Chester, 25th September 2016

The plan was to walk from Chester Zoo to Ellesmere Port along the Shropshire Union Canal, but I had to pass on the five mile walk because I seem to have pulled a muscle in my foot. Limping but getting better! I had a short stroll around the Zoo instead. There were the usual attractions – elephants, giraffes, two Greater One-horned Rhinos and a new baby Tapir, but I headed for the Tropical House to see the birds. Here’s a pretty little Pekin Robin Leiothrix lutea.

36-chester-pekin-robin

Near the bridge by the Tropical House was a huge Ivy in flower, attracting many insects. Most were wasps, but there were also two Commas.

36-chester-comma

There was also a large orangey insect of some kind. A hornet? I couldn’t get a picture of it side on, it kept its back to me, but it looks like the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly Volucella zonaria. It was a rare visitor in the 1940s, but is now said to be found as far north as the Midlands. This one’s further north than that!

36-chester-hornet-mimic

In the butterfly house the Blue Morphos Morpho peleides were feeding on oranges.

36-chester-blue-morpho

The Mallards are pairing up. Most drakes were in their smart new winter plumage and following the females closely. All of the trees were still green except this Norway Maple, which was putting on an autumn show.

36-chester-autumn-colour

John tells me the rest of the group made it to Ellesmere Port successfully, and their best sighting was a Peregrine Falcon pursuing a Wood Pigeon.

Public transport details: Bus X8 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.20, arriving Chester Zoo at 11.15.

Next few weeks:
2nd Oct, Flaybrick Cemetery. Meet 10am Sir Thomas Street.
9th Oct, Gorse Hill Apple Festival. Meet 10am Central Station
16th Oct, Fungal Foray at Dibbinsdale with the MNA. Meet 10am Central Station.
23rd Oct, Abercromby Square and St James’s Cemetery. Meet 10am Queen Square.
30th Oct, Sefton Park. Meet Liverpool ONE at 10.00.

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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Tree-hunting in Scotland, September 2016

Last week I stayed with my brother and sister-in-law near Stirling and we went about looking (mostly) at trees. One day we went to the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (RBGE). Amongst the prettiest trees there was this Katsura Cercidiphyllum japonicum. Its leaves are very similar to those of the Judas tree but Katsura’s leaves are opposite, not alternate. Their autumn colours are lovely, and it was already turning pinkish-yellow. The fallen leaves are said to smell of burnt sugar or candy floss.

01 Katsura

There was a grove of young Monkey Puzzle trees (Chilean Pine) Araucaria araucana. They are threatened in their native Argentina and Chile, so six young trees have been collected from the wild to safeguard genetic diversity, a process known as ex-situ conservation. You can see how varied these three are.

02 young monkey puzzles

RBGE also has Britain’s biggest plant fossil. It’s the trunk of a Pitus withami (Carboniferous period) which was discovered about a mile away at Craigleith quarry. Behind it is the fossilised root of a Lepidodendron, which grew to 45 metres, but whose only living relatives are now small clubmosses.

03 fossil tree

Outside the Glasshouses entrance is a variety of Siberian Elm Ulmus pumila var. pinnato-ramosa, described by Mitchell as “very rare”. It has a weeping habit and serrated leaves.

04 Siberian Elm

05 Siberian elm

Inside glasshouse 4 is a Giant Victoria Water Lily, Longwood Hybrid. Amazingly, it’s an annual !

06 Victoria water lily

Another very rare tree was a Butternut Juglans cineria with pinnate leaves up to two feet (60 cm) long, looking too big for the tree.

07 Butternut

At MacRosty Park, Crieff, I was introduced to Douglas Firs and also to the Bhutan Pine Pinus wallichiana. It’s a five-needle pine, with very long needles, and I expect I will be able to identify it when I see it again.

08 Bhutan Pine

At Cluny House Gardens there is a huge Giant Redwood Sequoiadendron giganteum. The first seeds came to Britain in 1853 and this tree is thought to have been grown from that first batch. It’s 135 feet (41 meters) tall and still growing at about two feet a year. It’s the British girth champion at 11.3 meters (37 feet).

10 Champion Giant Redwood

Red Squirrels are common here, and were scampering around the car park. They feed them regularly in bird-proof lidded feeders.

