Woodvale to Lydiate, 24th August 2014

The forecast was for cool and overcast weather but they got it wrong – it turned out to be sunny and warm, a bit too warm for us to be walking as far as we did. We started this fourth section of the Trans-Pennine Trail where we left off last time, at the north end of the Formby by-pass, where it joins Moor Lane. The old Cheshire Lines Railway, which closed in 1952, runs south from here across the fields of the Lancashire plain, with comparatively few easy access points to make the walk shorter.

There were Swallows on the wire in Plex Moss Lane, and horses in many of the paddocks. We had a close encounter with a horse and rider on a narrow section of the trail.

35 Woodvale horse and rider

We lunched by the wayside at the junction with North Moss Lane. It was a surprisingly busy spot, with lots of bikes and walkers passing by. In this sunny corner there were lots of Speckled Woods, and one of the White butterflies. There was even a big dragonfly zooming about. It didn’t sit still at all, but we think it was an Emperor. The field behind us was streaked with red caused by large drifts of the plant called Redshank.

35 Woodvale field of Redshank

As we crossed the open plain we noticed that most of the grain crops seem to be in, and there were Crows and Wood Pigeons in the stubble. Lots of Starlings perched on telegraph wires, a big flock of Lapwings came up, and 20-odd Mallards flew over, heading north west towards Ainsdale. At the old railway bridge over Downholland Brook a Greenfinch came to a puddle to drink and the birds catching insects overhead were House Martins. Had they been nesting in the buildings of the Pumping Station? Right in the middle of the bridge was an old concrete pyramid, a left-over anti-tank defence from WWII.

35 Woodvale bridge and pyramid

There weren’t very many wildflowers by the wayside, perhaps because the path is so dry and open. The best display was of Yellow Toadflax. Margaret said she thought it was a common railway plant, so is it a relic from those days?

35 Woodvale Toadflax

Near the Sewage Treatment plant there was a shadier, damper corner, full of Himalayan Balsam, Ragwort, Purple Loosestrife and Hemp Agrimony.

35 Woodvale Hemp Agrimony
Hemp Agrimonly

35 Woodvale Himalayan balsam
Himalayan Balsam

We came off the trail at New Carr Lane, walked a few hundred yards south along the tarmac of Acres Lane then turned into the field path which runs up to the back of Lydiate Hall farm. We flushed a Grey Partridge there, which exploded out of the undergrowth right in front of us. The Hayloft café was a welcome sight and we had time to sit down with a pot of tea before getting our bus home. We walked five and a quarter miles today, of which about four and a half was the Trans-Pennine Trail. We are now nine and three quarter miles from the start at Southport.

Public transport details: X2 bus at 10.15 from Queen Square, arriving Woodvale 11.05. Returned on the 300 bus at 3.21 from Our Lady’s RC church, Lydiate, arriving Liverpool 4.13.

Here is the plan for the next few Sundays:
31st Aug Taylor Park, St Helens – meet 10am Queen Square
7th Sep Trans-Pennine Trail 5, Lydiate to Maghull – meet 10am Queen Square
14th Sep Heritage Open Day – meet 10.30 Queen Square (Provisional route: St Anthony’s Scotland Road, Ullet Road Unitarian Church, Christ Church Toxteth, St Michael’s in the Hamlet)
21st Sep Visit to our friend Jackie. Meet 11am Liverpool ONE bus station or 12 noon at Jackie’s.
28th Sep New Lane – meet 10am Queen Square
5th Oct Port Sunlight River Park – meet 10am Sir Thomas Street
12th Oct Trans-Pennine Trail 6, Maghull to Old Roan – meet 10am Queen Square
19th Oct Ainsdale to Freshfield – meet 10am Central Station
26th Oct West Kirby – meet 10.15 Central Station

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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Shropshire Union Canal, Ellesmere Port to Stoake, 17th August 2014

34 SU canal bridge view











It was a day of sunshine and light showers, but the sun was shining when we arrived at Ellesmere Port Station and we stopped to admire their small wildlife plot, with pictures of butterflies placed amongst the flowers.

34 SU canal EP garden

We walked down Meadow Lane to the canal and turned south. It seems that autumn has arrived quite early this year. The berries on the Rowan trees are all red, as are the ones on the Guelder Rose. Hawthorn berries are still half way between green and red. Sloes are ripe, and Damsons are falling. Many of the blackberries are quite big and sweet. But although there were plenty of Hazel shrubs in the hedge, there were no Hazel nuts. I don’t think I have even seen or taken a picture of a Hazel nut in the local area. Why not?

