Birkenhead Park, 22nd November 2015

47 Birkenhead Park green and yellow

Before meeting the group I had a look at the trees in Williamson Square. The ones on the south side (Richmond Street) are Ginkgos, and one of the four on the other side, outside the football shop and near the Playhouse, has no leaves, so it will have to wait for Spring. The three others are small evergreens, but not conifers, and I think they are Holm Oaks.

47 Birkenhead Park town Holm acorns

The soil under the grid at the base of one of them had been excavated by some small animal, and there was a burrow. I swear I saw something’s nose just pulling back into the hole. A rat? While I waited to see if it would re-emerge two council fellows in yellow jackets came along, one with a white plastic bucket and the other with a large pick. They were sure it was rat diggings and they trowelled rat poison down the burrow.

47 Birkenhead Park town rat burrow

We were joined by two ex-MNA members, Joyce and David, who are also learning about trees. There was a Robin in the Lower Park, and many Grey Squirrels mooching for handouts. On the lake were Mallards, Canada Geese, Coots and a Moorhen. For a few years we have been noting a family of odd black ducks here.  They had been five when we first spotted them on 13th November 2011, but only two survived to 3rd March 2013 and 2nd Feb 2014. This must be the same two again, now coming to the end of their fourth summer.

47 Birkenhead Park black ducks

There were some very dark evergreens in the deep shaded shrubberies but they were far too droopy to be Yew. In retrospect, I suspect  they were Western Hemlocks and I should go back and look again.

47 Birkenhead Park droopy evergreen

The Swiss Bridge was blocked off and partly clothed in scaffolding. Vandalised by fire a few weeks ago, apparently. High up on some trees there were bat boxes, and we looked at an old-looking gnarled tree which probably belonged to the park’s Black Mulberry, of which they are quite proud. They advertise their Cucumber Tree, too, but we didn’t spot that one. Another small tree in a glade was probably a Persian Ironwood, perhaps only about ten years old. We had a good look at a Turkey Oak, noting the deeply indented leaves, the whiskery buds and the cracked bark with orange showing through.

47 Birkenhead Park Turkey Oak foliage

47 Birkenhead Park Turkey Oak bud

47 Birkenhead Park Turkey Oak bark

Christine spotted two Great Spotted Woodpeckers silhouetted high against the sky. They were pecking at the branches and making pieces of bark fly. Goldfinches and Greenfinches were also in distant trees. On the eastern edge of the lake was one of the trees I was hoping to spot, a Camperdown Elm Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’, the weeping version of Wych Elm. The pendulous top is grafted onto a normal Wych Elm trunk. It’s the Cheshire county champion for girth, at 93cm. (There’s another one in Stanley Park in the “Druid’s circle” of London Planes.)

47 Birkenhead Park Camperdown Elm

There were about half a dozen Redwings in a Holly tree, gorging on red berries. They probably came down from Scandinavia on the sudden cold winds we had this week. After lunch at the Visitor’s Centre we headed off to the Upper Park, where a Mistle Thrush scolded us from high overhead. Nearby was the thickly burred stump of an old Sweet Chestnut.

47 Birkenhead Park Chestnut stump

As we approached the westernmost gate, at the junction of Park Road North and Park Road West we spotted two interesting trees over the wall in the garden of the Castellated Lodge. One was a very big Monkey Puzzle, with big brown globular spiky fruits on it, which take two years to mature.

47 Birkenhead Park Monkey Puzzle fruit

A few yards away was our Tree of the Day, a huge old Tulip Tree, with just one leaf left to clinch the identification, which was covered in pointed erect fruits, standing up against the sky like candle bulbs. They only produce fruit this prolifically in hot summers, according to Mitchell.

47 Birkenhead Park Tulip Tree fruit

Public transport details: Train from Central Station at 10.05 towards West Kirby, arriving Birkenhead Park station at 10.15. Returned on the train from Birkenhead Park station at 13.36, arriving Liverpool Central 13.50.

Here is the plan for the next few Sundays:
29th November, Sefton Park – meet 10am Liverpool ONE bus station
6th December, Christmas meal – meet 10am Central Station or 12 noon Wetherspoons New Brighton
13th December, Croxteth Hall Park – meet 10am Queen Square
No more walks until 17th January 2016
All winter 2016 walks start 10am Queen Square until further notice.

