We were on the telly! Well our Sparrowhawks were! Did you watch the David Attenborough documentary ‘The Hunt’ Part 3 ‘Hide and Seek’ on Sunday 15th November? If so you would have watched our nesting female Sparrowhawk with chicks leave the nest and fly to accept prey from her mate at an ivy-covered tree stump. This was our ‘plucking post’!
This image was taken in 2013 by Hamza (full sequence further down this page and on our Bird Tab) who kindly passed on our details to a documentary film-maker who came and filmed at the Reserve in 2014.
We had no guarantee that the footage would feature in a programme let alone when it would be aired.
What a wonderful surprise to be sitting watching ‘The Hunt’ on Sunday evening and suddenly see our Sparrowhawks and our plucking post! It was a fabulous sequence to watch and our Sparrowhawks did us proud!
P.S. This particular plucking post has not been used this year
More photos from Apple Weekend
Apple Weekend 10 & 11 October 2015 news. We were very lucky with the weather, although we did not have the hot sunshine of last year it stayed dry and was warm enough to have some of our cafe tables outdoors.
Fortunately we were ready before our official opening time as visitors arrived early and soon activities were under way.
It was not long before Mark had a steady stream of customers apple tasting, selecting their favourite flavours before moving on the buy.
This year we had a dedicated children’s corner (thank you to Charlotte and Paul for the use of their tent) where children heard and joined in stories, could colour-in pictures, make pictures ‘joining the dots (you can just see the bat picture) and make small paper tee shirts as part of a story.
Their pictures were pegged up each day for all to see and admire.
One of the most popular activities was mask making, butterflies were particular favourites with the girls but soon owls, foxes and snakes made an appearance.
A big thank you to Tricia for all her time and effort preparing and running the children’s corner.
Orchard tours were well attended again this year and we treated Jonathan to a orange ‘high-viz’ vest for leading the walks!
Overall we had nearly 600 visitors over the weekend and we sold nearly 300 slices of delicious home-made cake and 75 chocolate squares. Our fresh and pasteurised apple juice sold well again this year and apple juicing demonstrations were well attended, needless to say our cider sold out completely both days!
A warm thank you to everyone who gave their time and effort to make our Apple Weekend possible and a success and thank you to all our visitors for supporting us.
Green Park School visit. Green Park School Year 2 Class visited our Nature Reserve last week and wrote a blog about their adventures. It’s well worth a read click here
Moth morning and other insects and help from a team from Santander UK.
The overnight weather for our moth morning event on Sunday 6th September did not bode well for a large catch in our moth trap but what we did get was a real treat!
This moth with its wings closed looks nice but to some eyes probably a bit drab
look when it flashed its red underwings. This is the first Red Underwing to be recorded at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve.
We also were able to show our visitors the lovely Canary-shouldered Thorn, Dusky Thorn and Gold Spot moths amongst others.
On Wednesday 9th our moth trap revealed that not only moths are attracted to the bright light. This Burying Beetle was found in the bottom of the trap. This beetle buries dead mice and small birds and had to be photographed quickly on an outdoor table before it reached the ground as it disappears beneath the soil in a matter of seconds!
Other finds in our moth trap included:
This micro moth is very distinctive and its forewings are edged with pink.
Damselflies are still out and about around many of our ponds
and butterflies make the most of splashes of Autumn sunshine
Our path in Willowbank Wood has, over time, become very rutted and needed repairing and making suitable for both people and vehicles to use. We were very pleased to have Santander UK help us build a more robust pathway as part of their Community Day Scheme. They were very lucky with the weather!
Warm sunshine, wonderful wildlife and making hay!
Saturday 8th August was a warm summer day with plenty of sunshine for us and the wildlife to enjoy.
Butterflies were everywhere, especially the really colourful Peacocks with their vivid eye-spots.
Margaret’s Meadow copses were also full of colour
A very special treat – this Brown Hare was enjoying a snack in the sunshine in North Wood ride
Our new ponds are really showing signs of life with this Great Diving Beetle
and frog in the 5 Acre pond
Damsel and dragonflies around Rough Hey pond and
this fabulous male Broad-bodied Chaser in Triangle Meadow pond. Mark positioned a branch out across the pond especially to attract basking insects
The weather window was too good an opportunity to pass up for hay making.
Many of our wildflower hay meadows have now been cut, flicked and ready to be baled
5 Acre meadow was in full swing baling and loading transport to the barn
A rather late evening to get this finished!