34 SU canal Rowan berries

34 SU canal Guelder Rose
Guelder Rose

Wood Pigeons flew from side to side, and the water had Mallards; a family of Coots, made up of both adults and three well-grown chicks; Moorhens, including one quite small chick, less than a week old. After we passed under the M53 we came to the regular spot of a Heron, who had a bulging crop after a big meal.

34 SU canal Heron

There was a red Damselfly on the path, but it moved off too fast for us to to identify it. However, when we stopped for lunch at Mason’s Bridge there was a Common Darter basking in the sun on the south-facing coping stones, almost invisible against the sandstone.

34 SU canal Common Darter

Some interesting flowers along the canalside. Arrowhead was all the way along after lunch, and also Gipsywort and Figwort. One plant that always had its feet in the water looked a bit like Himalayan Balsam but the flowers were orange. My book tells me there is such a thing as Orange Balsam, which flowers July and August and lives on canal and river banks. That must be it.

34 SU canal Gipsywort

34 SU canal Orange Balsam
Orange Balsam

We noticed that the tops were cut off much of the Arrowhead and suspected water voles but later concluded that it must have been the verge cutter when it came along a week or two before.

34 SU canal Arrowhead cut off

Near the sewage treatment plant a male Banded Demoiselle flew past. We left the canal at Stoke Bridge, and sat for a while in the tiny Stoake Nature Reserve, which was just one tiny field. There were Molehills, a Speckled Wood, a green/blue dragonfly which wouldn’t sit still to be identified and the spotty leaves of Common Lungwort. In the pretty little village of Stoake we passed a house gate saying “Beware of the Dog”, but the first time we passed it there was a horse in the garden, and the second time there was a goose. We never did see the dog.

34 SU canal beware horse

There are some fine old Irish Yews next to the Church of St Lawrence.

34 SU canal Stoake church

On the gravestones the village was variously spelled Stoke, Stoake or Stoak. The oldest one we found was of a man called Samuel Yoxon who died in 1775 aged 47. There was also the grave of a boy of 9 called Nelson Burt, “drowned in the River Mersey during the hurricane of the 5th and 6th of December 1822″. He may have been named by his father after the great Lord Nelson who had died eight years before young Nelson Burt’s birth.

34 SU canal Nelson Burt

There was a strange ghostly horse in a stable.

34 SU canal ghostly horse

We walked about a mile up Little Stanney Lane to get the bus in Cheshire Oaks, spotting the fresh corpse of a Rat on the way and a Spindle tree in the ornamental hedge. We just made it to the bus back to Ellesmere Port station.

34 SU canal dead rat

34 SU canal Spindle fruit

Public transport details: 10.30 train from Liverpool central to Ellesmere Port, arriving 11.05. Returned on a little green number 36 bus from Cheshire Oaks at 3.00, arriving Ellesmere Port Station at 3.07. Train to Liverpool at 3.19, arriving Liverpool 3.55.

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MNA Coach Trip Bolton Abbey 16th August 2014

MNA Bolton Abbey Stained Glass1

The last MNA coach trip to the Duke of Devonshire’s Estate at Bolton Abbey had been way back in May 2006 so members were eager to return. I had a quick look around the 12th Century Priory Ruins and adjoining Church with its 13th Century nave and fabulous stained glass windows before catching up with the group who were standing on the Stepping Stones Bridge crossing the River Wharfe watching a Kingfisher and a Dipper. House Martins and Swallows were busy zipping overhead and swooping low over the floodplain meadows fuelling-up for their imminent migration.

Under the expert guidance of Pat Lockwood a small group of members wandered along examining the rich flora of the Estate. A variety of Ferns were found – subtle differences in frond shape, size and texture allowing identification. There was Male-fern Dryopteris filix-mas – a few plants of which seemed to be infected with Knotting Gall caused by the Dipteron Fly Chirosia betuleti – the tip of the fronds rolls upwards into a loose, obvious knot or mop-head structure involving many pinnae.

MNA Bolton Abbey Hartstongue1


Hart’s-tongue Phyllitis scolopendrium – with its linear sori in pairs on the underside side of the frond; the delicate feathery Brittle Bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis; Hard-fern Blechnum spicant a.k.a. Deer Fern – with long individual fronds reaching 40cm; Broad Buckler-fern Dryopteris dilatata – with broad, triangular and tri-pinnate fronds and also triangular scales along the stem that have a dark centre which is a diagnostic character for this species, Soft Shield-fern Polystichum setiferum – with soft-textured, bipinnate fronds.

