Wildlife of Audlem

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Heron

Audlem is dairy country and this is reflected in its wildlife. There are also nearby sheets of water, including Combermere, the second largest mere in Cheshire, and newer lakes off Longhill Lane in Hankelow and at Moss Hall. Over the last five years we have been collecting numerous wildlife photographs, and these can be found in our season galleries here.

The Audlem Wildlife & Ecology Group (AWEG) meets every other month on a Monday evening at the Lord Combermere and arranges various visits to wildlife sites as well as recording local sightings. Contact Bob Cartwright at bobjcartwright@yahoo.co.uk

Birds in Audlem

Kingfishers breed regularly in the sandy banks of the River Weaver and along the Shropshire Union canal and occasionally visit garden ponds on goldfish raids. There are Herons, Mute Swans, Little Grebes, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Moorhens and Coots in good numbers. Goosander have been seen on the canal on occasions. Little Egrets arrived for the first time in 2015.

A Dipper was reported by the brook at the Willows in late May 2007, sighted also on the canal about then. A further Dipper sighting in the brook to the north of the village was in early February 2011.

Until fifty years ago, Audlem had its own peat bog, Longhill Moss, covering 12 acres where Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Long-tailed Tits and various small Warblers nested. Most, except the Long-tailed Tits which visit many gardens daily, are now less common.

The Crow family is very common with a number of Rookeries in the area and numerous Jackdaws nesting around the church and other village centre sites. Magpies are all too common while most copses house a pair of Jays. Ravens are now seen quite regularly, a significant change to their range in recent years.

Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers are relatively common, the former nesting at the edge of marl pits, the latter along hedge ditches. Bullfinches nest in thick bramble bushes and are often seen in gardens, particularly in spring. The Linnet also nests in bramble. The Goldfinch is often seen visiting gardens but the Redpoll is rare. Winter visitors include the Siskin which can often be seen flocking in the trees along the canal, and Bramblings.

There are Greenfinches and Chaffinches in good numbers while House Sparrows are around every building. Tree Sparrows can often be seen especially along the canal towards Adderley and the path to Highfields. Treecreepers and the Nuthatch are relatively common while Blue Tits, Great Tits and to a lesser extent, Coal Tits, will visit any feeder. Long Tailed Tits are seen very commonly and will flock through gardens on a daily basis but the Marsh Tit and Willow Tit are rarely seen.

Spotted Flycatchers are welcome visitors, although numbers seem to be down in recent years but Goldcrests, Britain's smallest bird, seem to be more common and can be seen in gardens even near the centre of the village. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs are common warblers. Whitethroats are less common and the Lesser Whitethroat almost a rarity. Blackcaps and Garden Warblers are seen and Blackcaps have been seen in a garden near the canal during winter, unusual as they normally migrate southwards.

The Blackbird is possibly the most common bird locally and Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes are widely seen. In winter, huge flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare appear in local fields.

Redstarts are seen occasionally but the Robin is everywhere as is the Wren and the Dunnock. All three Wagtails are present, the Yellow a summer visitor nesting in mowing grass. Meadow Pipits are more usually seen in winter flocks. Swallows, House Martins and Swifts are plentiful summer visitors but there are few Sand Martins in the area. Skylarks are heard and seen less often probably because of regular grass cutting for silage.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers have become relatively common and will visit feeders but the Green Woodpecker is not seen often and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker very rarely.

Rare birds seen around Audlem

Rarities in the area have included in November 2005 a Magnificent Frigatebird, which probably originated from the tropical West Atlantic, which somehow found itself in the Audlem area. It was eventually rescued on the Cheshire/Shropshire border towards Whitchurch and taken to Chester Zoo to recover. Unfortunately, to the disappointment of keen birdwatchers who were eagerly awaiting its release so they could record one of their rarest ever 'ticks', the bird did not survive.

A Hoopoe was seen in the 1960's and in 1984 a Wryneck stayed for a week in the late Mrs Jean Davenport's garden in Green Lane, attracting large numbers of birdwatchers to see one of Britain's rarest birds. A Common Crane, despite its name a rarity in Britain, has turned up occasionally.

