MNA Coach Trip Breakwater Country Park and Beddmanarch Bay 6th February 2016

A rather cold and sodden start to the 2016 MNA Coach programme. A small group of Starlings and a lone Oyk were on the grass as we parked beside Holyhead maritime museum. Turnstone on the shore and Red-breasted Merganser in the harbour with some of the group also noting a Great Northern Diver.

MNA Breakwater Queen Scallop1

Queen Scallop

ChrisB slipped down the causeway and I took a less precarious route climbing over the fence to reach the shoreline noting fronds of Toothed Wrack Fucus serratus covered in the Tubeworm Spirorbis spirorbis, calcareous tubes from the Keel Worm Pomatoceros triqueter, Grey Topshell Gibbula cineraria, Common Limpet Patella vulgata, Black-footed Limpet Patella depressa, Common Periwinkle Littorina littorea, Flat Periwinkle Littorina obtusata, Flat Periwinkle Littorina fabalis, Queen Scallop Aequipecten opercularis and the carapace of an Edible Crab Cancer pagurus.

MNA Holyhead Black Footed Limpet1

Black-footed Limpets

Along with Jean Lund we climbed the narrow lane past the yachts stopping to watch a pair of Bullfinch. Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum, Red Campion Silene dioica and Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans were in flower with the characteristic round leaves of Wall Pennywort Umbilicus rupestris visible in stonework. As we continued towards Breakwater C.P. we found flowering Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria. On the small former quarry pond was a few Mallards, loafing Herring Gulls and Moorhens with Blue Tit, Blackbird, Prune and Goldfinch in the surrounding bushes. A few of the older Gorse bushes Ulex europaeus had Yellow Brain Fungus Tremella mesenterica.

MNA Breakwater Gorse Mosaic1

Gorse mosaic

We wandered along to see the two white buildings called Magazines that were used to store the black powder that was used to blast the rock in the quarry and the ammunition for the fog gun and noted the proliferation of Sea Ivory Ramalina siliquosa on the stone walls.

MNA Breakwater Sea Ivory1

Sea Ivory

Returning to the quarry we had a Raven croak as it flew by. We sheltered from the rain to eat lunch in the small info centre which held a small aquarium tank with some of the local marine life including Shanny a.k.a. Common Blenny Lipophrys pholis, Common Prawn Palaemon serratus, Common Shore Crab Carcinus maenas, Beadlet Anemone Actinia equina and Mermaid’s Purses of the Lesser-spotted Dogfish a.k.a. Small-spotted Catshark Scyliorhinus canicula.

MNA Breakwater Shanny1


Other members had seen Chough and Peregrine. An exhibition of the renowned naturalist painter Charles Tunnicliffe was on display at the gallery. He spent much of his years working from his home studio at “Shorelands” at Malltraeth, Anglesey.

MNA Breakwater Tunnicliffe Razorbill1

Our coach driver collected the bedraggled group and we headed around to the old harbour in Holyhead. Redshank, a couple of Great Crested Grebes in winter plumage, four Black Guillemots – one of which was approaching summer plumage – Rhodi mentioned that six tysties in total had been recorded from the harbour that day. A LBBG was on the water and a couple of Shags rested on a concrete structure just off the harbour wall.

We continued along to Penrhos Coastal Park beside Beddmanarch Bay where we indulged in watching a hundred Pale-bellied Brent Geese feeding in small groups on the green algae on the shoreline, there was also the usual smattering of Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Dunlin. There were a few Carrion Crows and Christine spotted a Hooded Crow. As the tide was ebbing in the channel we spotted a few Red-breasted Mergansers and a few of us were able to get onto the teeny Slavonian Grebe as it hid behind choppy waves and frequently dived.