MNA Bolton Abbey Liverwort1

Snakeskin Liverwort

On Shady rocks beside a small stream we noted the extensive mats of flat dark green leathery thalli of the Liverwort Conocephalum conicum. It is strongly aromatic and has conspicuous air pores on the thalli surface that give rise to its common names of Great Scented or Snakeskin Liverwort. I also noted a scattering of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium leaves.

Given the time of year the woodland was quiet with little birdsong but a few good bird were noted with Spotted Flycatcher, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker as well as Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Wren.

MNA Violet Bramble Rust Cut Out1

Violet Bramble Rust

Violet Bramble Rust Phragmidium violaceum was affecting the Brambles Rubus fructiosus – the upperside of the leaves having an attractive green and red mottled appearance, on the underside we saw two stages of the same fungus growing together, orange urediospores together with black teliospores. We noted the star-shaped sepals and drooping fruits of Giant Bellflower Campanula latifolia that dry and split open to disperse the seeds, later we were to find the fruits of Nettle-leaved Bellflower Campanula trachelium.

MNA Bolton Abbey Bellflower Fruits1

Nettle-leaved Bellflower

We stopped for lunch, on the dead branches of a deciduous tree there were the distinctive orange pustules of Coral Spot Nectria cinnabarina. Close-by yet more Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage and one of our common woodland mosses Swan’s-neck Thyme-moss Mnium hornum and Snowberry Symphoricarpos albus.

MNA Bolton Abbey Swans Neck Thyme Moss1

Swan’s-neck Thyme-moss

Out on the River Wharfe we saw four Goosander and later close to Cavendish Bridge we watched a Grey Wagtail and another couple of Dippers fearlessly diving head first into the River Wharfe to hunt aquatic invertebrates before emerging onto a rock and bobbing up and down. Further along we saw yet another Dipper – testament to the environmental quality of the River supporting Dipper territories in such close proximity.

The blustery conditions were keeping the Insect population hunkered down though I did notice a few Hoverflies feeding on the Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra – Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus, Tapered Dronefly Eristalis pertinax, Hoverfly Eristalis abusivus and Hoverfly Volucella pellucens. Other Insects included Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum, a Mayfly, Flesh Fly Sarcophaga sp. and a Harvestman.

There was a problematic plant that had us flummoxed. A few plants still had small 2cm globose flowerheads with whitish flowers and long, narrowly triangular bracts. The spiky seedhead reminded me of those of the Scabious family – Pat later confirmed its identity as Small Teasel Dipsacus pilosus.

MNA Small Teasel1

Small Teasel

A number of the flowers were unfortunately past their best, gone to seed or only identifiable by their leaves. Despite this we managed fantastic plant list, in addition to those already mentioned:- Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens, Beech Fagus sylvatica, Alder Alnus glutinosa, Hazel Corylus avellana, Three-nerved (a.k.a. Three-veined) Sandwort Moehringia trinervia, Red Campion Silene dioica, Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum, Common Dog Violet Viola riviniana, Olive Willow Salix elaeagnos, Dotted Loosestrife Lysimachia punctata, English Stonecrop Sedum anglicum, Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Raspberry Rubus idaeus, Silverweed Potentilla anserina, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Wood Avens Geum urbanum, Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, White Clover Trifolium repens, Red Clover Trifolium pratense, Great Willowherb Epilobium hirsutum, Rosebay Willowherb Chamerion angustifolium, Enchanter’s-nightshade Circaea lutetiana, Holly Ilex aquifolium, Caper Spurge Euphorbia lathyris, Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, Wood-sorrel Oxalis acetosella, Meadow Crane’s-bill Geranium pratense, Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum, Indian (a.k.a. Himalayan) Balsam Impatiens glandulifera, Common Ivy Hedera helix, Sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata, Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga, Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides, Betony Stachys officinalis, Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica, Common Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Greater Plantain Plantago major, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, Ivy-leaved Toadflax Cymbalaria muralis, Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Woodruff Galium odoratum, Cleavers Galium aparine, Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Common Valerian Valeriana officinalis, Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis, Greater Burdock Arctium lappa, Marsh Thistle Cirsium palustre, Nipplewort Lapsana communis, Yarrow Achillea millefolium, Pineappleweed Matricaria discoidea, Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea, Groundsel Senecio vulgaris, Butterbur Petasites hybridus, Lords-and-Ladies Arum maculatum, Rough Meadow-grass Poa trivialis.

MNA Bolton Abbey Greater Burdock1

Greater Burdock

MNA Bolton Abbey Enteridium lycoperdon1

False Puffball

We noted a Slime Mould known as the False Puffball Enteridium lycoperdon (a.k.a Reticularia lycoperdon). This slime mould has a number of phases to its life cycle and our specimen was conveniently ‘in-between’ phases. During the plasmodial stage it appears as a white globular mass about the size of a golf ball, during the reproductive sporangial stage it becomes glutinous. Finally a smooth white and silvery surface develops, which eventually splits to expose a brown spore mass beneath.

