Leasowe, 17th May 2015

20 Leasowe lighthouse
It was a blow-your-hat-off sort of day, and some of the group put on scarves and gloves, even though it was mid-May. From Moreton Station we walked north along Pasture Road and turned into the North Wirral Coastal Park and along the Birket. The banks were lined with white Cow Parsley and yellow  Rape, while the path edges had Garlic Mustard, Green Alkanet, Buttercups, Ribwort Plantain, Alexanders, loads of Goose Grass and the pink flowers of Honesty.

20 Leasowe Honesty

There were lots of Robins and Starlings about and a Whitethroat was skulking in the verge. There was a Mallard on the Birket, a Skylark and Swallows overhead, a Blue Tit flitting about, and we heard a Sedge Warbler. We could also hear something making short churring noises in the grass, not too far off. Despite the jokes about a Corncrake, nothing flew up when John walked that way. Was it a frog or toad? I have since checked the sounds of Common Frog, Common Toad and Natterjack, but it wasn’t any of them. It must have been an insect.

20 Leasowe coastal park sign

High in a tree a Crow was on its nest, standing still for a long time, with something white and fluffy at its feet. Did it have a newly-hatched chick and was it guarding it?

20 Leasowe crows nest

The Wych elms near the Lighthouse had bunches of young immature fruits, while the Sycamores had their flowers out, in the type of pendulous groups called panicles.

20 Leasower Sycamore flower

In the lanes west of the Lighthouse we were looking for a Turtle Dove, which had been seen here in the last few days. There were a few birders scouting about for it, including the fellow who first saw it, but there was no sign today. A local also told us there had been a Little Owl nearby but a fox got it. We had to be content with a Blackbird, two Greenfinches on the wires, Canada Geese in a field, a Mistle Thrush and three Wood Pigeons on the ground, and a Collared Dove. One area of verge appeared to have been recently cleared of Japanese Knotweed, but new shoots were poking through.

20 Leasowe Knotweed

At Lingham Farm we looked at their raised pond / fountain, which was full of huge goldfish. Some of them were well over a foot long, and there were perhaps 30 or even 50 of them. They have a thriving colony of House Sparrow here too.

20 Sparrow

We lunched by the Nature Pond, which had Coots with chicks and some Mallards. A small bird flitted quickly across a gap in the reeds, which was probably a Sedge Warbler, although we never could quite see it. A Kestrel was hanging on the wind above and a Pheasant called. By the sides of the path along the horse fields, there were hundreds of Dandelion clocks, some perfect, even in the stiff breeze, while others blew away as we brushed against them. How do the yellow petals change into the white parachutes? Is it metamorphosis like the way a caterpillar turns into a butterfly? Some of the closed ones had yellow petal tips, while others had the white fluff showing.  This YouTube time-lapse of a dandelion clock forming shows that the petals don’t turn into the parachutes at all, the parachutes grow up from below while the flower is closed.

20 Leasowe dandelion heads

Near the river we noted Kidney Vetch, robust Spanish Bluebells with blue anthers, Bird’s Foot Trefoil and large clumps of Alexanders.

20 Leasowe Alexanders

The tide was in and we could see the three Hilbre Islands. A Shelduck flew past, low over the water. There were Linnets on the grass and Cormorants standing on posts. On a small sandbank a Greater Black-backed Gull and a Lesser were waiting for the tide to turn. We turned back towards the Lighthouse, noting a Heron over the Nature Pond, a Carder bee on some Green Alkanet and the lovely lilac anthers on freshly-blooming Hawthorn.

20 Leasowe may blossom

Public transport details: The West Kirby train at 10.05 from Central Station, arriving Moreton at 10.25. Returned from Moreton station on the 2.12 train, arriving Liverpool Central at 2.35

Here is the plan for the next few Sundays:
24th May, no walk – Three Queens weekend.
31st May, TPT8, Rice Lane to Broadway  – meet 10am Queen Square (B)
7th June, Widnes – meet 10am Lime Street Station
14th June, no walk – MNA coach trip
21st June, Childwall Woods and Fields – meet 10am Liverpool ONE
28th June, Kirkby – 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 Manifold Valley 16th May 2015

We visited a new venue on our MNA Coach Trip – Manifold Valley in Staffordshire’s White Peak area. The track ran along the former route of the Leek and Manifold Light Railway through a wooded valley beside the Manifold River. A picturesque location with a varied selection of birds, insects and plant life to satisfy all members interests keeping us busy during our visit.

