What a lovely day! There was a clear blue sky and it was calm and still. There had nearly been a frost overnight, as people were scraping car windows as I set out, but there were no frozen puddles. Our first stop was Bootle, where we attended their Remembrance service. Then we took the bus up to Crosby and lunched on a picnic table outside the Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre. The thick hedges were full of House Sparrows, some bathing in puddles and others picking about after the picnickers.
On the boating lake were the usual Mallards, Coots, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls. There were also some winter visitors: several black-and white Tufted Duck and a couple of russet-headed Pochards. The beach was quite busy on this lovely day, and the Iron Men were lost among the real people wandering about. There are at least four on this picture, with others in the very far distance.
Some of the Iron Men have recently been dug up to re-set those which had developed a “lean”. I thought they were also going to fix the ones where the sand has moved, making them stand above or below the beach level, but apparently not. However, they all seem to have had a spruce up and polish, with all barnacles and encrustations removed, and now they glow bronze in low sun.
I had brought my newly-acquired seashore book, Beachcombing and the Strandline by Steve Trewhella and Julie Hatcher, and we hunted along the tideline. We didn’t find anything startling. The seaweed was just the very common Bladder Wrack with the occasional strand of Egg Wrack – black strap-like fronds with large (2cm) single bladders along the stipe. The plant grows a new bladder each year, so you can “age” the weed as you do with tree-rings. But if all you get is broken pieces, you can’t conclude anything. There were Razor shells, but most were damaged and broken and were hard to identify. We think we saw both the Common Razor Shell Ensis ensis and the Pod Razor Shell Ensis siliqua. There were also plenty of Common Cockles and Common Mussels.
The fine oval shells (pink when fresher) are Tellins, but whether these are Baltic Tellins or Thin Tellins, we couldn’t say.
There were a few snail-like Periwinkle shells and quite a lot of small Auger shells Turritella communis. They grow up to 5cm (2 inches), but these were smaller. Notice also that the one on the left appears to have a small round hole near the top. This looks like the work of a “driller killer”, probably a Dog Whelk, although the rarer Oyster Drill does this as well.
We saw a Pied Wagtail rootling for insects in the old Bladder Wrack. On the way back to the bus we walked into the dunes. John identified a distant bird flying away as a Snipe. We had gone to look at one of Britain’s rarest plants, which someone had shown us the location of last year. It’s called Dune Wormwood, and is known in only two patches in the UK, one in Glamorgan, and one here in Crosby Coastal Park. It isn’t much to look at, just dry brown stalks with marram grass growing through it. Its flowers are very underwhelming, too, I understand. The Coastal Park signage mentions it without giving away its precise location. Quite right!
Public transport details: 47 bus at 10.20 from Sir Thomas Street (diverted because Queen Square was closed), arriving Stanley Road / Keble Road at 10.32. From the same stop, the 53 bus at 11.45, arriving South Road / Waterloo station at 12.05. All except me returned on the 53 from Oxford Road / Courtenay Road at about 2.30, but I can walk home from there.
Next few weeks:
17th November, Flaybrick. Meet Sir Thomas Street at 10 am
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 or a wet bench (A garden kneeler? A newspaper in a plastic bag?), 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.