MNA Bolton Abbey Coral Fungus1

Coral Fungi

Peeking out from the leaf litter was a few specimens of Coral Fungi possibly Crested Coral Clavulina coralloides.Also noted Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus, a number of Dryad’s Saddle Polyporus squamosus, Sycamore Tarspot Rhytisma acerinum, Bleeding Broadleaf Crust Stereum rugosum and Lumpy Bracket Trametes gibbosa.

Our ‘Corpse Of The Day’ was the Butterfly wing remains of a Wall Lasiommata megera, earlier a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta had been our only live Butterfly of the day. Our group eventually returned a bit later than our planned departure time to the coach – sorry folks!

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.

A wide photographic selection of birds, marine life, insects, mammals, orchids & wildflowers, fungi, tribal people, travel, ethnography, fossils, hominids, rocks & minerals etc. is available on my Alamy webpage

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Reynold’s Park, 10th August 2014

33 Reynolds walled garden entrance

We were promised the tail end of Hurricane Bertha today, but although it rained lightly during the morning, it cleared up in the early afternoon. Not such a wash-out as we had feared. We concentrated on trees today, and kicked off by identifying a Judas Tree against the wall of the Walled Garden. Then we followed an old leaflet, the “Reynolds Park Tree Trail”, which shows ten specimen trees, each marked with a post bearing a number and a nameplate. We didn’t do them in the right order and we found one that was definitely wrong!

Number 8 is an Indian Bean Tree, but it has been cut down since the trail leaflet was printed. Now it’s sending up new shoots in the centre of a flower bed.

33 Reynolds Indian Bean sprouting

Number 9 is a Tulip Tree in the corner of the walled garden. Number 6 is a Weeping Willow and number 7 is a Wych Elm behind the hedge of the (closed) sunken garden, and which overhangs the path. Number 5 is an Italian Alder with its much larger leaves and cones as compared to the normal Alder. The picture below shows a ripe 2013 cone and an immature green 2014 cone.

33 Reynolds Italian alder cones

Number 4 is a Common Walnut.

33 Reynolds common walnut

We took a diversion to their wildflower meadow, planted from plugs over the last few years and still a work in progress. We should come back earlier next year and see it in it’s full glory.

33 Reynolds wildflowers

Tree number 3 is said on the leaflet to be an English Oak Quercus robur, but the marker at the tree itself says it is a Turkey Oak Quercus cerris. We couldn’t see any acorns or cups on the tree or on the ground below, to see if they were stalked (English Oak) or unstalked and spiky (Turkey Oak). The leaves were oak-leaf-shaped, and perhaps a bit longer and slimmer than English Oak leaves, so Turkey Oak was a definite possibility. We sheltered under the big trees at this corner of the park for lunch. The light rain had nearly stopped, although we got a bit dripped on.

Number 2 is a Yew and number 1 is a Hornbeam. Number 10 was listed as a Tree of Heaven, but not in my book it isn’t ! It had big green single fruits on it.

33 Reynolds black walnut fruit

My book says the fruits of the Tree of Heaven are in “big panicles, each seed in a membranous wing”. See the Natural History Museum page for what they are supposed to look like.  I think it was really an Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra. See this blog Exploring the World of Trees which explains how easily young trees can be confused.

33 Reynolds not Tree of Heaven

The foliage of the supposed Tree of Heaven

That area of lawn by the site of the old manor house (now new flats) has several nice young specimen trees. On the picture below the supposed Tree of Heaven is front centre, with a small blue tree behind it (behind the flagpole) and a yellow one beyond that.

33 Reynolds three young trees

The blue one can’t be a spruce because the cones aren’t pendulous, so I think it’s a young Blue Atlas Cedar.

33 Reynolds blue cedar

The yellow one is some sort of golden-foliaged Cypress.

33 Reynolds golden cypress

Another one looked like some kind of Maple/Acer but a crushed leaf had a strong aromatic smell. Was it an American Sweetgum also known as a Liquidamber? It is said to be “often mistaken for a Maple but leaves alternate”. I regret I didn’t note the placement of the leaves.

