Abercromby Square and St James’s Cemetery, 23rd October 2016


Yet another tree day, this time looking in Liverpool City Centre. First to note are some new ones. Last Sunday I noticed that workmen had just planted twelve young columnar (“fastigiate”) oak trees  in Elliot Street, at the bottom of the steps from Great Charlotte St. This morning there were six more in Houghton Street, which leads around to the Playhouse. I sneaked through the barriers to read the label still attached to one of them, and they are English Oaks, Quercus robur Fastigiata ‘Koster’. The label also said the order quantity was 26. There are eighteen planted already, so six more to go. They are probably intended for Parker Street, outside Superdrug.


It was a lovely clear autumn day, and the leaves on the trees have started to change colour this week, and come down in the wind. We intended to start in Abercromby Square, but miscalculated the bus route and found ourselves nearer to Falkner Square. There are lots of Plane trees around the edge, and one lone Hawthorn allowed to grow to (smallish) tree size. In the border was a plant whose flowers had three pale blue petals. I think it’s probably one of the North American Spiderworts, genus Tradescantia, sometimes planted in Europe as ornamentals.


Then we threaded through Grove Street, Myrtle Street and Chatham Street, noting a row of young Tulip Trees outside the Sidney Jones Library. On the corner of Chatham St and Abercromby Square is this rare Victorian “Penfold” Post Box  with a history of damage and restoration, see this blog post from an enthusiast.


Inside the park railings there’s a mature Tulip Tree in the south east corner, opposite the pillar box, which we might visit again when it flowers. An ornamental Apple tree bore little red fruit with a bitter taste.  From a distance Plane, Norway Maple and Tulip trees are all looking about the same now, with similar crowns, similar pointy leaves and the same colour changes, but the Norway Maples are particularly lovely.


At the north west corner is the memorial sculpture to Noel Chavasse, the double VC, with the names of other Liverpool-born VC winners inscribed around the base.


Then along Hope Street to St James Cemetery, where we had our lunch. It was quite cool when  the sun went in. We examined two very odd thorn trees that seemed to be reverting to Hawthorns. The upper trees had plain oval leaves and biggish fruit with two seeds. From the base of the trunk they were both sprouting a sucker-like addition that bore leaves and fruit like an ordinary Hawthorn. One might be just the lucky germination of a Haw from anywhere, but both of them were doing it. Are they hybrids reverting to a parental form?


The upper and lower parts of the tree.

Berries and foliage at the top

Berries and foliage at the bottom, with a “top” berry for comparison.

The minor trunk at the base.

Several Hornbeams had big bunches of seeds, but we haven’t seen many Ash keys this year. There is supposed to be a big old Golden Ash Fraxinus excelsior ‘Jaspidea’ in the far south east corner of the cemetery, which should have been putting on its autumn show of brilliant lemon-yellow leaves all over, but we couldn’t find it. There is one big old Ash there, but it didn’t seem to be changing colour in any spectacular way, and there was an ominous stump. However, outside one of the houses opposite the Cathedral west front there was a young tree in a garden that probably WAS a Golden Ash, with a yellow-fruiting Crab Apple next to it. Very nice!


Opposite the Chinese Arch, at the bottom of Upper Duke Street, there are about half a dozen young Dawn Redwoods planted on the pavement. They are Chinese trees, of course. There are some other trees there of the same age, and may also be Chinese-themed. Then we wandered through the back streets of the Ropewalks district, heading for town, and getting not quite lost. We found ourselves in the dark and narrow Henry Street and had a pleasant surprise. Outside the Pagoda Chinese Arts Centre there is a large mature Foxglove Tree Paulownia tomentosa.  The only other one I know is a weedy one in Calderstones Park. Next to it was a Narrow-leaved Ash Fraxinus angustifolia, and there were also some Maples.

Narrow-leaved Ash on the left and Foxglove tree on the right


Then down Fleet Street and School Lane and into the garden at the back of the Bluecoat. There are two Snake-Bark Maples in there. One appears to be dying, but the other is in fine form. The leaves are hardly three-lobed at all, so it might be a Père David’s Maple, Acer davidii. On the picture below there is a tall Fig at the back with a small golden ornamental Maple in front. The possible Père David’s Maple  is in the middle, with a small green ornamental Maple on the right.