09 Red Squirrel

They have a very large and gnarled Antarctic Beech Nothofagus antarctica. There’s a very young one in the Dell at Port Sunlight, but this one looked like it might have been over a hundred years old. The species was first introduced to Britain in 1830 so is it one of the originals? Their leaflet didn’t say. Near the entrance I spotted a three-lobed maple with very big leaves. It was a Moosebark! Acer pensylvanicum. After having a possible Moosebark Maple pointed out at Calderstones a few weeks ago (I don’t think it was) I had looked up the snake-barked Maple group so I was primed when I saw the huge matching leaves. Nice bark, too.

11 Moosebark maple leaves

12 Moosebark maple bark

The Fortingall Yew is thought to be the oldest living thing in Britain and perhaps in Europe, at least 3000 years old, maybe 5000. In 1769 it was estimated to have had a girth of 56 feet (17m), but its subsequent fame ensured it was pilfered for souvenirs. Then some children set it on fire. Now there are only remnants behind a gated stone wall. All the separate trunks on the picture were once one tree and a ring of marker posts shows where the circumference used to be. Cuttings have been taken from this and other ancient Yews to make a hedge in the RBGE, to preserve genetic diversity.

13 Fortingall Yew

14 Fortingall Yew

The Meikleour Beech Hedge is believed to have been planted in autumn 1745 and is now the world’s tallest hedge at an average of 100 feet. It is 580 yards long. We were able to get behind it, where it doesn’t look like a hedge at all, just the edge of a beech wood.

15 Meikleour beech hedge

16 behind the MBH

At Scone Palace they have the original Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii, grown from seed sent back by the plant-hunter David Douglas from the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest of the USA in 1826. It’s now 190 years old and is one of the fifty Golden Jubilee Great British Trees, as is the Fortingall Yew.

17 The Douglas Fir

18 Douglas Fir sign

At Airthrey Castle, now part of Stirling University, there is a layering Giant Redwood. Its branches droop to the ground all around it and take root, making a ring of young trees. Some Yews are known to do this, but it’s rarer for Giant Redwoods.

19 Layering giant redwood

They also had a Père David’s Maple Acer davidii. It’s another in the snake-bark group, but has the most subtly (almost imperceptibly) three-lobed leaves of them all.

20 Pere David's maple leaves

21 Pere David's maple bark
We ended the week in fine style at Argarty Red Kites, a feeding station and hide set up by a local farmer and his family. They were being given venison scraps the day I was there!  I reckon there are eleven Red Kites in this picture, although three are just dots in the sky.

22 eleven kites

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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Bat Walk

If anyone is interested, there is a Bat Walk advertised this Saturday 24th September at 7 pm in Victoria Park, Crosby. Meet at the pavilion, bring a torch.  The notice doesn’t mention bat detectors, but if you have one …

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Liverpool Biennial, 18th September 2016

35 Biennial dock view

Not a lot of wildlife to report this week, because our plan was to visit some of the normally-closed buildings which were hosting exhibits for the Liverpool Biennial art festival. Yet again we were frustrated in one of our choices, as the long-closed ABC Cinema, billed to be open at 10 am, was still closed, and a couple of young artists were busy on their phones outside, saying there was “a key problem”.  So we moved on.

Two young trees outside Sainsbury’s on St Luke’s Place surprised us: they were Medlars. One looked a bit sick, but had produced several fruit, while the other was in far better leaf, but fruitless. They had interesting cracked and flaky bark, too.

35 Biennial medlar fruit

35 Biennial medlar bark

Our next stop was the Oratory next to Anglican Cathedral. The art didn’t detain us at all (the litter on the floor was Art ??), but we had a good look at the wonderful old funerary monuments on the walls. Outside is Tracy Emin’s “Bird on a Pole”. Is it meant to be some sort of Wagtail? Hard to tell. Far more satisfactory were two real Peregrine Falcons, sitting high up on the west front of the Anglican Cathedral.

35 Biennial Peregrines on balcony

35 Biennial Peregrine closer

A Jay flew over and a Grey Squirrel scampered across the car park. They were both unexpected so close to the city centre. In the house gardens below the cathedral we spotted a Marrow plant in flower, being pollinated by a Honey Bee. Then we looked at some Art in the warehouse of Cain’s Brewery (still not impressed) and lunched overlooking the Marina, where they teach wakeboarding.