33 Reynolds liquidamber perhaps

The topiary garden contains an arrangement of twelve hemispherical golden yews emerging from a circle of green hedges. (The centre left one is a new one, still growing). It is supposed to represent a crown and commemorates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

33 Reynolds topiary crown

By the walled garden we stopped to examine a very damaged Horse Chestnut. The leaves were brown and patchy, caused by an infestation of the leaf miner Cameraria ohridella. At least 50% of the effective leaf area was damaged, although it was worse lower down. The Forestry Commission  says “The damage is primarily an aesthetic problem, and there is no evidence that infestation, on its own, causes dieback or a decline in tree health, or tree death. Consequently, there is no reason to fell and remove trees just because they are attacked by C. ohridella. Even severely infested trees will re-flush as normal in the following spring.” The offending leaf miner was first observed in Macedonia in the late 1970s and was in London by 2002. It is still spreading northwards.

33 Reynolds Hose chestnut infestation

We didn’t pay a lot of attention to birds today, but we definitely saw Blackbird, Robin, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, and also some Grey Squirrels. We left the park at Church Road and had strawberry scones at Olive’s house in Woolton. Thanks Olive!

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Great Charlotte Street at 10.13 ariving Rose Brow/Gateacre Brow at 10.25. Returned on 81 bus from Woolton Village at 3.10.


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Garston and Speke, 3rd August 2014

32 Speke hall south

After yesterday’s torrential rain, it was an overcast morning with a strong gusty wind, but it brightened up later. We took the path along the Speke-Garston Coastal Reserve, during a very low tide – the river looked as if it was all sandbanks.

32 Speke sandbank Mersey

Many of the wildflowers had gone over but there was still Ragwort, Yarrow, Mugwort, Rose Bay Willowherb, Knapweed, Sea Bindweed, Fleabane, Wild Carrot, Perennial Sow Thistle with the raggedy petals, Scarlet Pimpernel, and one with yellow flower spikes that still confuses us. Not Weld, not Mignonette, but since it’s a legume it must be one of the Melilots.

32 Speke fleabane

The sloes were ripening on the Blackthorn, and the Blackberries were doing well.

32 Speke sloes

32 Speke blackberries

Birds included Black-headed Gulls, a lone Curlew on the beach, a Goldfinch near the sailing club slipway, Cormorants flying past and Swifts overhead. When the sun came out no less than three Gatekeepers came out to bask, there was a large White on some Ragwort and one Comma.

32 Speke Comma

We got into Speke Hall grounds by the back entrance and had lunch on their picnic tables. There were Swallows overhead, a Robin on the edge of the lawn and Magpies and Wood Pigeons in the trees. Then we strolled around the recently-restored Kitchen Garden.

32 Speke wheelbarrow

32 Speke kitchen garden rows

They are aiming for a combination of organic methods and Victorian varieties. They had planted Marigolds next to the Tomatoes, which are said to keep the whitefly away.

32 Speke tomatoes and marigolds

Their runner beans were an old variety called Painted Lady.

32 Speke runner bean

Amongst the potato ridges was a small wild flower called Gallant Soldier, said to look like “a daisy that lost a fight.”

32 Speke gallant soldier

They have active beehives, five or six apple trees, ripening figs and a herb garden which included this fine clump of Feverfew.

32 Speke feverfew

They have a woodland trail, where there were masses of Bluebell stalks – it will be magnificent here in April or early May. One of the Oak trees had a crop of knopper galls on the developing acorns.

32 Speke knopper galls

On the front of the Hall, under the points of the eaves there are old carved wooden faces, and Crows or Jackdaws have been nesting under some of them.

32 Speke north nest

Near the way out there was the stump of a huge old tree. In the picture below all four people are sitting on the same stump, with room for more. Had it been a Beech?

32 Speke sitting on stump

On the pond were two Mallards and a Moorhen. On the far side a pair of dragonflies were chasing each other. One was noticeably blue and the other brown. They didn’t come close enough to identify with certainty, but they were big, so we guessed they were Emperors. Fish were jumping, and a young man was angling for them, throwing small handfuls of tinned sweetcorn as bait. He said he’d only caught two, and they were small Rudd about 6″ long. There were lots of Molehills beside the driveway on the way out.

Public transport details: 80A bus from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.10 to Blackburne Street / Banks Road, arriving 10.45. Returned on the 86A bus from Speke Hall Avenue / Speke Hall at 2.40, arriving Liverpol 3.10.

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Warton Crag & Arnside Knott 22nd July 2014

MNA Warton Quarry

Richard Surman, Ron Crossley, DaveB and I headed north on this scorching hot and humid day. Our first site was Warton Crag in Lancashire – a prominent limestone hill in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We visited the Local Nature Reserve in the Old Quarry. Much of the area was fenced off with the Quarry rock face deemed unstable but there was a small meadow with surrounding trees to explore. Swift, Swallow and House Martin zoomed around in the blue sky, Jackdaws ‘chacked’ away. Woodpigeon, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Chaffinch and a ‘pheuuing’ Bullfinch were noted.

