Latest wildlife sightings – July 2019

Bugs, birds, even dolphins – there have been so many incredible wildlife sightings in Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside over the past month.

Read all about our star spots and, if you’re quick, you may even catch some of them yourself!

Warton Crag

Rare pearl-bordered, small pearl-bordered and high brown fritillaries are undoubtedly the stars of our Warton Crag nature reserve, but the countless other butterfly species on the limestone cliffs aren’t to be missed. Dark green fritillaries have been foraging on the common dog-violets growing on the open patches of sunlit ground we’ve helped to create through woodland coppicing. There are also lots of lovely ringlets on the wing at the moment.

A hummingbird hawkmoth feeding on pink flowers in a garden

Hummingbird hawkmoth by Charlotte Varela

Mere Sands Wood

Mere Sands Wood is a great place to spot dragonflies during summer. Common darters have regularly been recorded at the reserve over the past few weeks, while stunning brown hawkers have also been on the wing. Not sure how to identify these dragonflies? Brown hawkers are quite distinct from other species, with a gorgeous chocolate-brown body and golden-orange wings.

Excitingly, a member of the Men in Sheds group we run at Mere Sands Wood found a hummingbird hawkmoth in the visitor centre! He took it outside, where it immediately began nectaring and showing off its patterns and colours.

Haskayne Cutting

July was a very exciting month at our Haskayne Cutting nature reserve in Ormskirk. Our annual marsh orchid survey revealed that the total number of these orchids has increased 22-fold, from just over 200 in 2012 to 4,400 in 2019! This is all thanks to careful management, like the annual mid/late summer mowing of the damp neutral grassland in the southern section of the reserve, plus the removal of arisings.

Haskayne Cutting is also a great place to catch yellowhammers belting out their ‘a-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeeese’ call. Given how rare they are in Lancashire now, it’s always lovely to hear them.

Brockholes

Our Brockholes latest sightings are always packed with wonderful wildlife, and July was no exception.

Painted lady and white-letter hairstreak butterflies were real highlights, but they weren’t the only lepidopteran delights! It was a fantastic month for moths, with poplar hawkmoth, silver Y and the stunning beautiful china mark all spotted by eagle-eyed visitors. Then there were the gorgeous spiders – even arachnophobes must be able to see the beauty in the candy-striped and cucumber spiders pictured above.

Not that the birds were going to let the insects steal the show. Two little terns paid Brockholes a visit, while reed warblers, grasshopper warblers, whitethroats and even a spotted flycatcher brightened up the reserve with their comings and goings.

Bickershaw Country Park

Bickershaw Country Park is a bit of a hidden gem, tucked away in Wigan and, thanks to a partnership between ourselves and Wigan Council, slowly transforming into a real refuge for wildlife. In fact, water voles and great crested newts were recorded on-site in the last month! These wonderful creatures weren’t present at Bickershaw until we started work to improve the grassland and create new wetland habitat. Hurrah!

A pair of wood sandpipers foraging in the mud at Lunt Meadows

Wood sandpipers by Tony Conway

Lunt Meadows

Life never moves slowly at Lunt Meadows. Even during summer there is plenty of action out on the pools. Through July we recorded green sandpipers, black-tailed godwits, ruff, snipe and teal, as well as two very exciting wood sandpipers! Thank you, Tony Conway, for the lovely picture of them both (above).

Other avian highlights included a kingfisher, marsh harriers, and a hobby that didn't hesitate to take advantage of the abundance of dragonflies hunting over the water.

Seaforth

Common terns, common sandpipers and bee orchids have delighted visitors to Seaforth in July, but one species in particular put on a real show. Literally hundreds of painted lady butterflies were seen feeding on buddleia and teasel around the reserve, with the influx spreading right along the coast to Heysham. You’re bound to spot one of these beautiful butterflies in our region over the coming weeks.

A leafcutter bee at Middleton Nature Reserve with a section of leaf for its nest

Leafcutter bee by Pete Marsh

Middleton Nature Reserve

The dragonfly activity at Middleton Nature Reserve seemed to step up a gear in July. Countless red-veined darters were spotted on the main pond (many of them mating), plus common darters, emperors, black-tailed skimmers and brown hawkers. If that wasn’t enough, a little grebe was spotted on the ‘no swimming’ pond, joined at one stage by a group of 11 adult and 21 juvenile gadwall! A green sandpiper was recorded on the TB pond and a common sandpiper on the main pond, while a little leafcutter bee was a lovely surprise for Pete Marsh, who helps run the Heysham Bird Observatory blog.

Heysham Moss

Heysham Moss is a fantastic place to see insects, with July insect sightings including broad-bodied chaser, four-spotted chaser and emperor dragonflies, as well green-veined white, gatekeeper and large heath butterflies, the latter being extremely rare in our region. Heysham Moss is one of the only places to see them in Lancashire, but through our reintroduction project we hope to see them fluttering around their former mossland strongholds in Manchester by 2020.

A juvenile blue tit with yellow cheeks sitting on a twig

Juvenile blue tit by Bob Coyle

Heysham Nature Reserve

The birds of Heysham Nature Reserve have had a fantastic breeding season, and if July is anything to go by, now is the time to visit to see their cheeky youngsters noisily flitting from tree to tree. The young goldfinches are the most vocal and are roving the reserve in gangs. There are spotty juvenile robins and not quite as spotty dunnocks, yellow-cheeked great and blue bits, and lots of young chaffinches.

Heysham harbour

Our July wildlife sightings at Heysham harbour were very exciting indeed! A pod of dolphins was seen off the end of the outfalls, then a harbour porpoise was sighted, while grey seals have also put in appearances. A shag was recorded feeding in the inner harbour, while sandwich terns were spotted out from Red Nab and plenty of Mediterranean gulls, both adult and juvenile, enjoyed feeding around this area too. There was also much excitement when a lengthy stream of Manx shearwaters passed by off-shore during a quick seawatching session – 22 in just 15 minutes!

As a bit of an insect migration corridor, some of the most impressive counts at Heysham harbour in July have been of butterflies. Pete Marsh noticed a gentle flow of butterflies coming in off the sea between the wooden jetty and lighthouse one day, so decided to record them:

8:45am: Ten butterflies every five minutes. Eight of these were small white and the others were a mixture of painted lady, meadow brown and peacock.

9:30am: Rate had increased to eight butterflies every two minutes! The species ratio was similar to earlier that morning.

After lunch Pete counted 65 small white butterflies between the lighthouse and the waterfall! What’s more, a male clouded yellow butterfly was also spotted in July, fluttering over the florally rich grass at the north end of Ocean Edge.

There certainly isn’t a shortage of wildlife in Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, so why not head outside and explore what our beautiful region has to offer? You may even experience some of these wildlife highlights for yourself, and don’t forget to let us know what you see via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!