Heralds, Grey Daggers and Mother of Pearl – it can only be more moths!
Here are some more photos by Liz:
(27 July 2015)
An ‘Empress’ and more clever moth disguises.
Our new pond in Rough Hey meadow has been treated with barley straw as an experiment to increase the health of the pond. Gradually the barley straw has been sinking below the surface and it has proved an irresistible attraction to dragon and damsel flies as ideal sites to lay their eggs.
This wonderful female Emperor looked at several stalks before settling on this patch to lay her eggs and allowing Mark time to take this superb photo. As always you can click on the photo to enlarge it.
Liz has been busy again photographing more new species of moth attracted to our new trap:
(22 July 2015)
Emperors, ghosts and chocolate bees!
Our new ponds around the Reserve are attracting a number of dragonflies. The pond in the 5 Acre wildflower hay meadow is not only a feeding area for Broad-bodied Chasers but also this male Emperor dragonfly is a regular visitor.
As always you can click on these photos to enlarge them
The 5 Acre meadow is also where our new moth trap is in operation at the moment. It’s run on mains power and is much larger and more powerful than our old Heath Trap. At the moment it is capturing large numbers of moths keeping Liz occupied for hours and hours identifying, recording and photographing moths.
Moths have wonderful names such as these Ghost moths
Can you see why the Spectacle moth gets it’s name?
This Buff Tip is very well camouflaged as a twig.
On 4 July we joined forces with Lancashire Wildlfife Trust Plan Bee Project Officer Ben Hargreaves click here to survey bees on the Reserve.
Bees come in all shapes and sizes and also have some wonderful common names. For example this is andrena carantonica, the chocolate mining bee.
Ben led the group armed with nets and small containers to capture, identify, record and release our finds.
We started at Seldom Pond in Cabin Wood as various wildflowers, dog roses and bramble are in bloom.
We were quite successful in the small border outside the Cabin. Our main finds were in the area outside the polytunnel (used to harden off the wildflowers grown to plant out in the meadows), the rides in Willowbank and Bluebell woods and the 5 Acre wildflower hay meadow.
Some did not confine themselves to catching bees!
The species we found were: Red-tailed bumblebee (worker), Common Carder bee, Early bumblebee, Small Garden bumblebee, Buff-tailed bumblebee, Tree bumblebee (Queen), male Cuckoo bumblebee (vestalis), andrena carantonica (chocolate mining bee), andrena bicolor (Gwynne’s mining bee) and a Leaf Cutter bee.
Our thanks goes to Ben for leading the group and sharing his knowledge.
(15 July 2015)
More moths for our collection. Liz has been busy again identifying and photographing moths found in our new moth trap.
Do you remember this from May last year?
Well … it turns into this!
Yes Uncertain really is the name of this moth!
(6 July 2015)
Stand still for 5 minutes. It is amazing what you can see when walking around the Reserve if you take time out from your walk and stand still for just 5 minutes. All these photographs were taken on 27 June stopping for 5 minutes in various locations taking time out from the bird feeder round.
Entering Willowbank Wood you walk down past several Dog Roses and then down towards an open area of ride filled at this time of year with wildflowers.
Stand still in this wildlfower patch and marvel at the insect life as well as the beauty of the flowers and grasses
Further down in Bluebell Wood there is another open wildflower area
The Outcrop public footpath is a favourite spot for Whitethroat. Both male and female made an appearance.
In North Meadow there were several Meadow Brown butterflies
In Margaret’s Meadow down low there are patches of Lesser Stitchwort
and more Large Skippers as well as Common Blue butterflies.
Hazelnuts are forming on several Hazels in North Wood
The surround of new pond in Triangle Meadow is ‘greening-up’ well and attracting a Broad-bodied chaser
Back to Cabin Wood to see Azure Damselflies around Seldom Pond
Well worth the time out!
(3 July 2015)
More lovely photos of moths taken by Liz.
(27 June 2015)
Wildflower and Butterfly Walk 14 June followed by a selection of lovely moth photos taken by Liz .
The weather forecast was for sunshine and no rain. Unfortunately it was overcast and there was some drizzle so waterproof coats were handy.
A good crowd of 20 people set off and we were fortunate to have Hilary Bedford lead the walk again this year.
Our route this time took us down the road past our polytunnels and orchard following the footpath down past the area of scrub land and Aughton Cliffs Wood. All down this path Hilary pointed out lots and lots of wildflowers and grasses from two different types of buttercup (meadow and creeping), cow parsley, Yorkshore Fog grass, Common Vetch to garden escapees such as Aquilegia. This Green Alkanet was nestling just by our wooden gate entrance to the polytunnel.
