alder Leaf Beetle,
Common Blue Damselfly, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood butterflies and Six-spot Burnet Moth.

Bee Orchid (Orchis apifera)
Bee Orchid (Orchis apifera)
Having contacted the rangers beforehand, we knew where to go to find a small cluster of bee orchids.

Other species noted were: Elder, Daisy, Marsh Thistle, Spear Thistle, Hemp-agrimony (not yet flowering), Oxeye Daisy, Forget-Me-Not, Comfrey, Honeysuckle, Red Campion, Ragged Robin,  Meadow Vetchling, Common Bird's-foot-trefoil, Red Clover, Gorse, Tufted Vetch, Yellow-wort, Herb-Robert, Yellow Iris, Selfheal, Hedge Woundwort, American Willowherb, Northern Marsh-orchid, Bee Orchid, Eyebright, Yellow-rattle, Foxglove,  Meadow Buttercup, Creeping Buttercup, Wood Avens, Tormentil, Rose, Bramble, Cleavers, Marsh-bedstraw, Woody Nightshade,
Cyperus Sedge, Crested Dog's-tail and Yorkshire-fog.

It was an enjoyable and interesting day at two local sites.

Tuesday 16th June 2015 - Teggs Nose Country Park

There is much to see at this varied site, with flower meadows, heath and woodland and the remains of the quarry (shared with young abseilers). It is an exposed site with excellent views over the Cheshire plain, although hazy this evening. It could be cold, wet and windy but fortunately again for us it was a pleasant summer evening, with the dramatic setting sun later on.

The meadows are well maintained by the longhorn cattle:

Longhorn Cow
Longhorn Cow

Above the meadows is a speciality of the site, the Mountain Pansy:

Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea)
A Tortrix moth was seen and a pair of Painted Lady butterflies were very active near the summit.

Birds heard or seen included: Sky Lark, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Wren and Blackbird.

And flora noted: Cow Parsley, Pignut, Daisy, Marsh Thistle, Spear Thistle, Oxeye Daisy, Red Campion, Heather, Bilberry, Common Bird's-foot-trefoil, Red Clover, Gorse, Common Vetch, Bush Vetch, Herb-Robert, Wood Sage, Rosebay Willowherb, Northern Marsh-orchid, Foxglove, Ribwort Plantain, Heath Speedwell, Meadow Buttercup, Intermediate Lady's-mantle, Hawthorn, Tormentil, Heath Bedstraw,
Heath Wood-rush, Sweet Vernal-grass, Quaking-grass, Wavy Hairgrass, Crested Dog's-tail, and Cock's-foot.

Bracken was the dominant fern, but we also saw Lady-fern, Broad Buckler-fern and Male-fern.

The midge, Dasineura urticae, made its presence known in the orange Nettle Gall, present on many nettles by the side of the track returning to the visitor centre.