Return of Swifts to the Towers of Warrington

Swifts (Apus apus) are superb fliers; you will see them soon when they return to Warrington from Southern Africa. They spend most of the year in Africa but during our summer the birds migrate to the UK to breed from May to September

The Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) hope that they will nest in the St Elphin Tower in the swift nest boxes that they installed late last year and in the Swift Tower close to the Warrington Guardian Head Office on Centre Park.

Swift Tower at Centre Park, Warrington

They nest inside cavities, mostly in buildings across traditional terraced housing estates in Warrington and their nests are located high up in the roof space under the eaves of old houses and churches where the birds can drop into the air from the high nest entrance.

There used to be a colony of swifts breeding in St Elphin’s Church Tower in Warrington for many years where their acrobatic displays were a great sight to see. Unfortunately, populations of these magnificent birds have fallen by 51% in their breeding numbers in the UK between 1995 and 2015, swifts are now an amber-listed species and no longer nest in the tower.

Brian Martin, former Chair of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum has been studying the swifts for decades and has documented the changes across Warrington and Cheshire. He is a renowned expert on the species and said, “There are still colonies of swifts that can be seen across the town where older housing stock exists, Westy for example is a good place to see them. However, our survey results in the town confirm the national trend that their numbers have fallen.

“I have been looking at ways to reverse the downward trend by advising new house builders to design the eaves of houses to accommodate them. I have also tried to persuade people to stop blocking up existing nest entrances and encouraged others to mount swift boxes below the eaves of their houses. They are not too expensive, and you could put one below the eaves of your house.

Swift Boxes in the tower at St Elphins Chuch, Warrington

Brian’s comprehensive records show that there used to be a successful swift colony breeding in the St Elphin’s Church Tower several years ago. He has been investigating ways to improve the chances of enticing them back and after a lot of tireless work it looks as if his efforts may soon be rewarded.

He said “I contacted ornithologists Louise and Jim Bentley for their expertise in designing, constructing and installing boxes. They came to look at the site and confirmed that it was an excellent one with a high chance of establishing a colony.

With this positive news myself and Helen Lacy contacted the Rector of St Elphins, Paul Wilson, to get permission from members of the Parochial Church Council to permit the installation of the swift boxes. The Rector was very supportive, and I am pleased to announce that work to install swift boxes by Louise and Jim Bentley assisted by Les Jones of the forum took place late last summer.”

Helen said, “In an effort to draw swift’s attention to the new site and tempt the birds into the boxes at St Elphins and the Sift Tower at Centre Park recordings of swifts will be played in both towers.

It is hoped that the recordings may entice investigation by swifts that may be fruitful in future years. There is no immediate guarantee, but it is hoped that we will be able to look up at the tower this summer and see the birds in action during our warm pleasant evenings catching insects on the wing.”

Chair Geoff Settle said “I took over the Chair of the WNCF from Brian 10 years ago. I consider myself so lucky as a rooky amateur to be able to draw from expertise and knowledge from members like him and champion their work.

“Click on this link to hear an interview with radio 4, a couple of years ago, talking about the birds of Woolston Eyes at this time of the year

“I’m sure that after hearing this you will want to find out more about Warrington’s SSSI site Woolston Eyes “

Geoff Settle

Chair WNCF

Nature Natters (7): The Cusp of Spring

The Cusp of Spring

Les Jones March 2018

As I write, we are in the grip of a Siberian cold snap right at the end of February. This afternoon,    while perusing the newspapers in one of our local supermarkets, headlines suggested that we were all going to die because of this terrible beast from the east.  An elderly lady looking at the same tabloids mocked the fearful headlines exclaiming “But it’s winter!”  I had to laugh at her look of incredulity at all this fuss… oh how the press love a good old cold snap.

Perhaps we should spare a thought for the Siberians, who are currently carrying on with their daily lives in what, for them, are normal seasonal temperatures approaching -40 degrees.  By the way, their kids are still going to school.

Hopefully we are all able to put on a few more layers and can afford to turn up the heating a little.  Unfortunately this is not possible in the natural world.  Quite how any of our wildlife, let alone some of our tiny feathered friends that may only weigh a few grams, can actually survive these kinds of temperatures is truly amazing.  Of course the truth is, in these circumstances,  many do perish.  Having access to a regular food source and especially a supply of water, is now critical.

