Chester Zoo Nature Reserve, 30th June 2019

A long bus ride, but an easy walk on this hot day. North of the Chester Zoo car park is their small Nature reserve, which is mostly wildflower meadow, but with a bit of woodland, the canal at the north, and some experimental plots.

The meadow was mostly white with Oxeye Daisies, as it has been left to mature since 2017 or 2018, and the annuals like Poppies won’t grow again. But there were Teasels, White and Red Campion, Corn Marigold, White Clover, Rosebay Willowherb, Great Willowherb, a tall trefoil about a foot high which can’t have been the low-growing Birdsfoot Trefoil so was probably Common Trefoil. In one place there was a large clump of Common Toadflax, just coming into flower.

We spotted a Buzzard overhead, and there were a few butterflies, mostly Meadow Browns with two or three Gatekeepers. At the south-east corner they have created three test plots to investigate how to turn fertile farm soil to natural meadows. There is a sign saying what they did and how they expect them to turn out, and each plot is labelled. Either their predictions were wrong, or it will take several more years to turn out as they expect, or they have labelled them the wrong way around. It looks to me like the one labelled plot 3 is thick grass and no flowers, as they expected plot 1 to be, while their plot labelled 1 looks like it has had the topsoil removed and is growing both grass and flowers sparsely. That’s what they say plot 3 was.

Near the pond there were lots of damselflies and a few dragonflies, but they were all moving too fast to photograph or identify. There was a strange little creature motionless on a reed or Iris leaf just outside the hide. It was about the size of a Ladybird (5mm?) but fawn with a big black spot. The colours reminded me of the sawfly larvae Chris F pointed out to us a few years ago. Is it some kind of sawfly pupa? I’d be happy for any suggestions.

Last week I had my first Painted Lady in my garden, feeding on a Hebe shrub. John had seen his first during the week, too. Have a batch of migrants just arrived?

Public transport details: Bus X8 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.20, arriving Chester Zoo 11.15. Returned from the same Zoo bus stop on the X8 at 2.15, arriving Liverpool 3.10.

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