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Wildlife in Cheshire

Black Darter (c) Phil CorleyBlack Darter (c) Phil Corley

Sitting between the ‘hotspots’ of the Peak District and Wales, Cheshire may not always spring to mind as being full of wildlife, however this belies a rich and varied natural history that has even played a role in saving some of our most familiar species.


Typically Cheshire is a county of farmland; a flat plain shaped by the last ice age with the Pennine fringe to the east and the rivers and estuaries of the Dee and the Mersey to the north west.

After decades of industrial misuse, the river Mersey and the Dee are now once again home to mammals that indicate a healthy and improving river – otters and water voles Even salmon are once again making their epic journeys through the region’s waters, with club-tailed dragonflies also able to cope with these tidal waterways.

Salmon are once again making their way through the region's waters

The Dee estuary remains one of the top ten wetlands in the UK for wintering birds and is the number one site in Britain for pintail ducks. Huge wading bird flocks thousands strong include black-tailed godwit, dunlin, redshank and knot – all of which make the Dee and Mersey internationally important estuaries. Such high concentrations of birds regularly attract the attention of peregrine and merlin, whilst the saltmarshes play host to the day-hunting short eared owl.

Ducks include our smallest, the teal and whistling flocks of wigeon in winter, whilst the Mersey estuary is also the most important site in the UK for moulting shelduck.


 

 

Enjoy this short film on dragonflies and damselflies of the River Gowy by Robyn Brook


Away from the coast, Cheshire is home to a compliment of the UK’s Meres and Mosses habitats, with Danes Moss - the largest and highest lowland raised bog in Cheshire being a Cheshire Wildlife Trust reserve. These delicate and fragile habitats are a refuge for wildlife that has often adapted to very specific conditions such as the black darter dragonfly – our smallest, and the carnivorous sundew plant.

Cheshire is also the pond capital of the UK, and in turn plays host to large numbers of great crested newts. The historical ownership of private wetlands and ponds was the saving grace for the great crested grebe, which hung on in the county more than a century ago after it was all but wiped out elsewhere due to hunting.

The Mersey and Dee estuaries are internationally important for wetland birds

Although one of the least wooded counties in the UK, the Eastern Hills of Trentbank near Macclesfield are home to western specialities such as pied flycatcher, wood warbler and redstart whilst a nearby island acts as a high-rise residence for a large heronry.

The dormouse is now once again found in the county thanks to a re-introduction scheme led by the Trust, whilst our Bagmere nature reserve has the last remaining colony of small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies in Cheshire.

If you want to know more, why not grab a copy of 50 Years of Cheshire's Wildlife, for all there is to know.