In Bootle the pair of Claret Ashes Fraxinus angustifolia ssp. oxycarpa ‘Raywood’ on Stanley Road just north of Marsh Lane, are now just coming into their magnificence. It’s amazing how many interesting trees there are in unexpected corners of the city.


Public transport details: Bus 86 from Elliot Street at 10.20, to Catherine Street / St Phillip Neri at 10.25. Walked back into town.

Next few weeks:
30th Oct, Sefton Park. Meet Liverpool ONE at 10.00.
6th Nov, Birkenhead Park. Meet 10 am Central Station.
13th Nov. No walk, MNA coach trip to Leighton Moss.
20th Nov, Freshfield. Meet 10 am Central Station.
27th Nov, Wirral Way, Hooton to Willaston. Meet 10 am Central Station.
4th Dec, Ormskirk. Meet 10 am Central Station.
11th Dec, Croxteth Park. Meet 10 am Queen Square.
18th Dec, Christmas meal at Parkgate Boathouse. Meet 10.15 Sir Thomas Street.

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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Cilcain, Wales 8th October 2016


Richard Surman, Ron Crossley, DaveB and I headed over to Cilcain near Loggerheads in Wales for an Autumnal walk around our usual circuit. Walking up the lane there were a few plants still in flower – Nipplewort Lapsana communis and Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum with others gone to seed – Enchanter’s-nightshade Circaea lutetiana, Common Figwort Scrophularia nodosa, Foxglove Digitalis purpurea and Cleavers Galium aparine. We noted some Cola-nut Galls on Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur caused by the Gall Wasp Andricus lignicola, Hazel Leaf Miner Phyllonorycter coryli and the first Fungi of the day with Oak Barkspot Diatrypella quercina and Common Tarcrust Diatrype stigma. Quite a number of Robins in song, Pheasants creeping amongst the undergrowth at the side of the path being flushed as we walked by, the first of many Ravens croaking overhead, a soft ‘pheuuing’ Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. The higher of the fishing ponds held a Mallard and Moorhen.


Flaming Scalycap

More Fungi with Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare, some rather sizeable but slug eaten Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, a couple of Boletus sp. and on a tree stump a clump of Flaming Scalycap Pholiota flammans and a lone Common Inkcap Coprinus atramentarius. By the edge of the track where we turn left onto the moor I spotted a Badger Meles meles skull.


Badger Skull

The Heather Calluna vulgaris had mostly died off but patches of Bell Heather Erica cinerea were still flowering along with European Gorse Ulex europaeus, Tormentil Potentilla erecta and delicate flowers of Harebell Campanula rotundifolia. The Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus had a few berries and the occasional Rowan Sorbus aucuparia was laden with fruit. Yet more Fungi with Brown (Dusky) Puffball Bovista nigrescens, Golden Spindles Clavulinopsis fusiformis, Blackening Waxcap Hygrocybe conica, Meadow Waxcap Hygrocybe pratensis, Brittlegill Russula sp. and Plums and Custard Tricholomopsis rutilans.


Brown Puffball

I spotted a caterpillar that I later identified as the brown form of the Broom Moth Ceramica pisi. The distinctive brown and yellow striped caterpillar with groovy pink feet feeds not only on Broom Cytisus scoparius, but also on Bracken Pteridium aquilinum on which we found it.


Broom Moth Caterpillar


A few Mepits were flitting around the moor and a Tawny Owl hooting from the copse across the valley. More vocal Ravens and due to the still windless conditions we could even hear the beat of their wings as they flew overhead. One posed majestically on top of a rock that broke the skyline allowing a good silhouette view of its shaggy throat feathers as it croaked. It took off and a few minutes later along with its partner were harassing a Buzzard. We found the remains of a Carrion Crow – only the wings and rib cage – again probably the victim of the Ravens.