This winter, Bramblings (a species of finch) flying in from Scandinavia have been abundant in our area.  They feed on seeds at this time of the year and can be seen ground feeding on beech-mast, most often in the company of Chaffinches.  These will stay with us up until late March and even into April.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) Photo Rob Smith.


Our Hawfinch population has been declining over recent years and it is feared they might become extinct, being down to around 1000 pairs however this winter saw a substantial influx of these large elusive finches; in Kent alone there has been a count of 700.  These birds have such powerful bills that they will split cherry stones.  It is hoped that some might stay to breed and therefore boost the numbers of our resident birds.  There have been about half a dozen over-wintering in Marbury Country Park and they may still be visible up to the middle of March.  There’s plenty more to look for at Marbury even if you miss out on the Hawfinches.

Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) Photo Rob Smith.

In the depths of our winter when all seems grey and lifeless, put on some warm clothes and take a walk.  Fields, hedgerows and woodland walks allow us to reconnect with nature. Have your own wildlife adventure you will slowly start to realise just how much life there is going on around us.  Show your kids that there is more to life than computer screens and mobiles.  There’s much to gain physically and spiritually from a walk around your local green space. I remember some years ago walking the Sankey Valley Way when a stoat appeared ahead of me.  It was standing on its hind legs seemingly dancing, then back onto all fours as it came nearer and nearer, repeating its dance until we were within ten feet of one another before it slowly became aware of my barely breathing, motionless body.  The stoat casually returned to all fours and stepped into the hedgerow never to be seen again.  What a wonderfully uplifting moment and a memory I treasure to this day. Time spent outdoors is not just enjoyable, it is as vital for our own wellbeing as are those same green spaces.

As spring approaches, the lack of natural wildflowers on our estates is causing young birds to starve in their nests, why not allow a portion of your lawn to grow? You’ll be amazed at the wildflowers that appear, followed by butterflies, bees and so many colourful insects and caterpillars which then become a much needed food source for your local birds and their young chicks during the breeding season.

If you have room, a small patch of nettles make great breeding plants for butterflies.  A small pond with at least one sloping side (stops wildlife accidentally drowning) will attract yet more wildlife. Want even more?  Put away the chemicals and think organic – local wildlife will love you and reward you with their presence and survive perhaps because of your actions.

How wonderful it is to hear our dawn chorus again.  This phenomenon only takes place in late winter and through spring as birds re-establish their breeding territories and pair up for the breeding season.  Birds also sing in the evening but it’s not as spectacular as in the morning.

Some early arriving birds to look out for as we near the end of March:  Wheatears drop in to feed up on any rough ground or on ploughed fields; Oystercatchers can be heard calling often after dark; equally listen out for the call of an early warbler, the Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins begin to arrive before the end of the month.

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) Photo Dave Steel.

If this is all new to you and you are interested in getting out there, perhaps involving your kids, there are local groups you can join, organised walks with local experts or you might be interested in some voluntary work to give nature a helping hand.

Below are a few contacts and places to visit:

Risley Moss has events for your kids and there is a winter feeding station at their woodland hide.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is an internationally respected conservation group with more than one million members which includes many young members.  There is a    quarterly magazine with around 200 nature reserves for members to visit.

North Cheshire RSPB Group meet at Appleton Parish Hall.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been working hard for wildlife for 50 years. Discover more about the wildlife on your doorstep. See their programme of events and there are more than 40 nature reserves you can visit.

If you’re interested in volunteering your help at a local nature reserve, e mail contact:

Equally, if you would like to get more involved or just keep up with local wildlife issues and events then you can visit our new website at:


Les Jones

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

Nature Natters (6) Wild Flower Campaign

WNCF – Wild flower campaign: Bee-Orchids – Nature Natters (6)

Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) are wild flowers that look like bees on a spike but they are sensitive to disturbance and can be difficult to spot however when you do you will be amazed at what you see. The Bee Orchids of Stockton Heath inspired me to make them the subject of a watercolour painting that I submitted in the local arts competition.

