26th February 2012 - Fletcher Moss

Decision Eventually Made...

Decisions, decisions - a million household chores, unpredictable weather and many aches and pains from a week of exercising, walking to and from work and the dank dreary weather of winter.  The alarm was set for 8.00am and the heads of all three of us were set for beyond 11am - the fight was on!  Several tosses and a turn (not literally of course) and out of the sack I dragged myself with 3 locations on the mind.  More tossing seemed to be in order but this time it would be a coin - who knows?   A chivvy of the lasses, a bit of friendly abuse in return (well it sounded friendly) and fed, watered, packed and out we went.  The end choice - Fletcher Moss - a mere 10 minute drive away and basically a public park situated in Didsbury, South Manchester surrounded by tree bordered fields with some obscure nooks and crannies that can turn up many unexpected sightings.  It is quite a quaint place in certain areas with lawn tennis courts and a Victorian style botanical garden that, in the summer months, has a certain feel of yesteryear about it.  On most weekends the air is filled with the distant shouts of encouragement from expectant parents who are supporting their offspring during the trials and tribulations of a local football or rugby match.  Today, many such battles were taking place, with one group of participants adorned in black shorts, gold and black hooped shirts and with an average age of surely no more than 5.  These rushing little warriors bore similarities to a swarm of crazed, misdirected wasps all battling for possession of a thrown about Queen (in this case a rather battered and beaten ball).  The breathless determination was a grand sight and brought memories of sunnier days when the real insect world would be alive and buzzing - oh the genuine joys.
The first area to ponder on today’s walks was, as can be expected when mooching with my nosey self, the undergrowth.  In certain parts of Fletcher Moss there is a superabundance of fallen woody debris, all to the delight for the seeker of all things small.  As we wandered along the muddy lanes between various fields numerous sorties were carried out beneath the broken canopy and there pleasure was taken sorting through the assorted litter.  Peniophora lycii was an especially common fungus with Brittle Cinder (Kretschmaria deusta) noted growing over a pile of rotting Elder logs which led me onto another pile where a few centipedes (Lithobius sp) scurried as well as a few tucked away Leopard Slugs (Limax maximus) and a single Large Yellow Slug (Limax flavus).   Numerous woodlouse were sought out the light free areas, a Garlic Snail (Oxychilus alliarius) looked a bit worse for wear and an unidentified beetle grub squeezed its flexible squishy squashy body back into its own self made orifice (sounds sexually nasty doesn't it). 

Leopard Slug - a sexy looking beast

Between the micro mooching the bins were raised and treetops were checked, as well as the grassy ground cover, for birds on the prowl for much needed food.  Atop one lofty tree were numerous Redwing (Turdus iliacus) which gave stunning views against the leaden skies.  Creamy yellow eyestripe and the ruddy wound beneath the warm brown wings were much appreciated when by sheer unexpected luck I dropped on a lone Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus), standing proud and seemingly the leader of the pack.  What on earth this stray bird was doing amongst a flock of Redwing, away from any potential berry laden trees is beyond me but after a good look the bins were passed to my wife and daughter to get a good old eyeful.  No matter how she tried my wife couldn't connect with the bird and after many frantic directions with the dreadful  'dip' looming the flock decided to fly and  we knew that re-connecting with the bird would be bloody darn difficult to say the least.  Hey ho we have had many good views over the years anyway (he says clutching at the short straw of small consolation).  Waxwings are an odd bird and attract the twitching camera clicking brigade by the dozens due to their photogenic appeal.  With a soft pinkish buff plumage, prominent crest, black Batman mask and equally black bib, yellow and white touches to the wings, yellow tipped tail and all round robust appearance I can understand the attraction.  Anyway the Redwings flew from tree to tree before settling in a nearby field whereupon the Waxwing had gone and in its place was a lone Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - mmm now I am thinking, perhaps both birds don't exist and each are one and the same duly metamorphing into one of the two forms whenever the mood arises - (cue Twilight Zone music).  Other avian life of note was a lone female Siskin (Carduelis spinus) feeding on Alder cones and a couple of chest heavy Mistle Thrushes (Turdus viscivorus) rasping around in flight and occasionally mixing with the ever-twitchy Redwing flock.
Back at Stenner Woods and taking to the new boardwalk pathway the sun burst through and raised temperatures no end with a dazzling display of friendly fire.  Around this area in the past we have spotted a few Ring Necked Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) flying around and rumours were that they were still in the area.  The key to finding these birds is to listen for the abrasive squawks which cut through the air and leave one in no doubt as to the birds presence. It didn't take long before our lugs were assaulted by the said racket and after a few minutes we were given good views of 5 birds flitting to and fro and taking up residence on an old, well nibbled tree trunk.  One bird went inside a hole and eyed us warily whilst its companions showed no such fear and hung around in close quarters and gave very good views indeed.  The bare bark of the leafless trees contrasted well with the apple green plumage of the Parakeets and I couldn’t help but admire the birds hardy ways and 'out of the norm' appeal.  A nearby Treecreeper (Certha familiaris) looked very much at home and what a little beauty this bird is.  With a belly like a boiled egg, a lovely brown and cream plumage on the upper side, a delicately curved bill for poking about for food in the crevices of bark and the unmistakable tree creeping behaviour this bird is always a delight to observe.  In fact it is another example of Mother Nature using a limited palette and creating an absolute perfect creation to behold. 

Heading back to the car and with a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) for assistance and the seemingly reliable sun this was a brief yet rewarding walk that highlighted what oddites can be encountered in your immediate vicinity.  Sometimes it is nice not to get too stressed about getting further afield and just go with the local flow.