Sunday, 14 June 2015

Shakerley Mere

With so much dreadful weather during much of May as well as a quite busy month in other respects meaning few opportunities to visit my local patch, this is a catch up post from a visit to Shakerley Mere a few weeks ago in mid-May. 

Very young Mallard duckling
Following a trip to one of the farms where I ring (band) the Barn Swallows (more on that in a future post) I thought I’d pay a visit to another mere which I’ve driven past on many occasions, but never stopped - Shakerley Mere near Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. Despite its location adjacent to a busy stretch of the M6 motorway, I was pleasantly surprised at what a lovely place it was to visit with abundant vegetation and wildflowers surrounding the mere. The first wildlife I saw, or rather heard, when I arrived was a small Mallard family consisting of Mum and just three very young ducklings. The quick ‘peeping’ calls coming from the direction of some trees overhanging the water's edge betrayed their presence and of course on hearing their calls, it didn't take very long to spot them, their Mum trying very hard to keep the super-quick little youngsters out of trouble. 

Beautiful butterfly, shame about the perch! 
A male Brimstone sunbathes on a molehill
It feels that every year I see noticeably fewer butterflies than I did the year before, so it was wonderful to actually see lots of butterflies on the wing at this location. 

A female Holly Blue had an unusual hole in one wing. I've seen many a tattered butterfly towards the end of their seasons but never one with such a neat hole punched through an otherwise perfect wing. Whether caused by an injury, or possibly even a parasite, I really don't know, but it didn't seem to affect her flight in any way and just before and after taking this photo she was back fluttering around the tops of nearby shrubs. 

A beautiful male Brimstone, with his closed wings resembling leaves, threw caution, not to mention camouflage to the wind, sunbathing on the side of a large molehill. Brimstones are one of only a handful of butterflies in the UK that hibernates through the winter as an adult and they have just one brood per year. Newly emerged adults appear from late July onwards, so for a relatively elderly butterfly, I thought this one was looking in fantastic condition. Other butterflies seen were beautiful Orange-tips and Green-veined Whites enjoying the nectar of dandelion flowers.

Female Holly Blue (or holey Holly as a friend quipped!)

St Mark's fly - Bibio marci
Also on the wing were a good number and variety of hoverflies enjoying the wildflowers, including the unusual looking Rhingia Campestris with its distinctive mouthparts which enable it to feed on nectar in deep flowers which other hoverflies cannot reach (giving it the nickname of Heineken fly...), here photographed on Herb Robert. Enjoying the daisies was a beautifully marked hoverfly, subsequently identified as a female Leucozona lucorum. 
Meanwhile St Mark's flies, (so-named as the adults emerge around St Mark's day, the 25th April) flew their slow dangly-legged flight and ambled sluggishly and clumsily over foliage.

Rhingia campestris on Herb Robert

Female hoverfly - Leucozona lucorum
Greylag goose family approaching

Completing my circuit of the mere I noticed two families of Greylag geese, one of which only appeared to have one gosling, the other family with four. One of the parents of this latter family led the goslings closer and closer to where I was crouched next to the water's edge, perhaps to check whether I had bread (I hadn't), looking increasingly aggressive the closer s/he came, though wonderful to see the fluffy youngsters up close.

Greylag gosling


  1. Hi Jan! A very enjoyable piece to sit down to lunch with today; wonderful read and beautiful photography! The Rhingia campestris on Herb Robert is a lovely capture. The "Heineken fly" certainly is remarkable looking with that protruding feature in the front. And I am still curious, as well, as to what had caused the nearly perfectly circular hole in the Holly Blue's wing; have been since seeing it in your photostream. The gosling and the duckling are both incredibly adorable! I love that time of the year when everything is young and starting out in life. Hope the weather is looking up for you now. It's been rather rainy here.

  2. Thanks very much Greg, glad you enjoyed it! The 'Heineken' hoverflies are quite unique, they're fairly small too so easy to overlook them as 'just another fly', though their colouring makes them stand out when you know what you're looking for - really unusual looking up close! I never did get to the bottom of the holey Holly! My best guess is that perhaps something has had a bit of a munch on the wing at some point, it looks too neat and oddly positioned to be damage by other means though I may be entirely wrong on that. Yes it's been lovely to start seeing babies out and about, we've had some young bird visitors to the garden which I will try to photograph though some birds have struggled to raise their young with the really cool and wet weather we had in much of May. Hope things improve with your weather over there too!

  3. Hi Jan,
    Always great to see the youngsters out and about. Your images and information are first class as always. Good work.

    1. Hi Dougie, thanks as always for your encouraging and kind comments! :) Lovely to see youngsters around and about now, though it's a worry for them with the weird changeable weather we've had. I know some of the Sparrows we had nesting up in the eaves haven't made it, some of the Swallows I monitor have had mixed fortunes too. Hoping things get a bit more stable for them all!!!

  4. Lovely to see so many butterflies, there has been less and less over the years on the canals too. Beautiful macros, Jan and I love your old brimstone butterfly, he looks so perfect on his molehill. A lovely read.
    Kel x

    1. Thanks Kel, you know how much I love butterflies. It really saddens me how fast so many species are declining, there are lots of individuals and organisations doing such a lot to try to reverse these trends, I just hope it isn't too little, too late.