Thursday, 8 October 2020

Wildlife's challenge

 Work continues in Filter Bed Wood on the Sandbach Woodland and Wildlife Group's Sandbach Bridges Trail (East), which will complement the existing Sandbach Bridges Trails (North) and (South), the Brook Wood Trail, the Sandbach Environment Trail created by the Friends of A Rocha group and of course the very popular Wheelock Rail Trail managed by Cheshire East Council.

This image from near to Filter Bed Wood shows a magnificent Giant Horsetail that demonstrates how challenging the natural world finds it to live alongside us humans nowadays. The height of the plant can be judged by comparison with the (standard size) traffic cone that someone had abandoned deep in the woodland....

Giant Horsetail

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Summer of lockdown

 As we all know, our local wildlife has flourished during lockdown this spring and summer. I have photographed some nice wild flowers along the nature trails in Brook Wood and Dingle Wood, including Moschatel. Sweet Violet is well established on the Rail Trail. Tawny Owls are often heard around the Park area and a young Great Spotted Woodpecker was there. A Kingfisher has been seen flying up the valley to the old mill pool above the weir on Mill Hill Lane. (Grey Wagtails nest there too, and at Brook Bridge). A fine colony of Butterbur grows by the river below the Wheelock football field. Little Owls may have nested not far from the Queens Drive estate. Not all of our wildlife has appeared naturally. Several spikes of Common Spotted Orchid flowered in the wildlife area of Sandbach Park; they had been planted there but are from local rescues and we wish them very well for the future - they look nicely settled. 

But elsewhere, I found an even stranger artificial delivery today when a shocked dog-walker outside my house pointed out two Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars on the grass by the road! I attach a couple of pictures.The larger stretched to some four inches long (when it felt like it). I can only think they must have been dumped there by some equally shocked person who found them in their garden. I looked up their food plant on Google, and discovered to my delight that one plant which Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars will consume is Himalayan Balsam! So they are now chomping away not far from here on one of Sandbach's most pervasive pests. That's the sort of biological control measure that I like! I hope you see one of the moths later.

Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars:


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Winter and spring

Winter has come to an end in the Sandbach Wildlife Corridor and spring is "icumen" in, as the mediaeval song puts it. Now that we are all confined to barracks, we can at least hope to get out along the nature trails or at least enjoy the wildlife that comes to visit us. But it has been a sodden one until now, hasn't it? The only wildlife that has stayed pristine is that which has stayed above the wet ground, like this fungus on a mossy branch near Filter Bed Wood.
However, all sorts of things will be springing up soon. Walkers in Dingle Wood should watch out for the brilliant yellow Marsh Marigolds that will shortly produce their fine display. A dashing male Sparrowhawk was hunting near Brook Wood. But should care for our woods; last autumn I was inspecting an impressive colony of Giant Horsetail near Filter Bed Wood when I was  displeased to find one fine tall spike of it growing in a very artificial environment - out of a large traffic cone:
Nevertheless, the birds and the bees are moving, even if the human world has suddenly stopped. We saw a fine Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch in Dingle Wood, and the local Buzzards are frequently over the valley. At the Sandbach Park Pond the resident Moorhens are rarely seen unless you pause and watch for them slinking through the waterside vegetation, but they will prepare to nest soon. And finally, here's one more  piece of evidence that spring has arrived!

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Ringlet in the changes!

Roger F was delighted to photograph a new butterfly for Sandbach at the weekend, in the rough ground below the lower Waitrose roundabout. That is in the area that is downstream of St Mary's Dell. The Ringlet butterfly has been spreading steadily northward so it is hardly a surprise, but it is an attractive addition to Sandbach's fauna. At first glance Ringlets might be taken for dark Meadow Browns, but they have no orange panel above or below; and when they land an examination with reveal their eponymous rings on both upper and lower wings. Of course, if it is hot you may wait a long time for them to land! Well done, Roger! - George H

Friday, 11 January 2019

Water Rail!

A great bird sighting at Sandbach Park Pond has been passed along by birding expert Andy Goodwin. In about November, he spotted a Water Rail feeding right underneath the boardwalk beside the pond (and it could well still be around for the winter, so look out for it!). This is the first he has seen there since the 1960s.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Not a sad flower!

A very nice discovery yesterday was a rather rare wild flower beside the new Dingle Bridge footbridge. No wild flower seed has been sown - or plants introduced - at that spot, but a large and healthy-looking plant (or maybe two plants) of Melancholy Thistle has appeared there. A tall, thornless thistle with big purple heads, Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium heterophyllum) is a rather rare species of damp places on northern hills and mountains and forests. Although it has a sad name, it was not given that name because it made people sad but because the cheerful sight of its big, bright heads was considered good for melancholy!

It was almost certainly introduced with stone or limestone chippings (it grows on the Derbyshire limestones) when the new footbridge was built. It is not, of course, a native species here. But since no-one deliberately introduced it, it counts as a "wild" flower for botanical record purposes.So it has now been accepted as a proper Cheshire record - and Dingle Bridge is now one of only three known sites in Cheshire for this plant. (The other two are  thought to be a site in the eastern hills where Melancholy Thistle is a native species, and another "accidental" site in the middle of Delamere Forest.) - George

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Town Hall Clock!

And one more new flower was found to be a rather pretty feature of the trail past Dingle lake in April. beside the path there grows a small carpet of that odd little plant, Moschatel or Town Hall Clock. I understand Roger Foden has photographed it. His images and more on the Trails will appear soon in Sandbach Town Talk. get ready for your copy!  George