MNA Breakwater Chanelled Wrack1

Channelled Wrack

On the shore was a variety of algae including Sea Belt Saccharina latissima, Channelled Wrack Pelvetia canaliculata, Bladder Wrack Fucus vesiculosus, Spiral Wrack Fucus spiralis and Egg Wrack Ascophyllum nodosum which bore tufts of the small reddish-brown filamentous epiphytic algae Polysiphonia lanosa. In the woodland was a few Jelly Ear fungi Auricularia auricula-judae.

Another blustering squall tested our rain gear to the max, sending some members sheltering in the nearby tea shop and John Clegg resorting to a huge restorative bacon butty 😉

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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Waterloo, 7th February 2016

Storm Imogen was gearing up, so it was a very gusty day. On Crosby Marine Lake the windsurfers and yachtsmen were shooting around at great speeds.

05 Waterloo yachts

The grass banks around the Boating Lake had small flocks of Black-headed Gulls, with a few  Herring Gulls. Further over another flock had some Oystercatchers mixed in with them, and also one Lesser Black-backed Gull, which John thought was from the darker northern race, now referred to as a Baltic Gull, but not yet formally split from the LBB. The BHGs were showing a mix of white and dark heads, as their spring plumage grows in.

05 Waterloo BHG

There were small flocks of Starlings, a couple of Magpies strutted about and some twittering Goldfinches flew over. The Boating Lake had more Gulls, some Mallards and a pair of Tufted Duck.  We were hoping for a Little Gull, as several have been seen on the move on the Lancashire coast recently, but no luck. A Skylark ran up a dune face and launched itself, flutteringly, into the wind, but it was too gusty for it to get going with its song. But another one did manage a song flight a few minutes later. On the sea side of the dunes the wind was whipping sand into our faces and piling  the waves up.

05 Waterloo beach

We went a short way northwards on the prom, over big sand drifts partly blocking the way. A Carrion Crow was picking through the seaweed on the beach, and we saw a fly-past of Cormorants. We soon turned back inland, past Harbord Road pumping station, and headed for the shelter of the seafront gardens. In Beach Lawn Garden the lawn edges had flowering Daisies, Shepherd’s Purse and Groundsel, taking advantage of the less-intensive management of the grass now that the Council has cut back. We lunched in Adelaide Gardens around the plinth which used to hold a Toposcope, a structure like a sundial, but with lines pointing to the things that could be seen in various directions. The Friends of Waterloo Seafront Gardens are planning to restore it soon.  There were plenty of House Sparrows in the shrubs and we admired the clumps of carefully-placed Holly trees.

05 Waterloo holly clump

In Crescent Garden we spotted a Collared Dove, several Wood Pigeons, and also a shrub bearing small white flowers and pink buds, rather like Blackthorn, but it wasn’t. I think it’s an early plum, the Myrobalam Plum Prunus cerasifera. Mitchell’s Field Guide to the Trees of Britain says it is normally the first Prunus in flower, often mistaken for Blackthorn. It’s supposed to flower in early March, but everything is so early this year.

05 Waterloo blossom

There are also several Fig shrubs in Crescent and Marine Gardens,  bearing many unripe fruit.

05 Waterloo figs

When I was in Marine Garden on 10th January, I commented that the Holm Oak there appeared to have completely failed to produce acorns, perhaps because it was on its own. But it isn’t alone, there’s another one on the opposite (seaward) side of the same garden, so it isn’t for lack of fertilisation that the acorns failed to develop. Today I also spotted evidence that there had been SOME acorns on the tree, as some twigs bore empty acorn cups. But this must just be something Holm Oaks do, perhaps the opposite of a “mast” year, an ”un-mast” year!

05 Waterloo acorn cup
Near the Rockery in Marine Garden were our Trees of the Day, a small grove of three multi-trunked Willows, clustered around a small pond and shaped to the prevailing wind. The bare twigs were a dark reddish-fawn.