It was one of our members who first reported seeing them at a Greenall Avenue site. He sent me a map of their location which I passed on to Warringgton Bourogh Council so that they would protect them by leaving an unmown strip. It turned out that a trainee didn’t receive the message in time and mowed them down. Fortunately, no damage was done to the 50 Bee Orchids that were in the adjacent small wood.

A year later, as part of a cost saving exercise, WBC stopped mowing grass verges across the borough allowing the landscape to return to its natural habitat of tall grassland. In one of these patches in Birchwood, alongside the expressway, more than 100 Bee Orchid spikes and 50 Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) flourished, hidden amongst the tall grass.

Unfortunately, since then both sites have been mowed annually destroying any chance of them growing. To make matters worse this year some of the young saplings in the Greenall Avenue wood were cut down and turned into saw dust which was scattered across the wood and over the Bee Orchids. The net result was that this year only 4 Bee Orchid spikes were found in the wood and none at the grassland area.

This summer our eagle-eyed member has found a new site further on a grass verge further up Greenall Avenue but before the land owner could be alerted their grass cutter operative had mowed them down.

These examples go to show just how fragile wildlife is and why it needs to be protected. We hope that WBC will adopt policies like Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s web page that states “Bee orchids are protected, as are all wild flowers, under Section 13 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). This section prohibits unauthorised and intentional uprooting of any wild plant. In addition, because orchids are particularly slow growing and may only flower once in their lifetime, it is important to never pick the flowers.”

We are more hopeful for next year because both the private landowner and WBC have agreed to refrain from mowing these grassed areas during the Bee Orchid’s brief flowering season and for future years.

We are so lucky to have at least three sites in Warrington and our aim is to protect them as best we can. We need your help, so If you come across any wildlife sites that you feel need protecting then please contact the WNCF via our contact web page and tell us about what you have found.


Geoff Settle

Nature Natters (5) Borough Bird Life

Borough Bird Life – Nature Natters 5

Even in the depths of our wintertime our resident birdlife is busy protecting its own little piece of land.  Our lovable robin will sing its delightful song throughout this time and we may be forgiven for indulging ourselves to think he is singing those honey sweet harmonies just for us, but what to us is a sweet melody, to other robins is a warning to keep away as they will fight fiercely, even to the death to preserve their food source for themselves and any future mate and young family.

You may have seen a local thrush indignantly, striving to preserve its berry crop from marauding winter visitors such as Redwings and Waxwings intent on plundering his winter larder.  Mixed flocks of small birds move busily through our tree lines scouring the canopies for the smallest of live morsels or tiny pine cone seeds.  In this day and age many people help our wild birds by supplying seed and insect impregnated suet feeders etc, important at all times of the year but especially so throughout the colder months.  Our benevolence will save an infinite number of lives but do please remember to keep your feeding stations clean and free from harmful bacteria.

In the latter part of March, through April and into May, while our winter visitors are departing our shores, driven by instinct towards summer breeding grounds, we are blessed with the return of our own migrant birds to their place of birth here in the British Isles. Many of these birds will have flown thousands of miles from sub Saharan Africa very likely to the same bush or singing post it sang from last spring.  How many of us, even those who know little about our birdlife will still comment with pleasure on seeing their first Swallow arriving for the summer.

Other migrant birds are passing through our lands in this vast movement, perhaps Fieldfares to northern Europe, Redwings to Iceland or Wheatears to Greenland.  This is a great time of the year to keep a look out for special birds.

The harsh months are now behind us.  Summer is here and we have already observed the solstice, our feathered friends have sung their enchanting songs and attracted a mate although some species pair up for life. Now they have built their nests, many that are literally works of art like the Long-tailed Tits’ domed creation which takes several weeks to complete, made with the softest materials of mosses, interwoven with fine spiders’ webs and camouflaged with lichen, then lined inside with up to 2000 feathers; so designed as to expand as the family grows inside – a masterpiece, surely the favourite for a Turner Prize.

In these modern times there is concern for our environment. Over the last half century records show much of our wildlife including birdlife has been in steady decline, due to a number of factors; however most concern is for the dramatic losses of our farmland birdlife: Skylark numbers down more than 60%, Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows, Grey Partridges down by around 90% others such as Yellowhammers have suffered greatly due to changes in land management, farming intensification, increased pesticide, herbicide and fertiliser use, the removal of hedgerows and other non cropped features resulting in a massive loss of suitable feeding and nesting habitats causing a reduction of available food.