Red Kites were first seen in 2005 and have been seen several more times since then, once in a garden in Salford and in 2008 in Hankelow and also by an other observer, just outside Audlem. There have been various sightings in recent years, including at Overwater Marina, where Hobbies have also been seen recently.

Waxwings have turned up in many village gardens in occasional winters.

Owls heard more than seen

Three of the owl family are seen locally, the Little, Tawny and Barn Owl, the latter sometimes between Audlem and Woore hunting at night along the hedgerows. The Tawny can be heard many nights in the village centre.

The Cuckoo is a regular but increasingly scarce visitor. A Nightingale's nest was reported in 2014, very unusual as they do not normally get this far north. The Turtle Dove has virtually disappeared locally but the Collared Dove, a bird that only reached Britain in the 1950's, is now seen everywhere. There are huge flocks of Wood Pigeons but Stock Doves are less common.

All the common gulls are seen and even Great Black Backed Gulls can appear in winter.

Common Sandpipers appear near springs in summer and a Purple Sandpiper was once reported in Audlem Brook. Lapwings are relatively common and flocks of Golden Plovers are sometimes seen. Audlem is on a flight path from the moors of the Pennines to the sea and Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Curlew are sometimes seen as a result.

Woodcock are in many coverts while Snipe are relatively common in flooded fields and ditches. Pheasants, Red Legged Partridge and, more rarely, Grey Partridge are seen.

Birds of Prey

The Kestrel is common and the Sparrow Hawk is also seen regularly around garden feeders but the great change in birds of prey is that Buzzards have colonised the area in recent years and are seen and heard most days circling high over the village and surrounding country.

Peregrines, possibly from Beeston Castle, are seen rarely. Red Kites and Hobbies have been seen increasingly in recent years. In 2009, there were two reports of Britain's smallest bird of prey, the Merlin, being seen in Coxbank.

Local Heronries

With two heronries nearby, at Combermere and Doddington, the Heron is a common visitor to garden ponds and the canal. Coot, Moorhens, Mallard, Teal and Wigeon are common and less common ducks turn up occasionally. Goosander are seen on the canal occasionally. Little Egrets were seen for the first time in 2015.

Do email if you see any species in the area which we can add to the list above.

Mammals

Foxes and Badgers are common in the area. There are large numbers of old, well-established Badger setts but many dead badgers are seen by the side of roads after being hit. Hedgehogs are now rarely seen.

It is fifty years since the Red Squirrel disappeared and Grey Squirrels are everywhere as are rabbits. Hares are rarely seen. Stoats and Weasels are fairly common and mink are seen following a release by animal rights campaigners a few miles away.

Otters are now present along the canal and can be seen in the Weaver, the canal and elsewhere including Overwater Marina. A more recent arrival is the polecat which has been re-colonising many parts of Cheshire. At least three have been seen in the area since late 2008.

Butterflies and Moths

Audlem is not a particularly good area for butterflies with no nearby heathland and relatively little deciduous woodland or rough grassland. This may change with more set aside land.

There are plenty of Large and Small White Butterflies, as cabbage growers will know. The Grey Veined White is also common as is the Orange Tip. Holly Blues can be seen when the holly is in flower. The Small Copper is plentiful and the Brimstone appears regularly.

There are occasional invasions of the Clouded Yellow. Red Admirals are attracted to buddleia bushes and nettle beds. Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells, Gatekeepers and Peacocks are all plentiful and in most years, another migrant, the Painted Lady. The Comma, once a rarity, is now seen regularly.

There are few if any Fritillaries but the so-called 'Browns' have fared better particularly the Speckled Wood. The Meadow Brown, Wall and Small Heath are plentiful most years while the Small Skipper is occasionally seen.

A moth trap has been in regular use at Highfields and 174 species have been recorded, the most spectacular the very large Hawk Moth. The Poplar Hawk is very common and the Elephant Hawk only slightly less so. The Lime and Eyed Hawks are seen in some years. The Humming Bird Hawk is a small day flying moth that can be seen in gardens hovering by flowers of buddleia and petunia.

The information in this section on birds, mammals, butterflies and moths has been drawn from 'Audlem, The History of Cheshire Parish and its Five Townships', published in 1997 by The Local History Group and, in the case of birds and mammals, more recent personal observation.