Our Corpse of the Day was a rather small and dried-up Cod lying on the pavement outside the old HMRC building (now The Keel residential development). It was much too far from the railings for it to have jumped out of the river on its own, and why would a fisherman discard it? Which led to the old music-hall question, “Why did the Codling cross the road?”

35 Biennial codling

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MNA Coach Trip Malltraeth, Anglesey 17th September 2016

It was back in September 2007 that the MNA last visited Malltraeth, a small village on the south-west coast of Anglesey In 1947 renowned wildlife illustrator Charles Tunnicliffe moved home from England to Malltraeth, his studio ‘Shorelands’ overlooking the Cefni Estuary.

It is well known for the Malltraeth Cob (dyke), which is a mile long embankment, over which the Anglesey Coastal path runs, as well as the ‘Lon Las Cefni’ cycle track. This structure, is part of the flood defence system, constructed in the 1800’s, and completed in 1812 when the River Cefni was canalised, which enabled the Cefni Marsh to be drained, so as to permit coal workings, and the building of the A5 turnpike road to the port of Holyhead. This structure also encloses the Cob ‘Pool’, a nature reserve managed by the Countryside Council for Wales.

The tide was in when we arrived but we located a small group of Redshank joined by a lone snoozing Ruff, a Little Egret stalking on the marsh edge and heard a calling Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Robin and distant Ravens.

Botanists were kept busy with Pellitory-of-the-wall Parietaria judaica, Spear-leaved Orache Atriplex prostrata, Sea-purslane Atriplex portulacoides, Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare, Rock Sea-lavender Limonium binervosum, Thrift Armeria maritima, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill Geranium molle, Golden-samphire Inula crithmoides, Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum and Groundsel Senecio vulgaris.

In the pools were a few Grey Heron, a Little Grebe, Mallard, a flock of Lapwing, a few pairs of Mute Swans, a few Black-tailed Godwits, with Carrion Crows sat on posts in the neighbouring fields – John Clegg and a few others noting a hybrid Carrion Crow/Hoodie amongst them. The tide began to ebb and waders appeared out on the sands with masses of Curlew, plus Shelduck, Oystercatchers, various Gulls, on the water was another pair of Mute Swans with four cygnets in tow. Harry Standaloft spooked three Snipe on the marsh; the odd Goldfinch, Mepit and flock of Linnet were flying around and up to forty Swallows were zipping low across the estuary.

mna-malltraeth-robins-pincushion-gall1

Robin’s Pincushion Gall

A couple of Painted Ladies Cynthia cardui and four Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae were flitting around the Golden-samphire on the marsh. A couple of ‘Woolly Bears’ the caterpillars of the Garden Tiger Moth Arctia caja were crossing the path. We found a few Galls with some large fist-sized Robin’s Pincushion a.k.a. Bedeguar Gall on Dog Rose Rosa canina caused by the Gall Wasp Diplolepis rosae. A group of larvae each reside in their own chamber within the gall overwintering before emerging as adult wasps in spring. The adult wasps reproduce parthenogenetically i.e. not needing males.

mna-germander-speedwell-galls1

Germander Speedwell Galls

There were also galls on Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys caused by the Gall Midge Jaapiella veronicae. The midge lays its eggs in the terminal buds causing the young leaves to become thickened forming a fluffy looking pouch in which the larvae develop.

mna-malltraeth-sea-radish1

Sea Radish – flower and characteristic seed pods

The plant list continued rising with Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris, Red Campion Silene dioica, Sea Radish Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. maritimus, Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Tufted Vetch Viccia cracca, Rosebay Willowherb Chamerion angustifolium, Sun Spurge Euphorbia helioscopia, Hedgerow Crane’s-bill Geranium pyrenaicum, Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium, Sea Carrot Daucus carota subsp. gummifer, Large Bindweed Calystegia silvatica, Thyme-leaved Speedwell Veronica serpyllifolia, Common Cornsalad Valerianella locusta, Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica, Sea Aster Aster tripolium and Yarrow Achillea millefolium.

Arriving in a wooded area a few Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria were flitting around and on a patch of Brambles a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta and a couple of Commas Polygonia c-album were feeding. ChrisB noted some Fungi – a Purple Brittlegill Russula atropurpurea as well as some impressive Lichens.

We boarded the coach and onto the next site.

