Jul 2014: Weekend Away at Home

Macclesfield Wildlife Explorers spent two brilliant, busy days exploring the wildlife across different Northwest habitats as part of their ‘Weekend Away at Home’. Two consecutive day trips offered the group the opportunity to investigate different aspects of the natural world as an alternative to a residential trip this year.
 
The Group spent one day locally at Astbury Mere Country Park and Brereton Heath Local Nature Reserve and then travelled to WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire to look at the impressive wetland and waterfowl collection there.
 
Leaders will be looking for venues for a special Weekend Away in 2015 to celebrate the group’s anniversary.
 

DAY 1 – ASTBURY MERE COUNTRY PARK AND BRERETON HEATH LOCAL NATURE RESERVE

 
We couldn’t have wished for better weather for the first day of our weekend – bright sunshine and a cloudless sky – even Astbury’s Sandy Bear was set to join in with our morning!
 
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Minibeasts were out in force in the heat and we all got excellent views of dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies, we were amazed at the range of invertebrates within easy reach of the path. From beautiful, bright Burnet moths to the cryptic camouflage of grasshoppers and meadow bugs Astbury was teeming with life.
 
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With some talented photographers on the team we also got some excellent photos of the species we identified.
 
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The day started in earnest with a hedgerow survey. We identified lots of hedgerow plants and wildflowers.
 
We used different techniques to collect and identify the creatures – we used bug pots, sweep nets and even a spot of tree shaking!
 
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The group also completed a virtual Treasure Hunt – finding natural items for the initial letters of ASTBURY MERE.
 
Just before lunch we pond dipped, discovering a host of tiny animals, in the water, many of which represented the immature stages of the life cycles of insects and amphibians.
 
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We enjoyed a sunny picnic lunch looking out over the Mere.
 
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After we transferred to Brereton Heath activities began again. We started with a simple orienteering challenge followed by lots more bug hunting where we discovered an incredible number of brilliantly striped Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on ragwort.
 
IMG_2511  IMG_2512 IMG_2447Photo: We had an incredible time at Astbury Mere and Brereton Heath last weekend. So many invertebrates to see including this beautiful 6 Spot Burnet Moth photograph by Jan Riley.
 
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The afternoon’s tasks included a Scavenger Hunt resulting in the collection of some fabulous natural items by our eagle-eyed explorers.

 
 
 
 
The pond at Brereton revealed lots of life too. We also discovered a fabulous dragonfly exuvia – preserved in perfect detail following the emergence of an adult dragonfly from the reeds.
 
 
 
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Fun and games were on the agenda for the late afternoon. Teams of Wildlife explorers played boules, bear relays and the environmental game ‘Squirrel Survival’.
 
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Leaders Julian and Tim created a challenging obstacle course that they enjoyed demonstrating. Tina was convinced to have a go too! Other Leaders were harder to convince but Phoenix and Wildlife Explorers were up for the challenge.
 
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Junior Leader Kat even took a turn as a human Hoopla!
 
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With the weather just changing our takeaway pizza order arrived and we gathered under the gazebo to end with day with a well-earned feast!
 
 
 
 
 
Macclesfield RSPB Wildlife Explorers would like to thank Cheshire east Rangers Matt Axford and Mark Arnold and Holmes Chapel take-away restaurant El Fourno for ensuring we had a brilliant day out.
 

DAY2 – WWT MARTIN MERE

 
After a few sat nav hiccups our intrepid travelling group of families gathered at Martin Mere in Burscough, Lancs.
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The day began with a talk on flamingos where we learned about IMG_2696flamingo ecology and how breeding programmes are used in conservation.
 
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We then set out on a number of boat and canoe trips, moving at a delightful pace through the wetland whilst learning all about the habitat mosaic and its management.
 
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There was also the opportunity to explore the wildfowl collection – with close views of some rare and intriguing species like the Nene that we could feed with bags of grain.
 
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After lunch it was time for the otters to be fed – a mixture of raw fish and chicken – not quite as appetising as our sandwiches but obviously a great hit with the otters
 
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We then split into two Bird Race teams to explore the wetland reserve surrounding the wildfowl collection.
 
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After a competitive hour and a half spotting a wide range of species from grey heron to chaffinch – best spot awards were made for Avocet and Bar-tailed godwit.
 
 
 
Thanks to Belinda Barker and the brilliant team of volunteers and staff at WWT Martin Mere. We can’t wait to come back!
 
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We had a fabulous weekend.
 
Thanks to all the Leaders who helped to plan and run our day and the families that joined us for our Weekend Away at Home!
 
 
 

Species list: Astbury/ Brereton Heath

 

Great crested grebe

Mallard

Tufted duck

Mute swan

Black headed gull

Wood pigeon

Blackbird

Chiff chaff

Willow warbler

Robin

Swallow

Buzzard

Carrion crw 

Common frog

Newt tadpoles

Common toad

Drone fly – eristalis tenax

Ichnumen wasp

Meadow brown

Meadow bug

Skipper

Red-tailed bumblebee

Honey bee

Azure damselfly

Common blue damselfly

Large skipper

Large White

Red Admiral

Grasshopper

Emperor Dragonfly

Brown Hawker

Ground Beetle

Cinnabar caterpillar

Burnet moth

Leafhopper

FroghopperOrb web spider

Nursery web spider

Wolf spider 

Orange slug

Pond snail

Freshwater shrimp

Lesser water boatman

Greater water boatman

Pond skater

Mayfly larva

Diving beetle

Water mites

Crested dog’s tail

Meadow cranesbill

Silverweed

Ox – eye daisy

Yarrow

Agrimony

Water mint

Spearwort

White water lily

Yellow flag

Meadowsweet

Monkey flower

Alder

Hawthorn

Lime

Willow

Toadflax

Centuary

Cheery

Holly

Scot’s pine

Rowan

March cinquefoil

Bird cherry

St John’s wort

Spindle

Early purple orchid

Red campion

Marjoram

Corncockle

Mallow

Poppy

Wood avens

Chickweed

Burdock

Common vetch

Bird’sfoot trefoil

Meadow vetchling

 
 

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