05 Waterloo willows
The twigs were all very upright, but some low trunks had grown parallel to the ground and had re-rooted. They were clearly not Weeping Willows, but were they the non-weeping type of the same species, the White Willow Salix alba? We looked up willows in the book and decided they might have been Crack Willows Salix fragilis because Mitchell talks of “long slender upswept branches” and “old trees with heavy, twisted, low branches”. He doesn’t say the winter twigs are red, though, calling them “pale orange in March, before the leaves appear”. We need to look at them again, when the leaves are out.
05 Waterloo willow trunks

I walked home through Victoria Park, seeing more of that white blossom, and blooming miniature Daffodils and Snowdrops.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.23, arriving Waterloo 10.45. We were back at Waterloo Station in time for the 2.25 train, arriving Liverpool Central 2.45.

All Sunday walks in 2016 will start at 10am at Queen Square until further notice. We are making no definite forward plans for next year, preferring the flexibility to respond to the weather and to any events that might be happening.

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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Hesketh Park and the Atkinson, Southport, 31st January 2016

04 Hesketh Park view

Near the Park entrance we noted a Blackbird and some Wood Pigeons, and Eric spotted a Treecreeper. We also heard a Nuthatch there when we were on the way out. On the lake were Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, three Tufted Duck, Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, a pair of Mute Swans (with no cygnets) and a single Cormorant on the edge of the island. The water was very high, lapping over the grass edges but wasn’t quite onto the paths. Heavy rain all day had been forecast, but it was only a bit drizzly, the worst being the drips from the trees overhead.

04 Hesketh Park snowdrops

The spring bulbs were struggling out. Some clumps of Daffs had one or two buds open, yellow Crocuses made a splash of colour, and the Snowdrops were just on the verge of flowering.

04 Hesketh Park crocuses

Near the northern edge of the park, next to the Sensory Garden, is a Specimen Tree Garden holding “a number of large unusual specimen trees including Persian Ironwood, Magnolia, Liquidambar, Gingko and Katsura.”

04 Hesketh Park plan
Some are labelled, and we looked at the Persian Ironwood and the Katsura, and also a Dawn Redwood with a label, but there’s not much to see on trees at this time of year. We also noticed a couple of Japanese Pagoda trees (which are really Chinese) Styphnolobium japonicum. The park holds two which are the Lancashire County Champions for height, at 16m (52 feet), but this one was less than half that size.

04 Hesketh Park Pagoda tree

We lunched at the octagonal shelter at the north end of the lake, which wasn’t much protection from the drizzle, so we decided to head into Southport and visit the warm and dry Atkinson (Museum).   In the south lobby is the Crossens canoe, suspended and lit from below and looking like a whale.

04 Hesketh Park canoe

It was found on a drained section of Martin Mere in 1899 by a farmer. Carbon dating says  it is from about AD 535, although when it was found it had been repaired with small lead sheets and there was a musket inside it.  Was it still in use many hundreds of years after it was made, or was it found and re-used when it was about a thousand years old?

04 Hesketh Park old canoe

On the first floor was an exhibition of Lord Street memorabilia, including pictures of the earliest hotel in the area. A man called William Sutton, known to locals as The Old Duke, built a new inn in 1792, which he called South Port Hotel, but the locals, who thought he was mad, called it Duke’s Folly. The Hotel survived until 1854 when it was demolished to make way for traffic at the south end of Lord Street. Today the site is marked with a plaque and the street takes his name, Duke Street. On display was a tiny ivory model of it by A W Kiddie c 1900. The building is about three inches tall and the fence only half an inch. Of course, we don’t approve of carving in ivory nowadays, but it was a wonderful material for fine work.

04 Hesketh Park ivory model

On the second floor is an exhibition on the history of Sefton. Their website says they “hold important collections of natural history and taxidermy with many local species represented.” We wondered if that would include the collection of stuffed birds that used to be in Churchtown Botanic Gardens Museum, but when we asked an attendant she said many of their heads had fallen off! However, they did have a stuffed fox, owl, red squirrel and badger, and six cases of stuffed birds, said to be the work of Cecil Bishopp of Oban and W R Hine of Southport, two of the best taxidermists of their time. The birds were Oystercatchers, a Heron, a Cormorant, a Green Woodpecker, a Mandarin duck and four mixed Robin and Thrushes. The cases were darkened and you had to listen to a series of bird calls, identify them and press the right button, whereupon the appropriate case would light up.