We wandered along the grassy rides though Willowbank and Bluebell Woods, usually a haven for butterflies but the poor weather meant that not a butterfly was in sight! We had a whole range of wildflowers and grasses to look at ranging from this beautiful Southern Marsh Orchid to the humble White Dead Nettle.
From there we walked back along the public footpath up to the Outcrop, again many of the wildflowers were snuggled down in the verges alongside the footpath and are probably unseen by many walkers.
Last year we had Bee Orchids flowering on the Outcrop but unfortunately we could not find any this year but there were many other little treasures to look at.
As the walk was drawing to a close the drizzly rain had set in so we all headed back to the cabin for a welcome cuppa and a slice of homemade cake and to compare notes on what we had seen.
Here is the list of the wildflowers and grasses we recorded with a few more photos:
Orange Hawkweed (Fox & Cubs), Meadow Buttercup, Cow Parsley, Creeping Buttercup, Common Catsear, Hawbit (unclassified), Common Mouse-ear, Red Campion, Common Vetch, Forgetmenot (unidentified sub-species), Ribwort Plantain, Common Cleavers, Spear Thistle, Cut-leaved Cranesbill (Geranium), Common Comfrey, White Dead Nettle, Hogweed, Hedge Woundwort, Meadow Cranesbill, Meadowsweet, Ox-eye Daisy, Tufted Vetch, Ragged Robin, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Southern Marsh Orchid, Yellow Rattle, Cuckooflower (Lady’s Smock), Marsh Marigold, Yellow Flag Iris, Rosebay Willowherb, Green Alkanet, , Dovesfoot Cranesbill (Geranium), Lady’s Mantle, Yarrow, Wood Avens (Herb Bennet), White Clover, Greater Plantain, Greater Stitchwort, Black Knapweed (Common), Common Sorrell, Meadow Vetchling, Silverweed, Heath Bedstraw, Foxglove, Sheep’s Sorrell, Kidney Vetch, Pineappleweed, Burdock (unclassified), Herb Robert, Common Chickweed, Germander Speedwell and Ground Elder.
Grasses: Cocksfoot, Yorkshire Fog, Ryegrass, Crested Dogstail, Mat Grass, Soft Brome and Barren Brome.
We have a new moth trap which has been set up in Cabin Wood and we have caught a wide variety of moths. Liz has spent many happy hours identifying, recording and photographing them. Here are some of her photos:
We also managed to find a Svenssons Copper Underwing caterpillar as well!
(19 June 2015)
New Reserve signs, Dawn Chorus singers, views and wildlife sightings.
We decided that we wanted to update our Reserve sign on the public footpath leading up to the Outcrop and make it more visible. What do you think?
We also want to show people the names of some of our meadows that can be seen from the public footpaths. This is the first sign showing Devil’s Wall Meadow, this can be seen from the Outcrop at the side of the ‘Rambler’s Bench’.
On 23 May we held our annual Dawn Chorus walk around the Reserve recording the birds we hear and see. Here are the singers (in order of sighting):
Blackbird, Skylark, Pheasant, Song Thrush, Robin, Woodpigeon, Wren, Dunnock, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Tawny Owl chick, Jay, Magpie, Willow Warbler, Kestrel, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, House Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Swallow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Yellow Wagtail (flying overhead a first for the Reserve), Black-headed Gull, Jackdaw, Collared Dove and Mistle Thrush. Plus some bats!
32 species this year, fewer than in the last 2 years (41 in 2014 and 43 in 2013) but it is ‘the luck of the draw’ on the morning. Unfortunately the weather was not very kind and everyone needed to be well wrapped up against the cold.
Our small mammal survey on 6 June was quite disappointing with several of our Longworth traps disturbed, probably by a hungry hedgehog after the food. Our consolation was finding 4 Common Shrews.
We also found these bees mating in the sunshine.
BBC Springwatch this year featured galls found on oak trees, these are some of ours. Possibly this is an Oak Apple gall.
If you scroll down the page you will see the photos at the end of 2014 showing the construction of our 6 new ponds. The pictures featured the pond being dug in our 5 Acre Meadow. Already there is life. We saw tadpoles a few weeks ago and now we have froglets, great diving beetles, water boatmen and hovering dragonflies. Wildlife soon discovers new habitats.
The froglet soon recovered from its strange encounter with Rob’s hand!
