We entered Frankby Cemetery at the north-east end, near Frankby Green. A Robin greeted us from a low branch and a Chiffchaff was calling. There is a Hillsborough gravestone on a corner there, which we stopped to look at. By the pond a Rowan tree was showing its buds, as were the White Water Lilies. The only birds were Mallards, Coot and Moorhen, but we saw a Mandarin here once, so we always hope for another. Some Speckled Wood butterflies were dancing in the dappled light, and one landed amongst the fallen Cherry petals.
They have several varieties of Cherry trees here, so following the inspiration of the recent Springwatch in Japan, where the blossoming of the cherries is a great national event, we sniffed and tasted, but couldn’t detect the promised delicate perfume, and the chewed petals were underwhelming, sadly.
On a field near the south-west corner a Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush were pecking about in the dry soil and allowing us to see how they differ from each other. A Jay flew through the trees on the far side. Then we walked along Montgomery Hill and crossed into Royden Park, heading for the car park and café. Some of us saw a brown furry bee which they later identified as Tawny Mining Bee from a leaflet in the ranger barn. For lunch, we headed to the walled garden. It has a huge Wisteria trained along a wall trellis, which will be magnificent in a few weeks. We were too early for the Laburnum tunnel as well: the flower buds are just beginning to show.
They make an effort for wildlife, and we checked out the small wildflower area, noting Cowslips, Greater Stitchwort, Wild Strawberry and some kind of Speedwell, probably Common Field Speedwell with the white lower petal. We want Germander Speedwell for our I-Spy “tick”, but this wasn’t it. The Bluebells were coming out.
Plenty of butterflies about, including an Orange Tip and a Blue (probably a Holly Blue), neither of which sat still for us. The Bird Cherry tree was putting out its flowers, so that’s another tree in the bag.
On Roodee Mere a Heron was perching very close to the “feed the ducks” platform, just far enough away to be quite relaxed.
The Royden Park Miniature Railway was in full swing, and four of the group took a ride.
After a walk through the pinewoods and over a bit of heathland, where we spotted a Sparrowhawk overhead, we headed back to the café block. There was a Peacock butterfly on the big field and a Grey Squirrel in the trees. The Wych Elms now have their clusters of winged seeds and their leaf shoots sprouting.
We returned to the bus via the footpath off Birch Heys. More butterflies (it was a very good day for them) included a Comma on bare ground, a Large White, and more Orange Tips and Speckled Woods. We were interested in an orange ladybird sunning itself on Ivy, but it turned out to be yet another variety of Harlequin. An early-blooming clump of Herb Robert in a shady corner was an addition to the wildflower list.
We came out on Frankby Road opposite Frankby Stiles. There was a Whitebeam tree in leaf and bud, and some early Hawthorn blossoming. The Horse Chestnuts are also coming into flower, and there were plenty of fine ones in view from the bus back to Liverpool.
Here is our I-Spy certificate and badge for 1000 bird points.
We added six more trees species today, worth 90 points, taking us to 750. There are two questions that I forgot to ask (on Horse Chestnut and Wych Elm) so we may be able to add another free 25 points when I remember to ask them! We also had three new species of flower, worth 40 points, so we are up to 220.
Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.04, arriving Frankby Road / Frankby Green at 10.40. Returned on bus 437 from Frankby Road / opp Baytree Road at 2.59, which arrived Liverpool City Centre at 3.38.
Next few weeks:
30th April, Hale, meet 10 am Liverpool ONE bus station
7th May, Gorse Hill, meet 10 am Central Station
This year we usually decide on each destination the week before, but leave ourselves free to change our minds on the day, depending on the weather, and what exciting birds have been reported locally.
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.