04 Hesketh Park stuffed Oyks

04 Hesketh Park stuffed Mandarin

Public transport details: 47 bus at 10.10 from the temporary bus stop in Victoria Street, arriving Albert Road opposite Hesketh Park at 11.20. We left the park on the southbound 47 bus at 1.17, arriving Southport about 5 minutes later. After the museum, we just missed the 2.28 train so we took the X2 bus on Lord Street at 2.42, arriving Crosby at 3.25, and Liverpool City Centre at about  4pm.


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Sefton Park, 24th January 2016

03 Sefton Park palm house sign
RSPB were having a “Feed the Birds” day at the Palm House, which seemed like sufficient excuse to visit the park again. It was a very mild day, all of a sudden. What a change from last week’s freeze!

There is a fine group of youngish Italian Alders at the southern entrance, with large cones from last year, and this year’s catkins well on show.

03 Sefton Park Alder cones

Lake (and lakeside) birds were the usual Canada Geese, Mallards, Coots, Moorhen and Feral Pigeons, with many Black-headed Gulls, one with a fully black head. We saw only two Mute Swans, but we saw the rest of the family later. All six cygnets are still hanging out with their parents, but it can’t be long now until they are driven off. There were a couple of Little Grebes on the water near the island. We noticed several groups of young Turkey Oak trees, perhaps five or ten years old.

03 Sefton Park young oaks

Their deeply-indented leaves were still thick on the trees, in the way of young Oaks, and they were positively identified by their whiskery buds.

03 Sefton Park turkey oak bud

There are very many fine old trees in the park, which are possibly original 1872 plantings, but there are far fewer young ones. Will there be a tree crisis in Liverpool parks one of these days?

On the island next to the bandstand is a variegated Holly tree, with some dark green sections. Has part of the tree reverted, or is there another tree behind it? We found that the gate to the bridge was open, so went to look. Although multi-stemmed, it is all one tree, with yellow-margined and dark green leaves mixed together at the back.

03 Sefton Park Holly tree

03 Sefton Park Holly mixed

Nearby was a Weeping Ash, and on other side of the path a Witch Hazel (Hamamelis sp.) which was in spectacular bloom. It’s nothing to do with the ordinary European Hazel, it’s from a group of North American and Asian species. The old English name “Witch Hazel” was originally used for Wych Elm, and the early American settlers borrowed the name for the shrubs they found.

03 Sefton Park witch hazel

Near the old bowling greens John saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but it flew off before the rest of us could catch it. There were Magpies, Crows, and Buzzard, which flew into some dense trees and set all the Crows to cawing. After lunch outside the old aviary we walked northwards along the middle lake to look at the Dawn Redwood with the figured trunk. Then we spotted a weeping tree on the far bank, serving as a handy perch for BHGs and a Moorhen, but not apparently a Weeping Willow (it was grey not blonde) nor an Ash (no bunches of keys). We walked around to it, and it turned out to be the uncommon Weeping Beech, with a very few leaves still clinging on and slim buds just staring to swell.

03 Sefton Park weeping beech
On that same east bank were some sections of a cut-down Beech, with lovely curly yellow fungi.

03 Sefton Park fungi log

Then to
the Palm House for the RSPB event. They had a table selling bird food, another with children’s activities. I was amused by the bug hotel labelled “Bugingham Palace”, and also when John agreed to model an Albatross mask.

03 Sefton Park Albatross

Another table encouraged membership, and was giving away cute cuddly Hedgehogs to new subscribers. I really wanted one, but I’m already a member and they weren’t for sale. I’ll have to look out in the shop at the next reserve I visit.

