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.

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