Anyone is welcome to come out with the Sunday Group. It is not strictly part of the MNA, although it has several overlapping members. We go out by public transport to local parks, woods and nature reserves all over Merseyside, and occasionally further afield.  We are mostly pensioners, so the day is free on our bus passes, and we enjoy fresh air, a laugh and a joke, a slow amble in pleasant surroundings and sometimes we even look at the wildlife!
If you want to join a Sunday Group walk, pack lunch, a flask, waterproofs, binoculars if you have them, a waterproof pad to sit on if we have to have lunch on the grass, and wear stout shoes or walking boots. We are usually back in Liverpool City Centre by 4pm at the latest.

If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.

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Sefton Park, 18th November 2015

Despite the warnings of high winds and torrential rain, nine members met at the Lakeside café at the south end of the lake for this easy short walk (11am to 1pm) looking for water and woodland birds.

46 Sefton Park view

Sefton Park is once again a Green Flag Award winner for 2014/15 and a sign headed “Grassland management within Sefton Park – a site of nature conservation value” says “For the past four years there has been a programme of grassland diversification being carried out within the park as a means of providing increased resources for local wildlife. Most of the grassland in the park is managed for amenity and cut regularly. Other areas, however, are managed for wildlife. These areas are only cut once or twice a year or sometimes even less. This provides greater resources for mammals, birds and insects. The programme is part of the City Council’s effort to improve the biodiversity value of its parks for the benefit of wildlife and visitors.”

46 Sefton Park plan

There were over 40 Canada Geese grazing on the grass verge, unbothered by people walking by. But when a dog walker came along, they hurried back into the water, despite the dog being held on a very tight lead. They were clearly disturbed by all dogs. One sign on the railings asked for dog walkers to respect the Swans, while a more urgent one said, “Recent dog attacks on the family of swans here at Sefton Park have resulted in the female swan and one of her cygnets being injured and having to be taken from the lake by the RSPCA to be treated, thus leaving the male swan and remaining cygnets on their own and therefore in a vulnerable position.” Then followed a warning that CCTV was in operation, and the phone numbers of the RSPCA, the police, Liverpool Direct and the volunteer Swan and Wildlife Watch group. We were happy to see the full family of two parents and six cygnets come sailing along together, clearly recovered from their ordeal.

46 Sefton Park swan family

Other birds on the lake were Mallards, Moorhens, Coots, Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, some Tufted Duck, some Cormorants, a Great Crested Grebe and a single Little Grebe.

46 Sefton Park Little Grebe

The warm autumn has confused many plants. We spotted late flowers of Herb Robert, Bramble and Wood Avens. Some things were meant to be flowering, of course. The winter-flowering shrub Viburnum bodnantense was blooming and a small but productive clump of Ivy was providing pollen and nectar for any lingering insects.

46 Sefton Park ivy clump

A sudden monsoon rain shower drove us under a sheltering tree, where we watched a young Heron tough it out.

46 Sefton Park wet Heron

Near the bandstand there is said to be a Black Walnut tree Juglans nigra which is the Lancashire county champion for girth and height (20m, about 65 feet). Now that most of the leaves have fallen, trees are harder to identify, but it must be one of this group. There were big hanging fruits above and many had fallen to the path below.

46 Sefton Park Black Walnut group

46 Sefton Park fallen walnut

The sun came out as we approached the Eros statue. Two Ring-necked Parakeets flew over and we tracked them to the Fairy Glen, where they screeched in the trees overhead. These were lifers for some of the group. All the bird feeders at the usual place seemed to be missing. Have they been nicked? It can’t have been long ago because the area is still full of birds. We saw Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tits, Wood Pigeon, Jay, Magpies, Carrion Crows, a Treecreeper and a Nuthatch, as well as several fearless Grey Squirrels.

We returned along the other side of the lake. Another sign posted on the railings warned of the dangers of feeding bread to ducks and geese, with dramatic pictures of birds affected by angel wing. The poster made the novel recommendations of feeding oats, sweetcorn or defrosted frozen peas. We came across the family of Mute Swans again and were able to read most of the blue Darvic rings on their right legs: X46, 4MT, 4ANT, 4BVB, 4BVG, 4BVM, 4BVS, and one that was too dirty to read. Last year we recorded one of the adults as XZ6, which may be the same bird as the one read as X46 today.  A confused Coot appeared to be making a nest, and a Cormorant yawned silently on one of the chain barrier posts.