Bird-wise I noted Peregrine Falcon, Common Pheasant, Common Swift, Green Woodpecker heard, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Common Redstart heard, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Jackdaw, Rook, Raven, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Common Bullfinch and Reed Bunting.  Chris B had seen Grey Heron, Nuthatch and heard Wood Warbler with Richard Surman adding Spotted Flycatcher and Dipper to the day’s list. Dave B & co had Marsh Tits close to the tea-room at Wetton Mill.

Butterflies on the wing included Green-veined White Pieris napi, Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines and a Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas.

MNA Manifold Valley Orange Tip1

Orange Tip

MNA Manifold Valley Leucozona lucorum1

Leucozona lucorum

A striking hoverfly with a white band across the upper abdomen, black wing patch and a yellow-orange scutellum was later identified as Leucozona lucorum. Other Hoverflies included Drone Fly Eristalis tenax, Hoverfly Rhingia campestris and Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii.

MNA Manifold Valley Syrphus ribesii1

Syrphus ribesii

MNA Manifold Valley Mating Craneflies1

Mating Craneflies

MNA Manifold Valley Flesh Fly1

Flesh Fly

Insects included Scorpion Fly Panorpa communis, a pair of mating Craneflies Tipula vittata,  Dance Fly Empis tessellata, Flesh Fly Sarcophaga sp. St. Mark’s Fly Bibio marci, Nursery Web Spider Pisaura mirabilis, Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum, Green Dock Beetle Gastrophysa viridula, a Click Beetle and a Weevil.

MNA Manifold Valley Campion Smut1

Red Campion Smut Fungus 

A few clumps of Red Campion were suffering from a smut fungus Microbotryum silenes-dioicae which infects the anthers of male flowers causing them to become black. This anther smut disease is transmitted by insects as it visits the flowers to collect nectar. Nettle Rust Puccinia urticata was noted on Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica

MNA Manifold Valley Toothwort1


Plant find of the day was Toothwort Lathraea squamaria which is parasitic on the roots of hazel and alder. Its common name is said to derive from the resemblance of the flowering and fruiting spikes to rows of teeth.

Dave B & co had Roseroot Rhodiola rosea growing from a limestone slab. Roseroot’s colloquial name comes from the rose-like fragrance of the root (when crushed or splitted), which has been used in the past as a perfume and also a medicinal herb.

MNA Manifold Valley Water Avens1

Water Avens

Another highlight were the groups of Water Avens Geum rivale, the drooping heads of the five purplish brown sepals hiding the buff-coloured petals of the flower. We found a few Hybrid Avens Geum x intermedium a fully fertile hybrid between Water Avens Geum rivale x Wood Avens Geum urbanum

MNA Manifold Valley Hybrid Avens1

Hybrid Avens

There was much discussion on the identity of a species of Saxifrage growing amongst stone chippings, the botanists eventually deciding it was a slightly stunted Mossy Saxifrage Saxifraga hypnoides that was growing from its more familiar moss mounds nearby.

MNA Manifold Valley Pink Purslane1

Pink Purslane

Other plants noted included: Marsh-marigold Caltha palustris, Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, Bulbous Buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus, Goldilocks Buttercup Ranunculus auricomus, Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna, Welsh Poppy Meconopsis cambrica, Hornbeam Carpinus betulus, Hazel Corylus avellana, Pink Purslane Claytonia sibirica, Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea, White Campion Silene latifolia, Red Campion Silene dioica, Hybrid Campion Silene latifolia x dioica = S. x hampeana

MNA Manifold Valley Campion Hybrid1

Hybrid Campion

MNA Manifold Valley Field Pansy1

Field Pansy

Sheep’s Sorrel Rumex acetosella, Broad-leaved Dock Rumex obtusifolius, Common Dog-violet Viola riviniana, Field Pansy Viola arvensis, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata, Winter-cress Barbarea vulgaris, Water-cress Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis, Primrose Primula vulgaris, Cowslip Primula veris, Stonecrop Sedum sp. Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca, Blackthorn Prunus spinosa, Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, Bush Vetch Vicia sepium, Gorse Ulex europaeus, Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis, Shining Crane’s-bill Geranium lucidum, Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum, Dusky Crane’s-bill Geranium phaeum, Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris, Sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata, Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium, Giant Hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum, Green Alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens, Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides, Creeping Forget-me-not Myosotis secunda, Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis, Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon, White Dead-nettle Lamium album, Red Dead-nettle Lamium purpureum, Bugle Ajuga reptans, Ground-ivy Glechoma hederacea, Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, Thyme-leaved Speedwell Veronica serpyllifolia, Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys, Woodruff Galium odoratum, Cleavers Galium aparine, Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Common Valerian Valeriana officinalis, Dandelion Taraxacum officinale, Daisy Bellis perennis, Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare, Colt’s-foot Tussilago farfara, Butterbur Petasites hybridus, Lords-and-Ladies Arum maculatum, Common Sedge Carex nigra, Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Ramsons Allium ursinum and Early-purple Orchid Orchis mascula.