Malltraeth Marsh covers 273 ha of reedbeds, marshes, wet grassland and small pools/lakes. Bitterns have bred in the past and birds now winter in most years. The RSPB’s prime aim for the site is to manage the site to provide suitable habitat for Bitterns so that they return to breed and to manage the grassland for breeding Lapwings. The reserve is also a great place to see wintering wildfowl. The site is part of the Malltraeth Marsh (Cors Ddyga) Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which is particularly important for the ditch fauna and flora, and the range of breeding wetland birds. The reserve is situated in the north-east corner of the Malltraeth Marsh SSSI, bounded to the north by the A5 trunk road, to the west by the Afon Cefni and to the east by the rising ground that forms the escarpment running from Pentre Berw to Newborough.

Circling Buzzards, Ravens, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were noted. A Great Egret flying over the marsh before landing in thick reeds was a bonus for some members.

mna-malltraeth-mink-trap1

Mink Monitoring Raft

A Mink monitoring raft was spotted in one of the drainage channels. The rafts are usually left in place for 1-2 weeks, the presence of Mink is detected in the form of footprints left in the clay/sand mixture along the bottom of the raft.

A few Odonata with Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta and Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum. We also saw a ‘Blue-tailed’ Damselfly – this site holds three nationally scarce species: the Hairy Dragonfly, the Variable Damselfly and Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly so we may have unknowingly seen the latter.

mna-malltraeth-dock-bug1

Dock Bug

A selection of Hemiptera with Common Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina nymph, Red-legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes and a few Dock Bugs Coreus marginatus – a large and mottled reddish-brown Squashbug with a broad, oval abdomen. There is one generation per year, with the nymphs feeding on dock and other related plants in the Polygonaceae. Other invertebrates included a couple of Garden Spiders Araneus diadematus and a Wolf Spider.

A good selection of plants including Amphibious Bistort Persicaria amphibia, Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica, Marsh Woundwort Stachys palustris, Water Figwort Scrophularia auriculata, Wild Teasel Dipsacus fullonum, Greater Burdock Arctium lappa, Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Yarrow Achillea millefolium, Scentless Mayweed Tripleurospermum inodorum and Bulrush Typha latifolia.

mna-malltraeth-black-bryony

Black Bryony

Autumn fruits in the hedgerows with Blackberry Rubus fruticosus, Blackthorn (Sloes) Prunus spinosa, Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and Black Bryony Tamus communis.

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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Heritage Open Day, 11th September 2016

On the way out to the bus this morning I found this lovely back-lit spider’s web on a Rowan tree.

34 HOD spider web

In St John’s Gardens the Indian Bean trees are now full of their long grey seed pods, and the Trees of Heaven are in copious fruit, which is starting to turn red.

34 HOD Indian Bean pods

34 HOD ToH fruiting

Our plan was to go to Deane Road Cemetery, St John the Evangelist church in Thomas Lane and the rarely-open Bright Park. In the event, two of the three didn’t open as billed, which was disappointing. Deane Road Jewish Cemetery bore a hand-altered sign saying it was to be open next week, but not this week after all. Some last-minute crisis, no doubt. So we caught the bus further on to Springfield Park.

There is an interesting tree with big divided leaves on the central reservation of East Prescot Road opposite Warmington Road. A Fig? A Sweet Gum / Liquidambar? It had alternate leaves and spiky seed balls. A crushed leaf was sticky but not aromatic. We concluded that it was an Oriental Plane Platanus orientalis.

34 HOD Oriental plane leaves

34 HOD Oriental plane fruits

Mitchell says it is “rare north of the Midlands”, and it is very unusual to find a rarity like that in the middle of a busy road. Margaret tells me there is a young Tulip Tree along there too, nearer Queen’s Drive. Someone obviously had some money left over in that year’s budget to spend on interesting tree plantings.

In Springfield Park there is an obelisk to Lord Nelson commissioned in 1806 by Mr Downward, a local sugar refiner, and sited for many years in the garden of his residence, Springfield House. The house is long gone and the garden, latterly Springfield Park, was partly built on by the new Alder Hey Hospital, but now the park has been restored, and the monument has been re-erected by the Friends group. It is known locally as the “Half-Nelson”.

34 HOD Half Nelson

There were four House Martins overhead. Are they nesting on the old hospital building nearby? Where will they go when it is demolished? The new Alder Hey Hospital has green roofs and a smart new garden area at the back entrance, with kid-friendly climbing equipment and spongy path surfaces. There are interesting tree plantings there, too, including two or three young Locust trees Robinia pseudoacacia, turning a lovely yellow. The adjacent flower bed has a surprising stone sculpture, shaped like a shark’s fin. The writing on the other side says “Ever see a shark / picnic in the park? If he offers you a bun …. RUN!”