MNA Warton Mating Skippers1

Mating Small Skippers

A good selection of Butterflies and Moths with a dozen Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris including a nice mating pair, Small White Pieris rapae, a single Common Blue Polyommatus icarus, a Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja that zipped through, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina, a colourful purple and gold Moth Pyrausta purpuralis and plenty of Pearl Grass Veneers Agriphila straminella.

MNA Warton Pyrausta purpurella1

Pyrausta purpuralis

MNA Warton Grass Moth1

Pearl Grass Veneer

Plants included Common Nettle Urtica dioica, Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Black Medick Medicago lupulina, White Clover Trifolium repens, Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea, Wild Marjoram Origanum vulgare, Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis agg. Red Bartsia Odontites vernus, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Field Scabious Knautia arvensis, Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Hawkweed sp. and Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea.

MNA Warton Field Scabious1

Field Scabious

MNA Warton Seat

We found a rather cool seat with a hawks head carved on it or was it a Peregrine? Just as we were about to leave we heard the distinctive Peregrine call and watched as it flew in and landed on its nest – guano splattered on the rock face beneath it.

Our second site was the National Trust Reserve at Arnside Knott across the border in Cumbria. This 500ft Limestone hill was sculpted by glaciers in the ice-age. Over time, the limestone and wind-blown soil has created flower-rich grassland and woodland. We parked up – a Nuthatch spiralling up a tree trunk by the car giving a different call to its usual repertoire. We had a quick look at the notice board – a mini wildlife haven with a Wolf Spider Pardosa sp. and a Ruby-tailed Wasp Chrysis ignita. We walked back along the road and stopped at a second notice board, a few Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae caterpillars were feeding on Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea close-by but a few were wriggling across the concrete beneath and climbing the notice board to escape Ants. We began climbing stopping frequently to admire the stunning views over the Kent Estuary towards the Lake District.

MNA Arnside View

The slopes here are made of frost-shattered limestone, with areas of distinctive, Blue moor-grass Sesleria caerulea, Yew Taxus baccata and Juniper Juniperus communis. We continued through Bracken Pteridium aquilinum into shady woodland with Blackbird, the odd Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Chaffinch along with Male-fern Dryopteris filix-mas before emerging back out into open grassland in the sunshine.

A few birds were noted with Swifts, a yaffling Green Woodpecker, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a vociferous Raven. Plants Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium, Bell Heather Erica cinerea, Bramble Rubus fruticosus, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria, Dog-rose Rosa canina, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Great Willowherb Epilobium hirsutum, Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum, Betony Stachys officinalis, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus, Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis agg. Red Bartsia Odontites vernus, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Fox-and-cubs Pilosella aurantiaca, Goldenrod Solidago virgaurea and Hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum.

MNA Fox and Cubs


MNA Arnside Betony1


Insects included Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus including a couple of pale adults, Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus, Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum, Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Honey Bee Apis mellifera and a surprisingly active Black Slug Arion ater.

MNA Arnside Grasshopper1

Common Field Grasshopper

MNA Arnside Grasshopper2

Common Field Grasshopper – pale form

It was Butterflies that were the show stealers with Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, Large White Pieris brassicae, Small White Pieris rapae, Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas, Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Peacock Inachis io, Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, Scotch Argus Erebia aethiops, Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, Grayling Hipparchia semele, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina and Six-Spot Burnet Moth Zygaena filipendulae. A couple of guys from Butterfly Conservation that were walking a transect also had Northern Brown Argus Aricia artaxerxes.

MNA Arnside Small Skipper1

Small Skipper

MNA Arnside Brimstone1


A Vole ran across the path as we headed back down to the car.

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.

A wide photographic selection of birds, marine life, insects, mammals, orchids & wildflowers, fungi, tribal people, travel, ethnography, fossils, hominids, rocks & minerals etc. is available on my Alamy webpage

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Marshside, 20th July 2014

Yet another hot day, overcast at first, but the sun came out later.

31 Marshside Sandgrounders

The houses at the back of Marshside, in Elswick Road and Preesall Close, have House Martins nesting under their eaves. From the bank we could see over the reserve, where there was a Heron skulking in a ditch. Also Wood Pigeon, House Sparrows, Goldfinches, Swallows, Canada Geese and a Little Egret flying over. A Llama was resting in the southern field. We spotted a Peacock butterfly and there were wildflowers all along the bank and on the verge of Marshside Road – Poppies, Yarrow, Mugwort, Ragwort, Comfrey, Wild Parsnip, Tansy, Goat’s Beard, Hogweed, Great Willowherb, Burdock, a lilac one I think was Spearmint, Goldenrod and Evening Primrose.

