Wildlife

Rare and less common creatures and plants that can be seen at Low Hall Nature Reserve

WILLOW TIT

Willow tit

Willow tits are often found in willow thickets in damp places, such as the edge of lowland peat bogs, marshes, and around gravel pits. As such Low Hall nature reserve is an ideal habitat, and some work has been done to improve this habitat. They can be seen all year round and feed on insects, seeds and berries. Its recent population declines make it a Red List species. Between blue and great tits in size, with no yellow, green or blue. It has a large sooty-black cap extending to the back of the neck and a small untidy black bib. It is mid-brown above, with whiter cheeks and pale buff-grey underparts.  

KINGFISHER

KingfisherKingfishers are small and unmistakeable bright blue and orange birds of slow moving or still water. They fly rapidly, low over water, and hunt fish from riverside perches, occasionally hovering above the water's surface  Kingfishers are amber listed, and are found by still or slow flowing water such as lakes, canals and rivers in lowland areas. In winter, some individuals move to estuaries and the coast. They can be seen all year round and live off fish and aquatic insects. There seem to be several in the Low Hall area, and numbers and sightings appear to be rising.
(Picture courtesy of Denis Williams from Flickr, taken at Carr Mill Billinge Wigan)

BROWN HARE

Brown HareOften seen in and around Low Hall, occasionally in 2's and 3's. Similar to a rabbit but with longer, larger black tipped ears and longer hind legs, the fur is tawny grey/brown in colour with a lighter coloured underbelly and flanks. Brown Hare may beseen throughout the mainland British Isles living above ground, and makes its home in long grass,  and open downland. Most likely to be seen in the early morning or evening, they have often been seen in the woods and on the paths around Low Hall especially in the winter and spring.

BANDED DEMOISELLE

Smaller than a Dragonfly, they can often be seem in June/July/August in and around the wet areas of Low Hall, particularly along river/stream banks.The male is iridescent blue, while the female  is green, and both have a large black smudge on their wings. The species is present throughout Europe and Asia right through to China, but is comparatively rare in the North West of England

WATER VOLE

A legally protected species in the UK and quite rare now, they can occasionally be seen at Low Hall, most often near to the old railway bridges-often given away by the loud 'plopping' noise as they enter the water. The water vole is a semi-aquatic rodent. It is often informally called the Water Rat, although it only superficially resembles a true rat. Water voles have rounder noses than rats, deep brown fur, chubby faces and short fuzzy ears; unlike rats their tails, paws and ears are covered with hair. In the wild, on average, water voles only live about five months. Burrows are normally located adjacent to slow moving, calm water which they seem to prefer. They also live in reed beds where they will weave ball shaped nests above ground if no suitable banks exist in which to burrow.  The water vole is the inspiration for 'Ratty' in 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame

WHITE LETTER HAIRSTREAK

hairstreakA fairly rare butterfly, whose caterpillars feed on the leaves of the Elm tree. The decline in numbers of Elm trees due to Dutch Elm disease has therefore contributed to the serious decline of the White Letter Hairstreak. A small population of these rare butterflies has been present at Low Hall for several years based on the surviving Elm trees in the woods. The best time to see them is from late June then throughout the month of July, though they tend to fly fairly high up in the trees.

BROWN TROUT

Brown Trout Low Hall

 The brown trout is a medium-sized fish, growing to 20 kg or more in some localities, although in   many smaller rivers, a mature weight of 1 kg (2 lb) or less is common. Brown trout can live to ages of 20 years and are active both by day and by night and are opportunistic feeders. While in fresh water, their diets will frequently include invertebrates from the stream , other fish, frogs mice, birds, and insects flying near the water's surface. Freshwater brown trout range in colour from largely silver with relatively few spots and a white belly, to the more well-known brassy brown cast fading to creamy white on the fish's belly, with medium-sized spots surrounded by lighter halos. They are a good indicator of clean water conditions as they will not tolerate large amounts of pollution They can often be seen at Low Hall in the stream near the Concrete bridge on the site of Hindley South Station.

COMMON TOAD

Common toad

 An Amphibian found throughout most of Europe. The toad is a very      inconspicuous animal as it often lies hidden during the day. It becomes active at dusk and spends the night hunting for the invertebrates on which it feeds. It moves with a slow ungainly walk or short jumps and has greyish brown skin covered with wart-like lumps. In the breeding season large numbers of toads converge on certain breeding ponds, where the males compete to mate with the females. Eggs   are laid in gelatinous strings in the water and later hatch out into tadpoles- they can often be seen near the site of the station in Low Hall, in quite large numbers. After several months of growth and development, these sprout limbs grow into tiny toads. The juveniles emerge from the water and remain largely earth bound for the rest of their lives. The common toad usually moves by walking rather slowly or in short shuffling jumps involving all four legs. It spends the day concealed in a lair that it has hollowed out under foliage or beneath a root or a stone where its colouring makes it inconspicuous. It emerges at dusk and may travel some distance in the dark while hunting. It is most active in wet weather. By morning it has returned to its base and may occupy the same place for several months.When attacked, the common toad adopts a characteristic stance, inflating its body and standing with its hindquarters raised and its head lowered. Its chief means of defence lies in the foul tasting secretion it can exude when attacked.

Soapwort

Recently discovered at Low Hall by Mark Champion from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust on a group workday. This flower has never been recorded in the Wigan area before, though it is common in many parts of Britain and the rest of Europe. As its name suggests, it can be used to make a form of soap, and has been used for that quite often in the past. It has also been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and has an anti inflammatory effect also making it useful in the past for treating gout and rheumatism.

  • Flowers are Pink or whitish, fragrant, about 1 inch broad, loosely clustered at end of stem, also sparingly from axils of upper leaves. Flowers frequently double.
  • Stem is 1 to 2 ft. high, erect, stout, sparingly branched, leafy.
  • Leaves are Opposite, acutely oval, 2 to 3 in. long, about 1 in. wide, 3 to 5 ribbed.
  • Fruit is an oblong capsule, shorter than calyx, opening at top by 4 short teeth or valves.
  • Preferred Habitats are roadsides, banks, and waste places.