Dave crossing stream

Lesser Black Backed Gulls glided overhead, a male and a couple of female/juv Stonechats perched on the top of the bare stems of a shrub. Dropping back down through the woodland Dave watched a small party of Goldcrests. We turned into the lane that drops back to Cilcain village pondering on the leaves of a small tree – Guelder-rose Viburnum opulus and noting the profusion of Elderberries Sambucus nigra whilst reminiscing on home-brew wine making experiences. Buzzing noises from the flowering Common Ivy Hedera helix were due to Honey Bees Apis mellifera, various Wasps and a few Hoverflies. Rooks from the nearby Rookery replaced the Ravens, whilst on a feeding station in one of the cottages there was a portly Woodpigeon, a Prune and Blue Tit. The lane edge – always good for Wildflowers still held a few in flower with Greater Celandine Chelidonium majus, Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris, Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium, Greater Periwinkle Vinca major, Green Alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens, Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica, White Dead-nettle Lamium album, Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Red Valerian Centranthus ruber along with the leaves of Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris

After coffee and cake in the community hall we walked through the graveyard of St Mary’s Church. Adults and larvae of a couple of different forms of the Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis were on a few of the gravestones and the Ivy leaves. As a finale Richard had a possible Chiffchaff as we boarded the car for the journey back…

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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Gorse Hill Apple Festival, 9th October 2016


We turned right out of Aughton Park Station and headed up Long Lane. At the corner of one of the gardens there’s a Red Oak Quercus rubra, with its enormous leaves. Here are a few with some Beech leaves for scale.


We turned left at the junction of Holborn Hill, crossed at the pedestrian lights and then headed up the footpath to the Communications Station. A Kestrel hovered above the field on the left. This year John led us the long way around, going right from the gates, then left on a shaded footpath around a cultivated field. Several Robins tutted gently at us as we passed. We had an early lunch by the pond, and saw a “V” of Pink-footed Geese passing overhead, about 20 or 30 of them.

The second weekend in October is when Gorse Hill NR have their Apple festival, and they sell their harvest of traditional varieties of apple, their freshly-pressed apple juice and some pretty lethal cider. They also demonstrate their apple press and give tours of the orchard.  They have about 100 trees: half are cooking apples, in 12 varieties, and the other half are dessert or eating apples, of 16 varieties. They also have four kinds of pears and a plum tree. All around the orchard are crab apples for pollination, variety Golden Hornet, which are now bunches of little golden globes, each about an inch across. There was a ladybird on one of them, which I hoped would be something exciting, but it was just another colour variation of the Harlequin.


After the tour we shopped for apples and cider. I now have one each of Ribston Pippin, Worcester Permain, Sunset, Wheeler’s Russet, Ellison’s Orange and King of Pippins.


We patronised their café before we left, and I strongly recommend their lemon and lime drizzle cake!  In the hedgerows the Hazel catkins are showing, although the leaves haven’t fallen yet. I also took note of these Hawthorn berries, which were a rather dark red.


Nobody takes any notice of Hawthorns, but there are many species. The Common Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna has deeply indented leaves and only one seed in the Haw. The other commonish one is the Midland Hawthorn Crataegus laevigata, with less-indented leaves and two or three stones in the fruit. Confusingly, there are many hybrid forms. This one appeared to have a trifoliate leaf, and I regret I didn’t investigate the number of pips. I will start opening them next week!

The house on Holly Lane near the reserve entrance has an enormous wooden sculpture of a giraffe in the garden!


From the Communications Centre there is an extraordinary view over Ormskirk, which seems to be in a bowl. Way over to the left of its “tower-and-spire” church, and maybe 50 miles away north eastwards, is a big lump of high ground. Could it be Longridge Fell? Or perhaps even the Forest of Bowland?


On the way back to the station we spotted a Snake-bark Maple tree in a garden in Long Lane. Once you get interested in them, they turn up everywhere! Going by the scarlet leaf-stalks and long strings of small seeds, I think it could be a Red Snake-bark Maple Acer capillipes. It’s said to be a favourite in small gardens for its very red autumn leaves. Nice bit of stripy bark showing in the top right of the picture, too.


Public transport details: Ormskirk train from Central at 10.10, alighting Aughton Park at 10.37. Returned from Aughton Park at 2.53, arriving Central 3.20.


