A look at Haskayne Cutting Nature Reserve near Scarisbrick
- Credit: Archant
Christmas traps many people indoors so it is nice to get out into the wild and breathe in some fresh air. The Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright finds a hidden corner where you can look out for lots of birds
Driving across the West Lancashire plains there are some lovely places, houses, garden centres and cafes that all fit into this landscape. Often, they are a welcome break from vast agricultural fields.
My favourite break from the plains is a not-so-tiny Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve called Haskayne Cutting, close to Scarisbrick. A question on your arrival here is why is a road without a station called Station Road? Then, as you drive past some lovely houses, the road rises and it was obviously a bridge over an old railway.
Standing on top of the bridge you can see into the reserve and you get a good idea of where the station platform used to be, as the trees are a bit higher. This is a small part of the reserve and it stretches along the old railway line on both sides of Station Road and some way into the distance.
Thick foliage means most of the reserve is saved for birds and other wildlife but there is still much to see on the open area. In summer this is an astonishing spot for many types of orchid and other wonderful flowers.
When the sun is shining the reserve is buzzing with bees and dragonflies, the latter making the most of the pond areas in a couple of corners. Small tortoiseshell butterflies take advantage of early hazel catkins, while, as the weeks grow warmer, common blue, orange tip, large skipper, meadow brown, speckled wood and gatekeeper butterflies all come out to feed. Common toads and frogs also take advantage of the little-disturbed ponds. Visitors have reported common lizards basking on fence posts at the old railway station.
This was a busy station and wildlife has taken over the reserve so it keeps that buzz of days gone by. The reserve is also popular with local people, walkers and dog owners.
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The fact that Haskayne Cutting is also close to so many fields and the warmer coast is just a hop away means that flocks of fieldfare and redwing will visit the reserve in winter. Fieldfare fly in from Scandinavia and Russia to overwinter in Lancashire. It is believed that 20,000 are here in the colder months – that is some six percent of the total UK population for this time of year.
Fieldfares are large, colourful thrushes, they look like a small mistle thrush in general size, shape and behaviour. However, fieldfares have a chestnut-brown back and yellowy breast, streaked with black. They have black tails, dark wings and pale grey rumps and heads.
They can be spotted standing straight upright and moving forward with purposeful hops as they seek food in fields. You will see flocks of them from a distance as these sociable birds will get together in anything from a dozen to 200. The Lancashire Bird Atlas actually reports a flock of 2,000 at Marton Mere, on the Fylde, and 1,200 at the Swinden and Lee Green Reservoirs near Burnley, in recent years.
Eating insects, worms and berries, they make disorderly flocks and there is much chattering. If you have been walking our country lanes, you will have seen them. You might also spot a redwing, the UK’s smallest thrush. It has a distinctive creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches. It is unlikely that you will see one in your garden unless it gets really cold, but Haskayne Cutting offers the perfect mix of trees, hedgerows and fields as it feeds on berries and worms.
The redwing is dark brown above and white below, with a black-streaked breast and distinctive orangey-red flanks and underwing, unlike the song thrush. And it has a that smart face pattern.
The Bird Atlas estimates a total of 12,000 all coming to Lancashire to spend winter. An amazing 900 were once recorded at Facit in Rossendale. What a sight that must have been.
Redwings migrate at night and on clear evenings you may hear their “tsee, tsee” call overhead. Birders do tend to count redwings and fieldfares together as flocks are mixed and these migrants from the North East certainly add some life and colour to the fields in winter.
So get your wellies and warm, waterproof coats on and get to Haskayne Cutting or your own local oasis and look out for our winter wildlife.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.
To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.