MNA Manifold Valley Dog Violet1


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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Everton Cemetery and Fazakerly Bluebell Wood, 10th May 2015

19 Bluebell carpet

The day started out bright and sunny, with a temperature of 15°C (59°F) at Bootle North Park as early as  9.15. Flower-spotting started as we got off the bus, with a mass of Clover and Common Vetch growing untidily at the base of a bollard and Dandelions, Ribwort Plantain, Nettles and last year’s dried-out Barley stalks growing on a piece of rough ground. As we walked along Stopgate Lane a lady came out of her house and scattered bread on the grass verge, which attracted a large flock of Starlings. After 10 mins walk we came to Everton Cemetery. Along the pavement edges we noted Herb Robert, and in the hedge was our first good show of Hawthorn (May) blossom. The Holly was blooming, too.

19 Bluebell Hawthorn blossom

19 Bluebell holly flowers

Inside the cemetery we noted a Rook, a Chaffinch and a Grey Squirrel. There’s a Hillsborough grave here, of a young man called Peter Tootle. We marvelled at the very large and ornate Chinese gravestones, and wondered why so many of them had two or three oranges left as offerings. Apparently it’s traditional in Chinese culture to leave food for the afterlife, and oranges are favoured as they are a symbol of good fortune.

19 BLuebell chinese grave

A Maple tree was sprouting brilliant red new shoots from its base.

19 Bluebell maple shoots

At the far northern end of the Cemetery, in a quiet corner, there’s an obelisk marking the re-burial place of remains from three old City-centre churches, which were moved here when the sites were redeveloped around 1900. Near the lodge a Clematis has found its way onto a telephone wire and got a bit out of control.

19 Bluebell Clematis riot

We left the cemetery by the back way, crossed Brookfield Drive and went into Higher Lane and so into the woods. They lie between Altcourse Prison and Aintree (Fazakerley) Hospital and are part of the NHS forest.   There was Cow Parsley coming out along the roadside and Red Campion in sunny glades. There is a Friends group which seems to have been doing a lot of work recently, re-laying the paths. See the PARTIA blog, although it doesn’t seem to have been updated recently.

Lunch was taken in a shady glade whilst sitting on a fallen tree and listening to a Chiffchaff. Afterwards I had a look at this Pine, probably a Scots Pine, with a female flower and an older cone.

19 Bluebell pine flower

The Bluebells in the woods are hybrids, but they seem to have quite a lot of native in them – many were quite delicate, with flowers only on one side.

19 Bluebell bluebells

We started uprooting young Himalayan Balsam, but then we found such big patches that we had to give up. Nearby was a pond, full of tadpoles.

19 Bluebell pond

There are several Copper Beech trees in the wood, which look bright red when seen from the right angle, but in close-up, the leaves themselves are only faintly tinged with red.

19 Bluebell copper beech leaves

At the edge of the path leading to Lower Lane there were several young oaks with deeply indented leaves, bunches of dangly catkins and red female flowers in some of the leaf axils. They were Turkey Oaks, I think, because English and Sessile Oaks don’t have leaves like this.

19 Bluebell oak leaves and male flowers

We crossed Lower Lane and took a public footpath leading eastward alongside the Fazakerly Brook. Saw Goldfinch, Blackbird and Long-tailed Tits, and heard another Chiffchaff. The path came out on Copplehouse Lane, and we walked north to Longmoor Lane and the bus home. The houses in the roads joining on the left had purple bins, showing they were in Liverpool, but Copplehouse Lane itself is the southern border of Knowsley.

Extra note: I saw my first Swift over my garden on Saturday 9th May, and by Monday 11th there were three of them.

Public transport details: Bus 19 from Queen Square at 10.15, towards Kirkby, arriving E, Lancs Road / Stopgate Lane at 10.45, Returned from Longmoor Lane / Copplehouse Lane on bus 20 at 2.08, arriving Liverpool City Centre at 2.40.


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Storeton Woods, 3rd May 2015

It rained all last night, and was still raining when I set out, but the forecast said it would soon clear up, and it did.  When we arrived at Higher Bebington there were patches of blue sky and the sun was breaking out. We climbed Village Road past the lovely Victoria Hall and the George Hotel, admiring the view behind us to the Liverpool cathedrals. Then we crossed Mount Road into Rest Hill Road which runs between the two halves of the woods.

