Liverpool Museum, 12th November 2017

We attended the Remembrance Service at St George’s Hall on a bright and sunny day, but with a perishingly cold wind blowing down Lime Street. Thoroughly chilled, we retreated to the Museum’s  picnic area on the fourth floor for lunch. And once we were nicely warmed up we didn’t fancy setting out again for Princes Park, as we had planned, so we stayed for a look around.

The Natural History area on the fourth floor has been re-arranged, and we admired the large slab of rock (about six feet long) taken from Storeton Quarry in the 19th century and showing the tracks of Merseyside’s very own prehistoric beast, the crocodile-like ancestors of the dinosaurs called Pseudosuchians. These tracks show their small front feet and large back feet, which are about the size of a human hand.

There were cases of exotic butterflies on display, and also a useful box of British rodent skulls.

The man who does the “Replicated taxidermy” was selling his wares, including this rather splendid Dodo head.

In the drawers of specimens were two birds still missing from our I-Spy lists, a Yellowhammer and a Bullfinch, but I think it might be a little desperate to try and claim long-dead specimens!  Here’s the Bullfinch, flanked by a Siskin and a Hawfinch.

We admired this marvellous Ammonite, about two feet across.

In the aquarium on the first floor was a display about the Mersey Estuary, mentioning Grey Seals, Smoothhound Sharks, Thornback Rays, the 2015 Humpback Whale and the return of Salmon since the river has been cleaned up. In a tank of local sea creatures were two Lesser Weever fish Echiicthys vipera. Each one was sitting quite still, partly buried in the sand, but with the black spine visible. This one was about 2 inches long. They are why we should not wade about on local beaches with bare feet, because the spine gives a very painful sting. The answer, apparently, is to put the affected foot in a bucket of hot water, to denature the protein venom.

Next few weeks:
12th November, Princes Park. Meet 10am Great Charlotte Street.
19th November, possibly Sherdley Park or the Dream. Meet Lime Street station at 10am.

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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New Brighton, 5th November 2017

House Sparrows chirped at us from the shrubs outside Wallasey Grove Road Station, and we headed down Groveland Road, Newport Avenue and Bayswater Road to King’s Parade and the New Brighton seafront at Harrison Drive. It was blowy even there, and on the last bit of sheltered grass before the seafront, various gulls, Starlings and Oystercatchers were sheltering. At Kings Parade a strong northwest wind was driving the high tide against the sea wall.

Huge waves and plumes of water were crashing over the edge, throwing gobbets of spume like  blobs of raw meringue to the far side of the road. It was invigorating, but we didn’t walk on THAT side!

It was more sheltered as we approached the built-up area near Bubbles World of Play, and we spotted a Mute Swan sheltering in a corner of the model boating lake. On the south side of King’s Parade near Atherton Street we looked at a shrub hanging over a wall that appeared to be the Duke of Argyll’s Tea Tree. The flowers were pinker than the one at Marshside, so maybe it was something else.

The pontoons behind Bella Italia were full of roosting waders.

They were mostly Redshanks, but at the edges of the tight flock were Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, and Dunlins with their black legs.

Near the corner was a single winter-plumaged Knot. You don’t often see one of them on its own!

Our usual lunch seats in a seaside shelter were cordoned off while gangs of workers stacked up speakers for this evening’s “River of Light” fireworks display. We found seats in Marine Park. Then we strolled along the riverside, south of Fort Perch Rock, where it was less windy. New Brighton have joined the “sculpture trail” fashion, choosing a mermaid as their emblem. There are six of them, variously painted, and a storyboard about a young sailor who lost his heart.

We went as far as the children’s driftwood pirate ship, the Black Pearl, then up to New Brighton Station for the train.

Public transport details: New Brighton train from Central at 10.20, arriving Wallasey Grove Road at 10.38. Returned from New Brighton station at 2.23, arriving Central at 2.50.

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Festival Gardens, 29th October 2017

What a gorgeous day for late October!  Bright and sunny, with only a slightly chilly northerly breeze. The Festival Gardens are the remaining portion of the old Garden Festival from 1984. Liverpool Council have a new £700m plan to build on and around the site, but say they will keep the Festival Gardens.

