Category: Events (page 1 of 8)

Phase 1 Habitat Survey Workshop

Rachel guides us through mapping techniques

Rachel guides us through classifications of woodland

37 CAN members gathered at Cottons Hotel, Knutsford for the final event of the 2014/2015 calendar – the Phase 1 Habitat Survey Workshop, led by ecology consultant and botanical enthusiast Rachel Hacking.

Rachel guided participants through the guiding principles of doing surveys, beginning with desktop preparations and using mapping techniques. We then began to look at the classification of habitats using the JNCC criteria. The subjective categories of habitats was explained, including the difficult interpretations between semi-natural and plantation woodland. The classifications of grasslands from unimproved to improved were detailed, including tips on the indicative species of vegetation as well as incoporating ecologist ‘gizz’ towards reaching the appropriate classification.

We finished by first looking at how to use the baseline map to draw the classifications for easy habitat identification for clients/users of the survey data, and secondly with a brief glance at GIS and report writing, including what should go in the target notes! Members were given help and advice from Rachels experiences of doing Phase 1 surveys, including what to include in the data and notes, and how to map the habitats in the field using shorthand methods.

The workshop draws this events calendar to a close, and CAN wishes to thank Rachel for delivering the workshop. Members are eager to participate on her planned ‘Phase 1, Part 2’ event, which will be on the next calendar, to be announced shortly. Part 2 will be a field-based survey walkthrough.

Ecologist Tim Body has written a blog about his experience of the event. It can be read here: 

Vegetative ID Workshop with John Poland

John Poland running through the Vegetative keys

John Poland running through the Vegetative keys. Photo: Andy Harmer.

Cotton’s Hotel at Knutsford provided the backdrop to CAN’s botanical workshop with John Poland (of Poland/Clement vegetative key fame) and this proved to be a good choice… The chairs were leather and the coffee machines were built to last the whole day.

The day started with refreshments because some of the little lambs from the CAN flock hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was nearly ten o’clock! Cereals, fruit, and biscuits were available and without wishing to malign the membership, I’ll just say that the biscuit barrels had about as much peace as a mouse in a room full of cats.

Poland, a thoroughly nice guy, and obvious pioneer in his field, bounced in with bags full of plants and with an uncanny visceral feel for his audience, and he soon had them hanging on his every word. What was obvious was that most of the members had tried the key to a lesser and greater extent and many had reached a type of ‘key constipation’ through an unfamiliarity with the terminology. John tackled each point and proved to be the enema for each blockage.

John showing CAN member ID tips

John showing CAN member ID tips. Photo: Andy Harmer.

As the day progressed, the glossary was dissected and the critical identification features of many plants were shown; the ignorance tonnage became lighter by the hour. Anecdotes regarding different aspects of the key showed an insight into how this superb tome took shape.

John has an obvious passion for natural history, not just botany, and perhaps intuitively has the ability to navigate his students through their own particular blind spots concerning identification. He wrapped up the day at four o’clock but hung around to answer the residual questions, promising to come back and entertain us with another workshop, possibly on winter twigs, at a later date.

This blog post originally appeared on the CAN Facebook page, and was written by Andy Harmer on 2nd January 2015.

Deciduous Trees In Winter

I was treated to a beautiful sunrise which illuminated the sharp frost as I drove up the M6 to Runcorn. It was a perfect December day for CAN’s Winter Tree Event at Norton Priory Museum and Gardens. CAN had the privilege of holding the last event in the classroom before it was to be demolished before a major 16 month re-build of the site.

I soon met up with Jack Swan who was leading the day. He had industriously spent the week collecting twigs and buds from over 40 different tree species. They were neatly tied up in separate bundles putting my own haphazard contributions to shame.

As soon as members arrived and were sufficiently warmed with tea, coffee and biscuits, Jack explained that there were three forms of bud arrangement, namely, opposite, alternate and spiral. He then showed us how to get to grips with counting bud scales and the difference between adpressed (buds lying flat against the twig) and not adpressed.

We used the excellent Field Studies Council (FSC) key “A Guide to the Identification of Deciduous Broad-leaved Trees and Shrubs in Winter” by Andrew May and Jonathan Planter. Winter tree identification is an essential skill if working in habitat management as much of the work is undertaken in the winter months and this key is a valuable aid.