18 Storeton sign

Along the west side of the southern wood, with open land to our right,  a Chiffchaff was calling, and we saw a Robin, a Blue Tit and two male Pheasants in a field. The air was alive with St Mark’s Flies, with their dangly legs, who are named for St Mark’s Day on 25th April, but are usually seen in early May. Wayside flowers included Garlic Mustard and Red Dead-nettle. We could see across to Moel Fammau, and in the middle distance was  the M53 and the row of Lombardy Poplars along the Lever Causeway.

18 Storeton Moel Fammau

We returned through the woodland, passing the TV transmitter mast. A Great Tit was calling and John saw a Willow Warbler. The Celandine was still in flower, and all over one large bank was a mass of those plants with the big round leaves springing straight from the ground that we noted in Hesketh Park two weeks ago. Still no idea what they were, but they are clearly propagating vegetatively below the ground. (Added later – second correction, not Butterbur, it was Winter Heliotrope. Thanks Chris B.) We noticed that there were no Bluebells or Wood Anemones in this part of the wood, so it’s not old woodland. It used to be a stone quarry until it was filled in during the 1920s with the spoil from the building of the first Mersey Tunnel.

18 Storeton woodland path

After we crossed into the northern section we began to take note of the leafing trees. There was some confusion over whether some simple green leaves were Beech or Hornbeam, but later we found a Hornbeam, so the earlier ones were Beech. The Beech leaves (which are much commoner) have mostly smooth margins while the Hornbeam leaves are a bit darker, and have toothed edges.

18 Storeton leaves

The Cow Parsley was just coming out, and there were a few Bluebells in this northern section. There was more birdlife, too, despite it being popular with people walking their dogs. We saw a Song Thrush on the path, a Mistle Thrush, a Blackbird, a Jay, a Treecreeper and a Nuthatch. There was a Woodpecker drumming in the distance, and although John responded, hitting a stick on a fallen tree, the bird didn’t come closer and we didn’t see it. There was a Grey squirrel, too. We saw the first Oak in leaf, whose new leaves had red and gold tints like autumn. Was it a Sessile Oak or an or English Oak? No idea, although Sessile is said to be more common in the north of England.

18 Storeton oak leafing

There used to be a small railway or tramway here. A small plaque in the ground marks the site, and there are two preserved rails. The sign says Storeton Quarry Tramway. Stone was quarried at this site from Roman times until early this century. Between 1838 and 1905 the stone was transported to Bromborough Pool via the Storeton Tramway. In 1840 its standard gauge track was connected to the Chester to Birkenhead Railway. Near this spot the tramway curved towards “The Great Cutting” of the North Quarry. This project, which displays the original Fish-bellied rail, has been carried out by The Friends of Storeton Woods with the support of The Woodland Trust. November 1995.

18 Storeton tramway

Tucked away in the south east corner of the northern wood there is a carving of a small Dinosaur. It is a Chirotherium, a Triassic dinosaur whose fossil tracks were found in the quarry in the 19th century. It was 2.5m (8 feet) long and 1.5m (5 feet) tall. There are fossil footprints  of Chirotherium in the Clore Natural History unit of Liverpool World Museum,  in the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead, and they sometimes emerge from the mud on Crosby and Formby shore.

18 Storeton dinosaur

Nearby, in dappled sunlight, we spotted a Speckled Wood butterfly, and also this plant. It reminded me of Lily-of the Valley or Solomon’s Seal, with all the flowers on one side of a curving stem. Suggestions as to what it is would be welcome.

18 Storeton unknown plant

As we returned down the hill we noticed a Buzzard being harassed by a Magpie. Two cottages at the bottom of Village Road were very pretty, one called Forge Cottage and the other with shutters, Wisteria and a sundial over the door.

18 Storeton cottages

As we waited for the bus great drifts of pink cherry blossom petals were being blown along the road.

Public transport details: Bus 464 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.15, arriving Teehey Lane / Roland Avenue at 10.42. Returned from King’s Road / Town Lane (outside the Acorn pub) on the 487 bus at 2.04, arriving back Liverpool at 2.25.

Extra note. The RSPB went to Gorse Hill yesterday and they asked for some publicity for their Sunday openings on the first Sunday of the month at 10.30. They run free guided walks 1.30 to 3.00.

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Orrell Water Park, 26th April 2015

Another beautiful sunny day, with clear skies and long visibility, but with a sharp north wind. Last week’s brief heatwave has brought out all the Cherry blossom in thick bunches of pink, white and red, and the non-blossoming trees are flushing with the soft greens and pinks of spring.