31 Marshside Yarrow and Mugwort
Yarrow and Mugwort

31 Marshside Tansy

31 Marshside Comfrey

31 Marshside Spearmint

31 Marshside Goldenrod















31 Marshside Burdock

As we approached Sandgrounders Hide a flock of several hundred Starlings came up. There were more coming up from the long vegetation as we settled in for lunch. We don’t usually go to Marshside when there is so much undergrowth. A lot of it was Weld, I think. Birds included Coot, Gadwall, two Mute Swans on the far side, several Little Grebes and 100+ Black-tailed Godwits.

31 Marshside Godwits

Outside on the bank we noted two kinds of butterfly, a Gatekeeper and a Common Blue.

31 Marshside Gatekeeper

31 Marshside Common Blue

There were also several mating pairs of Six-spot Burnet moths, which had just emerged and were getting on with the important business of their life cycle. Below them were the empty cases and pupal debris.

31 Marshside Burnets mating

31 Marshside Burnet pupal debris

Fennel was growing on the verge, and two pale flowers that looked like Michaelmas Daisy. In July?  Junction Pool had Lapwings, Redshank, Black-headed Gulls, Mallards, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese. On the way to Nel’s Hide we noticed several small burrows in the bank, about 2 inches (5 cm) wide and going in about a foot (30 cm). There were clear areas outside each hole, perhaps from fresh digging, but we didn’t see any tracks.

There was hardly any water visible from Nel’s Hide, just a Brown Hare browsing. Something was flitting about in the reeds in front of us, but we couldn’t get it to show itself. Reed Warbler or Sedge Warbler?  We couldn’t tell.

Corpse of the Day was a dead bunny in the road.

31 Marshside bunny

Margaret noticed an interesting shrub while we were heading back. She suggested Duke of Argyll’s Teaplant, and my book agrees. There was also a clump of what appeared to be Japanese Knotweed.

31 Marshside Teaplant
Duke of Argyll’s Teaplant
31 Marshside Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed?

Along Marshside Road, House Sparrows were dust-bathing in a pile of sand, and near the bus stop at The Fog Bell we noticed a pair of Collared Doves and the thriving garden colony of House Sparrows.

Public Transport details: Train from Central Station at 10.26 to Southport, arriving 11.10. Bus 44 from Eastbank Street towards Crossens at 11.24, arriving Elswick Road / Preesall Close at 11.40. Returned on bus 44 from Marshside Road / The Fog Bell at 15.04 arriving Southport 15.12, then train at 15.28 to Liverpool.


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MNA Coach Trip Whixall Moss 19th July 2014

Seven years had passed since the last MNA coach trip to Whixall Moss. At nearly 1,000 hectares, the Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve are the third largest and one of the most southerly lowland raised bogs in Britain. Whilst 2007’s visit was blessed with glorious sunshine today’s was altogether a more sodden affair. Nevertheless MNA members are made of sterner stuff and an enjoyable day was had as we saw quite a few of the species this National Nature Reserve is noted for.

As we walked down to the Mosses there were a few Scaly Earthballs Scleroderma verrucosum one of which ChrisB sectioned to show the spores inside.

MNA Whixall Moss Earthball1

Scaly Earthball

Quiet birdwise, a couple of Hobbies, a Sprawk and John Clegg and co had an unusual sighting of a 1st year Whooper Swan in a field across from the Llangollen Canal.

MNA Whixall Moss Emerald Damselfly1

Emerald Damselfly

Not ideal conditions for Damsel and Dragonflies but we did manage to see half a dozen Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa, a few Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, a single Migrant Hawker Aesha mixta patrolling one of the pools and half a dozen Black Darter Sympetrum danae – despite my ‘growling’ one eventually settled for a reasonable shot.

MNA Whixall Moss Black Darter1

Black Darter

Butterflies were also suffering, we noted a few Large White Pieris brassicae, a rather yellow looking second brood Green-veined White Pieris napi, Peacock Inachis io, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria a few Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and a Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus. Moths included three Scarce Footman Eilema complana, a Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba and a rather bedraggled ‘tussock’ moth caterpillar.

Invertebrates included a Longhorn Beetle Stranglia maculata, plenty of Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha fulva, a Red-legged Shieldbug a.k.a. Forest Bug Pentatoma rufipes and a few Common Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina nymphs. We searched the pools for an adult Raft Spider Dolomedes fimbriatus though I did manage to spot a teeny juvenile on the bracken, also a Common Stretch Spider Tetragnatha extensa.