34 HOD Locust tree

There were also a few Ginkgos and some young Apple and Pear trees, some already bearing fruit. One reminded me of “I had a little nut tree / and nothing would it bear / but a silver nutmeg / and a golden pear”.

34 HOD golden pear

We looked at the row of six old cottages called Little Bongs, then walked along Thomas Lane. Ken Dodd’s house is on the corner. Then into churchyard of St John the Evangelist C of E for lunch. We saw a Speckled Wood there, and noted a Weeping Ash next to the church.

34 HOD St John church

The church makes much of their “Titanic” gravestone. A local couple called Harrison put up a stone in memory of two of their sons, Swainston Harrison Jr who died in Africa aged 22 in 1892 and “Norman Harrison, Second engineer SS Titanic, foundered off the coast of Newfoundland  April 15th 1912, aged 38.” Neither of their sons can be buried there, but the parents are.

We took a tour of the crypts. When we peeked through a grating we could see the very long lead coffin belonging to Marcus Hill Bland who died in 1856, said to have been 7’ 6” tall. Then to Bright Park, but there was no sign of it being open. The Heritage Open Day information said “Bright Park, (formerly Thingwall House), was the residence of Henry Arthur Bright, a Victorian shipping magnate who left his house and gardens in his will to the furtherment of the education of the people of Liverpool. Come and explore the park and its 4.9 acres of woods, orchards and trails. Come and see this secret wilderness for yourself and enjoy privileged access to a park that had only been open a handful of times in the last 30 years”. There were  lots of disgruntled people turning up (including us!) but there wasn’t even a loose railing to get through. One young couple bunked over the wall with the aid of a handy telephone switching box. When we saw them later they said they’d seen a Fox, which stood and stared at them in surprise at having its patch invaded.

We finished the day with a quick visit to the Church Hall, where they had some old school attendance registers and a punishment books. One young lad was caned for “mistreating a frog”.  There was also a school project from 1933 about the trees of Calderstones Park. It wasn’t about rarities, but about trees in general, and ended with a series of observations through autumn and spring 1932/33 on when the leaves of various common species’ leaves fell, and buds broke.

On the way home I spotted another orange-berried Rowan on Prescot Road near the old abattoir (now the Meat and Fish market). Still not spotted any of the rarer white-berried ones, though. Anyone know of any?

Public transport details: Bus 10A from Queen Square at 10.30, arriving Kensington / Finlay Street at 10.45. Then on the 10B from the same stop at 11.03, arriving East Prescot Road / Chatterton Road at 11.10. Returned from E Prescot Road / Thomas Lane on the 10A at 2.17, arriving Queen Square at 2.45.

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Court Hey Park, 4th September 2016

33 Court Superlambanana

Just into September and the trees are starting to display their fruits and seeds, but the only autumnal leaf colour was on those Horse Chestnuts which have been badly affected by the leaf miner. We found our first conker today, just a tiny one about ½ an inch across. The Beech mast is coming down in the wind, but the seeds are all empty. John said that last week at the church he gardens for, he swept up enough beech mast to fill a whole wheelie bin.

Outside the Visitors’ Centre, most of the wild flowers have gone over, but there were still blooms of blue Chicory, orange Fox and Cubs and purple Marjoram.

33 Court fox and cubs
Fox and cubs

33 Court marjoram
Marjoram

A hop vine was scrambling over the fence, producing hops near the top. They had a Scarecrow festival here in July, and some of their best examples were still on display. This one is “A Sporty Day Out” by Huyton Childminders and Children.|

33 Court scarecrow

The way through to the park was blocked so we went around to the west by the Merseyside BioBank building. Tutsan had its dark red berries out, and a Lauristinus bush was flowering. It’s supposed to flower from October to June, so was this one early or late? There used to be an old pond there, but now it’s just a damp depression. On an Iris we found a black ladybird with two red spots which we hoped was a Kidney Spot, but it wasn’t. The white “eyes” on the front end (the pronotum) mean it’s a Harlequin.

