Sunday 25th December - Parakeet in Chorlton Meadows

Pre-dinner exercise on Christmas Day took us to the Mersey Valley via Chorlton Meadows. We heard the distinctive screech of a Ring-necked/ Rose-ringed Parakeet, and then saw it fly into a tree. Spent a few minutes looking for it, convinced it had not flown out, and then noticed a couple of large holes in the trunk. Just beginning to wonder whether it might have gone in when out it popped:

Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Continuing on to the Mersey, we noticed some Willow catkins just starting to emerge, and Hawthorn leaves, both perhaps indicative of the warm winter so far - about 14C today!

Cathy and Mike Pettipher

Sunday 18th December - Pennington Flash

Another trip to Bent's Garden Centre and another visit to Pennington.

Bumped into Dave and Gill Higginson-Tranter, both recovering from winter aflictions, but their species list was already 48, including the Long-tailed Duck and a pair of Scaup, all of which eluded us again.

Saw the Water Rail again at Pengys hide:

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
Teal hide was particularly good, with Mallard, Coot, Goosander, Teal a few Wigeon and a Little Egret also dropped in - not a common occurrence. The Bittern of course was keeping quiet and out of sight.

Also bumped into Dennis Atherton (who has given us excellent talks), and he showed us a Yellow-legged Gull amongst Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls, from Horrock's hide. Even with a scope and a knowledgeable and helpful consultant, we had to admit difficulty in identifying.

Cathy and Mike Pettipher

Saturday 17th December - Dunham Park

A short morning walk before our Christmas pub lunch. This time in Dunham Park - a popular venue at any time, but particularly around Christmas. Many Fallow Deer around, generally ignoring the human disturbance to their home. Quite damp and a few fungi around. Without Fungalpunk Dave around, the only names we risk offering are Buttercap, with dark stem and cap and pale gills:

Buttercap (Rhodocollybia butyracea)
Buttercap (Rhodocollybia butyracea)

Buttercap (Rhodocollybia butyracea)
Buttercap (Rhodocollybia butyracea) 

and Oyster Mushroom:
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Photographing Oyster Mushroom
Photographing Oyster Mushroom

Not much birdlife seen or heard, but occasional squirrels. Always something of interest, and a little exercise in an attempt to justify an indulgent lunch.

Wednesday 7th December - Pennington Flash

A visit to Bent's Garden Centre provided the obvious opportunity for a look around Pennington Flash.

There was supposedly a Long-tailed Duck on the water, but it easily eluded us. However did spot a Water Rail at Pengy's hide. also a few hundred murmurating starlings over the reedbeds.
A good evening for sunsets:


Pennington Flash sunset
Pennington Flash sunset



Cathy and Mike Pettipher

Tuesday 9th August - Styal Woods/Bollin Valley

We met at Twinnies Bridge car park just off the Styal Road, for our last scheduled evening walk this summer. We more frequently visit this area in spring when there are many flowers in the woodland, so it was interesting to explore at a different time of year. As expected the flora was not very showy, but there is always something of interest. Within the woodland by the river Bollin, Enchanter's Nightshade, (Opposite-leaved) Golden Saxifrage and Pink Purslane were all seen. Umbellifers included Upright Hedge-parsley, Hogweed and Wild Angelica. In the upper part of the woodland, one grass species seemed fairly frequent and quite noticeable. It formed loose tufts with slightly rough leaf sheaths, and with unusually long ligules. Our best identification was Rough Meadow-grass (Poa trivialis).

On leaving the woodland we entered a housing estate, and found a track (presumably one which existed well before many of the recent houses were built) cutting between many of the properties, passing quite close to Pownall Hall - a former country house, but now a school and a grade II listed building.

A little further along we saw a large tree, with much fruit in one of the gardens. Having found a couple of the fruit, it was apparent after removing some of the outer flesh, that the fruit were walnuts. It should give a good crop a little later in the year.

An abundance of walnuts
An abundance of walnuts
Some of the plants seen along this track, including the attractive, yellow Dotted Loosestrife, were likely garden escapes, but they are still worth seeing. The route back to the Bollin took us towards Twinnies Bridge, but we continued along the western side of the river. There are extensive marshy areas with Purple Loosestrife, Meadowsweet and Common Ragwort, and the riverbank itself unsurprisingly supported large stands of Himalayan Balsam.

River Bollin and Himalayan Balsam.
River Bollin and Himalayan Balsam.
Rather more surprising were the Moorhens perched in some of the trees/shrubs close to the river. While this behaviour was unfamiliar to us, it seems that it is not uncommon.

