Saturday, 19 June 2010

Report on the Fern Walk with the British Pteridological Society - 29th May, 2010

For some, as yet unexplained, reason the area of the Mersey Valley adjacent to Chorlton has a very rich Pteridophyte (i.e. Fern) flora and some 24 species have been found between Chorlton Water Park in the east and the Stretford border in the west - a distance of approximately 2 miles.

On a wet Saturday in May four members of the Manchester and North Midlands Group of the British Pteridological Society (Yvonne Golding, Roland Ennos, Michael Hayward and Dave Bishop) and three guests (Charlotte Abbas, Katherine Miller and David Rydeheard) set off from Chorlton Water Park with the intention of seeing as many of the local fern species as possible. First we negotiated a narrow, sunken lane at the rear of the Water Park and bordering Chorlton Golf Course. Here we encountered Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) and a luxuriant specimen of Scaly Male Fern (D. affinis). We then moved on to the inelegantly named Barlow Eye Tip – once a landfill site but now a Site of Biological Importance (SBI). Here we found three species of Horsetail: the ubiquitous Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) but also Water Horsetail (E. fluviatile) and Great Horsetail (E. telmateia). The latter species is interesting because in Manchester Museum Herbarium there are specimens of it which were collected from a site nearby in the mid-19th century. The present colony is on the very edge of the site and may have survived all of the various upheavals which occurred around it in the recent past.

Moving further westward along the river bank we came to another SBI known as Lower Hardy Farm. Here, deep in a Birch and Willow copse, is a magnificent stand of Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis). Unfortunately, there is a plan to drive a spur of the Metrolink tram system through this SBI and across the river to Manchester Airport. Various exploratory drilling operations were conducted here recently and the Osmunda plants came within a whisker of being destroyed.

We then inspected the walls of the Withington Sewage Works Pumping Station. Here can be found Intermediate Polypody (Polypodium interjectum), Hartstongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium), Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes ssp. quadrivalens) and Rustyback Fern (Asplenium ceterach). The latter species is a lime-lover and one would not normally expect to encounter it in South Manchester, but there is probably enough lime in the mortar of the sewage works wall to support it (the photograph above is of A.ceterach on the sewage works wall). Unfortunately, the spring of 2010 had been exceptionally dry (in contrast to the day of our walk!) and many of these ferns were somewhat shrivelled.

In a wet area at the back of Brookburn Road Primary School nearby we found our fourth Horsetail –Marsh Horsetail (E. palustre). Then a single specimen of Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant) was seen clinging to the steep bank of Chorlton Brook; Hard Fern is a rare species locally.

By this time, lunch at the Bowling Green beckoned - but not before we had seen Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum) and Wall Rue (A. ruta-muraria) in the wall of the old St. Clement’s churchyard. In the pub I was able to show the group a frond of Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare) which I had gathered the day before from a site somewhat off our line of march.

After lunch we made our way towards the Chorlton Ees SBI. Passing through a strip of woodland we saw a specimen of Soft Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum) with rather deeply cut fronds. About 20 years ago I was told that this species was believed to be extinct in Greater Manchester – but evidently not, because since that time it has turned up in several other places.

In the midst of a derelict hay meadow on Chorlton Ees we saw a large and impressive colony of Adderstongue Fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum). This species was reported from this area by Richard Buxton in his flora of 1849 and by Leo Grindon in his flora of 1859, and was then thought to have been lost until it was re-found in 1995.
We also spotted Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) in the course of our travels and finally, in a patch of Birch woodland on the edge of the SBI, we saw Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris dilatata), Narrow Buckler Fern (D. carthusiana) and more Scaly Male Fern.

Challenges for the future are to look for Equisetum hybrids and Dryopteris hybrids (particularly the hybrid between Broad and Narrow Buckler Ferns). In addition, the name ‘Scaly Male Fern’ actually covers a complex group of species, and it would be nice to know how many of these we have locally.

Dave Bishop, June 2010

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Bees in the Mersey Valley

On Sunday 20th June Bee Expert, Brian Robinson will be leading a walk and talk focussing on bees. This is a free event and everyone is welcome.

Meeting Place: Mersey Valley Visitors' Centre, Rifle Road, Sale.

Time: 10:00 am to 12:00 noon

Join us to learn about bees and their important pollination role. Brian will give a short talk on bee identification and about some of the different species we have locally. This will be followed by a short walk around some flower rich parts of the meadows to find some bees.

Rachael Maskill and Dave Bishop (FoCM)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Report on Moth, Butterfly and Caterpillar Walk by Ben Smart

This was a joint meeting of the Lancs Moth Group, Butterfly Conservation and FoCM. It was held on the 23rd May, 2010 at Hardy Farm. Ben's report of the meeting is below:

13 attended the walk in baking hot conditions (27oC) looking at this area of the Mersey Valley, where over 600 moths have been recorded. The walk concentrated on those species feeding on birch and on those feeding on grassland, on grasses, vetches and other low-growing plants. Records were made of leaf-mines, larvae and their feeding signs as well as adult moths and butterflies.