The Veg Plot is looking very colourful at this time of year
We have plenty of wildflowers to plant out
Seldom Pond in Cabin Wood is well worth a visit
(13 June 2015)
The Secret World of Newts Event 16 May 2015. There was a good turn out for our evening event and we were blessed with fine weather. Newts are most active after dark so we started the event at 9pm.
The day had been sunny so when the event started the light had not fully faded but it was not long before our new powerful torches really penetrated the surface of Seldom Pond and we could see a variety of newts rising up for a breath of air.
A very recent survey of Seldom Pond by the South Lancashire Amphibian and Reptile Group had found over 100 Great Crested Newts so we were confident of success.
Our first newt was a male Smooth Newt but soon Great Crested appeared and pond dipping became a fun but serious business!
The belly patterns of Great Crested Newts are individual to each newt and are photographed and used in survey work to determine population numbers. Fortunately we had a licensed handler with us so the belly pattern could be shown to our visitors.
Pond dipping did not just involve newts; there was a variety of other pond life to see such as Caddisfly, Pond Skaters and Water Boatmen to name but a few.
There were other things to see and hear during the evening; small bats were flying and feeding around the pond and, close to the Cabin, a Tawny Owl could be heard softly calling.
We ended back at the Cabin with tea, coffee and homemade cake; a tasty end to a lovely evening.
(29 May 2015)
Look what we found!
This beautiful Tawny owl chick was found when surveying nest boxes on Saturday 9th May
(12 May 2015)
A new look for Spring. Recent visitors will have seen that the area in front of the barn at the top of the car park has a new look. We obtained funding to put in a concrete apron because when wet, this area was rather a mud bath!
We have also put in a new path from the car park to Cabin Wood to save visitors crossing in front of the barn.
As you can see we have covered the path with wood chip (our own) to save it turning too muddy and we have also used wood chip to refurbish some of the more muddy path areas in Cabin Wood itself.
Spring has brought its own colour to Cabin Wood with
vibrant yellow cowslips and delicate blue English bluebells
Our Spring migrant birds have arrived. Chiffchaffs have been singing for some time now across the Reserve but Willow Warblers, Swallows, Blackcaps and Whitethroats have also made an appearance.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers have nested, many other bird species have either nested and are sitting on eggs or nest building.
On sunnier days butterflies have also made an appearance, Peacocks, Commas and Speckled Wood butterflies have been seen.
(1 May 2015)
Local MP visits Gorse Hill. On Saturday 7 March Rosie Cooper MP for West Lancashire visited Gorse Hill Nature Reserve..
Our first destination was Cabin Wood where immediately we found Derek painting wood preservative on the carved totem pole, created and donated by the late Peter Freeman (who sadly died last year).
Rosie also stopped and chatted to Charlotte and Florence who were busy transplanting snowdrops along the side of the main path.
(We regularly split and transplant clumps snowdrops ‘in the green’ )
After the stroll through Cabin Wood we took Rosie on a tour of the rest of the Reserve.
From the outcrop we went up through the hay meadows looking at some of the new ponds and to Gorsey Croft to check progress on the new woodland plantation.
Then down to the new orchard in the 12 Acre where Rosie met some of the volunteers who were working in there. We followed this by a visit to Willowbank and Bluebell Woods.
(14 March 2015)
Photographs by one of our visitors on Saturday 7th March. Viv kindly shared some of the photographs she took
(9 March 2015)
Sunday opening. On 1 March we opened our gates to visitors for the first time on a Sunday. The weather in the morning was bright and sunny although the wind was cold but as we approached the start time for the guided walk it began to rain. We had a steady flow of visitors up to that point and thought that the rain would spoil our day. We need not have worried, a sudden influx of people arrived for the walk and well wrapped up against the rain and wind we set off to visit parts of the Reserve not normally open to visitors.
After visiting our Heritage Orchard we went down to the edge of Aughton Cliffs Brook to look at part of our reedbed system.
The brook borders the boundary of Willowbank and Bluebell Woods and we followed its course through these woods on our walk.
Visitors saw all four ponds in Willowbank and Bluebell Woods
and were able to see the first frog spawn of the year in Gill’s Pond.
The walk took us back along the hedge-line boundary and we peeked through the hedge to look at the new pond and the new orchard development in the 12 Acre field (the ground was far too muddy to venture in for a closer look!)
Fortunately the rain did not last long so most of the walk was in the dry.
The Cabin cafe was open selling hot drinks and homemade cakes which our visitors enjoyed.