Ash3 zoomThe distinctive black buds of Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).

Our first group of twigs to be examined were those where buds are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem. This included four different species of Maples including Sycamore, Field Maple, Norway Maple and Japanese Maple. In addition, we were able to recognise the characteristic black buds of Ash, whilst Elder has distinctive ragged buds and a pungent aroma.

We took great care as we moved onto those species with alternate buds where thorns or spines are present including Blackthorn and Hawthorn. However, anomalies do occur and Jack showed us some examples of Hawthorn without thorns!

For the rest of the morning we studiously worked our way through the key with Jack’s materials covering a variety of Birches, Alders, Poplars, Cherries, Oaks, Willows, Hazel and Beech. One fascinating species is Walnut in which the pith of the stem is segmented or chambered (see photo).

Walnut (2) cropThe segmented or chambered pith of Walnut (Juglans regia).

After lunch we ventured out into the grounds of Norton Priory and used a combination of profile, bark and bud examination to identify species. Jack pointed out many of the introduced species present in the gardens and how these differed from our native trees.

Hornbeam 4 cropThe attractive bark of Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) showing a metallic-blue sheen and obvious vertical fissures.

Red Oak cropJack getting to grips with a Red Oak (Quercus rubra) at Norton Priory.

As the sun dipped we returned to the classroom where Jack gave us all a random twig from his collection and challenged us to have a go with just the key to guide us. It was really encouraging that most members were able to successfully identify their twigs although the lack of bud scales on Alder Buckthorn proved a bit tricky.

It was a great day in the company of Jack Swan and Paul Quigley from Norton Priory. I would like to take this opportunity to thank both of them for all their hard work in facilitating many CAN events over the last 5 years. I can’t wait to see the new improved facility!

LimeCommon Lime (Tilia x europaea). A hybrid between two native species with characteristic burrs and leaf shoots at the base of the tree.

Wader Identification Day

It was an early start for CAN’s Wader Identification Day as twenty members met up with Jeff Clarke, one of Cheshire’s most experienced ornithologists, in the car park near Heswall Shore on the Dee Estuary. Jeff briefly showed us the correct way to locate birds at distance. He also pointed out that a good achievable aim for many of the novices in the group would be to focus on identifying several wader species well, rather than to try and learn them all at once.

We were soon walking westwards out along the shoreline as we were greeted by the wonderfully evocative sounds of Curlew as vast flocks of Lapwing rose irregularly in the distance. Wildfowl species including numerous Pink-footed Geese, Shelduck, Teal and Pintail added to the vista.

On an incoming tide multitudes of Redshank, Knot, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Golden Plover flew into our viewing area while Jeff pointed out key identification features, giving an unique impression or “jizz” for each species. This included some fantastic idiosyncratic “bird impressions” performed by Jeff which have to be witnessed to be believed. They serve a purpose in that it is easy to remember the action when you see the wader and you can’t help smiling remembering Jeff’s moves.

Heswall Shore 1CAN members enjoy the view from Heswall Shore.

One of the highlights of the day was the arrival of large flocks of both Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit turning and twisting in the sky before obligingly landing in front of us for comparison.

Jeff pointed out that it was an ideal high tide height to observe waders, as it wasn’t too high or too low, allowing time to observe as waders were pushed slowly off the intertidal mudflats. However, eventually time and tide wait for nobody and no wader and soon the sky was alive with birds forced into the air as the waters rose. The group also rose to a higher observation point as we worked our way back to the car park as flocks of Reed Bunting and Skylark crossed the skyline before an impressive Great White Egret launched itself into the air.

It was then a short drive further up the estuary to Riverbank Road which overlooks the Dee Marshes. From here we watched the tide come in further, lifting birds out of the marshes as raptors circled overhead. Oystercatchers, Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin were a plenty as were Little Egret. Jeff skilfully demonstrated several different calls. My favourite was the trisyllabic “tyew-tyew-tyew” of the Greenshank.

riverbank (2)The view across the Dee Marshes from Riverbank Road, Heswall.

Inevitably the tide turned as the sun finally came out to warm us up. The scene started to quieten but a total of 57 bird species were seen in just a couple of hours with Jeff. Now that is what I call “Exciting Education!”.