Highlights included a beautiful freshly emerged Ruby Tiger (see photograph above), still drying its wings, good numbers of Mother Shipton and Small Yellow Underwing moths, and many caterpillars of Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet on vetch, a couple of which had already formed their cocoons on the surrounding grasses. Nine species of butterfly adults were found including the Small Copper, Common Blue and Holly Blue.
Unfortunately no butterfly caterpillars were seen, although the bright orange eggs of the Orange-tip butterfly, laid on Cuckoo-flower, were located.

Another nice find was the Coleophora albidella larval case on Goat willow (albidella), spotted by the eagle eyes of Dave Bishop, Chair of the Friends of Chorlton Meadows. After checking my records I realised that I had once had the adult of this species to light (see adult at http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?bf=532 ), but this was the first time I had seen the case of this species. The case is a dark, pistol-shaped structure coated with hairs from willow catkins and was found attached to the upper surface of a leaf doing a good impression of a bird dropping. Other Coleophora species were found on Creeping Thistle (Coleophora peribenanderi) and hawthorn (probably Coleophora spinella), as well as feeding signs of Coleophora serratella on birch.

Numerous Grapholita lunulana were seen. This moth is a fairly recent arrival to Lancashire but is certainly thriving on this site. Although small, it is a very distinctive species, dark in colour with a crescent shape across the forewings, hence the Latin name lunulana.

Another micro-moth seen in numbers was the Cock’s-foot Moth (Glyphipterix simpliciella). A swarm of these moths were seen flying around a clump of Cock’s foot Grass. Careful examination showed that the dried stems from last year were full of the pupal exuviae, and numerous exit holes from which the adults leave the stem once they have emerged.

A Common Frog and Willow Warblers were also recorded.
All this was followed by much needed refreshments in Jackson’s Boat.
This area has recently been threatened by development with proposals from the private landowner (recently purchased from the University of Manchester) to build a football stadium with turnstiles, fencing, 50ft high floodlights and seven football pitches, including artificial pitches. Fortunately this proposal was soundly rejected by the City Council Planning Committee and the developer withdrew his application - although this is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

The full Lepidoptera species list was:
Eriocrania salopiella – mines on birch
Eriocrania semipurpurella – mine on birch
Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet – larvae and cocoons
Aspilapterix tringipennella – adult
Phyllonorycter ulmifoliella – mine on birch
Glyphipterix simpliciella (Cock’s-foot Moth) – adult
Argyresthia retinella - feeding signs on birch
Coleophora serratella – feeding signs on birch
Coleophora spinella (prob) – larval case on hawthorn
Coleophora albidella – larval case on Goat Willow
Coleophora peribenanderi – larval case on Creeping Thistle
Elachista argentella – adult
Anacampsis blattariella – larva on birch
Aphelia paleana – adult and larva on Ribwort Plantain and vetches
Celypha lacunana – larva on Ribwort Plantain
Ancylis badiana – adult
Grapholita compositella – adult
Grapholita lunulana – adult
Grapholita jungiella – adult
Mother of Pearl (Pleuroptya ruralis) – larva on nettle
Green-veined White – adult
Large White – adult
Orange-tip - egg on Cuckoo Flower, and adult
Common Blue – adult
Holly Blue – adult
Small Copper – adult
Small Tortoiseshell – adult
Peacock – adult
Speckled Wood - adult
Winter Moth – larva on birch
Latticed Heath – adult
Mottled Umber – larva on oak
Ruby Tiger – adult
Sallow – larva
Dun-bar – larva on birch
Small Yellow Underwing – adult
Mother Shipton – adult

Lancs moth group is at: http://www.lancashiremoths.co.uk/
Information on proposed development of Hardy Farm can be found at http://savechorltonmeadows.wordpress.com/
Photos of all moths mentioned can be seen at: ukmoths: http://ukmoths.org.uk/

Ben Smart, May 2010

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A reminder for this coming Sunday’s Birdwatching For Beginners walk

On Sunday 6th of June 2010, Friends of Chorlton Meadows members will be leading a Birdwatching For Beginners walk. It is a free two-hour walk around Chorlton Meadows and Sale Water Park, with the intention of getting beginners young and old into birdwatching.

FoCM members will be on hand to point out any summer visitors and other birds that make their home in this beautiful mixture of grassland, woodland and water habits.

Timetable For The Day

9.45 – 10.00 Meet at Mersey Valley Visitors' Centre, Rifle Road, Sale (near Sale Water Park).
10.00 Introduction, housekeeping and walk plans
10.05 Walk along Sale Water Park to bird hide at Broad Ees Dole nature reserve.
10.35 From Broad Ees Dole along River Mersey to Chorlton Ees.
11.15 Walk around Chorlton Ees and Chorlton Meadows to Jackson’s Boat.
12:00 Arrive back at Visitors’ Centre for final review and dispersal.

Bring binoculars if you can, though some provided by the Mersey Valley Countryside Warden Service will be available on the day.