46 Sefton Park Coot on nest

46 Sefton Park cormorant yawning
A Buzzard flew over the trees just as we were breaking up.  I went to investigate my Tree of the Day, a Cedar on the bank.

46 Sefton Park Cedar

It wasn’t the right shape for a Cedar of Lebanon, and it wasn’t droopy-tipped enough to be a Deodar, but the cones were definitely from the Cedar family. I think it was the third member of the genus, the Atlas Cedar Cedrus atlantica. It is most commonly seen in the “blue” form, var ‘Glauca’, and the plain dark green one is rarer. The clincher for me was the description of the infant cones as having pale green scales tipped with lilac.

46 Sefton Park Cedar mature cones

46 Sefton Park cedar infant cones
On my way back to the station via Livingstone Drive I spotted a Blackbird, and also, judging by the fallen leaves, what appeared to be a Red Oak outside the Family Health Centre on the corner of Lark Lane.

46 Sefton Park Red Oak litter

Public transport details: Bus 82 leaves Liverpool ONE bus station or Lime Street stop GD (near the Vines pub) every three minutes or so on weekdays, arriving at the stop before Aigburth Vale about 25 minutes later. I travelled from Crosby on the train to St Michaels, with a 25 min walk to the south end of the park.

If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.

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Hoylake and West Kirby, 15th November 2015

There was a high tide of 8.73m due at 12.40, and it was “Wirral Wader Weekend”. Two MNA members, Christine and Seema, joined us for the event. It was a very windy day with squally showers but still very warm: 15°C at 9.15 near North Park, Bootle.

45 West Kirby ranger van

This warm weather has the flowers confused. I saw a Dandelion blooming in town earlier in the week, and my Himalayan Poppies are sprouting new shoots like it’s spring. Near Hoylake Station this Ivy-leaved Toadflax was blooming happily on a garden wall.

45 West Kirby ivy leaved toadflax

Along Stanley Road, amongst the rustling fallen leaves, we came across our Corpse of the Day, a squashed hedgehog on the pavement.

45 West Kirby squashed hedgehog

Cormorants were flying by the Red Rocks, but it was so blowy we set off along the coastal path towards West Kirby. The kite surfers were getting their kit set up and a Kestrel took advantage of the same strong wind to hover over the dunes. In the salt marsh we spotted a Curlew, and further along, a Little Egret.

45 West Kirby Little Egret

A short squall of rain soon blew over, and didn’t disturb the WEBS counters out with their scopes.  The waders were lined up along the water’s edge; Oystercatchers, hundreds of pale grey Dunlin twinkling in the air as they took off, Knot, a few Sanderling and some Brent Geese. Christine was on the look-out for a leucistic Oyk which she had spotted here on the previous day, then she found it again. I think it’s on the first picture below. Count the back row of Oyks from right to left, then between the third and the fourth, drop down.  There is a white head at the back of the front group of Oyks.

45 West Kirby Oyks and Hilbre

45 West Kirby Oyks and Brents

Near West Kirby Margaret went beachcombing in her wellies. She picked up this strand of weed with may kinds of bivalve creatures clinging to it. There was also the test (empty skeleton) of a small Sea Potato, Echinocardium cordatum, only about 6cm across. They live buried in the sand, about 10-15cm down.

45 West Kirby shelly weed

We lunched in the shelter of Sandlea Park, where a Pied Wagtail strutted across the path. Above the roofs was an amusing weather vane in the shape of a fox.

45 West Kirby fox weathervane

There were leaf miners in the Holly. They are the larvae of the fly Phytomyza ilicis, and there is no problem identifying them, because there is only one species which lives on Holly in the UK. Up to three larvae will mine from a single deposit of eggs, and this leaf seems to have three, possibly even four. The tunnels aren’t very long, though. Apparently some larvae will hatch through a small round hole, some will be attacked by a parasitic wasp and some will be pecked out by Blue Tits, which leave triangular beak-shaped holes in the leaf. Must look more closely next time!

45 West Kirby holly leaf miner

Some of us went back to Dee Lane Slipway to join a ranger-led walk, but the less hardy made for home.

Public transport details: Train from Central Station towards West Kirby at 10.05, arriving Hoylake station at 10.30. Returned to Liverpool on the 13.31 train from West Kirby, arriving Liverpool central at 2.05.


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Remembrance Sunday, 8th November 2015

No nature walk today, because we attended the remembrance service at St George’s Hall, which was also an opportunity to see the newly-installed Weeping Window of ceramic poppies. Its formal name is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, and is by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper.