To our surprise there were dozens of young Strawberry trees in the shrubberies. They are a rarity elsewhere, and one of the “special” trees of Birkenhead Park, but they are common in the Festival Gardens. This is the best time of year to see them, when last year’s fruits are turning from yellow to red, while this year’s white bell-like flowers are in bloom. The fruits are said to be unpalatable and the Latin name is Arbutus unedo, “unedo” meaning “You’ll only eat one!!” However, they apparently make good jam and the Portuguese make an alcoholic drink called Medronho from them.

The park is a sheltered, sunny, south-west-facing spot, and there were many flowers still in bloom including Ragwort, Bramble, Meadow Cranesbill, Herb Robert, Daisy, Dandelion, Evening Primrose, Hedge Bindweed and Marjoram.

The duck pond had a couple of sleeping Mallards, a Coot and a Moorhen and, oddly, a Heron up a tree.

On a lawn was one pretty little fungus, which I think was the Grisette, Amanita vaginata.

One small Pedunculate Oak tree had just a few Spangle Galls on the underside of the leaves but lots of what I am used to calling Oak Apples, but they are really Marble Galls. (Oak Apples are bigger, up to 4 cm, whereas the Marble Galls are about 1 or 2 cm.) They are caused by the wasp Andricus kollari, and you can see on one of the galls the little hole where the adult wasp has emerged.

We lunched on the jetty overlooking the main pond. What was probably the same Heron was there, hunting in the water very close by us.

Although we saw it catch a fish, there can’t be many others, because the pond looked pretty barren. Food for all the birds must  be scarce, because we watched a multi-species competitive drama unfold. One of us threw a small piece of bread out and a Mallard cruised over, but the Heron got there first and grabbed the morsel. After the Mallard had left we put some more small scraps of bread in the water but the Heron wasn’t interested in them. The scraps just floated there on the water. However, a Magpie flew slowly over,  clearly interested, but not able to figure out a way to get them.  It pondered the situation from a rock, but that wasn’t near enough.

It waded from a small island, but it became too deep.

Then it tried landing gingerly on a precarious twig, but that was still too far away, and it eventually gave up, completely frustrated by the out-of-reach bread. Suddenly, over on the other side, it spotted a Moorhen which had found a different, very big piece of bread. The Magpie hurried over but the Moorhen retreated fast and jerkily, with the bread still in its beak, and it hid behind some rocks. Then there was some squawking, and the Magpie emerged with the bread. It flew up with its prize to the top of the waterfall, whereupon the Heron’s interest was revived, and it followed the Magpie up there. We couldn’t see the final outcome, but the big chunk of bread wasn’t seen again.
Meanwhile a Grey Wagtail was pottering along the shallow edge.

It was warm and sunny enough to tempt some butterflies out, and we saw both Speckled Wood and Red Admiral on the wing. Then we climbed the hill, up through the woods, to the top where there a views over to Moel Fammau. A Buzzard cruised up from the river, and a dragonfly perched helpfully on a piece of old white wood. It was a Common Darter male I think.

The floor of the woods was clothed in the fern-like new leaves of Cow Parsley. Are they supposed to be out already? Do they think it’s Spring? The wild flower book by Blamey, Fitter and Fitter says the leaves appear in January or even earlier, so it’s not unheard of, but still far too early. It’s a very peculiar autumn for most things. There are hardly any red colours in the leaves, perhaps only in Cherries and Azaleas. The leaves of Birch, Ash, Field Maple, Alder, Willow and Lime are still green and are staying on the trees. There is some yellowing of the leaves of Oak, Norway Maple, Sycamore and Hazel, and only the fallen leaves are brown.
The river was low and the water was like glass. We lingered for a while, hoping to see Harbour Porpoises, Killer Whales or even a Seal or two, but no luck. Then we walked southwards.

One fisherman said he had caught a Whiting about a foot long which he had put back. The others said they were waiting for the tide to turn when the incoming flood would bring them Cod weighing up to 12lb.

There were more flowers along the riverside path, Yarrow and Common Mallow. At the bottom of Jericho Lane was a tree that looked like Hawthorn, but it had huge Haws, less-indented leaves and two seeds in the fruit. It was probably Midland Hawthorn but the fruits aren’t supposed to be that big!

