Monday, 8 December 2014

Birds and more Birds at Ness

While the last leaves are falling from almost bare trees it is a great time for bird watching and listening as small and large groups collect together.  At Ness we are fortunate to be neighbours to woodland, coastline and marsh,  therefore the variety of species present is considerable and birdwatching very rewarding.

The most obvious presence is the Robin.  Almost every 10 yards you wander from one robins smallholding to another.  Both male and females sing to defend their patch during the winter months, subsequently there is a continuous orchestra of song throughout the gardens.

Unusually this year,  the second most obvious,  that is noisy presence around the gardens are large groups of chatty Fieldfares.  Last year we were lucky to see the odd one, this year they are present in large numbers.  These birds are very fickle about where they go, so this does not mean there will be so many next year. 

Fieldfares are the largest members of the thrush family and tend to congregate in fairly large social groups  Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes less so. They are the colourful members of the thrush family with  creamy speckled undersides and auburn red back and shoulders.

At Ness there is an abundance of Rowan trees and groups of them are feeding very noisily on the crops of berries. 

Starting in January the project will commence regular surveys of birds seen or  heard in the gardens so hopefully we will add to our species list as the months go by.

A Hen Harrier was spotted being mobbed by two crows this week.  Crows cannot stand anyone bigger than themselves so make quite a fuss when something wanders into sight. We might never notice the larger birds presence without the agitation of the crows. 

'Mammal-cam' mini-blitz

Over Christmas we will be setting up our latest bit of kit acquired by the project.  Mammals are notoriously difficult to observe and photograph in daylight never mind at dusk and during the night when most of them are active.

For this reason we have obtained an infra-red motion activated camera to set up at different positions around the Wilder-Ness  areas to monitor mammal activity over the Christmas period.  Throughout the year it will be placed in selected  mammal hot spots in the gardens to enable us to create a  proper record as to what we have living with us. 

With such an interesting variety of habitat within the gardens the recorded variety of mammals  may surprise us.

Saturday, 15 November 2014


This week we had very welcome help from Paul Quigley of Norton Priory in the delicate business of furnishing our Bee Hotel.  Although we know what we need to do the team are having considerable difficulty with wet wood. 
Even dried out, the core of the logs are still very damp and drilling holes is almost impossible.  Paul has visited Ness and has offered us tangible help in coping with the problems.  

how many many men does it take to look into a hole

Creating links with other like minded organisations is a key aim of the Wilder-Ness project and over the next year we hope to develope this aspect considerably.


This week also saw our first 'Miniblitz'.  Tony Parker of Liverpool Museum came and laid humane traps overnight to check out the Harvest Mouse presence at Ness. These traps consist of a tunnel leading to a nest filled with bedding material and food.

The following morning the team including two very enthusiastic students from Hope University, Tracy and Jasmine, came to check, empty and retrieve the traps.  Of 32 traps set we managed to catch 4 woodmice and one vole that bit, understandably, Tony as it was let loose.


Birds at Ness

It has been confirmed by 2 separate sightings that we can add a new bird to the Ness Biodiversity List : 
Water Rail  this bird was initially seen on the Wild Pond earlier in the year as a youngster but as Coots, Moorhens and Water Rails are all brown it was difficult to confirm.  But another independent sighting as an adult in the past week has made this a definite.

Water Rails are very quiet unassuming waders and usually stay in the undergrowth around lakes and ponds unlike Coots and Moorhens so spotting one is quite unusual.  Ness Gardens has many hidden secret species yet to be discovered.

A Kingfisher has also been added to the bird list earlier this year, again at this secluded wild pond.  

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Bioblitz Results

Bioblitz June 2014

At a recent de-brief meeting of the Bioblitz team it was revealed even though it was the first time such an event had taken place at Ness Gardens that it had been a resounding success as a survey.  50+ specialists identified 900 + speies on the single day............................ 

The information collected is submitted to National Biodiversity Network,  giving Ness a  new national presence. It is also a valuable resource available for the use of Ness in future planning and bids for funding.

The species list would have been much higher if the survey during the night before had not been hampered by torrential rain. So in combination with weather and the time of year many species where missed. It is intended to follow up with 'Miniblitz' events to fill the gaps with separate surveys for different species at appropriate times of the coming year.


During the Bioblitz Survey several new species to Cheshire were discovered including :

     Wood/Leaf Cutter Bee (Meguchille Ligniseca)

     Wasps : Gorytes Quadrifusciatus, Nysson Trimaculatus

These discoveries will be added to The new 'Cheshire Atlas of Insects' currently being compiled.

The first dedicated survey will commence this week when we will be taken on a training session on how to find and locate Harvest Mice by the Mammal Society of Cheshire.

 Other news : 1000 native British Bluebell bulbs have been purchased to be planted out (gulp) into the Spinney during the coming weeks.