44 Remembrance poppy cascade

Then we walked the “Liverpool Remembers” Poppy Trail, a series of 22 posters set up from William Brown Street, along Old Haymarket, Victoria Street, Stanley Street, Whitechapel, Paradise Street, Thomas Steers Way, Albert Dock and ending at the Pier Head. The one in the Museum is rather clever, as it shows a pressed Poppy flower, their herbarium specimen of Papaver rhoeas, collected on the edge of golf links at Hoylake on 17 Jul 1915, the same year John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields.

44 Remembrance poppy specimen

Subjects covered on the trail include the Milne family, who lost three sons; the 10th (Scottish) battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment; boy soldiers; the Liverpool Pals; Private Arthur Procter, VC; the Chavasse family, including double VC Noel; the Dock battalions, black servicemen; and Isabella Innes of the WAACs.

44 Rembrance poster


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National Memorial Arboretum, 3rd November 2015

43 NMA memorial

I took myself to the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield on a Timewells coach trip, attracted by the promise of yet more interesting trees. It turned out to be a bit of a let-down, because the managers of the site appear to focus 95% of their attention on the memorials to all conflicts since the Great War, and haven’t quite got the hang of being an Arboretum yet. It definitely won’t be worth an MNA coach trip for several years.

The 66-page guidebook, which I didn’t buy, expended 64 pages on pictures of memorials, and two pages of very large text, headed “Trees” and mentioning the Douglas Fir pillars in the Chapel, their “rescue” groups of Grecian Fir and Serbian Spruce, and very little else. There were some leaflets in a rack with themed self-guided walks, such as “animals” (on the memorials), “children’s activities” and so on, but (unbelievably for an arboretum) there was no walk themed on special trees. The gift shop was selling a lovely tree calendar, but they were American trees, for heavens sake! I suggested they might hire a photographer and produce a calendar with photos of trees from the arboretum itself. Happily they said they had already had that idea. Even the lady in the entrance lobby, whose job it was to answer visitor queries, and who seemed genuinely to care about the planting and labelling of interesting trees, wanted to tell me about their avenue of Horse Chestnuts. Thanks, but I have seen plenty of Horse Chestnuts before. (They turned out to be spindly little saplings, anyway.) However, she did direct me to two areas with some promise of interest, which turned out to be worth the trip.

They have over 40,000 trees, all young and mostly of common species. Far too many of them are planted in straight lines. There are very few specimen trees with botanical markers, and even those markers aren’t quite up to snuff, with the species part of the Latin binomial often sporting an incorrect capital letter. Hundreds of trees have small name tags on them, but they turned out to be either the name of a deceased soldier, in whose memory the tree was planted, or a marker for a particular regiment or corps. All very fine, but most distracting when you are looking for real tree labels.

In area 6 at the north end, I found my first botanically-labelled trees. They turned out to be easy to see because they were tiny pines, each surrounded by a little protective corral about 18 inches high.

43 NMA corralled tree
To my delight, one was the critically endangered Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis which is more closely related to the Monkey Puzzle than the Pines. A lifer! To be sure, I’m only just starting to learn about trees, and there will be plenty more lifers for me in the future, but I think I was just as excited by this little tree as a birder would be when spotting a rare vagrant.

43 NMA Wollemi Pine

Then I walked alongside the River Tame, which had Mute Swan, Mallards, Tufted Duck and a Heron. They are making this a nature area, with a couple of owl nest boxes, a wood pile for insects and fungi, a sign about woodland habitats and a poster for identifying the leaves of native trees. They get good marks for that, although it’s early days yet.

43 NMA River Tame

Along the riverbank were some unusual sculptures, which I thought were about parachutists, but which turned out to be a memorial from the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

43 NMA sculptures

43 MNA sculpture text

A very obliging Robin posed on a red-berried tree for me, then darted onto the grass and snaffled an earthworm which had come to the surface.

43 NMA Robin

Area 5 at the western edge is themed on wars in the Far East. They have a section of the Burma Railway (the real thing, which has been shipped back to Britain). On the embankment were three different species of white-berried Rowans, which were one of the treats I had specially come to see.  None of them had botanical labels, so I took out my trusty tree book and set to identifying them. The Kashmir Rowan Sorbus cashmiriana was the one whose leaves had already fallen, and which bore just clusters of large white berries.