The Otterspool café had dubbed itself the “Ottersghoul Halloween Experience” and was running a Ghost Train for the kids and providing Zombie cocktails for the grownups. We took the lovely wooded path through Otterspool Park, which was once the driveway of a gentry house, so it is lined with interesting trees. Just before the railway bridge was a Persian Ironwood, normally famous for its autumn colour, but today just managing some vaguely orange tips to some yellow leaves.

A Hornbeam still bore most of its seed clusters, and we could find only one on the ground beneath.

Several Cut-leaved Beeches made golden carpets of fallen leaves.

Deep in the woods off the path there was a possible Swamp Cypress with a lovely rusty colour, but it was too far back over boggy ground for me to investigate. There were also some Cedars, tall and scrubby-looking things bearing masses of bright light-green baby cones. The cones of Atlas Cedars are purplish, and the needles of Deodar Cedars are of uneven lengths, so I think these were Cedars of Lebanon, despite not showing the majestic “flat-plane” shapes of trees which grow in open situations.

The path through Otterspool Park ends at the corner of Jericho Lane by the gates of the old house.

Public transport details: Bus 82A from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.15, arriving Riverside Drive / St Michael’s Interchange at 10.30. Returned from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane on the 82 at 2.33, arriving Liverpool ONE at 2.50.

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Eastham, 22nd October 2017

This morning we were still being thrashed by the squally showers of Storm Brian, but by lunchtime the sun had come out. The only bird to be heard as we set off down the path past the Leverhulme Sports Field to the Eastham Country Park was a Carrion Crow, loudly cawing as we passed. The remains of the old Beech stump, once Wirral’s tallest tree and now being left to rot naturally, were covered in Puff-ball fungi. There were plenty of  copper-coloured fallen leaves of Oak and Beech on the path, and masses of fallen acorns underfoot, but the leaves on the trees are still green. The only autumn colour was on this young Red Oak.

From the jetty by Eastham Ferry Hotel we could see white caps on river, with just a few gulls fighting the strong winds. The views down to the Liverpool waterfront are amazing.

We had lunch on the sheltered benches there, and watched the oil products tanker EK-STAR (registered at Arendal in Norway) come out of the Manchester Ship Canal. Three Redshanks followed it out.

Our last wildflower points of the year are from this Old Man’s Beard, also known as Traveller’s Joy. There aren’t any flowers left, of course, just the hairy seed clusters. It’s worth 20 points and takes us to 1130.

They feed birds at the back of the Visitors’ Centre, and there were plenty of seed-eaters coming for the easy pickings – Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Chaffinches, a Robin and this matching pair of Greenfinches.

Above the feeders was this splendid male Great Spotted Woodpecker.

It all went quiet for a while as a Sparrowhawk flew overhead, but then they all popped out again.  One of the birds we are missing on our I-Spy list is a Bullfinch, and Eastham is a likely place. We sat and watched for quite a while but, frustratingly, none appeared. So we headed off to the old Pleasure Gardens. They are now very overgrown. Look at this mossy old wall with a tree growing out of it!

We kept going southwards along Ferry Road, and spotted a flock of dozens of Curlews in the field opposite the Golf Club. We came out at Eastham Village, where we went to look at the old Yew tree in the churchyard.  A sign attached to the fence around it said it is believed to be about 1600 years old.

It has a hollow and broken trunk, but it seems to be healthy, producing a bumper crop of berries this year.

Public transport details: Bus 1 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.23, arriving New Chester Road opp. Woodyear Road at 11.00. Returned on the 1 from New Chester Road opp. Eastham Village Road at 2.52, arriving Liverpool 3.25.

 

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Mossley Hill, 15th October 2017

On a wonderfully warm and sunny day before Storm Ophelia hits us on Monday, we returned to the Liverpool Thorn Collection on Templemore Avenue. We went there in May 2016 when the trees were flowering, but now we wanted to see them in autumn. They are various rare relatives of the Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) or Medlar (Mespilus sp.) and some are hybrids of the two.  The “Grignon Hawthorn”, Crataegus x grignonensis, bore fairly normal-looking Haws, with the usual single seed.

The Medlar Mespilus germanica was full of fruit, none of which had fallen. It’s a handsome small tree, now taking on its autumn colours.

