Thursday, 25 March 2010

More fires and the search for summer visitors

On Sunday I had a few spare hours so I took a stroll over Lower Hardy Farm towards Barlow Tip at the western end of Chorlton Water Park in search of my first chiffchaff of the season. Chiffchaffs are usually the first of the summer migrant warbler birds to arrive in the UK and although the warblers can be tricky to distinguish by eye the key to identifying the chiffchaff is to listen for its song. It sings it's name by repeating two notes quite close to each other. Sadly, I didn't hear the bird and was instead shocked to see the damage caused by fires all over Lower Hardy Farm and Barlow Tip.

On a more positive note I did have a close encounter with a fox as I disturbed it was hunting for small mammals. It never ceases to surprise me how in the middle of a busy Sunday afternoon with hundreds of joggers, cyclists and dogs passing up and down the Mersey banks what wonders you can be seen in the Mersey Valley when you step off the beaten track. I was particularly captivated by the beauty of this lichen. I don't have any books on lichen but my general British Wildlife book has a similar picture for Hypogymnia physodes. Please comment if you think I've got this one wrong.

Despite the depressing site of acres of burnt vegetation I was pleased to see a common shrew and a short tailed field vole under an old bit of metal sheet I found. I also saw frogs mating and spawning in the pond at Chorlton Water Park, so in spite of the devastation caused through the valley by fires spring is still exerting its very special appeal.

Incidentally, I heard my first chiffchaff of the season on Tuesday at Pickerings Pasture in Widnes.

Posted by Richard Gardner, March 2010

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