43 NMA Kashmir Rowan

The leaves of Vilmorin’s Rowan Sorbus vilmorinii had very many small leaflets and had turned bright red. The berries were pinkish.

43 NMA Vilmorin Rowan

43 NMA Vilmorin Rowan berries

The Hupeh Rowan Sorbus hupehensis, my favourite, had grey-green leaves, still not turned to red, with pink and white berries.

43 NMA Hupeh Rowan

43 NMA Hupeh Rowan berries

And I also spotted a real rarity, a Silk Tree  Albizia julibrissin ‘Rosea’, not even in Mitchell’s tree handbook. It has Mimosa-like leaves, and is supposed to have brilliant fluffy rose-pink flowers in the Spring.

43 NMA Silk Tree

Since it’s Remembrance Day soon, here is their collection of votive Poppy crosses, plus the rarely-seen multi-cultural variants – Star of David, plain non-denominational, Sikh Khanda, and Muslim Crescent.

43 NMA Remembrance variants

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Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, 1st November 2015

42 Flaybrick Cedar and Yew

Our plan today was to have an orgy of trees, aided by a hand-drawn tree plan of the cemetery made by Bob Hughes about ten years ago, which has recently been improved by John Moffat of the Friends of Flaybrick.  The plot plan of the cemetery is here, with the section numbers shown. Note that north is to the right, not straight up.

It was a very damp and misty morning. “A fine soft day” as the Irish say. Around the entrance off Boundary Road, on either side of the old chapels, is a large collection of Lime trees. Many are Silver Pendent Limes Tilia petiolaris, two of which are County Champions for girth. In the same area there are said to be both Large-leafed and Small-leafed Limes, which we were keen to identify and distinguish.  Large-leafed is supposed to have 5-ridged seeds but none of the candidate trees had any seeds at all, and all we saw were trees with little pumpkins, which I’d call 5-lobed, not 5-ridged, and which I think belonged to the Silver Pendent Limes. We did, however, identify a Small-leafed Lime Tilia cordata by the tiny orange tufts in the vein axils on the underside of the leaves.

42 Flaybrick small leaf tufts

Next to Boundary Road, south of the chapels and probably in section NC6A, was a very dark purple-leafed young tree, with a sign saying it had been planted in May 2003 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Wirral Society. Sadly, it wasn’t identified, but it looks it could be a Copper Beech, variety ‘Rivers Purple’. (No, it wasn’t a Beech, it was a Purple-leaved Plum Prunus pissardi  ‘Nigra’. Thanks to John Moffat for putting me right.)

42 Flaybrick purple leaves

On either side of the main east-west path, at the east ends of sections NC2 and CE2 is the  magnificent pair of Cut-leaved Beeches Fagus sylvatica ‘Heterophylla’. One is the County Champion for girth.

42 Flaybrick beech in mist

They are chimeras, with inner tissues of ordinary Beech overlaid by tissues of the Cut-leaved form. If a branch is damaged, ordinary leaves will appear. Bob Hughes told me once that someone had set fire to an abandoned car under one of the trees some years ago, and now that side has reverted. Both pictures below show foliage from the same tree, the cut-leaved and the reverted forms.

42 Flaybrick beech cut leaved

42 Flaybrick beech reverted

One Sweet Chestnut had a very good crop of fallen nuts, but none were really big enough to be edible. But while we were looking underfoot, we noted some bright yellow Waxcaps in the damp mossy turf.  Many of the tree stumps were covered in fungi, too.

42 Flaybrick waxcap

42 Flaybrick stump and fungi

There weren’t many birds in the cemetery, just Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons. They were all at the bird feeders in Tam O’Shanter. We spotted Blue Tits, a Coal Tit, a Chaffinch doing its best to reach the food, although it’s usually a ground feeder, and a Nuthatch.

42 Flaybrick nuthatch

We put mealworms on a stump, and attracted Magpies and a Grey Squirrel, which is thwarted at the bird feeders by the serious baffles they have put up. It seemed happy to get an easy meal.

42 Flaybrick squirrel

There was a display of rescued Birds of Prey, probably by the same people we saw at Southport last year. Some of the birds were the same – the Barn Owl and the European Eagle Owl looked familiar, but they also had a Harris Hawk, a Snowy Owl and a cute White-faced Scops Owl.