We were keen to see it because it is on our I-Spy list and worth 25 points, taking us to 1225. I was also interested to see what the fruit was like inside so I took some home. One was starting to “blet” (go brown, when it becomes edible), but the unripe flesh is white like an apple, and oxidises to brown very quickly. They are very hard to cut in half because the central five-lobed core is hard like a stone.

The Fireberry, Crataegus chrysocarpa was next on our list, and we hoped to see some spectacularly-coloured golden berries. Sadly, it appeared to be dead, bare of leaves or any fruit. There are several other dead-looking trees nearby, or perhaps they all drop their leaves very early.  A different nearby tree was flourishing, though. It had very dark red Haws, nearly black.

When we opened one we were amazed to find it had four seeds inside, each with a triangular point, like segments of an orange. Apparently the Fireberry has three or four seeds too, so was this a living specimen? No, because C. chrysocarpa has oval leaves, hardly indented at all, but we thought this tree had leaves which were more indented, not less. No idea what it was.

Then we walked up to Sudley House and had our lunch on the south-facing terrace. In the grounds we spotted our best autumn tree yet, this lovely young Sweet Gum Liquidambar styraciflua. Despite its initial appearance, this isn’t a Maple. Its leaves are all alternate whereas on Maples they are opposite. Sweet Gum leaves smell aromatic when crushed, which is another way to distinguish them from Maples.

Here’s an unusual shrub, with hanging racemes of claret bracts and shiny purple berries. It is  Pheasant Berry Leycesteria formosa which was a favourite of the Victorians but is now out of fashion.  Hessayon’s Flowering Shrub Expert says “The berries are attractive to birds and it has long been a favourite for pheasant coverts, hence its name.”

We had hoped to go into the walled garden, but it was closed due to vandalism. They run gardening sessions there for local people with “significant health issues and disabilities” but recently found evidence that someone had been camping, leaving rubbish and making a fire from some of their posts and canes. They had to lock it up. Nearby was our last interesting shrub, with white and orange seeds.  It’s the Japanese Spindle Euonymus japonicus.

Public transport details: Bus 80A from Liverpool ONE at 10.34. (We had intended to get it at Great Charlotte Street but buses were diverted because of a Fun Run). Arrived Rose Lane / Templemore Avenue 11.07. Returned on 80A from Rose Lane / Mossley Hill Station at 1.55, arriving City Centre at 2.25.

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Gorse Hill Apple Festival, 8th October 2017

There was a “V” of about 50 Pink-footed Geese flying north over Aughton church, identified by their high-pitched contact calls. On the way up to the reservoir the field to the left of the path was ploughed, and several Black-headed Gulls were pecking about in it. On the other side, a crop of carrots had been harvested, but there were plenty left.

There was a Pied Wagtail on the reservoir roof, a Robin on a wire and the riding ponies were watching us closely from under a windswept tree.

The second Sunday in October is always the Apple Festival at Gorse Hill, and we joined the orchard tour which was setting out just as we arrived. They have 105 trees of 30 varieties, planted 15 years ago on semi-dwarfing rootstocks. That has encouraged them to fruit early and they are easier to harvest, without needing ladders. The volunteers there are very proud to have the variety “Isaac Newton”, which they say is a cutting from the original tree in the Newton family garden at Woolsthorpe Manor near Grantham, and which is apparently still alive. The fruit of almost all the varieties at Gorse Hill ripened early this year, so most of the trees are now bare, with just some late trees still to harvest.

We lunched by Seldom’s Pond, watching Blue Tits and a Coal Tit on the bird feeders. There was a Brown Hawker dragonfly still flying over the reeds. Then we strolled through the lovely woodland paths.

Many of the trees there are labelled, and one was a Spindle tree, which had no fruit, so we wouldn’t have known. We’ve seen them three weeks running now. The woods are full of bug hotels, newt shelters (they say they have all three species), wood carvings and small mammal piles, made from plastic tubes stuffed with hay, covered with carpet squares then pegged down and piled over with branches.

At the barn area they were selling apple juice (but no cider this year), local organic veg and their own apples. I got some runner beans, some Cavolo Nero kale, a wonky cucumber and two apples each of varieties “Katy” and “Sunset”, to add to the windfall “Yorkshire Aromatic” and “Egremont Russet” which I’d picked up earlier.

