Sunday, 6 September 2009

Gatley Carrs Wildlife and Natural History by Peter Wolstenholme

Peter Wolstenholme is an RSPB member with a special interest in Gatley Carrs at the eastern (Stockport) end of the Mersey Valley. We would like to thank him for giving permission to post his report for July and August 2009 on this blog.

Vegetation by mid to late summer is getting rather drab, as spring gives way to late August most of the vegetation is mature and trees and bushes are fruiting. Sloes, Blackberries, red berries of Arum lilies, Sycamores and Horse chestnuts are all fruiting.

Among the dying flowers of the rosebay willow herb there are probably Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars munching away at the stems of the plants. I have certainly seen these huge caterpillars in past years on the Carrs.

In July there were damsel flies such as Banded Demoiselle and the abundant plants of nettle provide vast reserves of food for caterpillars of butterflies, such as Peacocks, Commas, Small Tortoiseshell, and Red Admirals. Other butterflies this summer have included Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Large and Small Whites, Holly Blue and Common Blue. A flew Painted Ladies have been noted on the reserve but not the millions seen in some parts of Britain.

In August the most splendid dragonfly present on the reserve - often feeding close to the pond - was the very large brown dragonfly with brown wings - the Brown Hawker (Latin name Aeshna Grandis). It is well worth looking for this dragonfly at this time of the year on sunny days.

Until the end of July the skies above the Carrs were dominated by the sickle winged flight of the Swift and its diagnostic screaming call. During August bird song faltered as Blackbird, Song Thrush, Whitethroat and Blackcap ceased singing. However Robin and Wren sang right through July and August. A pair of Reed Bunting sang and produced a brood of young by the pool. Kestrel and Sparrow Hawk put in brief visits. During August chiffchaff and Coal Tit sang and Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove cooed from the hedgerows.

During August the pool was often a centre of interest as both an adult and immature Heron put in an appearance. A pair of Moorhen had three young and there were also a few young Mallard and Canada Geese. There were Grey Wagtails along the banks of the stream and a few records of single Kingfishers - the bitterness of mid winter apparently meant they made no attempts to breed by the stream around the pool.

The trees around the pool attracted Tree Creeper, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. There were also young Long tailed Tits, Goldfinches and Greenfinch foraging in the bushes.

The last day of August found six Swallows feeding over the meadow. Two were adults with deeply forked tails and the others were shorter failed juveniles being fed on the wing by their parents. The same day on a Farm Reserve on the Wirral a Hobby was hawking overhead before its fairly imminent return to the tropics.

The tall stems of the brilliantly flowered Purple Loosestrife were by the pool at month end

As August ends summer migrants are still with us but soon the first winter migrants will be coming through the reserve as autumn comes in September.

With best wishes to you all.

Peter Wolstenholme
RSPB Manchester and SK8

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