42 Flaybrick Snowy Owl

42 Flaybrick White faced scops

Back in Flaybrick, we finally found a Large-leaf Lime. Still no seeds on it, but the leaves were definitely large and “cabbagey”.

42 Flaybrick Large leaf lime

42 Flaybrick Large leaf of Lime

They have planted a “Sorbus avenue” on either side of the path between sections CE17 and CE13, with ten different rare Rowans and Whitebeams. I had hoped to see the white-berried Hupeh and Vilmorin’s Rowans, but there were only red-berried trees, although some had no berries at all. Perhaps they are still too young. In section CE17 there is a young Blue Atlas Cedar next to an Irish Yew, looking very smart indeed (see the picture at the head of this report). The supposed Black Walnut Juglans nigra marked on the plan in section CE14 looked much more like a Common Walnut Juglans regia with pale grey bark and leaves with seven leaflets.

42 Flaybrick walnut bark and leaves

At the west end of section CE14 was a young tree that looked like a Maple at first sight, but the fallen leaves were aromatic when they were crushed. It was a Sweet Gum Liquidambar styraciflua.

42 Flaybrick Sweet gum foliage

There was a genuine Red Maple Acer rubrum further on, which had lost most of its leaves, but they were a magnificent wine-dark red.

42 Flaybrick red maple leaves

Opposite the Red Maple, on the south side of the path in section CE12 was a little glade with two lovely young trees. One remains a mystery and it isn’t marked on Bob’s plan. The foliage was like a Redwood or a pale Yew, but it had a broad shape with drooping branches. It was a lovely thing. (Added later, it’s a Swamp Cypress Taxodium distichum.)

42 Flaybrick mystery tree

Next to it was our Tree of the Day, the wonderful Tibetan or Birch-bark Cherry Prunus serrula, with shining mahogany-red bark, peeling off in strips. It was planted in 1996 and is already the Cheshire county champion for height.

42 Flaybrick tibetan cherry bark

And the Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipfera in section CE16A, was in very fine autumn colour indeed.

42 Flaybrick Tulip tree
The north west RC section is wilder and darker, with mostly Holm Oak and Holly. There are two big Chilean Pines (Monkey Puzzles) Araucaria araucana. In France, it is known as désespoir des singes or ‘monkeys’ despair’.

42 Flaybrick Chilean pine

Public transport details: Bus 437 towards West Kirby from Sir Thomas Street at 10.03, arriving Upton Road / Boundary Road at 10.28. Returned on the same bus from the same place at 3.05, arriving Liverpool 3.30.


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Trans-Pennine Trail 11, Gateacre to Halewood, 25th October 2015

41 TPT11 Twisty oaks

Before we started on this last (for us) section of the TPT, we looked at the sign on the north side of Belle Vale Road at the end Childwall Valley Road, which says “In commemoration of the sixtieth year of the reign (the Diamond Jubilee) of her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, this promenade was presented to the Township of Little Woolton by William Hall Walker 1897.”

41 TPT11 Promenade sign

Which promenade does the sign refer to? I think it means the row of Horse Chestnuts along the sidewalk, planted quite close together. Are there 60 of them, to match the 60 years of Victoria’s reign? No, I could only find 18, with possibly 8 gaps. But if they are related to the sign, they are 118 years old, which doesn’t look unreasonable because they have very thick, twisty trunks.

41 TPT11 Old horse chestnut

In the Recreation Ground opposite we noted a Turkey Oak, our Tree of the Day. The leaves are hard to distinguish from Sessile Oak, but the “hairy” acorn cups are distinctive.

41 TPT11 Turkey Oak leaves

41 TPT11 Turkey Oak acorn cups

There were a few late flowers along the trail – Hogweed, Buttercup, Red Campion and some Bramble. The leaves of one of the Bramble plants were yellowing between the veins in an unusually detailedpattern. Did the plant have a virus?

41 TPT11 Bramble leaves

There wasn’t much birdlife about. We heard Jackdaws calling, and south of Lydiate Lane we heard lots of harsh squawking. It wasn’t Magpies. Was it a Buzzard or a  Peregrine?  We had a brief view of what might have been a stooping Peregrine overhead (with that wings-pulled-in look), but it was probably just a Wood Pigeon. Another possibility was that it was a group of Ring-necked Parakeets. We peered into the undergrowth on that side of the path, but all we could see were the red berries on a vine of Black Briony.