CAN Fungal Foray at Tatton

Golden Scalycap, Pholiota aurivella

Twenty CAN members gathered at Tatton on the 1st of November to join the Fungal Punk (Dave Higginson-Tranter) on a fungus foray. The warm autumnal weather held up, as we got stuck in to splitting asomycetes from basidiomycetes, and getting to know the mycelia and reproductive strategies of the fungal kingdom.

Dave showing us the White Saddle fungus, Helvella crispa

Our walk took us from the Knutsford entrance of Tatton along through the leaf-littered path west of the mere, to investigate the grassland and mossy stumps and logs of felled trees. Here we discovered Sulphur tuft Hypholoma fasciculare, common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum), rusts on fallen logs, candle snuff fungi (Xylaria hypoxylon) and several of the tricky Mycena species, notoriously difficult to identify in the field!

From here we discovered some of the parks storm damaged trees that were home to the ‘poached egg’ fungus (Oudemansiella mucida) and amongst the grasslands we found yellow field cap (Bolbitius titubans) and amongst the pine trees, where the deer were foraging, we found the Copper Spike fungus (Chroogomphus rutilus).

Jelly 'Ear' Fungus, Auricularia auricula-judaeThose  were just the highlights of a foray where we found 84 species in the field, with a further 19 added through microscopic identification!

CAN would like to extend its thanks to Fungal Punk Dave for an entertaining and informative foray (and microscope work!), and we look forward to arranging another Cheshire foray in the near future.

Dave’s website can be found at

Witches Butter, Exidia glandulosa

A slime mould (myxomycetes), Arcyria denudata (?)

Full species list:

Lycoperdon perlatum; Schizophyllum commune; Chondrostereum purpureum; Oudemansiella mucida; Bulgaria inquinans; Helvella crispa; Mycena rosea; Schizopora paradoxa; Armillaria ostoyae; Xylaria hypoxylon; Lactarius quietus; Mycena galericulata; Peniophora quercina; Amanita rubescens; Stereum hirsutum; Melampsoridium betulinum; Mycena haematopus; Psathyrella hydrophila; Bjerkandera adusta; Laccaria amethystea; Ganoderma australe; Rhodocollybia butyracea; Phlebia tremellosa; Mycena arcangeliana; Microsphaera alphitoides; Mycena inclinata; Hypholoma fasciculare; Pycnostysanus azaleae; Lepista sordida; Clitocybe nebularis; Rhytisma acerinum; Lepista flaccida; Nectria cinnabarina; Phragmidium violaceum; Lactarius blennius; Laccaria laccata; Russula nobilis; Tubaria furfuracea; Scleroderma citrinum; Gymnopus confluens; Vuilleminia comedens; Lycoperdon pyriforme; Leccinum versipelle; Boletus edulis; Boletus luridiformis; Hypoxylon fragiforme; Trametes gibbosa; Lepista nuda; Bolbitius titubans; Armillaria mellea; Trametes versicolor; Clitopilus prunulus; Auricularia auricular-judae; Exidia glandulosa; Mycena pura; Trichoderma viride; Coprinellus micaceus; Meripilus giganteus; Diatrype disciformis; Libertella faginea; Pholiota squarrosa; Armillaria gallica; Russula ochroleuca; Postia stiptica; Lactarius subdulcis; Macrolepiota procera; Tricholoma ustale; Piptoporus betulinus; Annulohypoxylon multiforme; Boletus badius; Hygrocybe pratensis; Gymnopilus penetrans; Dacrymyces stillatus; Chroogomphus rutilus; Mycena galopus; Calyptella capula; Stropharia pseudocyanea; Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca; Stropharia semiglobata; Leptosphaeria acuta; Pholiota aurivella; Phlebia radiata; Dermoloma cuneifolium; Trichaptum abietinum; Psilocybe semilanceata; Stropharia melanosperma; Daedaleopsis confragosa; Cystoderma amianthinum; Calocera cornea; Hypholoma capnoides; Clavulinopsis corniculata; Ascocoryne sarcoides; Ascocoryne cylichnium; Crepidotus cesatii; Suillus granulatus; Pluteus chrysophaeus; Hymenoscyphus herbarum; Pluteus podospileus; Belonidium sulphureum; Hygrocybe chlorophana; Hygrocybe laeta var. flava; Parasola leiocephala and the myxo Lycogala epidendrum.

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