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Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, 2nd October 2016

It was a glorious sunny day with a clear blue sky, and it was quite warm for early October.  As we approached Flaybrick we looked up at the overhanging Holly branches. The bottoms of the leaves were full of the white egg masses of Cottony Camellia Scale Pulviaria floccifera. We’ve seen a lot of that about this year. The Grade II listed chapels are now surrounded by scaffolding and hoardings, and are undergoing a process of “controlled ruination” because the damage by vandals has made them unsafe. The Friends still have hopes of creative re-use.

Section CE12 with (L-R) Deodar, Swamp Cypress and Tibetan Cherry

Flaybrick is full of marvellous trees. As well as the plan by Bob Hughes we followed last year, we now have Flaybrick’s own “tree walk” route, with 44 trees marked. Not all are rarities, but most are interesting. One of the first notable trees is this big old Monkey Puzzle in section NC 3A, looking like a freely fruiting female tree.


There were Magpies and Grey Squirrels on the grass, but John had his eye on the sky as usual, and called out a sighting of a Sparrowhawk, cruising leisurely overhead. A young Red Oak in section NC 6A was planted in memory of the first Ranger. There was an orange ladybird on it, but it was only the ubiquitous Harlequin. I was looking forward to seeing the Bhutan Pine in section NC 3A, which I had become familiar with in Scotland, but the one in Flaybrick is very tall and hemmed in by other tall trees, so it wasn’t possible to examine the beautiful long needles. They are unusual in being grouped in fives, not the usual pairs. We picked some dead ones from the litter below it, though.


There are ten different Rowans and Whitebeams planted in the “Sorbus Avenue” between sections CE13 and CE17. Eight of them have red berries, so we didn’t attempt to distinguish them; one has been vandalised and is just a stump sprouting new foliage, but no berries; but the tenth one had cream berries and so must be Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’, a variety with no Latin species name.



We admired the young trees in CE 17, a blue Atlantic Cedar, a Deodar and a Dawn Redwood. A small skein of Canada Geese flew over, heading towards New Brighton. We lunched in Tam o’ Shanter urban farm, then set off up the hill to Bidston windmill. I had to stop as my sore foot isn’t up to all those uneven steps and surfaces, and went back to Flaybrick to look at the more-secluded northern RC section, which we rarely spend any time in. Their best tree is a rarity called an Exeter Elm Ulmus glabra ‘Exoniensis’. It’s one of the tallest in Britain, at 46 feet (14m) when last measured, and is a tree of national significance.


It’s a variety of Wych Elm, but with smaller leaves, in upright bunches in Spring, and which are more coarsely serrated. Since the loss of the English Elms to disease in the 1980s, Wych Elms and their rarer forms are the only remaining food plant for the White Letter Hairstreak butterfly. I met Bob Hughes later, and he said even these Elms seem to be dying locally. He saw the butterfly on his allotment in 2010, 2013 and 2014, but not since. The Exeter Elm in Flaybrick was looking a bit sick too, with brown bits on the leaves that probably aren’t autumn colours.


At the junction of sections RC3 and RC4 there is a huge triple-trunked Cedar of Lebanon. Nearby, in section RC4 is a lovely grove of six or seven Hornbeams, looking like one broad tree.


On a bank at the east end of section RC6 is a Common Pear tree, not notable in itself, but this one had produced masses of fruit, which were falling with audible thumps. I had to stand clear!  I tried one, and it was sweet and edible, so there is free food for anyone who wants to forage. Don’t forget to bring a hard hat!


In section CE16 is possibly the most unusual tree in the garden. It’s listed as an Orange-berried Service Tree, which had me foxed.  It was neither the True, the Wild nor the Bastard Service Tree, but it might be the beautifully-named Service Tree of Fontainbleau, Sorbus x latifolia (which some unromantic souls call the Broad-leaved Whitebeam). That’s unusual enough, but the orange berries with white lenticels make this an atypical member of an already-rare species.



It was too early for much autumn colour on the Tulip Tree or the Sweet Gum (Liquidambar), but the top of the Red Maple was just starting to turn.


Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.04, arriving Upton Road / Boundary Road at 10.30. Returned from the opposite stop on Upton Road on the 437 bus at 3.10, arriving Liverpool city centre at 3.30.


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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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Heritage Open Day, 11th September 2016