MNA Whixall Moss Raft Spider1

Raft Spider juvenille

MNA Whixall Moss Grasshopper1

Meadow Grasshopper

Grasshoppers boing from under our feet as we walked along including Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus and Mottled Grasshopper Myrmeleotettix maculatus. Numerous biting Insects with Notch-horned Cleg Haematopota pluvialis, Twin-lobed Deerfly Chrysops relictus and lots of Mosquitoes. There were also plenty of Tachinid Flies Eumea linearicornis and Scorpion Flies Panorpa communis.

MNA Whixall Moss Scorpion Fly1

Scorpion Fly female

The Sessile Oaks Quercus petraea were taking a battering from the Cynipid Gall Wasps -immature Common Spangle Galls caused by Neuroterus quercusbaccarum and Oak Marble Galls caused by Andricus kollari.

MNA Whixall Moss Oak Galls1

Oak Marble Galls

We were joined by members of the Liverpool Botanical Society who were kept enthralled by the plants – those I did note included Amphibious Bistort Persicaria amphibia, Redshank Persicaria maculosa, Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia, Wild Mignonette Reseda lutea, Bog-rosemary Andromeda polifolia, Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix, Bell Heather Erica cinerea, Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Rosebay Willowherb Chamerion angustifolium, Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica, Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus, Bittersweet Solanum dulcamara, Hedge Bindweed Calystegia sepium, Common Comfrey Symphytum officinale, Marsh Woundwort Stachys palustris, White Dead-nettle Lamium album, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Greater Plantain Plantago major, Foxglove Digitalis purpurea, Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Nipplewort Lapsana communis, Smooth Sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus, Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris, Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea, Broad-leaved Pondweed Potamogeton natans and Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum.

MNA Whixall Moss Marsh Woundwort1

Marsh Woundwort

ChrisB held a Common Toad Bufo bufo for everyone to look at closely as we wandered back to the coach. ‘Corpse Of The Day’ went to John Clegg and co who saw a Pike Esox Lucius floating belly-up in the Llangollen Canal.

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Toxteth Moth

Had a rather nice Scalloped Oak Crocallis elinguaria resting near the entrance to my flat in Toxteth this evening :)

MNA Scalloped Oak Moth1


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Ainsdale to Woodvale, 13th July 2014

We walked down Shore Road, admiring the tall Hollyhocks in the gardens, to Sands Lake. At the jetty where people throw bread there were Jackdaws, Mallards in moult, but one mother with three smallish late ducklings. Plenty of Black-headed Gulls, some Coots and a Mute Swan with a Darvic ring but we couldn’t see the number. There was just one Lesser Black-backed Gull, or was it a Greater? I thought its legs were pink, which would make it a GBB, but it didn’t strike me as very big. There were no Herring Gulls nearby to compare the size.

30 Ainsdale Sands lake

Rain seemed to be threatening, but it didn’t come to much. Other birds included Swallows, and four or five Tufted Ducks further out. A Heron flew past and a mother Moorhen emerged from the reeds with two well-grown youngsters.

30 Ainsdale moorhen chick

We went around Sands Lake on the boardwalk and lunched on the picnic tables near the pub. Then we walked back up Sands Road to the start of the Trans-Pennine Trail, which runs southwards through mixed woods and sandy dune paths parallel to the Coastal Road.

30 Ainsdale gnarled trees

We noted Small Skippers and Meadow Browns. Flowers included Common Centaury, Yellow or Common Toadflax and a new one for me, Hop Trefoil.

30 Ainsdale toadflax














Yellow toadflax

30 Ainsdale hop trefoil
Hop Trefoil

Autumn seems to be coming on at a rush and it’s only mid-July. The small wild apples were ripening and blackberries are going black at the tip of the bunch. Olive tasted one but it was bitter and she spat it out.

30 Ainsdale blackberries

The seed cases of Beech are looking fat and full, so are we going to have a second mast year in succession? Two Rowan trees were growing next to each other on the dunes, one flourishing and bearing orange berries, the other leafless, perhaps nearly dead, but bearing several clusters of bright red berries.

30 Ainsdale rowan red

As we walked the last section along the Coastal Road we spotted a big fungus on a tree stump on the verge. Is it a Chicken of the Woods?

30 Ainsdale chicken woods perhaps

This was our third leg of the Trans-Pennine Trail and we did another 1.75 miles of it, taking us to five miles from Southport.

Public transport details. Train from Central at 10.08, arriving Ainsdale at 10.42. Returned on the X2 bus from Liverpool Road / Woodvale Road at 14.13, arriving Liverpool about an hour later.

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