03 Sefton Park cuddly hedgehog

Outside there was a telescope at kid-height, trained on the bird table. We saw Nuthatch, Blackbird and Blue Tit there. There was talk of a Kingfisher seen in the Dell that morning, so we walked that way, noting some Common Gulls and Jackdaws on the big field. We waited near the bridge for a while, but no Kingfisher showed.

03 Sefton Park Dell

Along the stream there were Daffodils just about to break their buds. Near the bird feeding area we spotted a Long-tailed Tit, and then some Ring-necked Parakeets flew in, appearing to be uncharacteristically shy of going for the apples that had been put out for them.

03 Sefton Park parakeet

The RSPB’s Chris Tynan was also there with a party, and said that there are thought to be about 20 of the Parakeets in Liverpool. He also said he thought the BHG with the fully black head which we noted earlier had been a Mediterranean Gull. On the way back along the east side of the main lake we failed to see the possible Med Gull again, but we found the female Mandarin Duck, which is another good tick for our year list, now looking pretty good after only two Sunday walks.

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Lime Street at 10.11, arriving Aigburth Road / Ashbourne Road at 10.25. Returned on the 82 from Aigburth Vale / Jericho Lane at 2.42, arriving Liverpool City Centre at 2.56.


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West Kirby, 17th January 2016

Our first Sunday walk of the year was a bit of a twitch, looking for the juvenile Great Northern Diver that has been lingering on West Kirby Marine Lake for a week or two. It wasn’t the best of days for it, being very cold and blustery, with leaden skies. While searching the lake, it was only possible to use binoculars or a camera without gloves for a few seconds, before our hands started going numb. We could see some birders with scopes out on the breakwater, and then we spotted the Diver on the far side, coming up briefly before diving again. I couldn’t get a picture, it was too quick and too far away, but a bonus was a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers about half way out. Two good “ticks” on the first walk of the year!

02 West Kirby mergansers

We lunched in Coronation Gardens, huddled on seats in shallow shelters. There is a new mural by local artist Barbara Singleton, depicting a far sunnier day.

02 West Kirby mural

There is also a sculpture of three swans or geese, set up like weather vanes, which turned in the wind.
02 West Kirby geese sculpture

In Ashton Park some House Sparrows were tweeting, and on the lake were the usual Coots, Moorhens, Mallards, and some Tufties. One Coot was building a nest, something they seem to do all the year around, nowadays. The tree at the south end of the lake is another Atlantic Cedar.

02 West Kirby Coot on nest

02 West Kirby Ashton Park

In the upper park, on our way to St Brigid’s churchyard, we noted a Robin and a Blackbird. Near the church gate there’s a tree like a droopy Yew, but I think it’s a Western Hemlock. I couldn’t see any of the little downward-pointing woody cones, though, so I’m not quite sure. I had hoped for an ancient Yew near the church, but there doesn’t seem to be one. But Snowdrops were just budding amongst the graves, there was a Grey Squirrel scampering about and lots of Goldfinches twittering in a bare tree. There was a Long-tailed Tit with them. We had hoped to get inside the church to see the Anglo-Norse (“Viking”) hogback stone dating to the 10th century AD, but no luck. The church isn’t open on Sunday afternoons.

Around the side of the church there were some old-fashioned wild roses in bloom, and the bushes bear the signs of many years of pruning to the same shape.

02 West Kirby roses

02 West Kirby pruned rose

My Trees of the Day were the old Cherry Trees forming a short avenue leading downhill from the church. They will be stunning when they are in flower.

02 West Kirby cherry avenue

Public transport details: Train from Liverpool Central to West Kirby at 10.35, arriving 11.07. Returned on the 437 bus at 1.42, arriving Liverpool 2.30.