Equally since farmers are now growing two crops a year there are few or no fields being left in winter stubble which would help prevent mass starvations.  Some of our farmers have realised the gravity of the situation and are working very hard with programmes to help remedy the situation by creating rough field margins where weed and insect life can thrive and sometimes planting winter seed crops for wild birds but we need more farmers to become proactive if we are to halt these declines.  Countryside Stewardship schemes are still available from the government.

During our summertime there are countless thousands of fledgling birds which have left the nest but may not yet be able to fly and may be hiding in shrubbery in your garden or a local park etc waiting to be fed by parents.  Sometimes people mistakenly believe these birds have been abandoned or injured.  If you come across young chicks in your garden which are not yet able to fly, unless they are in immediate danger they should be left alone.  You can observe them from inside your property.  The parents are usually close by and will return to feed young once you are out of sight. If a bird is obviously injured, ring your local wildlife hospital or RSPCA for advice. Domestic cats kill millions of young birds every year. If you own one try to keep your pet indoors or away from this area for a few days until young birds are able to fly.  Cat collars are available with bell attached to help warn birds of an attack.

If you would like to get more involved or just keep up with local wildlife events then go to our new website at:

Les Jones.

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum.

Les Jones 28/6/2017




Nature Natters (4) Batty About Warrington

Imagine being able to fly at speed, day or night, weave in and out of natural or structural objects, detect, catch and eat food as you go and communicate with others whilst doing so?  Tricky maybe but not if you are a bat!

Bats are amazing creatures, a warm-blooded mammal that truly flies and often only noticed at dusk but which can be active throughout the night consuming thousands of insects in the process.  Most insects are eaten on the wing and although bats have good eyesight they prefer to hunt in the dark using a specialized form of sonar known as echo location, a high-pitched signal emitted by the bat which not only enables it to locate and avoid objects from the ‘echo’ it receives back from its calls but also as to where its prey is and even what size it maybe.

Although echo location is generally inaudible to most adult’s young ears can sometimes pick up the bat calls whilst the rest of us must rely on a piece of technology called a bat detector, a device which converts the high frequency sound of the bat to our level of hearing which in the process and with practice, allows us to identify the bats moving around us.

Of the 18 species of bat recorded in the UK, 17 species are known to breed here with a further 6 species regarded as rarities or vagrants.  Previous records show that in 1986 there were just six species of bat recorded in Cheshire with a further four species being added to the list by 2012 (The Mammals of Cheshire) and additional species being added since.

Species to look out for around the Warrington area include the Noctule one of the largest British species and usually the first to appear and easiest to recognize as they feed out in the open, often above tree top height where they are frequently noted going into sudden steep dives when chasing insects.  The Leislers is a bat of similar size and characteristics which also emerges before sunset and feeds in a similar manner to the Noctule.  Although Leisler’s bats are found throughout the UK there have only been a handful of records in Cheshire.

Other bats widespread in the region and most likely to be seen include the fast weaving flights of the Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, Daubentons and Natterer’s bats and in contrast the slower butterfly like flight of the Brown long Eared bat.  Two other species found around us include Whiskered and Brandt’s, both of which are similar in appearance and frequency of their echo location and only really identifiable in the hand or by use of sophisticated computer programs analysis of their calls.  In addition, albeit with limited data of its status and distribution, is the Nathusius Pipistrelle, a migrant species which appears to be on the increase in the UK generally and has been recorded on few occasions in Cheshire in recent years.  The Lesser Horseshoe is known to hibernate in the county and possibly recorded on rare occasions whilst there have been unverified records of two further species the Serotine and Barbastelle.

Although our knowledge of bats in the UK and Cheshire is continuously improving we still get the odd surprise and additions to the list when – through DNA analysis, a new species of bat is found to be present among similar types of bat as for example the Nathusius pipistrelle being separated from the Common and Soprano pipistrelle and more recently, the Alcathoe from Whiskered and Brandt’s.

