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 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 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.

Here is the plan for the next few Sundays:
27th July    No walk – Giants weekend.
3rd August  Riverside Park – meet 10am Liverpool ONE bus station. (If you are a National Trust member, bring your card for Speke Hall)
10th August  Reynolds Park  – meet 10am Great Charlotte Street (O)
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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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.

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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Freshfield (MNA) 5th July 2014

Nine MNA members met at Freshfield station at 10.30, for a planned walk to Ainsdale. In the event, the wildlife in the woods and gorse on the inland side of the railway was so absorbing that by the time we got to the beach at the end of Fisherman’s Path, it was time to return. It was a hot and sunny day, too, so we made the right decision.

28 Freshfield fishermans path

There were plenty of flowers and butterflies, even on the first part of the walk along the railway.  There were Meadow Browns, a large White, two Gatekeepers mating and a Small Skipper on Spear Thistle.

28 Freshfield small skipper

Sid found a sluggish Tree Bee in the shade, which posed obligingly on his hand before we released it into the sunshine.

28 Freshfield tree bee

There was a Robin on the path, and in the woods we heard a Chiffchaff calling. Some Coal Tits were flitting about in the pines, together with some Long Tailed Tits. We spotted a female Chaffinch, a Blue Tit and a Carrion Crow poking about in the short turf. A peeping noise overhead announced an Oyster Catcher flying north. Tony C was looking for Cramp Balls on burnt gorse, and he also found Tawny Grisette Amanita fulva, Common Fieldcap Agrocybe pediades and one that he thought looked like a young jelly fungus called Leafy Brain Tremella foliacea. He later reported that it was too young to get any spores so he couldn’t confirm its identification.

28 Freshfield jelly fungus











In a small pool in the stream there were Sticklebacks, Water Crowfoot and Watercress. On the wing were Broad bodied Chaser and Common Blue and Blue-tailed damselflies. The gorse held a Cinnabar moth, a Red Admiral, and several large Labyrinth spiders with their funnel-like webs.

28 Freshfield labyrinth spider

Both a Kestrel and Buzzard flew overhead at different times, and we noted a Whitethroat, a Dunnock, a Swallow and a Small Heath butterfly. As we lunched amongst the gorse we were joined by Dorothy C, who always manages to find us. A small brown Meadow Grasshopper perched on John C’s blanket. Beyond the railway and golf course Sid found a large hairy caterpillar on the path. We think it was a Drinker moth caterpillar. (Thanks to Sid for the use of his hand, again).

28 Freshfield drinker caterpillar

Along Fisherman’s Path we tried to identify as many flowers as possible, including Honeysuckle, Lady’s Mantle, Common Centaury, Self-heal, Wild Parsnip and Mullein.

28 Freshfield mullein














There was a light brown Campion Moth caterpillar on the seed heads of White Campion. It eats the seeds, and we could see a small hole in one seed head where presumably it had emerged.

28 Freshfield campion moth caterpillar











In the woody undergrowth we spotted a Wren and a young Robin. Speckled Wood butterflies were in the sunny glades, and there was a Comma in the sunshine. By the edge of the path were some Bloody Brittlegill Russula sanguinea, looking rather faded and chewed. (This photo by Jane Parker).

28 Freshfield Russula

When we reached the beach we went hunting in the sandy slack behind the first dune for Northern Dune Tiger Beetles. One or two people spotted one, but they are very fast and fleeting, and most people missed them. Chris B picked up a spiral Auger Shell, and commented that it couldn’t have been washed from the sea over the tall beachfront dune, so it may have been there for many years, from before the dune grew so high. He also said they are rarely seen much further north than here, although they are commoner towards Crosby.  Growing in amongst the Marram grass were small single toadstools of Dune Brittlestem Psathyrella ammophila.

28 Freshfield dune brittlestem

We saw several Linnets while we were on our way back to the station, and a flower head of Wild Parsley with at least 15 Soldier Beetles, many of them in mating pairs. This picture by Tony Carter is better, though, showing them on a white Umbellifer head.

28 Freshfield soldier beetles

And finally we spotted the plant we had been hoping for, the rare Dune Helleborine, growing right beside the path.

