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.

Here is the plan for the next few Sundays:
17th August Shropshire Union Canal, Ellesmere Port – meet 10.15 Central Station. (Note that the return bus starts outside the Merseytravel area.)
24th August Trans-Pennine Trail 4, Woodvale to Lydiate – meet 10am Queen Square (B)
31st August Taylor Park, St Helens – meet 10am Queen Square

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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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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Welsh Borders 10th July 2014

Richard Surman, Dave B and I headed down to the Welsh Borders to visit a couple of Shropshire Wildlife Trust Reserves close to Oswestry. Our first stop was Llynclys Common where we parked beside the Lime Kiln Pub, which had Fox-and-cubs Pilosella aurantiaca growing in the beer garden, crossed over to the nearby bridleway and climbed up a steep path through mixed woodland noting the green berries of Lords-and-Ladies Arum maculatum, Hart’s-tongue Phyllitis scolopendrium and Hard Shield-fern Polystichum aculeatum that is most commonly found on limestone rocks. It is a bipinnate fern with pinnules that have sharply pointed teeth and spine-pointed tips.

MNA Oswestry Hard Shield Fern1

Hard Shield-fern

A few Fungi Species with Artist’s Bracket Ganoderma applanatum, Birch Woodwart Hypoxylon multiforme and Common Tarcrust Diatrype stigma.

MNA Oswestry Tar Crust1

Common Tarcrust

We passed large patches of Enchanter’s-nightshade Circaea lutetiana and crossed through bracken scrubland where a few pale coloured Common Spotted-orchids Dactylorhiza fuchsia were growing and into the limestone meadow areas with a scattering of Yellow Meadow Ant Lasius flavus hills. Butterflies included a rather tattered Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, a few Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria, plenty of Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and Ringlets Aphantopus hyperantus. A number of large fast flying Fritillaries were swooping around the open glades between the woodland. Thankfully one settled for a photo that allowed for identification – a Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia whose caterpillar’s main foodplant is Common Dog-violet Viola riviniana.

MNA Oswestry Fritillary1

Silver-washed Fritillary

A small pond with Lesser Spearwort Ranunculus flammula and Broad-leaved Willowherb Epilobium montanum growing around its edges held Greater Water Boatman Notonecta glauca, a few unidentified Pond Snails and the reeds had a handful of Damselflies – Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula and mating Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum. A rather spectacular metallic green-golden insect with fat body and shading on the wings landed close to me. It was a female Sawfly Abia sericea of the family Cimbicidae who are recognisable by their five segmented antennae ending in distinctive ‘clubs’.

MNA Oswestry Sawfly1

Sawfly Abia sericea

A Botanists paradise with lots of summer flowering plants- Red Campion Silene dioica, Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum, Slender St John’s-wort Hypericum pulchrum, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Wood Avens Geum urbanum, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Fairy Flax Linum catharticum, Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum, Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica, Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Selfheal Prunella vulgaris, Common Figwort Scrophularia nodosa, Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis agg. Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Greater Burdock Arctium lappa, Welted Thistle Carduus crispus, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare, Black Bryony Tamus communis, Common Twayblade Listera ovata and Broad-leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine which had gone to seed.

MNA Oswestry Twayblade1

Common Twayblade

Walking back towards the car we spotted a Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis, a hedgerow umbellifer was identified as Ground-elder Aegopodium podagraria which had a few Hoverflies Cheilosia illustrata – a furry bumblebee mimic typically seen settled with its wings closed tightly over its back. Its body is usually pale haired with a black band across the centre of the thorax. We also had an unusual sighting of a Grey Heron standing on the tracks of a disused railway line – we thought that it could possibly be hunting for Lizards basking in the sun.

Our next stop was Llanymenech Rocks Reserve where limestone mining was carried out for more than 2000 years, right up until the First World War. Reminders of this ancient industry can be seen in the old stone tramways and a few winding houses. The village is home to one of only three remaining Hoffmann kilns in the British Isles.

MNA Oswestry Winding House1

Winding House

We walked through woodland noting a few tiers of Dryad’s Saddle Polyporus squamosus. AMigrant Hawker Aeshna mixta was zipping around and a Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis was flying around a small pond in a field with yurt tents. Entering the quarry a Spotted Flycatcher was seen chasing insects from its launch pad on the cliff face, Richard had a possible sighting of a Pied Flycatcher. There were half a dozen Common Swifts screeching around also Common Buzzard, Wood Pigeon, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Common Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie and Common Bullfinch.

MNA Oswestry Harvestman1


We ate lunch a Harvestman Phalangium opilio crawling around Wild Marjoram Origanum vulgare at my feet in search of prey. A few Butterflies were flitting around – Small White Pieris rapae, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina and Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus.

MNA Oswestry Burnet Moth1

Six-spot Burnet Moth

Day-flying Moths included over a dozen Six-Spot Burnets Zygaena filipendulae, a few ‘Waves’, a Barred Yellow Cidaria fulvata and a showy Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula with dramatic blood-red underwings.

MNA Oswestry Grasshopper1

Meadow Grasshopper

MNA Oswestry Grasshopper2

Common Field Grasshopper nymph

Plenty of stridulating Grasshoppers including Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus and Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus – whose nymphs, including a ‘pink form’ were much in evidence amongst the rocky scree where Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes was growing in profusion. Insects noted included Tapered Drone Fly Eristalis pertinax, Hoverfly Leucozona glaucia, Sloe Bug Dolycoris baccarum, Dock Bug Coreus marginatus and a female Thick-legged Flower Beetle Oedemera nobilis. A few Rose Sawflies Arge ochropus were foraging on umbellifers of Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium. This distinctive species has a black head and thorax and an orange body. The wings have a dark mark along the border, but no dark cross band. The legs are banded and look like its wearing football socks.