Further open Sundays are planned throughout the year so please make a date in your diary for the first Sunday of each month to come and visit. The next open Sunday is Easter Sunday on 5th April.
(3 March 2015)
Reedbed maintenance, a new orchard and a cheeky robin.
Towards the end of January our volunteers cut and cleared part of the reedbed bordering Aughton Cliffs Brook in Willowbank Wood as part of a three year rotation cycle.
Over time the reedbeds and banks become clogged with bramble and self-seeded trees which need to be cleared and some reeds cut to generate new growth.
We have been planning a new orchard for some time so when we obtained the funding it was time to order the trees and get digging. 70 trees were ordered and thanks to a very generous donation we were able to purchase a further 70.
We decided that the 12 Acre field would be the ideal location for our new orchard.
140 holes needed to be dug. Using a small mechanical digger certainly saved time and spared our volunteers back ache!
Just another 139 to go!
We are planting a combination of dessert, culinary and cider apples and, in keeping with our existing orchard they are all heritage varieties. Some are on M25 root stock, others on M106 rootstock.
This is the first time we have planted cider specific varieties but cider lovers will have to wait a few years for these to be in full production! There are 8 cider varieties that include Dabinett, Morgan Sweet and Yarlington Mill.
There are 13 varieties of the dessert and culinary apples of which 10 varieties are new to the Reserve such as Ladies Finger of Lancaster, Allington Pippin and Tydeman’s Late Orange.
These trees will be cropping well in 4-5 years time and obviously we will be keeping you up to date with progress.
On our regular bird feeding rounds on Wednesdays and Saturdays we always see plenty of Robins, some more curious and friendly than others. One Robin whose territory is in Bluebell Wood has become trusting enough to take seed out of your hand but has discovered that there is much more to be gained by going into the seed bucket and getting its own!
(27 February 2015)
Mid January update and signs of Spring.
24th January and some daffodils have already begun flowering in daffodil Walk
Hazel flowers have appeared on many of the trees and are quite hard to see at first
Snowdrops have appeared and some have opened their dainty flowers
Bluebell leaves are showing above ground in Bluebell Wood so we are hoping for a good show this year.
Triangle Meadow also has one of our new ponds, this view is taken from the top of the hill in the meadow with Triangle Wood on the right. To the left lies Margaret’s Meadow with North Wood beyond and out across farmland to the Lancashire coast.
The new woodland in Gorsey Croft is doing well, the majority of trees have survived and are growing, some alder already have catkins
First planted in March 2014
now in January 2015
We have had some very frosty days, as you can see the surface of Seldom Pond is frozen in places and the boardwalk is white with frost
What can you recycle? Last November some bonfire night revellers left lots of rubbish on the outcrop so a couple of our volunteers went and cleared it all up. Amongst the rubbish was a box that had contained fireworks (presumably rockets) and was made of stiffened cardboard; it looked remarkably like the insect nest/hibernation boxes you can buy. Here it is housed in a wooden box to protect the cardboard from the weather mounted on a pole.
Come and see if you can spot it in Cabin Wood.
(26 January 2015)
Christmas and New Year news. We had our volunteer Christmas lunch at the Cabin on 17th December and, as usual, Betty one of our volunteers produced another pasta culinary success. Eddie, another volunteer, surprised us with a delicious beef casserole cooked by his mother Suzanne so there was plenty of food to go around. Just as well as everyone was hungry after a hard morning cutting back bramble.
Wildlife sightings got off to a good start after Christmas with a weasel being spotted in our little car park and a flock of about 40 Lapwing over one of our woodlands heading out to the farm fields beyond.
On New Year’s Eve Mark spotted three Bullfinches around Seldom Pond and photographed this male who was missing his tail feathers. A near squeak with a predator perhaps?
Our first volunteering day of 2015 was Saturday 3rd and it got off to a very wet start; the rain got steadily heavier throughout the morning but, true to the local weather forecast, it dried and became brighter after lunch. Some of our volunteers took the opportunity of the wet morning to take down our Christmas decorations in the Cabin but others braved the wet to start the bird feeder round.
The brighter weather in the afternoon allowed us to see and hear 23 bird species as we went out and about on the Reserve. These included Tree and House Sparrows, a Goldcrest, Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Great Spotted Woodpeckers . A flock of Long-tail Tits produced a wonderful acrobatic display and Goldfinches made the most of the Alder seeds. A Skylark singing overhead rounded off the day.
(4 January 2015)