The river was quite clear with abundant vegetation, probably water crowfoot, although it seemed confined to the faster flowing, perhaps better oxygenated areas.

It was becoming darker as we returned to the car park, which at least gave the opportunity to look for bats - and this was successful with at least a couple of bats seen flying rapidly over the water very close to the bridge.

A worthwhile walk in late summer, with still much of interest.

Friday 29th July - Brockholes

A change of date as some people could not make the planned Saturday visit to Brockholes. The weather forecast indicated that rain would have stopped by 10:00 in the Preston area, but sadly this was inaccurate, so an early coffee seemed justified. The plan was to walk from the visitor centre around Meadow Lake to the hide and then alongside the river Ribble to reach the main area of the reserve. 'Roadworks', well pathworks, prevented this route, so a longer route past the car park to the Ribble was found. This diversion was rewarded on seeing a stand of yellow flowers of the Asteraceae family, generating the question: 'What is this?'

Broad-leaved Ragwort (Senecio sarracenicus)
Broad-leaved Ragwort (Senecio sarracenicus)
The initial identification was that of an extinct species, which seemed unlikely. Subsequently settled for Broad-leaved Ragwort (Senecio sarracenicus) - new to all of us. Further checks later indicated it is not common in the UK, but locally frequent alongside the Ribble. The National Biodiversity Network (NBN) records show numerous sightings from Clitheroe to Preston. We subsequently found another stand a little further along the river, but there were no flowers yet visible on these plants.

Broad-leaved Ragwort (Senecio sarracenicus)
Broad-leaved Ragwort (Senecio sarracenicus)
Broad-leaved Ragwort (Senecio sarracenicus)
Broad-leaved Ragwort (Senecio sarracenicus)


A Kingfisher flash was seen from the hide on Meadow Lake, which unfortunately lacked any seating, suggesting that the hide needed to be able to survive rough treatment. As the showers died away and the sun started to appear, the insects became more apparent. Common Blue Damselfly in particular was frequent everywhere. Brown Hawker Dragonflies were also numerous when we reached the lake called Number One Pit. Gatekeepers were the commonest butterflies, with the occasional Wall Brown, and probably a Peacock fleetingly. Tiny Froglets were surprisingly noticeable, suggesting many more than we actually saw.

New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii)
New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii)
One plant thriving, but presumably not considered desirable, was seen around a few of the wet areas and extensively carpeting the shores of Ribbleton Pool - the alien invader, New Zealand Pigmyweed (or Australian swamp-stonecop).

This plant used to be sold as an oxygenator, but was banned from April 2014. In slow-moving water such as ponds, lakes and canals  it forms a dense, tangled growth of stems underwater, sometimes billowing up in cushions on the water surface.
New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii)
New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Purple Loosestrife and Hedge Woundwort were both very frequent around the site.

Floating Visitor Village
Floating Visitor Village
The dramatic, floating visitor centre looked very impressive. It apparently lived up to its name and intentions last winter when the water level rose by 4 metres (or so we were informed), and the buildings rose admirably to the challenge.

Fringed Water-lily (Nymphoides peltata)
Fringed Water-lily (Nymphoides peltata)
The water near the visitor centre contained not only the familiar Yellow and White Water-lilies, but also the less common, smaller and more delicate Fringed Water-lily.


Other birds seen during the day included Mallard, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, large flocks of Lapwing, Carrion Crow, Kestrel, Black-headed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Great Crested Grebe and a Sedge Warbler.

And additional flora: Water-plantain, Hogweed, Upright Hedge-parsley, Sneezewort, Lesser Burdock, Common Ragwort, Great Horsetail, Meadow Vetchling, Gypsywort, Great Willowherb, Common Spotted-orchid (a single flowering/fruiting spike), Silverweed, Reed Canary-grass, Common Reed and Great Reedmace.

For most of us, this was our first visit to Brockholes, despite being only a few minutes from junction 31 of the M6. It was a good day, and the site is certainly worth future visits.

Sunday 3rd July 2016 - Gait Barrows

The trip had been planned for Saturday, but the weather forecast was much better on Sunday so we re-scheduled - a good choice!

Cars were left at Leighton Moss - the plan was to walk to Gait Barrows for the flora, and then spend some time  at Leighton Moss for the birds.

The route took us first to Hawes Water - a delightful small lake, surrounded by woodland with numerous reeds at the northern end, where a Reed Bunting was spotted. Just before the lake, a number of large Brown Hawker dragonflies in a roadside field.