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Waterloo Gardens, 10th January 2016

I know it’s only January, but I thought I’d go and look for any signs of spring – any flowers, Snowdrops or catkins. The official Sunday walks haven’t started yet, but it was a fine bright day, ideal for the Waterloo beachfront gardens. In the domestic gardens on the way I noted the hairy buds of Magnolia, one very early Camellia in flower and a Silk Tassel tree Garrya elliptica, which puts out long catkins or tassels in January.

01 Waterloo silk tassells

There were also several examples of the December-flowering shrub Laurustinus Viburnum tinus, which is one of the parents of the winter-flowering hybrid Viburnum x bodnantense.

01 Waterloo Laurustinus

At the north end of Beach Lawn Garden there was a flock of 200-ish Starlings, fluting and whistling on the rooftops then wheeling overhead. Just inside the gate was some kind of Mallow in flower. Is it a Hollyhock Mallow? A garden type, anyway, but a welcome splash of brightness on a brisk January day.

01 Waterloo Mallow

In Adelaide Garden, a Blackbird was chucking low down on a fence, then vanished into the shrubbery. There were lots of Herring Gulls aloft, hovering in the strong onshore breeze. Spears of Daffodils were shooting up.

01 Waterloo Daffs

There were Feral Pigeons and Wood Pigeons in Crescent Garden, and also a Carrion Crow defending what looked like a meaty bone. There’s a colony of House Sparrows in the shrubbery. Around the disused raised pond the paths were flooded.

01 Waterloo flooded paths

I stopped for a pot of tea in the café called Waterloo Place, in what used to be the old shop and loo block at the end of South Road. They had lamb stew, hot soup, award-winning pies and home-baked cake. The smart new crockery all matched and I was given a tea strainer and stand. Very elegant! Strongly recommended.

01 Waterloo Christ Church

Then into the southernmost garden, Marine Garden, where there were Daisies and Shepherd’s Purse in flower, some Heathers and a cultivated Periwinkle. I spotted no catkins or Snowdrops today, but a Robin was proclaiming its territory from the top of a bush, which must be some kind of forerunner of spring.

My Tree of the Day was a nicely-shaped Holm Oak, with plain glossy leaves, paler and slightly furry underneath. The bark was dark and finely cracked. I looked up into the crown for acorns to clinch the ID, but couldn’t see any. However the ground underneath was covered with tiny undeveloped acorns, 5-7mm across.  I wonder why they all failed? Is there no other Holm Oak in the vicinity to provide pollen?

01 Waterloo Holm Oak

01 Waterloo failed Holm acorns

My route home took me through Victoria Park, which is surrounded by rows of Lombardy Poplars. The trunks are massive, very gnarled and buttressed. I think they must be the original plantings of 1902, and now over 100 years old.

01 Waterloo Lombardy Poplars

01 Waterloo Lombardy trunks

Public transport details: The nearest station is Waterloo.


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Croxteth Hall Park, 13th December 2015

50 Croxteth long walk

It was a cold, wet morning, with a steady drizzle all day. On the long walk up to the Hall we noticed an old Hawthorn tree that had come down in storm Desmond, and also that the temporary pond in the wet grass on the left was now nearly encroaching on the path. The herd of Highland Cattle appears to be doing well, now a dozen or more strong, with some young ones. They were ankle deep in mud but didn’t seem to care.

50 Croxteth highland cow

On the lawn opposite the house is an interesting evergreen tree, a Lucombe Oak. It has green glossy leaves and corky bark. See some pictures of it on my post of 11 Dec 2011, where I said it was a hybrid of Holm Oak and Turkey Oak, but that’s wrong – it’s a cross between Turkey Oak and Cork Oak.

50 Croxteth Lucombe oak foliage

The Winter-flowering Cherry was in bloom, probably Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’.

50 Croxreth cherry blossom

Not a good day for birds it was far too wet. We heard a Great Tit calling tea-cher, tea-cher, and some Crows cawing. Magpies were about in abundance, and some Black-headed Gulls were far out on the fields. A few forlorn Mallards pootled about on the Long Pond, leaving clear trails in the green weed, and some Moorhens ventured out to peck at the wet grass. A clattering of over 50 Jackdaws congregated in a tree above the old stable block.