You are never quite sure where you are going to find bats but generally if you venture out on a warm, calm night they can be seen and heard as they forage for insects in various locations such around barns, buildings, gardens, hedgerows, tree lined canals and waterways, ponds and lakes and where it is possible with the aid of a bat detector to listen too several individuals and species feeding there.

Although bats are warm blooded and very active between early spring and late autumn they are an insectivore and as such are dependent on temperature and especially the availability of insects.  Once temperatures fall and insects disappear bats are forced to go into hibernation which they might do so in caves, trees, tunnels or cavities in buildings during the winter period but may reappear for short periods during this time to drink or change location before going back into hibernation.

Sadly over the past 100 years the UK bat population has declined dramatically due in part to loss of roosting, hibernation and maternity sites, fragmentation and loss of habitat and in particular hedgerows which form important links between roosting and foraging sites but also the use of pesticides on crops which not only kill the insects but often the bats themselves whilst some timber treatments and roofing materials can also be harmful to bats.   Added to this is that UK bats also have a slow reproduction rate and only produce a single pup each breeding season as such population increase is slow and more long term but which can be quickly undone if they or their maternity sites are lost.

As a result, bats are now designated as a European Protected Species and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which not only gives individual bats and their roosts legal protection from harm or destruction.  Where building works are likely to impact on roosting or breeding bats then there is a legal and licensing process to follow as determined by Natural England, a necessary precaution in this day and age of fast change.

Bats are harmless mammals which do a great deal of good in the environment and cause no damage to property but if you are looking for more information and advice on bats check out the Bat Conservation Trust web site or ring the National Bat Help Line on 0345 1300 228.

You can also send Warrington Nature Conservation a message via our website

Rob Smith is a founder member of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum and a Consultant Ecologist.


Rob Smith

May 2017

Nature Natters (3) – Garden Bees

Nature: natters (3) – Garden Bees

The first bees to visit the garden in early spring are the bumblebees, the queens emerge from hibernation in early spring usually after the first spell of warm weather. Often the Buff-tailed Bumblebee is the first to emerge, this is our largest bee and as its name suggests has a buff coloured tip to the abdomen, the similar White-tailed Bumblebee is smaller and has a white tail, both have two yellow bands on a black body. The Red-tailed Bumblebee is jet black with an orange-red tail and the ginger-haired Common Carder Bee are also common garden visitors. Initially they will visit early flowers for nectar before seeking out a suitable nesting site, they will then begin to collect pollen to feed their offspring.

Bumblebee nests will often attract unwanted visitors in the form of Cuckoo Bumblebees, these have no workers and do not collect pollen, instead relying on the host species to rear their offspring. There are six species which have similar appearance to the species whose nest they take over, although they are less hairy and have a dark tinge to the wings.

The Honey Bee is another spring species, often appearing just after the bumblebees, these are slender bees and less hairy than bumblebees which live in large colonies. They collect both nectar and pollen straight away to replenish the stocks of supplies for the hive, the pollen is often visible on the hind legs of the bee.

Many species of solitary bee visit gardens, unlike bumblebees and honey bees they do not live in colonies although many nest in large numbers in close proximity. The female will construct a small nest often in the soil, in dead wood or even in soft mortar, she will then lay a small number of eggs. The eggs are provided with a supply of nectar and pollen and sealed within the nest, the majority will not hatch until the following year. The majority of solitary bees emerge in spring and are particularly important pollinators of fruit crops. Leaf-cutter Bees are an interesting group of solitary bees, the females of these insects are often responsible for cutting neat semi-circles from the leaves of roses. They will carry the cut section under their body back to the nest where they are used to line the cells in which the eggs are laid.

Solitary bees can be encouraged into the garden by providing suitable nesting sites, both natural and artificial, south or east facing situations work best, especially if there are nectar sources nearby. Holes up to 10mm in diameter can be drilled in logs or other wooden structures to various depths, these will attract a variety of species. Otherwise short lengths of bamboo cane or even drinking straws can be placed in bundles in suitable sites around the garden.