17 Orrell cherry blossom

17 Orrell trees leafing

Because of the recently-changed train times we had a later start and arrived at Orrell Water Park just in time for lunch. We found a sunny sheltered spot at the north end, overlooking the first lake. There wasn’t much birdlife on the water though, just Mallards, Coots and Canada Geese, with a few passing Black-headed Gulls, Magpies and Wood Pigeons. This top lake is managed for coarse fishing so there were anglers camped out all around the edge.

17 Orrell lake view

Around the east side of the lake we spotted a Robin, some Collared Doves, Blue Tits, a Mallard pair with seven tiny ducklings, perhaps hatched that morning, and some Coots on nests. Both Chaffinch and Chiffchaff were singing. These aren’t old woods, so there were very few flowers under the hedges, just Dandelions and Daisies. The lakes used to be reservoirs, and the area was landscaped in the early 1980s. Those trees were all bursting into leaf, and I think this red one is Sycamore.

17 Orrell sycamore bud

The southern end of the water park is managed for wildlife and called Greenslate Water Meadows. Their sign says “Greenslate’s development started in the early 1980s when the three ponds were dug and the area planted with native tree species. This reserve area now provides a mixture of open water, swamp, wet woodland, planted scrub and trees, bounded by well-established hedgerows. The reserve is particularly important for dragonflies and damselflies, with thirteen species having been recorded by the time the area was awarded Nature Reserve status in 2007. The reserve is also home to the nationally-protected Water Vole, four RSPB red-listed birds, four amphibian species and nineteen species of butterfly.”  We didn’t see any of the dragonflies, mammals or amphibians, and the only butterfly we noticed was a Small White. However, the swampy ground was rich in clumps of Marsh Marigold.

17 Orrell marsh marigold

There were more wildflowers here, too, including Red Campion, Forget-me-Knot and Yellow Archangel under the trees. A single “wheep” call, which we hoped was a Nuthatch, turned out to be a Chaffinch!

17 Orrell birdwatching

Near the junction of the southern loop is an area of bird feeders, where we saw Long-tailed Tits, Collared Doves, Blackbird, a Dunnock, Coal Tit, Blue Tits, a Wren, and one of the reserve’s specialties, a male Yellowhammer foraging on the ground.

17 Orrell yellowhammer

Around the southern end there was a pair of Blackcaps in the trees overhanging the path and we heard a Greenfinch calling. The Hawthorn isn’t flowering yet, it isn’t May after all, although there was some blossom at Marshside yesterday in a sheltered spot near Nell’s Hide. At Orrell there were only buds, but plenty of them.

17 Orrell hawthorn buds

When we returned to the bird feeding area we were delighted to see a male Bullfinch on a feeder, at the same time as a Greenfinch. The male Yellowhammer had been joined on the ground by a female. There was a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the overhanging trees, which later hid behind the tree trunks, but it was very shy and didn’t come to feed.

17 Orrell bullfinch

Although this is called a Water Park, from a naturalists’ point of view the water birds are rubbish but the woodland birds are great!

Public transport details: We met at the later time of 10.30, because the hourly train to St Helens now leaves at 47 mins past the hour. We got the 10.47 Blackpool train from Liverpool Lime Street, arriving St Helens Central at 11.13. Then the 352 Wigan bus from St Helens bus station (stand 6) at 11.35, passing Carr Mill Dam and Billinge, arriving Orrell Water Park at 11.57. There is no marked bus stop on the way back, so stand opposite the southbound bus stop and the return bus will stop for you. It was the 352 bus at 2.39, arriving St Helens 2.59. If you dash you might catch the 3.04 train from St Helens Central, arriving Liverpool Lime Street 3.32. If you miss it, rather than waiting an hour, you could get the number 10 bus back to Liverpool. (You could also get to Orrell Water Park by an hourly train from Kirby to Billinge station, which is only five minutes walk away, but it’s outside the Merseytravel area, so payment is required!)

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Hesketh Park, Southport, 19th April 2015

It was colder and chillier today than the warm sunny days we’ve been having. I could have done with my scarf and woolly hat! It stayed overcast for most of the day, with a few rare glimpses of the sun.

16 Hesketh park sunken garden

There were lots of flowering shrubs by the Park gates: Quince, Flame of the Forest, Hellebore, Euphorbia. The banks were full of Daffs and Hyacinths going over, Grape Hyacinths at their peak and Bluebells just coming out, including some patches with blue, pink and white flowers close to each other. Wildflowers included Dandelions, Green Alkanet, and this one with the leaf all around the stem (called “perfoliate”). It’s Spring Beauty.