50 Croxteth Jackdaws

One of the old Beeches on the main lawn was showing off its exposed roots. They are very shallow-rooted trees, and sometimes come down in storms. This one had, luckily, shed all its leaves by the time storm Desmond came along.

50 Croxteth beech exposed roots

North of the Hall, there’s a tree with bark mulch all around it, and a ring of logs. Two strange devices were hanging in the branches, looking like wind chimes, but they weren’t. The tree had a straight bole and tiny acorns, and judging by the fallen leaves nearby, it could have been a Pin Oak or a Scarlet Oak. Is it undergoing some special study by the students at the outstation of Myerscough College nearby?

50 Croxteth tree with device

50 Croxteth device in tree

As we turned back to West Derby Village, we spotted our Tree of the Day. Next to the path at the end of the fountain lake was an otherwise undistinguished tree with delicate drooping bare branches, which we might have easily taken for a Birch, except that it had a lot of spiky seed balls hanging from the branches. They were far too spiky to be Plane fruits. I looked it up at home and it must be a Sweet Gum Liquidambar styraciflua. According to Mitchell’s tree book, the flowers and fruit are “not often seen” in the UK, so our warm summer must have suited them.  In the Southern USA they call it the most dangerous tree in the suburbs, and American gardeners often collect the spiky balls to ward off snails and slugs from their flower beds.

50 Croxteth spiky seed

Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone.

Public transport details: Bus 13 from Queen Square towards Stockbridge Village, getting off at West Derby Village at 10.25. Returned from West Derby Village at 1.45 on the 13 bus, arriving Liverpool city centre at 2.00.


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Eric Hardy Memorial Prize 2016

MNA Eric Hardy Prize 2016

Catrin Watkin of the School Of Environmental Sciences, Liverpool University has been awarded the Eric Hardy Memorial Prize 2016 for her MRes thesis ‘Fine-scale habitat associations of bats: implications for conservation’.

Katrin (middle) is pictured along with Prof George Wolf (left) – Head of School and Prof Rob Marrs (right) – Project Supervisor.

Katrin has started a job with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust as a Trainee Ecological and Recording Officer. The MNA wish her well in her future career :)


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New Brighton, 6th December 2015

There was a dead hedgehog in road this morning as I set out, outside SS Peter and Paul church in Crosby. It was only a small one, probably quite young, and it seemed to have been hit by a car only an hour or so before.  A bit gory, sorry.

49 New Brighton dead hedgehog

At Wallasey Grove Road Station there’s a sign saying that it is “tended and cared for by the Edible Wirral Partnership”. There was a raised bed, but no sign of any vegetables. More Ivy-leaved Toadflax was growing and flowering, though. What a tough little plant it is!  In light rain we threaded through Groveland Road, past St Nicholas Church and down Newport Avenue, and by the time we got to the prom the rain had stopped. We headed about a mile along the front to New Brighton. A Crow was hovering over the golf club dune heath in the stiff breeze and the Gorse was flowering profusely.

49 New Brighton gorse

There was a lot of sand on this side of the sea wall, probably thrown over in the tail end of Storm Desmond, which had brought flooding to Carlisle and Cumbria.  Several Black-headed Gulls were on the grass, one with its black head starting to show. That’s early!

49 New Brighton BHGs

Scattered on the beach were immature Gulls and a several groups of Oystercatchers, standing on their reflections in the wet sand and preening.

49 New Brighton Oyks

We had great views of the five new “mega-max” quayside cranes, which arrived last month at the new container terminal after an 18,000 sea voyage from Shanghai.

49 New Brighton megamax cranes

We had our Christmas dinner at Wetherspoons, joined there by Seema and Christine, who had been to West Kirby to see the young Red-throated Diver which has been hanging around there for the last week or so.