As with bumblebees the nests of solitary bees may be taken over by cuckoo bees which enter the nest where they lay their own eggs. These hatch out before those of the host species, they then feed on the contents of the nest cells prior to emerging. The so-called Nomad Bees are often the most obvious, these are almost hairless bees often with red, yellow and black stripes on the abdomen giving them a wasp-like appearance.

Recent declines in populations of many bee species has seen gardens and allotments become increasingly important as food sources and nest sites for many bee species. As part of the project to produce a distribution atlas of Hymenoptera in the Cheshire region RECORD are looking for volunteers to record visits by a selection of those bee species which regularly gardens or allotments. Details of the species concerned, their identification and recording form are available from the RECORD or by post from the Zoology Department at World Museum, William Brown St, Liverpool, L3 8EN.

You can also send Warrington Nature Conservation a message via our new web site

Tony Parker – Assistant Curator Vertebrate Zoology

Zoology Department at World Museum

Orchid protection: an email to the Council


Hi Kevin,  (WBC Wildflower expert)

I sent an email to contact on 15/6/2017 about the issues being raised by the WNCF members year on year about the cutting of Bee-Orchids.

We did write a few years ago and a meeting was to be arranged but never took place.

Back in 2014 I remember painting their beauty when there were 50 spikes off Greenall Avenue in a small wood and grassed area not far from Morrisons.

Your department was informed and sent a map but a week later they mowed down. We were told that this was an error on behalf of an inexperienced mower who hadn’t been shown the map we provided.

In a subsequent year when there was a halt to grass cutting a further 100 spikes appeared at the side of the Birchwood expressway by the bridge over the M6 and many people contacted us to describe this rare sight. Alas this has since been mowed and manicured!!

This year I found NONE at Birchwood site and only 5 at Greenall Ave. In addition this area had in fact been churned up as you can see from the attached photo. In the small wood saplings had been cut down and turned into sawdust that has been scattered throughout the thicket.

I’m not sure who maintains this thicket but I’m sure that the action and disturbance was detrimental to the orchids ability to grow.

We realise that some residents do not appreciate wildlife and would rather see our grass verges and small meadows turned into bowling greens only to look at as they drive past but the vast majority of people don’t, at least they wouldn’t if they knew what they were missing. On a related issues this does damage to the environment for the wildlife especially the birds, bees, insects etc.

Have you yet had time to consider our proposals to at least sustain from cutting grass in these areas until the seeds have set and others that can be identified whilst the wild flowers have their moment in the season?

It was only two weeks ago that I saw a very good example of how this is being managed at Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales a village next to my namesake of Settle. The area was simply signed with a brief description of the intent and photos of the wildflowers they hope to protect and why i.e. protect a small meadow of wild flowers and roped off.

Nearer home this happens at Southworth Hall Farm just west of Croft.

Can you comment on our suggestions? We are more than happy to help you to work towards a best practice for wildflowers.

Geoff Settle (Chair WNCF)

Nature Natters June 2017

Here is the full article sent to the Warrington Guardian and published on 29/06/17

Butterfly Beauty

Small tortoiseshell
Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

We are now at the start of the butterfly season as they wake from hibernation or hatch out of their cocoons as the days get warmer and sunnier. On such a day, recently I saw not just one but two Orange Tip butterflies plus a few whites flying around the newly sculptured Spittle Brook area in Cinnamon Brow. Last week alongside the Blackbrook stream I saw a large clouded yellow, several speckled woods, small whites and a holly blue in the space of 5 minutes. So, plenty of variety and colour is out there already so go and see what’s in your neighbourhood.

The good thing with butterflies is that you don’t have to travel far to see them and they will visit your garden if you sew a variety of wild flowers seeds. This will also help counter the modern-day practice of councils cutting grass at the sides of roads and spraying weed killer which is destroying the insect’s natural habitat. For a chance of seeing a variety of butterfly why not visit Warrington’s Nature Reserves, especially Rixton Clay Pits and Moore Nature Reserve as well as our Parks. Many of these places have information boards that illustrate what you are likely to see there.

You might think they’d be easy to identify and most are but butterflies by their very nature do not stay still for long. You will often find yourself in a game of stealth and chase. Be sneaky and use binoculars, they will get you closer without disturbing them. To help identify what you’ve seen you can use your mobile phone to access the Butterfly Conservation web site. I however favour a pocket book like the Collins Butterfly Guide or a laminated card. You can purchase these at any good book, RSPB or National Trust shop or online vendor.