41 TPT11 Black Briony

One section has some wood sculptures. There was a Fox stalking an out-of-scale Hedgehog, a pert frog and this huge upright fish, with a woodpecker hole behind its gills.

41 TPT11 Fish sculpture

On the open meadow, there were Magpies and Wood Pigeons, but on the “Ducky Pond” there were just Moorhens and no Mallards at all.

41 TPT11 Ducky pond

41 TPT11 Moorhen

Today we did another 2 miles of the trail taking us to 25½ miles from Southport, the furthest we are going to go. The next bit is along main roads and through Speke, an unattractive prospect for a nature walk.

Public transport details: Bus 79 from Queen Square bay 1 at 10.06, arriving Belle Vale Shopping centre at 10.35. Returned from Higher Road / St Andrew the Apostle on the 75 bus at 1.55, arriving Liverpool, after much traffic congestion and a diversion, at 2.45.

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Dibbinsdale 25th October 2015

MNA Dibbinsdale Honey Fungus1

Honey Fungus

A damp, cool Autumnal feel to the air for my morning wander around Dibbinsdale. A nice start with a cluster of Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea on the fallen Beech Tree Fagus sylvatica beside the path sloping down from Bromborough Rake Station and Shaggy Scalycap Pholiota squarrosa at the base of a tree opposite that unfortunately had been attacked by slugs.

MNA Dibbinsdale Leafy Brain Pale Form1

Leafy Brain

The pale form of Leafy Brain Tremella foliacea proved photogenic. At the top end of Bodens Hay Meadow a Red Oak Quercus rubra was living up to its name its leaves a blaze of colour. Another fallen Beech tree had Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystea and exploded Stump Puffballs Lycoperdon pyriforme.

MNA Dibbinsdale Amethyst Deciever1

Amethyst Deciever

Returning to where I had found a lonesome Collared Earthstar Geastrum triplex on the 4th October 2015 close to the Ranger’s Office at Woodslee Cottages I was rewarded with half a dozen peeking through the Pedunculate Oak leaves Quercus robur.

MNA Dibbinsdale Earthstar1

Collared Earthstar

I counted 9-10 Grey Squirrels Scirius carolinensis going about their business foraging for leaner times to come. A nice finale to the walk was a Kingfisher that flew along Dibbin Brook ‘peeping’ before briefly perching on a branch close to the wooden path marker 8.

If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off on Dibbinsdale 25th October 2015

Stadt Moers Park, Whiston, 18th October 2015

40 Stadt Moers autumn colour

There was a late-blooming wild Rose in the hedgerow near Whiston Station, and five Mute Swans passed high overhead. Ivy was coming into bloom, already attracting Hoverflies, and one fence had a mass of flowering Russian Vine spilling over it. It is said to be invasive, but it also provides flowers quite late in the year. A tall aerial had a flock of about fifty Starlings, some making strange fluting calls, as if they were imitating something.

40 Stadt Moers Starlings on aerial

Other late flowers included the inevitable Ragwort, Bindweed, some late Bramble flowers, Himalayan Balsam, White Dead-nettle, an unidentified yellow Crucifer, what might have been Scentless Mayweed and masses and masses of Michaelmas Daisies. At the top of a hill in the park there was a huge spread of nearly-white ones, probably a single clone, showing starkly against a backdrop of Pines.

40 Stadt Moers white MD and pines

I collected sprigs of three colour variations, the usual lilac one on the left, a paler one in the middle and the almost-white one on the right.

40 Stadt Moers MD posy

Near the Visitor’s Centre one tree in a group of young Oaks had died and was being consumed by fungus, perhaps some kind of Honey Fungus.

40 Stadt Moers tree with fungi

There were no exciting birds, just a Robin singing in the shrubbery, Magpies on the paths, and at Tushingham’s Pond the usual Canada Geese, Mallards, Black-headed Gulls, Moorhens, Coots and a pair of Mute Swans.

40 Stadt Moers pond

Tree of the Day was a Red Oak near the children’s playground, with its leaves turning yellow. Further on there was another that had turned completely, but they don’t go very red, despite their name, just tobacco-coloured.

40 Stadt Moers Red Oak leaves

40 Stadt Moers Red Oak

Before I started out I had a look in St John’s Gardens at the Indian Bean trees by the memorial to the French prisoners, and was surprised to realise that the three trees next to them, which I had previously thought were Ash, were in fact more Trees of Heaven. Here’s the Indian Bean Tree with its dark grey hanging pods.