MNA Oswestry Bramble Sawfly

Rose Sawfly

MNA Oswestry View

A viewpoint offered spectacular views and also a lone Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae caterpillar feeding on Oxford Ragwort Senecio squalidus – later on an adult trapped in a web becoming our ‘Corpse of the Day’, a Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae and our first sightings of Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus that seemed to favour this end of the quarry.

MNA Oswestry Small Scabious1

Small Scabious

Again fantastic botanically with new species for the day including Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium, Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria, Field-rose Rosa arvensis, Common Vetch Vicia sativa, Common Restharrow Ononis repens, Black Medick Medicago lupulina, White Clover Trifolium repens, Red Clover Trifolium pratense, Rosebay Willowherb Chamerion angustifolium, Common Milkwort Polygala vulgaris, Upright Hedge-parsley Torilis japonica, Wild Basil Clinopodium vulgare, Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus, Greater Plantain Plantago major, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Red Valerian Centranthus ruber, Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria, Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, Goat’s-beard Tragopogon pratensis seedhead, Beaked Hawk’s-beard Crepis vesicaria, Yarrow Achillea millefolium, False Fox-sedge Carex otrubae and Pyramidal Orchids Anacamptis pyramidalis by the score.

MNA Oswestry Sedge1

False Fox-sedge

MNA Oswestry Goatsbeard1


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Kirkby, 6th July 2014

29 Kirkby flower hill

Another fine and sunny day, and off to Kirkby, where we hear Knowsley Council have planted masses of wildflowers. Our first call was into the little Lime Tree Woods off Valley Road, where we noticed a Speckled Wood butterfly with half of one wing missing, probably pecked at by a bird.

29 Kirkby speckled wood

Once we had passed under the M57 motorway we saw the huge expanses of wildflowers on the eastern verge of Valley Road, stretching about a kilometre (over half a mile) along to Valley Park and St Chad’s. Different sections were planted with different mixes. Some had Corncockle, Poppy, Wild Oats and Ragged Robin. Another stretch had a lot of Yarrow, while a third had lots of Wild Carrot, Thistles and a tall plant that I think was Fat Hen.Sadly, most if it was past its best. We will make a note to come earlier next year when they are in their full glory.

29 Kirkby flower verge

Amongst them we saw a Gatekeeper, a Meadow Brown, a tall Orchid past its best and a Rabbit, running off over the hill. Birds included Swift, Magpie, Blackbird and Wood Pigeon. As we approached Valley Park we were delighted to see some mounds with the Poppies, Cornflower and Corn Marigolds still out.

29 Kirkby flower display














We had lunch in St Chad’s Gardens, where we met Chris F, who joined us for the afternoon. There was a Mistle Thrush on the lawn and Cut-leaved Cranesbill on the edge of a flower bed. We heard what sounded like the screaming of a bird of prey, or the calling of a juvenile for its parents, but we couldn’t see anything. One tall building did, however, appear to have a Wood Pigeon nesting on a ledge, an uncommon sight. St Chad’s churchyard has an unusual Great War Memorial Cross with some lovely words. “To the honour of the men of this parish who went forth in these years of war to fight for God and King, for justice and freedom, and in thankful remembrance of those who returned not again.”

29 Kirkby St Chads memorial














The churchyard had a long line of molehills, and many paths were edged with the Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha, which was throwing up its fruiting bodies.

29 Kirkby liverwort fruiting

The hopper at the top of a drainpipe was surrounded by copious bird droppings. Was it an old Kestrel nest? CF rummaged in the grass and found several Kestrel pellets.

29 Kirkby hopper

29 Kirkby Pellets





















I took five of them home and took them apart. Mostly made up of matted black hair or fur, but there were a few small mammal bones – some tiny leg bones, a couple of bits of pelvis, possibly a bit of skull and some teeth. The picture below is the aggregated result from all five pellets.

29 Kirkby bones

Behind St Chad’s is a wildlife area called Millbrook Park with a small wetland around Simonswood Brook. It’s only small, but the wildlife is excellent. There was a Whitethroat singing in an Alder and four young Moorhens on the pond. A Sedge Warbler was singing from the reeds. There were both kinds of Water Lilies – the big white ones and the yellow Fringed Water Lily. Masses of Field Cranesbill around the edge and Flowering Rush in bloom in the shallows. It’s fairly uncommon, mostly found in the south of England, and probably planted here. There were Water Boatmen, Whirligig beetles and a Four-spotted Chaser. Two Small Tortoiseshell butterflies basked on the path. CF noticed that the Iris plants had brown discolouration on the edges of their leaves and drew our attention to the Yellow Flag Sawfly larvae climbing skywards.

29 Kirkby sawfly

As we retuned to the Civic Centre for the bus home we saw Jackdaws and a Swallow. The Rowan berries have nearly turned red and it’s only early July!

Public transport details: Bus 20 from Queen Square at 10.09, alighting at Valley Road / Aintree Lane at 10.40. Returned on 21 bus from Kirkby Civic Centre at 1.58, arriving Liverpool at 2.40.

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