IF you are sitting in a traffic jam on this holiday weekend, have a look at the roadside verge and see how much wildlife you can spot.
The kestrel is a familiar sight to motorists with ● their pointed wings and long tail, hovering alongside busy road looking for small rodents before dropping, talons first, to snatch a meal.
Like most birds of prey, common kestrels have keen eyesight enabling them to spot small prey from a distance.
Once prey is sighted, the bird makes a short, steep dive toward the target.
If you are lucky, you may spot a bank vole, one of Europe’s most common mammals. They thrive in grassy, roadside verges and love nuts, seeds, berries and insects. Voles can be distinguished from mice by their rounder faces, smaller ears and eyes and shorter tails. The bank vole is a richer, chestnut brown than the Field Vole and has a proportionally longer tail.
Many insects can be seen in these green corridors. An easy one to spot is the six spot burnet moth. This day-flying moth has red spots on jet black wings and flits among the thistles and scabious. You will be very lucky if you spot the field cricket, but you may hear its chirps.
The male lives in a burrow and sings at the entrance to attract a female. They hatch in spring, and the young crickets eat and grow rapidly. They shed their skin eight or more times before they become adults.
Wildflowers make a cheery addition to the grass verges of the motorways and country lanes. Cow parsley demands attention with its great umbrels of frothy white flowers. It is a tall plant and a key nectar plant. Motorway embankments swarm with ox-eye daisies in the summer months, turning them into a carpet of white and gold. It is also known as the marguerite, moon daisy or dog daisy.
You may be surprised to see an orchid on the roadside, but the common spotted orchid thrives in these microclimates. This orchid is the most common of all
British orchids and the one you are most likely to see. Sometimes, so many flowers appear together that they carpet an area with their delicate, pale pink spikes. Red campion brightens up any hedgerow or verge with their abundant rose-pink flowers. Its roots were once boiled to make soap and its seeds used to treat snakebites.
Instead of sitting in a traffic jam, you could explore all that Tameside Greenspace has to offer. From its Victorian parks to the wild windswept moors, there are many habitats waiting to be discovered. On Tuesday, May 29, the second flora walk of the season will take place. Meet at 7.30pm at Castle Clough car park, Carrbrook. SK15 3PJ.