Public transport details: Train from Liverpool Central Station towards New Brighton at 10.20, arriving Grove Road at 10.40. Returned on 432 bus at 1.35, arriving Liverpool City centre at 2.05.



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Sefton Park, 29th November 2015

48 Sefton Park fountain

The Mute Swan family we saw in the middle of last week wasn’t at the south end of the lake, but there was another individual, standing hesitantly on the grass bank, with a BTO ring but no Darvic ring. Where had that one come from? The usual congregation of birds had gathered for food hand-outs: Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, a few Common Gulls further out, Mallards, Coots and Moorhens. The male Coots are starting to get aggressive and chasing each other around. A Pied Wagtail flitted around on the far bank, and we noticed two Little Grebes, where we’d seen only one last week. There were still Cormorants on the chain posts and about half a dozen Tufted Duck. I wonder why there always seem to be more males than females?

48 Sefton Park Tufted Duck

Near the grotto tunnel there were two Jays in a tree, and a Ring-necked Parakeet flew over the lake. Up on the higher bank we found this tree with amazing deeply ridged bark. I think it has to be Tree of the Day, although I have no idea what it was. Simply going by book descriptions I guess Black Poplar, Common Walnut or Locust but we need to see it in leaf at some other time of year.

48 Sefton Park ridged bark

The family of eight Mute Swans were by the stepping stones on the middle lake, clustering around some children who were stooping to feed them. There are only seven birds on this photo, but the father of the family (the cob) was a bit further out, keeping an eye cocked for any danger. John was able to take all their Darvic ring numbers again, and the only one missing from last week was now readable as 4BVP.

48 Sefton Park swan family

Both fountains on the upper lake were squirting intermittently, and it looks like there is something wrong with the pump. We had lunch by the aviary, where we were sheltered from the very strong winds. Just opposite was a young tree, probably planted in the last few years, which may have had a name marker on the post in front of it, but it was long gone. Is it  a Blue Atlas Cedar? The foliage matched, but it’s too young to have any cones.

48 Sefton Park Blue Atlas Cedar

Nearby is an astonishing tree trunk. Olive remembers having this pointed out to her by a ranger, possibly Ritchie in his park heyday, and he said something about it being unusual that it dropped its leaves, and that it came from the time of the dinosaurs. I think it must be a Dawn Redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides, but what an unusually figured trunk!

48 Sefton Park Dawn Redwood trunk

But back to Cedars. There are only four true Cedars (genus Cedrus) and the Cyprus Cedar is small and very rare, so it can be ignored. That leaves just three to sort out, and there is a handy mnemonic about their branches. A = Atlas Cedar (with two colour forms) = ascending;  L= Cedar of Lebanon = level; D = Deodar = drooping. There was a definite Deodar Cedrus deodara in the Dell, with drooping tips to its branches and leaves of different lengths. It was in deep shadow and hard to photograph well. So we’ve seen a mature Atlas Cedar in its green form, a young Blue Atlas Cedar and a Deodar in Sefton Park. Is there a Cedar of Lebanon? I used to live nearby and walked here often, but don’t remember ever seeing one.

48 Sefton Park Deodar
It was a very wild blustery day, with gales up to 60 mph reported. We later heard that some trees were down in Liverpool, disrupting trains and roads, but we weren’t affected. The wind roared in the trees overhead, and over it we could hear Crows cawing, Magpies cackling and the occasional squawks of Ring-necked Parakeets as they flew between the sheltering Scots Pines. In open areas we were sometimes blown to a standstill. There were twigs and bigger broken branches scattered along the paths, some up to two inches across, but mostly already dead wood. In the Dell a large branch had broken off some kind of Willow.

48 Sefton Park broken willow

On the way back around the lake we saw the young Heron from last week, sheltering under the bank of the island.

48 SEfton Park Heron

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.07, arriving Aigburth Road / Ashbourne Road at 10.29. Returned on 82 bus from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane at 1.55, arriving Renshaw Street 2.15


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