Port Sunlight and New Ferry Butterfly Park, 24th July 2022

New Ferry Butterfly Park doesn’t open until noon, so we strolled through Port Sunlight looking at some familiar trees. Many of them seemed very dry and drooping following the extreme heat earlier in the week. There were hardly any birds to be seen, just a brief Blackbird, the odd Wood Pigeon and Magpie and a few gulls passing overhead. We saw only one butterfly there, a white one patrolling up and down the rose beds. The effects of the heatwave were also showing in the  Butterfly Park, where the pond had dried to a small puddle. I hope the Newts are all OK!

We walked along the mown path through the tangle of grass and wild flowers. A sign asked us to keep to the path to avoid the butterflies breeding in the grass. The flowers were supporting a great variety of insects. The Wild Carrot had the usual “bonking” Soldier Beetles.  A Red-tailed Bumble Bee was visiting a Teasel and a clump of Tansy had an unidentified slim black beetle (on the left) and many tiny insects like wasps on the developing flowers.

Bonking soldier beetles on wild carrot
Red-tailed bumble bee on teasel
Insects on tansy

There were signs of autumn too. The Blackberries had ripened in the sunnier spots, the Guelder Rose berries were reddening up and an oak bore many immature acorns.

Blackberries
Guelder rose berries
Immature acorns of pedunculate oak

There were butterflies about, but not very many of them. However, in comparison to their almost complete absence elsewhere, this was a bonanza. Because it was so warm they were all very active, and refused to sit still to be observed.  Three dark ones were either Gatekeepers or Skippers. There was one Large White, several Common Blues and one Meadow Brown. Two Speckled Woods were flying around each other, and now I know they aren’t courting couples but males fighting for territory. One of them did eventually sit still for a few seconds.

We were surprised to see a clump of Mistletoe growing on a Hawthorn.

Then it started to drizzle so we made a quick stop at the plant sales table then headed back.

I should also give news of the Swifts that visit the area near my house in Crosby each year. This year they arrived on 14th May, and there seemed to be only two. They never screamed low past my rooftop in the evenings so I assumed they weren’t breeding. However, on 18th July there were seven or perhaps eight flying fairly low over my garden. I can only assume that there were two nests nearby, that the Swifts I had been seeing during the summer had both been males foraging for their confined mates, and that three or four chicks had fledged. Another successful year, apparently.    

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.30 towards Ellesmere Port, arriving Port Sunlight 10.48. Returned on train from Bebington at 1.42, arriving Liverpool just before 2.00.

Anyone is welcome to come out with the Sunday Group. It is not strictly part of the MNA, although it has several overlapping members. We go out by public transport to local parks, woods and nature reserves all over Merseyside, and occasionally further afield. We are mostly pensioners, so the day is free on our bus passes, and we enjoy fresh air, a laugh and a joke, a slow amble in pleasant surroundings and sometimes we even look at the wildlife!
If you want to join a Sunday Group walk, pack lunch, a flask, waterproofs, binoculars if you have them, a waterproof pad to sit on if we have to have lunch on the grass or a wet bench (A garden kneeler? A newspaper in a plastic bag?), and wear stout shoes or walking boots. We are usually back in Liverpool City Centre by 4pm at the latest.
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website www.mnapage.info for details of our programme and how to join us

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