33 Court harlequin

There were plenty of trees along the southward path. Holm Oak with acorns, Turkey Oak with its furry acorn cups, Swedish Whitebeam with berries still green but turning, a solitary Whitebeam on the lawn surrounded by a neat circle of fallen leaves, with its berries still green. Cotoneaster and Rowan were in bright red berry. This is a good time to look for unusual Rowans. I’ve spotted an orange-berried one near Blundellsands and Crosby  station, but there were none in Court Hey Park today, and definitely no interesting white-berried ones. But the Hawthorns are now very red, and there were several copiously fruiting Crab Apple trees.

33 Court turkey acorns
Turkey Oak acorns

33 Court Hawthorn
Hawthorn

33 Court crab apples
Crab Apple

These Ash keys caught my eye. Are they really Ash? They are rather sparse and show interesting colours, but perhaps they are just not yet fully ripe.

33 Court ash keys

We turned back up the other path and found a hollow Ash with fungi growing inside. One was definitely an Artist’s Bracket Gannoderma applanatum, with its rich chestnut brown top and white underside, but the other was so high up we could only see the plain white underside. Further on  there was a cluster of grey-fawn fungus on a dead Cherry tree.  Is it Honey fungus? They are usually a browner colour.

33 Court grey fungi

One tree was doing a very good impression of a Small- leafed Lime at first sight, just because it had small leaves, but we got the book out, and the seeds were spherical and furry, so it’s just an ordinary Lime Tilia x europaea. The Small-leafed Lime has tiny bare (glabrous) fruit, and the pictures show that it often has a bit sticking out at the tip. I don’t think I have ever seen a definite Small-leafed Lime. Anyone know one?

33 Court lime seeds

When the sun came out after lunch we spotted several Speckled Woods and a fast-moving Peacock. One Horse Chestnut appeared to have non-spiky fruits. It must be a Red Horse Chestnut Aesculus x carnea. It has been much attacked by the leaf miner, and its trunk had a spiral crack. It wasn’t looking healthy at all. In fact, several of the trees we saw today looked like they were about to peg out – hollow or fungus-ridden.

33 Court red hc conkers

Back in the Visitors’ Centre we noticed posters for a free Moth night on Friday 9th September, 7 to 9.30pm, if anyone’s interested. They were selling some interesting home-grown veg and I came home with a Cucumber, a Scallopini Squash and some “Rainbow” Swiss Chard.

33 Court veg

Public transport details: Bus 61 from Queen Square at 10.20, arriving Roby Road opposite Court Hey Road at 10.45. Returned on 61 from Roby Road / Court Hey Road at 2.34, arriving city centre at 2.58.

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Heritage On The Dock

Join Lancashire Wildlife Trust to take a closer look at life under the sea in the waters of Albert Dock. Have a go at plankton fishing, investigate your catch under the microscope, and learn about the vast array of marine life found in the waters of the dock – including eels, moon jellies and crabs.

This takes place on Friday 9 September, and is part of the Heritage on the Dock festival: www.heritageonthedock.com

You can reserve a free place for this event at: dockwildlife.eventbrite.co.uk

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Hilbre Island, 28th August 2016

32 Hilbre Island and Sea

The notice at Dee Lane slipway said we were not supposed to set out until 11.30, but there were crowds already ahead of us at 11.20. After the recent uptick in seaside fatalities, the Lifeguards were very obvious all day.

32 Hilbre Lifeboat gear

It was overcast and breezy, not too hot, a perfect day for the crossing. There were Cormorants and Herring Gulls towards North Wales and a line of Oystercatchers further over. A Heron beat its way towards Mostyn. Apart from the well-trodden path, the sand was covered in worm casts, and there were tiny crabs scuttling about in little pools, then burying themselves. The bigger pools had minute fish in them. It took only 20 minutes to Little Eye, then a further half an hour to Middle Eye, arriving at 12.10. We saw our first specialist flowers there, several clumps of Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum. Until 1969 it was classified as the same species as Scentless Mayweed Tripleurospermum inodorum, and when we consulted the book of flower photos in the Telegraph Station it was called Scentless Chamomile, but in view of the rocky maritime environment, Sea Mayweed seems most likely.

32 Hilbre Sea Mayweed

We lunched on Middle Eye, looking out south eastwards to Hoyle Bank and the Grey Seals.

