There was a “snow bomb” over Wales and the Midlands, but Liverpool was just off the northern edge of it, so we escaped. There was a slow fall of very light snow all day, but nothing stuck. We took the mile-long walk from West Derby Village to Croxteth Hall. The ground on either side of the path is very wet and marshy, with deep icy ditches. Many of the trees lining the path have died because it is too boggy for them. There used to be a big pond in the woods, apparently, which has now silted up, so maybe that’s where the excess water is coming from. About 100 Pink-footed Geese flew over in a double V, heading north, perhaps escaping the snowstorm.
Where it is drier someone has put up new bird boxes on the trees. There were Black-headed Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the fields, and a Dunnock under a tree. This tree, twiggy at the base so probably a Lime, had flaking bark and what looked like the furrows of boring insect larvae below.
The Long Pond was so green with weed and algae that we couldn’t see if it was frozen or not, but the ducks were all swimming in one clear patch. Two of the Mallards were mostly black and noticeably smaller, about the size of Teals. I wonder what happened there! There is a Sweet Gum / Liquidambar tree on the bank, which the old books say rarely fruits in Britain, but once again it was covered with spiky balls. That’s a sign of climate change, I think. The Yew trees in the shrubberies around the Hall, all appear to be male: none showed any red berries at all. There are half a dozen old Limes in a line along the east side of the walled garden, which appear to have been planted on little hillocks, or perhaps the ground has sunk away. They have very knobbly graft or pollard lines at about head height. How odd they are!
One of them has gone explosively twiggy where the trunk forks, making a thicket like the drey of a giant squirrel.
There’s a Swamp Cypress around there too, still hanging on to its wonderful dark red needles.
The snow seemed to be gearing up, so we thought we’d better head for home. A few more common birds were about – Blackbird, Great Tit, two Greenfinches high in a tree. Jackdaws were calling from the stable block and a Song Thrush was foraging in a field.
We went around by the farm, and inadvertently raised the expectations of the Highland cattle. Their food must come that way, and they thought we were bringing it! They mooed happily and gave us expectant stares.
Here’s our tree species count for the year. We got 69 from the I-Spy book and another 56 which were not listed there. That’s a total of 125 tree species seen, including the rarest, a Wollemi Pine at a secret location that we have been asked not to publicise.
Public transport details: Bus 12 from Queen Square at 10.17, arriving West Derby Village at 10.32. Returned on the 12 bus from West Derby Village at 1.45, arriving Queen Square at 2.10.
Next few weeks:
17th December, Christmas lunch at Parkgate. Meet Sir Thomas Street 10.15
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.