16 Hesketh spring beauty

There were loads of Mallards on the lake, but no ducklings. John saw 60+ at a park in Ormskirk yesterday. A Mute Swan was on her nest on an island, as were several Coots, whose nests were on floating wooden platforms tethered to the island. Moorhens and Carrion Crows mooched about, and there were Herring Gulls, some Black-headed Gulls and one Lesser Black-backed Gull. One young HG on the water was fascinated by an orange ball with holes in it. It kept picking it up then dropping it back into the water. Did it think it was food? It looked like it was playing.

16 Hesketh playing ball

One pair of Mallards was head-bobbing. The drake had normal plumage, but the other was a dark one with a white chest, that we’d all have guessed was a male, but it was definitely a female. The drake responded to the head-bobbing invitation by grabbing the female’s neck, pushing her under water and mating. Then another male barged in, and then another. We always fear the female will drown when this happens, but she emerged from under the scrum and flew off. Later we spotted her keeping company with possibly the same Drake.

16 Hesketh odd Mallard

As we sat down for lunch and opened our bags, the Mallards and gulls perked up and watched us closely.

16 Hesketh lunch gull

Both Chaffinch and a Chiffchaff were singing, a Wren flew across the path and a Dunnock picked about on the grass. Other birds today were Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Great Tit and a female Blackbird with food in her beak, who scolded us from the shrubbery while we were examining some low flowers of Magnolia.

On the bank beside the path we looked at some large patches of roundish leaves springing from the ground, looking rather like Coltsfoot or Butterbur, but they weren’t either. There were no flowers at all, just the leaves. Any ideas? (Added later – second addition. Not Butterbur, which has much bigger leaves.  It’s Winter Heliotrope. )

16 Hesketh round leaves

On the west side of the lake the banks were full of wildflowers. Red Campion, Greater Periwinkle, Forget-me-Not, Common Fumitory, Herb Robert.

16 Hesketh forget me not

16 Hesketh fumitory
Common Fumitory

16 Hesketh Herb Robert
Herb Robert

In the sunken garden below the Fernly Observatory there is a floral clock and a stone with a verse of an apposite poem by Andrew Marvell. See my report on our previous visit to Hesketh Park on 19th Feb 2012.  Then we spotted a Hedgehog just by the clock, poking in the grass for worms and insects.  It’s the first one I’ve seen for years. It was quite small, possibly just a youngster, and it was a bit sluggish because it wasn’t that warm. Aren’t they supposed to be nocturnal? It didn’t seem to be bothered by people talking and passing by. Eventually it sloped off to the hedge and disappeared.

16 Hesketh hedgehog

We had a very good day for trees. The Sycamore and the Horse Chestnut were leafing. One tree had a few bunches of acid-yellow flowers, which we thought were Field Maple, but they are usually more profuse. Near the Observatory was a fantastically tortuous tree with weeping branches and a graft line about 4 foot up the trunk. There was a wooden signpost nearby but the name label was missing, Then we saw another, then a third, and the last one DID have its nameplate. They were Weeping Pagoda trees Sophora japonica “Pendula”. Mitchell reckons they are quite a rarity. The ordinary Pagoda trees are classed as “uncommon”, found only in the south of England and East Anglia. The “Pendula” variety is said to be only occasionally found in south England. He describes them as “a mass of contorted branches grafted onto a stem of the type”.

16 Hesketh Pagoda tree

There were some other good trees (with labels, happily) in the Sensory Garden for the blind on the west side of the park. One was a Persian Ironwood with interesting patchy bark and another was a Katsura tree, with the leaves well out. They look like the leaves of the Judas Tree, but are positioned opposite, whereas the Judas Tree’s are alternate.

16 Hesketh persian ironwood bark
Persian Ironwood bark

16 Hesketh Katsura tree

Katsura tree

16 Hesketh Katsura leaves
Katsura leaves

The Sensory Garden had unusual maroon-coloured Hyacinths, Lavender and Rosemary by the path edges for the blind to feel and smell and this plant with huge whitish leaves. I think it is Giant Artichoke, which will be spectacular when it flowers.

16 Hesketh giant artichoke

Our last interesting tree was just outside the Sensory Garden. There was a fine tall Wellingtonia tree (on the left of the picture below) but just in front of it, leaning at about 45 degrees, was something with amazing pink tassels. What was THAT? The leaves were just coming out, and below them were loads of pink dangly things. Catkins? The leaves look like some kind of Maple, but the long catkins suggest something from the Poplar family. Any suggestions welcome!

16 Hesketh leaning tree

16 Hesketh pink tassels

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.23, arriving Southport 11.07. Then 44 bus at Eastbank Street at 11.26, arriving Hesketh Park Gates 11.30. Returned on the 47 bus from just outside the park at Albert Road / Park Crescent at 2.15, arriving Southport 2.22. We just missed the train at 2.28, so we had to wait for the 2.58, due back in Liverpool about 3.40.