32 Hilbre seals

There was a Meadow Pipit in the grass, Oystercatchers on the rocks below and what was probably a Wheatear, which dashed across our line of sight then went down below us and disappeared.  The sun came out, and one Large White appeared. Several late Swallows were hunting overhead. Then we crossed to Hilbre itself. The rocks bore carpets of young barnacles and clusters of Winkles, also known as Periwinkles and Edible Winkles, Littorina littorea.

32 Hilbre winkle cluster

Growing high up on the red sandstone wall was a plant with blue flowers which might have been Rock Spurrey, and there was Rock Sea Lavender near the base. Clumps of Thrift were everywhere, most going over. Margaret found a tiny ladybird which appears to be an 11-spot Coccinella undecimpunctata. “Rarely found inland, except on sandy soils, this species is very coastal in its local distribution, but where it does occur it can be common.”

32 Hilbre 11 spot ladybird

The Friends of Hilbre had declared an Open Day and were running a tea and cake stall, which was very well-patronised.

32 Hilbre tea and cake

The beach towards Red Rocks and Hoylake was packed with birds.

32 Hilbre birds on beach

We set off back again 1.55, noting the Heligoland Trap, used to catch and ring migrant birds. There was a Dragonfly patrolling in a bay in the rocks on the north side of Middle Eye. We thought it was brown, but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it further. There were plenty of Lugworm holes in the sand, and we came across this stranded Jellyfish, possibly a Lion’s Mane.

32 Hilbre jellyfish

Then we followed the returning crowds back to the slipway, arriving just before 3pm. It’s about 2 miles each way, and allowing time to stop and look at everything, can take just over an hour.

32 Hilbre going home

Public transport details: Train to West Kirby from Central at 10.35, arriving 11.06. Returned on the 3.30 train to Central, arriving 4.05.

 

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Hilbre Island, 28th August 2016

Dibbinsdale 26th August 2016

MNA Dibbinsdale 2016 Meadow Grasshopper1

Meadow Grasshopper

Spent a bit of time this morning in Bodens Hay Meadow patiently trying to photograph the Meadow Grasshoppers Chorthippus parallelus and a few Bumblebees and Solitary Bees that were enjoying the remaining Wildflowers such as Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra and Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea. There was a female Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum perched behind a large patch of Blackberry Rubus fruticosus at the edge of the meadow and a Painted Lady Cynthia cardui looking the worst for wear flitted by. In a sunny wooded glade a few Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria chased each other and a couple of Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta were on patrol.

MNA Dibbinsdale 2016 Bee On Knapweed1

Solitary Bee

The delicate white flowers of Enchanter’s Nightshade Circaea lutetiana and the yellow ones of Wood Avens Geum urbanum had mostly gone to seed. One plant I hadn’t noted in the reserve before was Common Figwort Scrophularia nodosa, the two lipped flowers are small and easily overlooked. The scientific Genus name, Scrophularia, comes from the plant’s traditional use as a remedy for scrofula, a tuberculous infection of the lymph nodes in the neck. Herbalists have also used in the treatment of skin disorders such as eczema.

MNA Dibbinsdale 2016 Oak Cherry Galls1

Oak Cherry Galls

Autumn is clearly approaching with a selection of Oak Galls. One I hadn’t seen before was the Oak Cherry Gall – smooth round galls around 15-20mm in diameter on the underside of Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur leaves caused by the asexual generation of the Gall Wasp Cynips quercusfolii. Interestingly they also occur on Sessile Oak Quercus petrae but in this case the galls have a warty texture.

MNA Dibbinsdale 2016 Oak Artichoke Galls

Oak Artichoke Galls

There was a number of Oak Artichoke Galls including this trio that occur when the female Gall Wasp Andricus foecundatrix (formerly Andricus fecundator) lays eggs using her long ovipositor in the leaf buds in the Spring. The Gall grows during the Summer acquiring its overlapping scales appearance with the larvae emerging in the Autumn.

The small wildflower patch close to the Rangers office had been recently mown leaving only a couple of patches that contained Purple Loosestrife Lythrum salicaria, Meadow Crane’s-bill Geranium pratense, Cornflower Centaurea cyanus etc. Around the algae clagged Woodslee Pond was a patch of Gypsywort Lycopus europaeus, a Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus and a male Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum. A few early Fungi were noted with a Beefsteak Fungus Fistulina hepatica, a couple of Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus and Birch Mazegill Lenzites betulinus.

MNA Dibbinsdale Chicken of The Woods

Chicken Of The Woods

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

  

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off on Dibbinsdale 26th August 2016