Try and take your phone or camera with you to record what you see before it flies away. You can then double check when you get home. Don’t forget that the Cheshire Wildlife Trust occasionally run butterfly courses so check their web site for details.

With practice and research, you will become more adept at identifying them and learn about the different types by understanding about size, markings and habitat. Of the three whites, mentioned above the easiest to identify was the Orange Tip with its bright orange edges to its wings and green veins underneath. The other whites were a bit trickier but the Large White is the that flies the highest whilst the Small White remains closer to the ground. The black markings and spots allow you to distinguish between male (one spot) and female (two spots).

The month of May is still a good time to sow wildflower seeds. They will attract the butterflies in the summer to your garden and only cost a few pounds a packet from any garden centre. I have even cultivated a buddleia from a cutting that attracts Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies. This took a couple of years to mature and flower but it was time well spent.

Peacock Butterfly
Peacock (Aglais io)

Finally, we have just launched our new web site It is a work in progress but there are links to our partners one of which is where you can record your butterfly sightings and help record the Town’s biodiversity. Any problems or queries use the WNCF web site contact window to send us a message and we will get back to you.


Geoff Settle


Nature Natters April 2017

Here is the full article sent to the Warrington Guardian in April 2017


If you are interested in nature or have ever wondered who to contact if you have concerns about threats to wildlife near to where you live, then the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum is a group that can help.

Established in 1992 as part of Agenda 21, which was itself a spin-off from the United Nations Rio Summit on the Environment, the Forum’s aims are to involve local people in decision making on matters affecting the natural environment and assessing Warrington’s natural wealth through surveys and recording.  In addition, our aim is to enable the improvement and management of wildlife habitats in the Borough of Warrington and provide better access to nature alongside our Wildlife partners

It may come as a surprise to some that Warrington has many nature reserves that are of regional and national importance for wildlife such as Risley Moss, Woolston Eyes, Moore Nature Reserve and Rixton Claypits.  These are all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with Rixton Claypits and Risley Moss also having a higher, European, designation.  These sites are known to local people who visit, but not to all Warringtonians.  Warrington’s best sites are visited by many people from outside the area, attracted to Woolston Eyes for example as the main breeding site in the U.K. for a very rare grebe.

Forum members have interests in all types of wildlife and are passionate about protecting our natural assets. The Forum has worked closely with Warrington Council for nearly 25 years, providing support and expertise to the Council’s Natural Environment Officer, and contributed greatly to the Nature Conservation Strategy that the Council adopted some years ago.  This worked well until recently, but with cuts to Local Authority budgets the Environment Officer post has been lost along with our web page and the Ranger Service reduced to a fraction of what it once was.  As a result, care of our parks and some of our wildlife sites have suffered, as has scrutiny of planning applications that could have a detrimental effect on our wildlife.  Housing developments and HS2 pose other threats.

The voice of the Forum is therefore more important than ever and we would be pleased to welcome anyone with an interest in wildlife to become a member of the Forum.  You do not have to be an expert and will receive a friendly welcome and hopefully learn more about the great wildlife that shares Warrington with us.  No-one will forget the amazing Starling roost at Woolston Eyes (estimated to be 400,000 birds) a few winters ago, that astonished those who saw it and even attracted a well-known BBC presenter!

If you would like to know more about the Forum please visit the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum website and to contact us through the page or through our e mail address:, or see our Facebook page. We meet quarterly, almost always with a speaker and we also arrange outdoor meetings at local sites.  We are in the process to developing a new website that will be up and running very soon.

With Spring now almost with us migrant birds are beginning to arrive and closer to home frogs are spawning in ponds.  Already an Osprey has been seen over Warrington and the first Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs are back. Resident birds are singing loudly, a foretaste of what is to come.  The Blackthorn bushes have almost finished flowering, and Coltsfoot, early Dandelions and Crocuses are attracting Bumblebee queens.



reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus)











Why not join us in the Forum, discover the richness and diversity of Warrington’s wildlife, and help contribute to its protection?  For further details please email


Brian Martin