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Thailand April 2015

MNA Thailand Mythical Beast1

Kodchasri – a Thai mythical creature with a lion’s body and an elephant’s head

Spent the Easter break indulging the cultural and culinary delights of Thailand. A hectic trip  – as per the norm but I did find some time to adopt my usual guise and venture into the undergrowth to see what creatures were lurking there. Colourful tropical Dragonflies and Damselflies are always a treat for me. The main season for Odonata in Thailand is September but I still managed a few new ticks.

MNA Thailand Dragonfly1

Stream Heliodor a.k.a. Yellow-lined Gem Libellago lineata lineata

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Blue-tailed Forest Hawk a.k.a.  Lesser Blue Skimmer Orthetrum triangulare triangulare

MNA Thailand Mating Damselflies1

Senegal Golden Dartlets mating Ischnura senegalensis

There was also a good variety of Bugs, Spiders, Beetles, Cicadas and the ubiquitous Geckos to photograph whilst enduring the painful bites of the local Ants.

MNA Thailand Clearwing Moths Mating1

Imaon Clearwing Moths mating Syntomoides imaon

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Death’s-head Hawk Moth Acherontia styx

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Cicada exoskeleton

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Club Silverline Spindasis syama terana

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Tussock Moth caterpillar Lymantriidae sp.

MNA Thailand Plant Bug1

Soybean Pod Bug Riptortus linearis

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Red Bug Pyrrhocoridae sp.

MNA Thailand Signature Spider1

Multi-Coloured St Andrew’s Cross Spider Argiope versicolor

Seafood featured highly on the menu at the local night-markets’, make your choice of freshly caught crabs, lobsters, squid, prawns, bivalves and molluscs and have them cooked according to your taste buds preference. For those with a more adventurous palate there were net-bags filled with Bullfrogs, fried Chicken & Duck heads as well as the Thai delicacy ‘non mai phai’ Bamboo Worms Omphisa fuscidentalis the larvae of the Bamboo Borer, a moth of the Crambidae family.

MNA Thailand Blood Spotted Crab1

Blood-spotted Swimming Crab Portunus sanguinolentus

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Giant River Prawn a.k.a. Blue-legged Prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii

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Spiral Babylon Babylonia spirata

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Squid Meal

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Bamboo Worms Omphisa fuscidentalis

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East-Asian Bullfrog Hoplobatrachus rugulosus

We had the honour of meeting with Sangduen “Lek” Chailert. This diminutive lady with a huge heart is the Daphne Sheldrick of the Asian Elephant world. Born in the small hill tribe village of Baan Lao, her love for elephants began when her grandfather, a traditional healer, received a baby elephant as payment for saving a man’s life. Later after learning about the abuse and neglect that domestic Asian Elephants experience Lek began advocating for the rights and welfare of Asian Elephants in Thailand.

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Lek with Ele and a group of visiting students

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In 1995 she established the Elephant Nature Park nestled in the breath-taking Mae Taeng Valley, about an hour north of Chiang Mai. ENP is home to over forty rescued Elephants. Ranging in age from infants to old-timers, these previously abused and neglected Ele’s are able to live out the rest of their lives in peace and dignity on the Park’s grounds.

MNA Thailand Ele3

MNA Thailand Ele4

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The tearaway baby Eles

Lastly for the botanists there was a colourful spectacle of Thai Orchid genera with Dendrobium, Vanda, Ascocentrum and Phalaenopsis species in bloom.

MNA Thailand Orchid1MNA Thailand Orchid3MNA Thailand Orchid2

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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Ken Jordan Memorial Foray 12th April 2015


Sunday 12th April 2015

The Ken Jordan Memorial Foray.

Ten hardy souls attended this North West Fungus Group foray, including David Bryant and Joanne Moore from the Biodiverse Society Project.

I walked round the area on Tuesday, in shirt sleeves. On Sunday it was two pullovers and a coat. We started in gale force winds so kept to the shelter of the woods.

We did not expect to find great numbers of fungi, particularly as the area is so dry. I understand that the water levels are the lowest since 1997. As a number of fungal species only grow in spring we did hope to collect some of the more uncommon ones.

Most of the finds in the Freshfield wood were crust fungi or tiny disc fungi under fallen wood and on dead branches.

MNA Hapalopilus nidulans

Hapalopilus nidulans

A very nice find of Hapalopilus nidulans (Cinnamon Bracket) was followed by the tiny Crepidotus epibryus (Oysterling) on some stacked branches.

