Clock Face Country Park, Sunday 14th September 2014

Tony Carter reports: A cool day for the North West Fungus Group foray. Although conditions were dry there were still plenty of fungi to be found. This is a very new piece of woodland, planted on the site of the old colliery and the ground is more acidic than other local sites, so it was interesting to discover what species it might support.

Starting in the car park we found a large patch of Lactarius pubescens (Bearded Milkcap). This species was growing just about everywhere a pine tree grew. Further along the path we came across a close but more colourful relative, Lactarius torminosus (Wooly Milkcap) that prefers birch woodland. This was quickly followed by another pine lover, Lactrius deliciosus (Saffron Milkcap).

The boletes were also well represented by Suillus luteus (Slippery Jack), Suillus grevillei (Larch Bolete) and an uncommon Suillus viscidus (Sticky Bolete).

tn_Suillus grevillei Clock Face 0914
Suillus grevillei (Larch Bolete)

We identified a lot of the more common fungi such as Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric)and rubescens (Blusher), Lactarius turpis (Ugly Milkcap) and glyciosmus (Coconut Milkcap)and quickly had recorded over fifty species including a number of grassland fungi such as waxcaps and puffballs such as a very large Lycoperdon excipuliforme (Pestle Puffball). Also a lone Helvella lacunosa (Elfin Saddle).

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Lycoperdon excipuliforme (Pestle Puffball)

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Helvella lacunosa (Elfin Saddle)

The most interesting finds were of Cortinarius, a difficult genus to identify even with a microscope. Fortunately these had very clear distinguishing features, Cortinarius trivialis (Girdled Webcap) and Cortinarius alboviolaceus (Pearly Webcap).

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Cortinarius trivialis (Girdled Webcap)

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Cortinarius alboviolaceus (Pearly Webcap).

Also found were Tricholoma terreum (Grey Knight), Tricholoma fulvum (Birch Knight) and a very uncommon Tricholoma psammopus (Larch Knight) that has not previously been recorded locally.

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Tricholoma fulvum (Birch Knight)

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Tricholoma psammopus (Larch Knight)

Considering that this land was only reclaimed in the late 1990s, we were surprised by the diversity and numbers of fungi that could be found. If we had been able to visit a week earlier, before it got so dry, we would have found even more.

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The Ken Jordan Memorial Foray, Sunday 7th September 2014

Tony Carter reports:  Members of North West Fungus Group and MNA joined together at the Warden’s Office to look for fungi at Ainsdale Sand Dunes Reserve.  Ground conditions were drier than expected and some areas were not as productive as in past years.  The area around the pond was fruitful. It used to be a struggle to get access to this area but the boardwalk takes you right round the pond. Lots of recognisable species such as Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) and Leccinum scabrum (Brown Birch Bolete) were found. Russula velenovskyi (Coral Brittlegill) was common under the alders.

tn_Russula velenovsky2 Ainsdale
Russula velenovskyi (Coral Brittlegill)

A nice find of Cortinarius uliginosus (Marsh Webcap) was made in an adjacent ditch.

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Cortinarius uliginosus (Marsh Webcap)

There was very little in the paddock area which has deteriorated since it was flooded. Once a rich source of species, it is now very overgrown as is the wood leading to Pinfold Path, so little time was spent there. After a pleasant lunch in the sunshine on the dune grassland, we continued our search and made some interesting finds. The first was of an uncommon bolete, Suillus collinitus. It is very similar to a more common species (Weeping Bolete) but has a pink rooting system that colours the stem. This was quickly followed by Amanita citrina (False Death Cap) and Amanita submembranacea.