Hawes Water
Hawes Water
Around the edge two Common-spotted and one fragrant orchid were found:

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)
Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

One of the specialities of limestone areas in northern England, was also found there - the beautiful and delicate Bird's-eye Primrose. While it is found only in limestone regions, it also needs moist, acidic conditions, so it is not (generally) found in the limestone pavements, but may be nearby as in this case.
Bird's-eye Primrose (Primula farinosa)
Typical limestone pavement scenery of Gait Barrows. We did find the re-introduced Lady's Slipper Orchid near here, but it had already finished flowering.


Another species often found in these habitats....


Another speciality of limestone regions, the unusual Herb Paris, was found near the northern entrance to the reserve.


The original plan to spend time wandering around Leighton Moss was overambitious - there was so much to see here (and the 'leader' kept losing his way!). Time was still spent at Leighton Moss, but in the cafe, rather than the hides. Still managed to spot a couple of Marsh Harriers and find Skullcap.


Other species seen includes: Hart's-tongue fern, Chicory, Hemp-agrimony, Common Rock-rose, Juniper, Dog's Mercury, St. John's-Wort,Yellow and White Water-lily, Enchanter's-nightshade, Quaking-grass, Meadowsweet, Wild Strawberry, Wood Avens and Trailing Tormentil.

 An excellent day - we were very fortunate to have had the best weather for some time.

Tuesday 14th June 2016 - Nob End

Nob End is a small site almost totally enclosed by the rivers Croal and Irwell and the former Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. It is close to Moses Gate Country Park and near Little Lever and Farnworth.

According to Wikipedia, 'the site was used around 1850-70 as a tip for toxic alkaline waste from the production of sodium carbonate (soda ash.) The waste, known as "galligu", was a blue sludge dominated by calcium sulphide and smelling of bad eggs. The surface of the waste has since weathered down to calcium carbonate, and calcicolous vegetation has colonised the site. As natural limestone grassland does not occur in Greater Manchester, many of the species found are rare in the county.'

Subsequently, Nob End became an SSSI in 1988 and a Local Nature Reserve in 2000.

There were many interesting plants, particularly orchids, seen on this visit.

Marsh Orchid - northern or southern (Dactylorhiza)
Marsh Orchid - northern or southern (Dactylorhiza)
It was good to be able to enter from Cemetary Road, over the new bridge replacing the old Wilson's bridge that was closed for a few years. Just over this bridge we found the first orchids - marsh orchids (without identifying whether they were southern or northern marsh).

Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor)
Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor)

Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor)
Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor)
A little further on, close by the main path, we noticed the first of a number of spikes of the common broomrape. Sometimes known as clover broomrape - this gives away its host plant. It contains no chlorophyll, so obtains its nutrients by parasitising other plants, and this particular brromrape uses members of the pea family.

7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata)
7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata)
A pair of ladybirds seemed pre-occupied and very tolerant of the local paparazzi.

Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris)
Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris)
Over the other side (towards NW corner) of the site a fair number of Marsh Helleborine are just coming into bud.

Twayblade (Neottia ovata)
Twayblade (Neottia ovata)
There were about 3 spikes of Twayblade.

Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata)
Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata)
Perhaps a few more spikes of Early Marsh Orchid.

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
Common-spotted Orchid is just beginning to flower. Expect to see many more of these in the next couple of weeks.

Other plants seen included : Guelder-rose, Giant Hogweed, Yarrow, Daisy, Smooth Hawk's-beard, Hemp-agrimony, Oxeye Daisy, Dame's-violet, Meadow Vetchling, Common Bird's-foot-trefoil, Black Medick, Zigzag Clover, Red Clover, White Clover, Tufted Vetch, Bush Vetch, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Selfheal, Lamb's-ear, Hedge Woundwort, Fairy Flax, Foxglove, Ribwort Plantain, Crested Dog's-tail, Common Bistort, Love-in-a-mist, Wild Strawberry, Wood Avens, Trailing Tormentil and Water Figwort

and birds: Swift, Cormorant, Wood Pigeon, Goldfinch, Wren and House Martin

Coot (Fulica atra)
Coot (Fulica atra)

Coot egg
Coot egg

A short drive to Moses Gate Country Park for a few minutes just before dusk, was worthwhile. This coot and nest were very close to the main lake - hope it is not too late for a successful hatch.
 
Other birds seen included: Mallard, Canada Goose, Mute Swan and Black-headed Gull

In the few metres between the car park to the lake we noticed many unfamiliar plants - very low with basal rosettes and small cruciferous flowers. Turned out to be Marsh Yellow-cress. Hemlock Water-dropwort was also seen in some profusion on the river bank - as it has been for many years.

