Latest wildlife sightings – August 2019

Can you feel the first wisps of autumn creeping in? We’ve experienced the best of summer nature and ended the month feeling truly autumnal – read all about our latest sightings!
A hornet hoverfly feeding from flowers in someone's garden

Hornet hoverfly by Joan Burkmar

Mere Sands Wood

There was a wonderful mix of wildlife sightings at Mere Sands Wood in Ormskirk, with some really interesting insects to see. Eagle-eyed visitors spotted migrant hawker dragonflies and the impressive hornet hoverfly. This large hornet mimic is harmless, using its alarming appearance to keep predators like birds at bay. It was once confined to the south of the country in small numbers but is now spreading northwards; a possible effect of climate change.

As usual, the birds of Mere Sands Wood put on a show. A green sandpiper was spotted from the hides, sparrowhawks and tawny owls were seen in the woods and a kingfisher flitted between pools. More wonderful still were the great white egret and little egret seen fishing side-by-side, offering a great opportunity for visitors to compare and contrast what sets the two species apart. Little egrets have a black bill and yellow feet, while great white egrets – aside from being much larger – have a yellow bill and black feet.

Towards the end of the month Mere Sands Woods’ forest floor began feeling much more autumnal, with puffballs and earthballs emerging from beneath the leaf litter. It won’t be long before even more fungi join them!

Brockholes Nature Reserve

It was a month of firsts for Brockholes! Two new bee species were spotted on our Preston nature reserve for the first time: Davies’ colletes bee and the black-horned nomad bee. The former likes feeding from yarrow and tansy, while the latter is more common on southern heathland sites, so it’s really unusual to see one at Brockholes.

Brockholes’ next ‘first’ was a long time coming… an osprey finally landed on the osprey platform! It’s the first time since the platform was erected (back in 2013) that a visiting osprey has actually landed for a rest, and though the bird landed on the perch rather than in the nest itself, we’re hopeful it might return next year to raise a feathered family. The osprey was seen fishing in both Meadow Lake and Number One Pit, so it’s clear the reserve has everything this species needs.

Broad-leaved helleborine flower-heads in the sunshine

Broad-leaved helleborine by Philip Precey

Foxhill Bank Local Nature Reserve

It might not be one of our showiest orchids, but broad-leaved helleborine added a subtle beauty to Foxhill Bank Local Nature Reserve in Oswaldtwistle last month. Volunteers spotted the pink, heart-shaped flowers and green wings of the orchids peeking out from amongst other vegetation on the reserve.

Broad-leaved helleborine flowers from June to early September so you’ll need to be quick to spot some, but even if you don’t, dippers, dragonflies and woodpeckers mean a visit to this hidden gem of a nature reserve certainly won’t be wasted.

Salthill Quarry

Salthill Quarry is a wonderful place to spot wildflowers. Visitors have been enjoying the sight of carline thistle over the past few weeks – a striking wildflower that only blooms every two years. It loves dry chalk grassland and you can’t miss its distinctive brown and gold flower-heads, sort of like a large, dead daisy or a dying thistle that’s gone to seed. We love their rugged beauty.

A juvenile cuckoo perched on a fence post at Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve

Juvenile cuckoo at Lunt Meadows by Charlie Lowe

Lunt Meadows

What a month it was for wildlife sightings at Lunt Meadows. The Merseyside nature reserve has turned into something of an ornithological crèche, with juvenile little ringed plovers toddling after their parents and juvenile peregrines distantly whipping lapwings into a frenzy. Most excitingly of all, however, was a juvenile cuckoo flying back and forth from a perch on a fence post! Local birder and photographer, Charlie Lowe, took the fantastic image above.

Other notable August bird sightings included a marsh harrier and a pair of grey partridge, while literally hundreds of butterflies were spotted nectaring on creeping thistle and other wildflowers around the site. Most of these were painted ladies.

Seaforth

Lunt Meadows wasn’t the only place to spot young birds last month: Seaforth had some fantastic sightings, including a juvenile spotted redshank! Juveniles have the same orange legs and long, straight, orange bill as the adults, but their plumage is very different. They are a pale brown-grey with darker brown speckling on their upper-parts, while adults are almost completely black in their summer plumage, save for some white spots.

Visitors also saw a juvenile greenshank and juvenile black tern at Seaforth.

A sanderling in summer plumage standing on a pebble beach

Sanderling by Fergus Gill/2020VISION

Heysham Harbour

It’s been all go at Heysham harbour over the past few weeks! Around 200 redshank and 124 grey plovers were counted feeding and roosting on the mudflats. Keen seawatchers spotted a solitary sanderling, while a curlew sandpiper was seen on the Ocean Edge saltmarsh. Seawatches also proved fruitful where skuas were concerned, offering sightings of Arctic and great skuas plus common scoters, kittiwakes and a plethora of terns: black, arctic, common and sandwich.

There were still lots of butterflies to be seen, with painted ladies, small tortoiseshells, small whites and red admirals flocking over the sea wall. However, the moth trap hinted that autumn is on its way, with autumnal species like the canary shouldered thorn waiting to greet us in the morning.

Heysham Nature Reserve

As well as the first goldcrest of autumn and a number of grey wagtails, there was a notable insect sighting at Heysham Nature Reserve in August. Visitor Linda Renshaw found a speckled bush cricket – a first for the reserve! They’re often found perched on leaves in hedgerows and around woodland margins, but they do also turn up in parks and gardens.

A painted lady butterfly nectaring on lavendar

Painted lady by Jim Higham

Middleton Nature Reserve

Dragonflies are stealing the spotlight at Middleton Nature Reserve, with red-veined darter, migrant hawker, emperor, brown hawker and broad-bodied chaser dragonflies all spotted around the pools. The red-veined darters in particular have been busy mating. There are still lots of little grebes on the ‘No Swimming’ pond, while we were very surprised to hear a garden warbler and a water rail too!

As well as dragonflies, Middleton is a haven for butterflies at the moment, with the following species recorded over the past few weeks:

  • Gatekeeper
  • Meadow brown
  • Painted lady
  • Red admiral
  • Peacock
  • Small white
  • Small heath
  • Small tortoiseshell
  • Common blue
  • Wall brown
  • Brimstone

What have you seen at our nature reserves recently? We love seeing your pictures and hearing about your sightings, so don’t forget to tell us all about them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!