28 Freshfield dune helleborine

Here is Tony Carter’s full fungus list for the day.
Agrocybe pediades – Common Fieldcap
Amanita fulva – Tawny Grisette
Russula sanguinaria – Bloody Brittlegill
Tremella foliacea – Leafy Brain (probable)
Psathyrella candolleana – Pale Brittlestem
Psathyrella ammophila – Dune Brittlestem
Melanotus horizontalis – Wood Oysterling
Inocybe napipes – Bulbous Fibrecap
Daldinia fissa on the burnt Gorse
Botryobasidium conspersum

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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Hillside to Ainsdale on the Velvet Trail, 29th June 2014

It was another gloriously hot and sunny day, a day for interesting flower and insects in the dunes. The flowers started outside Hillside Station, where there is a wildflower bank.

27 Velvet meadow

We crossed the open ground next to Royal Birkdale golf course and through the footpaths joining Selworthy Road to the Coastal Road, where we had got to on our first leg. Last week I met John Dempsey, the ranger, and he recommended the Velvet Trail / Green Beach instead of the Ainsdale and Birkdale Reserve. That involved crossing the busy coast road, but we made it safely, and it was certainly worth it.  The sandy path wanders and braids through the dunes and slacks, sometimes rather difficult to find, but if in doubt, keep high. At this time of the year the dunes are covered with flowers, the commonest being Rest Harrow, here with a clump of Sea Holly.

27 Velvet Sea Holly and Rest harrow

There were dozens, if not hundreds, of pretty pink Pyramidal Orchids, and patches of bright yellow Biting Stonecrop.

27 Velvet pyramidal orchid

27 Velvet biting stonecrop

















There were Meadow Browns flying up everywhere. I don’t think any of them were Graylings, but they were very fast and active, and it was hard to check every one. We also spotted Large Skipper, a few Small Heaths, Cinnabar moths (their caterpillars on the Ragwort looking very fat) and one unidentified White Butterfly. One very fat gold and green beetle was probably a Sand Chafer, but it was off before I could take a picture. We didn’t see any Northern Dune Tiger Beetles, but I spotted one last week when I was doing the recce.

27 Velvet tiger beetle

We lunched high on a dune, with a Skylark singing and views of Snowdonia to the south, and towards Blackpool to the north, with the Lake District just discernible in the furthest distance.

27 Velvet view to Blackpool

Other flowers included Harebell, a tall yellow umbellifer which was probably Parsnip, Common Centaury, Yellow Wort, Hound’s Tongue just over, Sea Spurge. One lonely Giant Hogweed towered by the beach.

27 Velvet Hogweed

Sadly, it was a bit early for the rare Grass of Parnassus and Dune Helleborine, but by a slack with Reed Mace and a willow bush there were about 20 plants of Marsh Helleborine. Around the corner there were masses more.

27 Velvet marsh helleborine















In amongst them was one late Bee Orchid.

27 Velvet Bee orchid















As we neared Ainsdale and Shore Road we came across a fenced-off slack, protected for Natterjack Toads. We didn’t see any, nor any of the Adder’s Tongue Fern that is supposed to grow in this area, but there were masses of purple and white Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea.

27 Velvet everlasting pea















On the roundabout by the Sands pub there is a sculpture of an aeroplane taking off, commemorating two historic transatlantic flights from Ainsdale beach in the 1930s.

27 Velvet plane sculpture

This was our second leg of the Trans-Pennine Trail and we did about 1.75 miles of it, taking us to three and a quarter miles from Southport.

Public transport details: Southport train from Central at 10.08, arriving Hillside 10.45. Returned on the train from Ainsdale at 3.22.

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MNA Coach Trip South Stack RSPB 28th June 2014

MNA South Stack Lighthouse Summer

A rather wet and bedraggled group of MNA members boarded the coach for our outing to South Stack RSPB Reserve on Anglesey. Although there was continued rain and  patches of fog during our drive along the scenic north Wales coast by the time we reached Holyhead the weather had thankfully dried somewhat but was very breezy.  A Silver-studded Blue Plebeius argus feeding on Bell Heather Erica cinerea and a Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata on the umbellifer Sea Carrot Daucus carota subsp. gummifer caught our attention as we walked along to Ellen’s Tower.

MNA South Stack Rose Chafer1

Rose Chafer

We peered over the edge to the cliffs at the nesting auks, Razorbills, Common Guillemots (Terry finding a bridled form Guillemot amongst the masses) and Herring Gulls all having their own community groups on different zones on the cliff. The lack of chicks was apparent, we would have expected the parents to be busy feeding hungry mouths but many birds appeared to be still on eggs due to their late arrival back here during the spring. Also present were Kittewakes, Lesser Black backed Gulls, the odd Fulmar, a few Gannets flying by and a few Manx Shearwaters twisting in flight. Our first mammal was a Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena it’s dorsal fin occasionally breaking the surface quite close to the Lighthouse Island. Ron Crossley later noted at least 3 or 4 of these cetaceans. A young Peregrine perched on top of a rock above the cliffs surveying the scene below before taking off and flying directly over the member’s heads and a fine male Stonechat perched on the heather.