The Northern Fruit Growers had an interesting display showing “Bismark” apples, said to be all from the same tree. Some were perfect, some were frosted, some had insect damage, some had scab fungus and some were just funny shapes. How many apples from commercial growers are wasted because they aren’t perfect?

Gorse Hill is known for its Yellowhammers, a bird that we’d still like to bag for our list. We wouldn’t have turned our noses up at a Bullfinch, either. No sign of either, to our regret. All was very still and quiet, apart from a gas gun bird scarer going off in the next field, so all we saw were wheeling flocks of disturbed Wood Pigeons. No new flowers or trees today, either. There are wonderful views overlooking Ormskirk church from the top of Gaw Hill. It’s one of only three churches in England to have both a tower and a spire (the other two are in Wiltshire) and the only one which has them both at the same end of the church.

At Aughton Park Station we were amused to see the tough-as-old-roots Himalayan Balsam sprouting out of the gabions of stone which support the banks of the cutting.

Public transport details: Ormskirk train from Moorfields at 10.12, arriving Aughton Park 10.40, Returned on the 2.52 train from Aughton park, arriving Moorfields 3.18.

 

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Award for founder of New Ferry Butterfly Park

The Prime Minister has recognised Dr Hilary Ash, from Cheshire, for founding the ‘New Ferry Butterfly Park’ on an abandoned railway depot, creating one of the North’s most biodiverse urban areas.  See this post on the Cheshire Wildlife Trust website

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Pickerings Pasture, 1st October 2017

Pickerings Pasture, on the Mersey estuary near the Widnes-Runcorn bridge, is the site of the old Widnes tip which was reclaimed in the 1980s and declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1992. The Mersey Estuary is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Ramsar site. It is internationally important for Dunlin, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Teal, Pintail and Shelduck.  Improved water quality in the Mersey has led to over 50 species of fish being found in recent years, encouraging fishing birds like Cormorant, Heron and Great Crested Grebe. It is also occasionally visited by Common and Atlantic Grey Seal, Harbour Porpoises and once each of Minke and Killer Whales. We saw nothing as exciting as that today, sadly.

It was a couple of hours after high tide, and the sandbanks were emerging from the river, holding only Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Cormorant drying its wings.

It was still warm for the time of year, muggy and damp, with threat of rain later. We had seen lots of autumn colour from the bus on the way, especially in the ornamental roadside trees in Estuary Business Park, but Pickerings Pasture was still almost completely green. We made our way along to the bird hide at the southern point for lunch, despite the wind blowing fiercely through the viewing ports. There was nothing out there but Cormorants and Mallards, with a few Shelduck on the field.

We had hoped for some woodland birds on the feeders there, but they are all broken and empty. The bird table outside the hide was empty, too. The MNA makes a regular donation towards the cost of bird food here, and the “thank-you” sign is still up, but we weren’t getting our money’s worth today!

When they reclaimed the tip they planted wildlife-friendly native species such as Oak, Ash, Alder, Birch, Willow. Aspen, Larch and Scots Pine, with an underplanting of Sea and Alder Buckthorn, Field Maple, Elder and Dogwood. Other species have either arrived naturally or been planted since then. There are some Spindle trees on either side of the path to the hide, and although they never make big trees, we thought these were quite small, spindly things, perhaps not thriving in the shade. We were happy to see the Aspens, though, one of the few remaining tree species on our I-Spy list, worth 20 points and taking us to 1200. The ones on the side of the path by the hide were blowing wildly in the strong wind, but the tree by the Control Meadow was more sheltered, and the leaves were fluttering beautifully on their long red-brown stalks. They reminded me of the line in Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott -“Willows whiten, aspens quiver, little breezes dusk and shiver …”

Also by the path side were these lovely smoky purple leaves, which I think belong to the Grey Dogwood Cornus sanguinea.

There were big white mushrooms in the wood, and one fence had a sign showing that Pickerings Pasture are now also getting donations from Tesco. Do they still need our regular donation?

The flowers in the meadows had nearly all finished, but we spotted a late Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria. No points for that, though. The old seed heads were very attractive to Goldfinches, and a charm of over 100 birds was lifting and falling, then twittering prettily whenever they returned to the surrounding trees.

