Pickerings Pasture 16/7/2011

Early Saturday morning hardly looked promising, prolonged heavy rain and wind, as some of us assembled at the Liverpool ONE bus station for the 82A to Hale Bank but sheer optimism drives you on! During the journey patches of blue sky and only the occassional shower saw an improvement and that was the order of the day. At our destination you are immediately greeted with a blaze of colour in the form of a wildflower meadow, the first of a series, composed mainly of Corn Marigold, Scentless Mayweed and Corn Cockle. From the trees came the soft song of a Garden Warbler and then the more strident notes of a Song Thrush. Scanning the Mersey at low tide revealed a few mallard in eclipse and on the sandbanks clusters of Redshank, a few Cormorants, three Bar-tailed Godwits and a Great Black-backed close to a Lesser Black-backed Gull to demonstrate the size difference. Peering through the screen at the north end the normally shallow lagoon was just black mud, holding only a lone Grey Heron. While scanning the Black-headed Gulls on the cliff top the three previous Godwits joined them, one having a very russet plumage. Several fields away the scene was dominated by a great straggling flock or herd of grazing Canada Geese. Just to make it more interesting 16 Black-tailed Godwits flew in, wheeled about and then headed out over the incoming tide.

At our lunch stop the meadow was one largely of Ox-eye Daisy, Hairy Tare, Field Scabious and Yellow Rattle, most of the latter having gone to seed. Up until then insect activity had been scarce  – merely a Gatekeeper butterfly seeking refuge. But now the sun came out and what a difference. Within a minute or two the place was a hive of activity with Large Whites , Meadow Browns and Burnet Moths followed by a Small Copper and a Holly Blue. To add to the diversity Dave Hardy picked out a Tree Bee Bombus hypnorum, a new arrival into the UK. We were intrigued by the prominent, large, spiky, green galls on the Crack Willows – later perusal of a FSC showed them to be caused by a virus. Returning to the reserve entrance we concluded with a Peacock, a nice clump of Tansy, a Whitethroat sculking about, Chiffchaff and Blackcap in song and a Brown Silver-line moth flushed amongst the grasses.

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