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Amanita citrina (False Death Cap)

tn_Amanita submembranacea2 Ainsdale













Amanita submembranacea

There was lots of a very small puffball. Usually we find fresh specimens but need spores to identify it. Or we find sporulating specimens but do not know what a fresh one looks like. This time we found both and were able to identify them as Bovista limosa (Least Puffball). This species is very specific to the south Lancashire coast.

tn_Bovista limosa Ainsdale 0914
Bovista limosa (Least Puffball)

Similarly, Lycoperdon nigrescensalso appeared both fresh and with spores. Chroogomphus rutilus (Copper Spike) appeared under a lone pine tree as did a dune lover, Lepiota erminea.

tn_Lycoperdon nigrescens Ainsdale 0914
Lycoperdon nigrescens

We had to miss out the meadow area as it had not been mown so we went back into the pinewoods and made collections of Russula sanguinaria (Bloody Brittlegill) and Russula xerampelina. They can look identical with red caps and stems but the latter smells strongly of crabs, hence the name, Crab Brittlegill.

tn_Russula sanguinaria Ainsdale











Russula sanguinaria (Bloody Brittlegill)

The final stretch took us into the mixed birch and oak areas where we came across Chalciporus piperatis (Peppery Bolete) and Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (False Chanterelle).

tn_Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (False Chanterelle)

Despite the conditions, the joint effort succeeded in identifying seventy species. New for the site were Clavulinopsis laeticolor (Handsome Club), the ascomycete Eutypella scoparia, andthe corticiod Peniophora rufomarginata. These bring the total number of different species recorded by North West Fungus Group for this unique reserve to 941, which is why it was the favourite site of Ken Jordan. It rarely disappoints.

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Freshfield Dune Heath Bioblitz 7th September 2014

A glorious hot sunny day for the Freshfield Dune Heath Bioblitz celebrating 10 years of the Reserve’s existence. They were still setting up the stalls when I arrived so I joined Lancashire Wildlife Trust volunteer Sue for a bit of pond-dipping in the only pond on-site that hadn’t completely evaporated. After a few sweeps of the net tipped into the water-filled sampling trays we had a handful of species. There were a couple of Common Backswimmer’s a.k.a. Water Boatmen Notonecta glauca – as their name suggests they swim upside-down on the surface of the water and are voracious predators, they inject their prey with a toxic saliva and slurp up their digested remains! One of the Backswimmers flipped itself over onto its front – being light brown in colour with large red eyes. There was a couple of large and 40+ smaller Ramshorn Snails Planorbarius sp.which have sinistral or left-coiling shells. There were a few Damselfly nymphs – greenish in colour with a narrow body and 3 fin-like gills at the end of the abdomen, they capture prey by using a modified lower lip (called a labium) that shoots out rapidly and seizes the prey item. Also noted were a Biting Midge larvae and a small Leech.

MNA Dune Heath Water Boatman1

Common Backswimmer

I had a mooch around the stalls, a number of organizations were present including the Merseyside Bat Group, Merseyside Mammal Group and the Southport and Formby Bee Keepers. There was also a stall where the kids could make plasticine Mrs Blobster.

MNA Dune Heath Blobster1

I then joined MNA member Jean Lund who was leading the Fungus walk. Dry conditions limited the number of species we found with Sycamore Tar Spot Rhytisma acerinum, Violet Bramble Rust Phragmidium violaceum, Birch Polypore Piptoporus betulinus, Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, Blusher Amanita rubescens, Penny Bun Boletus edulis, Brown Birch Bolete Leccinum scabrum, Common Earthball Scleroderma citrinum, Ochre Brittlegill Russula ochroleuca, Bloody Brittlegill Russula sanguinea and Birch Woodwart Hypoxylon multiforme. Numerous Gall Wasps had been causing deformities on the reserve’s Oak’s Quercus sp. with Knopper Galls Andricus quercuscalicis, Marble Galls Andricus kollari, Artichoke Galls Andricus fecundator, Common Spangle Galls Neuroterus quercusbaccarum and Silk Button Galls Neuroterus numismalis.

MNA Dune Heath Oak Marble Gall1

Oak Marble Gall

MNA Dune Heath Silk Button Galls1

Silk Button Galls

There was also a Knotting Gall on Male-fern Dryopteris filix-mas fronds caused by the Dipteron Gall Fly Chirosia betuleti and leaf mines on Holly Ilex aquifolium caused by the Fly Phytomyza ilicis.