40 St John's gardens Indian Bean pods

On Monday I saw some more unusual trees. North of Bootle Strand, on the west side of Stanley Road between Marsh Lane and Knowsley Road, there are two lovely trees flanking the entrance to a C-shaped OneVision housing development. They turned out to be Narrow-leaved Ash, with lovely feathery willow-like leaves, now turning a mix of gold and purple. (Added later: this is the variety ‘Raywood”, sometimes known as the Claret Ash.)

40 Bootle Narrow leaved ash

Further north on the same stretch of Stanley Road, at the southernmost corner of North Park, there’s a tree with huge roundish leaves, which are still green. It looks like another Indian Bean tree to me, but there were no seeds to confirm the identification. I will have to keep a look-out next year to see if it is characteristically late to come into leaf.

40 Bootle bean tree maybe

Public transport details: 10.15 Wigan train from Lime Street Station to Whiston, arriving 10.33. Right on Pennywood Drive, right onto the footpath by the school, left onto Dragon Lane, continue down Greenes Road, past the Post Office, then left into Paradise Lane where there is a park entrance. Exited at the Visitors’ Centre and got bus 248 at 1.35 at Pottery Lane / Dales Row, arriving Huyton bus station at 1.45, then the 15 bus at 1.50, arriving Liverpool City centre at 2.35.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Stadt Moers Park, Whiston, 18th October 2015

MNA Coach Trip Tatton Park 11th October 2015

MNA Tatton Red Deer1

Last MNA Coach Trip of the year. We dropped off ten members who were to have a guided walk around Rothsherne Mere before walking across to Tatton Park. The remaining seven of us stayed on the coach the short distance to Tatton Park.

MNA Tatton Smiley Earthball1

Smiley face Common Earthball

I headed off with DaveB for a bit of a Fungi foray noting Common Jellypot Dacrymyces stillatus, Small Stagshorn Calocera cornea, Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae, Red Cracking Bolete Xerocomellus chrysenteron, Common Inkcap Coprinus atramentarius, Shaggy Inkcap Coprinus comatus, Crystal Brain Exidia nucleata, Black Witches Butter Exidia plana, Black Bulgar Bulgaria inquinans, Waxy Crust Vuilleminia comedens, Many-zoned Polypore or Turkeytail Trametes versicolor , Lumpy Bracket Trametes gibbosa, Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe, Phaeolus schweinitzii, Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare, Angel’s Bonnet Mycena arcangeliana.

MNA Tatton Mycena arcangelina1

Angel’s Bonnet

Waxcap Hygrocybe sp., Beech Woodwart Hypoxylon fragiforme, Scurfy Deceiver Laccaria proxima, Giant Polypore Meripilus giganteus, Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus, Oysterling Crepidotus sp. Coral Spot Nectria cinnabarina, Common Eyelash Scutellinia scutellata, Common Earthball Scleroderma citrinum and Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon. A couple of species that had us flummoxed for a while were Bulbous Honey Fungus Armillaria gallica and Dark Honey Fungus Armillaria ostoyae.

MNA Tatton Bulbous Honey Fungus1

Bulbous Honey Fungus

Dave headed off to the Mere whereas I tried to photograph some of the Red Deer Cervus elaphus and Fallow Deer Dama dama that were rutting. I thankfully avoided being squished in a stampede of thirty hinds and their stag when a couple with their two little uns decided it was a great idea to walk through the tightly grouped harem whilst the stag was engaged in full testosterone induced bellowing. Other mammals included Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis. I also noted three female Common Darters Sympetrum striolatum, a lone Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria and a handful of Nomada Wasps.

MNA Tatton Red Deer2

Red Deer stag

Catching up with other members sightings the Rothsherne gang had great views of a Kingfisher posing on a wooden post in the water that appeared as if on cue when the warden mentioned it was a regular place for it. Seema photographed a Spider – Four-spot orb-weaver Araneus quadratus that ran onto Dave B’s arm.

My Dad mentioned that Tatton Park had featured on this week’s BBC Countryfile programme proving to be a fantastic place for bats through ongoing survey work being carried out by South Lancashire Bat Group. Nine species have now been recorded at Tatton including the tiny Nathusius Pipistrelle.

Other wildlife sightings this weekend included a rather cute Sloth that appeared on my sofa :)

MNA Neil The Sloth1

If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off on MNA Coach Trip Tatton Park 11th October 2015