A successful trip, with sightings of most of the species sought. The only one missing was Blue-eyed Grass. Obviously worth another trip in a couple of weeks,

Tuesday 10th May 2016 - Teggs Nose Country Park (Moonwort)

This visit was about a month earlier than usual to this excellent site. Unusually we tried a daytime rather than evening visit, allowing more time to wander slowly round the site, planning on a picnic lunch at a suitable, sheltered spot. After a few days of intense sunshine, the cloud and wind that greeted us was a little surprising, but we expected to stay dry.

As we were so much earlier, the lack of wild flowers in the meadows was not surprising. See June 2014 sightings for some of the meadow flowers.

Common Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria)
Common Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria)
 However the lack of these flowers meant much shorter vegetation, giving greater hope of finding the diminutive moonwort. It was still surprising however to find this single, young specimen (given we found one there were likely many others). At about 2" high it is not yet fully developed, and has suffered a little from perhaps wind or sun scorching, but an exciting find! We have looked on all previous visits but never seen it here before.

From Wikipedia: This is a small plant growing from an underground caudex (basal stem structure) and sending one fleshy, dark green leaf above the surface of the ground. The leaf is 6 to 10 centimeters tall and is divided into a sterile and a fertile part. The sterile part of the leaf has 4 to 9 pairs of fan-shaped leaflets. The fertile part of the leaf is very different in shape, with rounded, grapelike clusters of sporangia by which it reproduces.

Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea)
Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea)
It was also pleasing to find a good display of the mountain pansy, a specialist of this site, despite being so early and given that it started flowering about 2 weeks later this year than last year, according to the local Facebook pages.

Teggs Nose Summit - Cathy and Pat
Teggs Nose Summit - Cathy and Pat
The expected dry conditions did not survive, and with the increasing wind, the summit shelter provided a little respite.
Teggs Nose Summit - Amy and John
Teggs Nose Summit - Amy and John

Teggs Nose and Bottoms Reservoirs
Teggs Nose and Bottoms Reservoirs
Despite the limited visibility, the views are always worthwhile. Atmospheric, if not the usual dramatic.
Other flowers seen included Red Campion, Greater Spearwort, Pignut (probably), a Forget-me-not, with well-laden bilberry bushes, and not to forget the widespread and showy dandelions, and occasional daisy.
Pied wagtail, Carrion Crow and Kestrel were easily identified, while at least one Skylark was heard but seen only by John.
The rain was more persistent as we returned to the cafe for a little refreshment.
Despite the relatively poor weather, it was still an enjoyable trip and worthy of a more leisurely daytime visit.

Friday 6th/Saturday 7th May 2016 - Altrincham (First Swifts)

First swifts seen over Oxford Road, Altrincham on Friday 6th May. Also seen above Oak Road, Altrincham on Saturday 7th May - their traditional date of return.
Jacky Johnson

March/April - Timperley Tit Box Mystery

A pair of blue tits moved in to a nest box and were seen feeding 2 weeks later. They suddenly disappeared. Several days later one blue tit appeared calling non-stop and another appeared eventually - definitely courting. Now one bird is going into the nest with feathers etc and is feeding on the nuts nearby. Is this the same couple? A new couple? One from the original two? Did the original babies die or fly?
Claire Joures

Friday 15th April 2016 - Staffordshire Border (Ring Ouzels)

10 Ring Ouzels seen dropping in just over the border in Staffordshire, flying in from different directions.
Claire Joures

Tuesday 14th April 2016 - Baguley (Alexanders)


Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)
Masses of Alexanders seen on the verge at the junction of the A560 and Shady Lane. Not common in this area.

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)

Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)
Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)
A ladybird on the plant was probably the invasive, predatory Harlequin Ladybird.

Alexanders Rust (Puccinia smyrnii)
Alexanders Rust (Puccinia smyrnii)
Also found Alexanders Rust on the underside of some leaves.

Cathy Pettipher

Monday April 11th 2016 - Moore Nature Reserve, Marbury Country Park

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen at Moore Nature Reserve.
10 Little Gulls and a Sandwich Tern passing through Marbury Country Park.
Claire Joures

Saturday 2nd April 2016 - Timperley (Mistletoe)

On a  visit to Timperley Community Centre, a 'clump' of Mistletoe, about 2m across, was spotted high in a lime tree. The only other specimens in the locality known to us are those reported in Sale Moor by Maurice Lees, just over a year ago.This one was difficult to photograph, but just about recognisable:

Misteltoe (Viscum album)
Misteltoe (Viscum album)


Misteltoe (Viscum album)
Misteltoe (Viscum album)
 Cathy and Mike Pettipher