MNA Dune Heath Gorse Shieldbug

Gorse Shieldbug

Gorse Shieldbugs Piezodorus lituratus were present in great numbers on the Gorse Ulex europaeus with at least 60+ individuals and a final instar nymph. One of the Shieldbugs hadn’t been so lucky having been being caught and wrapped in silk in one of the many Garden Spider Araneus diadematus webs. Also plenty of Labyrinth Spider Agelena labyrinthica webs scattered throughout the gorse. I had a further mooch around between walks and noted Common Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina a couple of final instar nymphs, a dozen Tapered Droneflies Eristalis pertinax with single Hoverflies Heliophilus pendulus, Syrphus ribesii and a single Bumblebee mimic Hoverfly Criorhina berberina, a Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris, 7-spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata, a dozen or so Field Grasshoppers Chorthippus brunneus and a Spiny Puffball Lycoperdon echinatum.

MNA Dune Heath Hedgehog Puffball1

Spiny Puffball

There were a handful of Common Darters Sympetrum striolatum zipping around and perching on the gorse.

MNA Dune Heath Common Darter1

MNA Dune Heath Common Darter2

Common Darter

On recording my sightings at the Merseyside Biobank stall there were a few sampling pots with other Bioblitzers finds including a Froghopper Cicadella viridis and another probably a Common Froghopper Philaenus spumarius which is an incredibly variable species with different colour forms.

A large group then set out with Phil Smith who talked about the reserve management the majority of which is low nutrient, acidic soil dominated by Heather Calluna vulgaris, Sand Sedge Carex arenaria and Gorse Ulex europaeus. Annual summer grazing takes place Herdwick sheep to prevent invasion by scrub plants. One area had been burned and the various stages of Heather re-colonization were apparent. A couple of Bioblitzers had seen a Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum so we headed off to the dried up pond. Phil caught the Ruddy Darter and held it between thumb and finger to allow for identification difference c.f. Common Darter to be seen, the former having all black legs and a more vivid red svelte – pinched waist abdomen.

MNA Dune Heath Ruddy Darter1

Ruddy Darter male

As six Buzzards circled overhead we investigated a sandy area were we found a male and female Mottled Grasshopper Myrmeleotettix maculatus that have a variety of colour forms and a few Field Grasshoppers Chorthippus brunneus.

Dave Hardaker talked about the two Lizard species found on the Dune Heath – the Common Lizard and Sand Lizard. The latter naturally occurs in Dorset, Surrey and the Sefton coast – ‘our’ Sand Lizards having a more vivid green mottled appearance in the males than their more drab Southern cousins. There are estimated to be between 1000 and 1500 Sand Lizards on the Sefton Coast. The Sand Lizard is Britain’s only egg laying lizard – the eggs resembling mint imperials and it needs areas of open sand for incubating its eggs and their colonies are often found in banks and slopes so correct habitat management is essential for this species. Although present on the Sefton Coast the Sand Lizards were absent from the Dune Heath despite a large population of Common Lizards being present. Work was carried out in a fenced-off area to provide a re-introduction site for Sand Lizards captively bred from Merseyside stock by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and in September 2010 hatchling lizards were released allowing them to be accustomed to their new home before the October hibernation. Dave had seen a mature male Lizard only the previous week so was confident that there is now a breeding population on site. Unfortunately we didn’t see any Lizards today although they love to bask out on the birch logs it was actually still too hot for them and would more likely to be seen later on in the early evening.

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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Lydiate to Maghull, 7th September 2014

For this fifth section of the Trans-Pennine Trail we had a clear and sunny day, bright and warm without being too hot.

37 Lydiate path

At Lydiate Hall Farm the Peacocks appeared to be moulting their tail feathers, but there was a stern sign warning visitors that the feathers were the property of the farm, not to be taken away, but could be purchased for charity in the farm shop.