The Sea Carrot was proving popular with numerous Marmalade Hoverflies Episyrphus balteatus, a lone Pied Hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri, a few Common Malachite Beetle (a.k.a. Red-tipped Flower Beetle) Malachius bipustulatus, a few Tachinid Flies Tachina fera and many unidentified smaller insects.

MNA South Stack Tachinid Fly1

Tachina fera

There were a number of pale yellow Grasshopper nymphs springing amongst the heather. Walking up the rocky path towards the road I noted Sea Campion Silene uniflora, Red Campion Silene dioica, Thrift Armeria maritima subsp. maritima, English Stonecrop Sedum anglicum, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca, Bittersweet a.k.a. Woody Nightshade Solanum dulcamara, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus, Foxglove Digitalis purpurea, Yellow-rattle Rhinanthus minor, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum and Pineappleweed Matricaria discoidea.

MNA South Stack Thrift1


I wandered along to road to where the steps descend to the Lighthouse Island and began the walk down. Peering over the edge I could see masses of Oxeye Daisies Leucanthemum vulgare plus some Golden-samphire Inula crithmoides with its upright fleshy stems. Growing around the steps was Sea Beet Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima, the delicate pink flowers of Rock Sea-spurrey Spergularia rupicola and Sea Plantain Plantago maritima. A variety of maritime Lichens were covering the rocks with Verrucaria maura, plenty of Sea Ivory Ramalina siliquosaas well as unidentified species.

MNA South Stack Rock Sea Spurrey1

Rock Sea-spurrey

I climbed back to the top and met up with Barbara and co who pointed out a few spikes of Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsia. There were a few Butterflies with Large Skipper Ochlodes venata, Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina and Six-spot Burnet Moth Zygaena filipendulae. We wandered along a path through a field where more Silver-studded Blues Plebeius argus were trying to find sheltered positions from the wind to sun themselves – later heard that Alexander and Camilla had seen a mating pair close to the car-park. A boggy patch of ground held Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides and Selfheal Prunella vulgaris.

MNA South Stack Silver Studded Blue

Silver-studded Blue

I briefly stopped at the visitor centre – another double treat for ‘Corpse of the Day’ a Razorbill and a Manx Shearwater skull.

MNA South Stack Razorbill Skull1

Razorbill Skull

MNA South Stack Manx Shearwater Skull1

Manx Shearwater Skull

In a sheltered sunny spot behind Ellen’s Tower a Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara (formerly Lacerta vivipara) was sunning itself on a rock. Close by a Magpie Moth Abraxas grossulariata was flitting around, Common Red Soldier Beetles Rhagonycha fulva were bonking on the Sea Carrot – many of the females seemingly unimpressed and continuing feeding and a hyper-active Ruby-tail Wasp Chrysis sp. was manically running around a rock. Chris B caught another Rose Chafer and also a Thick-legged Flower Beetle (a.k.a. False Oil Beetle) Oedemera nobilis.

MNA South Stack Common Lizard1

Common Lizard

MNA South Stack Ruby Tailed Wasp1

Ruby-tailed Wasp

We walked along the cliff path noting Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, Common Restharrow Ononis repens, Sheep’s-bit Jasione montana, Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis agg. and Hedge Bedstraw Galium mollugo and staring in awe at the spectacular cliff scenery.

MNA South Stack Sheepsbit1


MNA South Stack Restharrow1

Common Restharrow

MNA South Stack Kidney Vetch1

Kidney Vetch

Our jaws were to drop even further when the young Peregrine that we had been watching during the day patrolling the cliff face and having a go at the Herring Gulls decided to fly in and perch on a rock on the cliff edge not 12feet from us! Chris B, Richard Surman, Christine Barton and I were privileged to this amazing view noting the heavily streaked breast and small head features of this bold youngster, probably a male.

Out in the water bobbing around was our second mammal of the day an Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus. Further along the path six Chough took to the air, adjusting their wings to hang in the breeze. The others took the main path to the coach but I headed across the heath adding our second Reptile – a small Adder Vipera berus that quickly slithered into cover as I passed.

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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