MNA Crepidotus epibryus

Crepidotus epibryus

After a breezy lunch on the heath, it started to rain so we quickly made our way to some cover in the different habitat of the pinewoods of Ainsdale Sand Dunes Reserve.

MNA Pholiotina aporos 0415

Pholiotina aporos

We soon made some interesting finds, including Pholiotina aporos (a spring Conecap), an early Peziza repanda (Palamino Cup) and pine loving Tricholoma terreum (Grey Knight).

As the rain continued people started to drift home. It was on their way back to the station that a couple of forayers found Disciotis venosa (Bleach Cup). So they came all the way back in the rain to show us. A first for this species at Ainsdale.

MNA Discotis venosa

Disciotis venosa

We recorded 54 species, including two new ones for Ainsdale. Not bad considering the weather conditions.

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Walton Cemetery and City Farm, 12th April 2015

This morning was overcast and gloomy, with the forecast suggesting it might rain all morning but in fact it didn’t start until early afternoon.

15 Walton daffs

The rooster was crowing as we approached the farm down Rawcliffe Road, but since the staff were mucking out we decided to go around the Cemetery and nature trail first. The Daffodils were still flowering amongst the gravestones, the Hawthorn was starting to leaf and there was a Kestrel overhead. Around a corner we found these splendid cattle.

15 Walton cows

There weren’t many birds about in the woodland area, just a couple of Robins. Bluebells were just starting to flower. Along the side of the path were plenty of blooming Wood Anemones, but we guessed they were probably planted, because they were in discrete clumps, not carpeting the ground as they do in Ancient Woodland.

15 Walton wood anemones

Some of the gravestones around the woodland path were marked (vandalised?) with blue paint, picking out the name, the date and the plot number. I wonder what that’s all about?

15 Walton gravestones

Lots of Dandelions have come into flower in the last few days, but they were all closed up this morning, as it was quite cold and blowy. The Wild Garlic was leafing profusely but there were no flowers out yet. We did spot quite a lot of Yellow Archangel, though.

15 Walton yellow archangel















In a paddock there were two big brown donkeys. At least I think they were donkeys, not asses or mules.

15 Walton donkeys

We lunched on the picnic tables by the farm, then looked at the animals in the farmyard. Their sheep are the rare breed Ryeland Sheep, and there have been nine lambs born so far this Spring. The youngest, just two days old, was under a heating lamp.

15 Walton lamb

They keep domestic Geese and Ducks, and a great variety of Hens, which were scratching happily through the straw. The Rooster was a splendid fellow.

15 Walton Rooster

Several white doves looked out of the dovecot with a turf roof.

15 Walton dovecot

Then it started to rain so we headed back for the bus.  Some extra notes: John saw Swallows at Llangollen yesterday 11th April and I had my first Peacock butterfly on my patio on Easter Saturday 4th April.

15 Walton Peacock

Public transport details: Bus 210 from Queen Square at 10.02, arriving Rice Lane / Rawcliffe Road at 10.20. Returned on the 130 bus from Rice Lane at 1.30. Note that both these bus routes, the 210 and the 130, which run on small yellow “Cumfibuses”, are being cancelled in a week or two and replaced with the new route 30A.

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A Sparrowhawk in my garden

On Monday (30th March) a Sparrowhawk killed a Wood Pigeon in my garden and it has been coming back at least twice a day to feed on the carcase.

14 Sparrowhawk 1

The kill was on Monday afternoon. I was just coming back from the bin, and in a split second I heard the Wood Pigeons on the lawn clap their wings as they lifted off , then something grey and white whizzed past my shoulder and there was a flurry on the lawn. When I looked out of the kitchen window, there was the Sparrowhawk, “mantling” the WP, which was still struggling sporadically. As I watched, the Sparrowhawk started to pluck and eat the unlucky victim.  After a minute or two I wondered if I could sneak out quietly to take some pictures, but despite my best efforts at stealth, the very alert Sparrowhawk flew off. I thought it had taken the corpse with it, but it must have dropped it a few yards away.

14 Sparrowhawk 2

Next morning, there was a circle of feathers at the back of the lawn, and I thought there had been a second kill, but then realised that the remains must be the same dead WP that the Sparrowhawk had dropped, and it had come back in the early morning to feed again. I left it, and was rewarded with more good views of the Sparrowhawk, back again at about 4pm, and this morning at 9-ish for a fourth feed off the remains. The pictures above were taken through the kitchen window!

14 Sparrowhawk victim

There still looked like plenty of meat left on the WP, and at around mid-day today the Sparrowhawk came back and took the much-lightened load away.

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