The Alders bore their unripe cones and the Hazels were showing next year’s catkins, but there are never any nuts where there are squirrels.

The only autumn colours were the Lime trees near the exit, dropping gold and yellow leaves.

Public transport details: Bus 82A (Halton Hospital) from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.15, arriving 11.05 at Hale Gate Road / Mersey View Road. Returned from the opposite stop on the 82A at 1.51, arriving Liverpool ONE bus station at 2.40.

 

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Freshfield Fungal Foray 30th September 2017

Here’s a few pics from a very sucessful fungal foray around Montagu Triangle woodland and Freshfield Dune Heath. Thanks go to Tony Carter of the North West Fungal Group for his expertise during the foray 🙂

Bay Cup Peziza badia

Conifer Mazegill Gloeophyllum sepiarium

Earpick Fungus Auriscalpium vulgare

Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria

Rufous Milkcap Lactarius rufus

Earthfan Fungus Thelephora terrestris

Common Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum

Smoked Oysterling Resupinatus applicatus

Frosty Webcap Cortinarius hemitrichus

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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Marshside, 24th September 2017

An odd day at Marshside, with an almost deserted Sandgrounders hide, both inside and out, but all the excitement at Nel’s hide, where there were two Cattle Egrets. However, even this late in the season there are still flowers to be found. Near the bus stop in Elswick Road there was a low four-petalled yellow flower at the base of a garden wall which might have been Annual Wall Rocket. On the bank on the south side of the reserve were Ragwort, Poppies and White Dead-nettle. Large numbers of snails were clinging to the nettles. I wonder why they climb up like that?

Along Marshside Road we usually see lots of birds on the grass and in the gully, but it was all very quiet, with just cows doing conservation grazing and some small flocks of Pink-footed Geese dropping in. But there were more flowers to note – Evening Primrose, Comfrey, Yarrow, Tansy and this distinctive raggedy-looking “dandelion” which is Perennial Sow-thistle Sonchus arvensis, also known as Corn Sow-thistle or Field Milk-thistle. We get ten points for that, taking us up to 1110.

There were a few more birds on the southern side of Marshside Road, including Greylag Geese, a few Curlew, some Black-tailed Godwits and the ubiquitous Mallards. Perhaps it was the man noisily strimming the long grass that was making most birds lie low. On the path down to Sandgrounders hide we found a small brown toad about three inches long, heading for the grassy verge. Not a Natterjack, because it had no yellow stripe down its back, so it was just a Common Toad.

Sandgrounders Hide was empty, and there weren’t many birds on the water outside, either, just Shelduck, Shoveller, Teal, possibly some distant Gadwall and a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits on the far side. No sightings for that day (Sunday) had been entered in the hide record book.


Shoveler


Teal

Yesterday’s (Saturday’s) sightings included five Cattle Egrets from Nel’s Hide, and, to our amusement, someone had written “Golden Eagle, 8”. I think there would have been a huge scrum at the hide if that were true!

On the way back up to the road we kept a lookout along the bank for the plant Black Horehound, which I’d seen there once before, and would have been worth 30 points, but no luck. There were plenty of Michaelmas Daisies though, and I spotted this web of the Nursery Web Spider but there were no interesting spiderlings to be seen.

There are several Spindle trees flanking and overshadowing the path down to Nel’s Hide, and they have fruited very well this year.

There was a large flock of Godwits on the far side, with some Golden Plover next to them. The usual Shovelers and Lapwings. Near the water’s edge were two Little Egrets, with their black beaks.

The star birds were the Cattle Egrets. Five had been reported the previous day, but there was still definitely one, probably two, and as their name suggests, they were closely attending the grazing cows.

Our last wildflower was spotted as we returned to the bus. It was a clump of low pink flowers with frilly leaves (doubly pinnate), growing next to the path, and I think it was Common Storksbill.

Public transport details: Train from Liverpool Central to Southport at 10.08, arriving 10.55. Then bus 44 from Hoghton Street, stop HC (opposite the Little Theatre) at 11.20, arriving Elswick Road / Preesall Close at 11.30. Returned on the 44 bus from Marshside Road / Elswick Road at 2.25, arriving Southport at 2.38, then the 2.58 train from Southport to Liverpool.

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