37 Lydiate peacock

The cabbage field behind the farm was being visited by many Large White butterflies, which we used to call “cabbage whites” when I was little. As we walked south along the old Cheshire Lines path we also saw Specked Woods, several Small Tortoiseshells and this Red Admiral on Elderberries. It was opening and closing its wings, and I never could get a shot when they were fully open, but I like this one with the sun shining through.

37 Lydiate red admiral
We had lunch where the path crosses Carr Lane and Lydiate Station Road. There is no trace of the old station itself, although a passing cyclist said he remembered it being on the north side of the junction. But one of the houses in Carr Lane  is called “Railway Cottage” and the old level crossing barrier is still raised and waiting, even though it hasn’t seen a train since 1952.

37 Lydiate level crossing

We didn’t see many birds, because cyclists and walkers were passing every minute or two, and the hedges were too high for many long views. But there were Crows in the stubble and Starlings on the telegraph poles. We heard a Buzzard calling, and then it flew low over our heads. Later there were four high overhead, possibly young ones. Through one gap we saw a procession of about 20 or 30 Mallards, both ducks and drakes, apparently walking out of a farm gate into a field, making no attempt to fly off. Were they pinioned birds being kept for their eggs, or were they just moulting and mooching about?

The berries are all ripening now. Some people were still out blackberrying, and the hedges were red with Hawthorn, Guelder Rose berries and Rose Hips.

37 Lydiate rose hips

Near the border between West Lancs and Sefton we came across this shrub bearing clusters of white berries. I think it was some kind of Dogwood, perhaps White or Siberian Dogwood Cornus alba, which is native to Siberia and unlikely to be wild.

37 Lydiate white berries

Late flowers included Ragwort, Tormentil, a white umbellifer which I think was Common Hogweed and Rose Bay Willow Herb, some still in flower but most going spectacularly to seed.

37 Lydiate hogweed and willow herb seeds

Along the southernmost part of the path there were patches of a low lilac Cranesbill and clumps of the raggedy Perennial Sow Thistle. Large trumpet flowers of Bindweed were everywhere, but whether it was Hedge Bindweed, Large Bindweed or a hybrid of the two, I couldn’t say.

37 Lydiate bindweed

Today we walked just over two miles of TPT, taking us to 12 miles from Southport.

Public transport details: 300 bus from Queen Square at 10.18, arriving Our Lady’s Church, Lydiate, at 11.06. Returned from Liverpool Road South / Avondale Avenue on the 250 bus at 1.55, arriving Liverpool 2.35.

Here is the plan for the next few Sundays:
28th Sep  New Lane – meet 10am Queen Square
5th Oct  Port Sunlight River Park – meet 10am Sir Thomas Street
12th Oct  Trans-Pennine Trail 6, Maghull to Old Roan  – meet 10am Queen Square
19th Oct  Ainsdale to Freshfield – meet 10am Central Station
26th Oct  West Kirby  – meet 10.15 Central Station

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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Red Kites

Ken Lewis says:  Last week I had a day out at Gigrin Farm near Rhayader. To see the numbers of Kites in the air was fantastic.  I used to go with the MNA every year to see the last remaining pair of Kites at Cwmystwyth with Eric Hardy. How things have changed.   It’s taken a long time to get any pictures that I am happy with and I would like to share them with our members.

01 Kites

03 Kite

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Taylor Park St Helens, 31st August 2014

Two out of the last three times we have been to Taylor Park were on very wet days, but happily the rain kept off today.

36 Taylor sign and flowers

There were lines of molehills on the wet lawn, and under a Common Lime tree were several erupting clusters of fungi. Was it Honey Fungus?

36 Taylor erupting fungi

Nearby was a nice Hornbeam tree with ripening seeds.

36 Taylor hornbeam seeds

Magpies were chattering in the trees as we made our way to the lake, and there was a Pied Wagtail on the bank. On the lake itself were Mallards, Coots, Canada Geese, a limping Greylag and a few Lesser Black-backed gulls. Some Moorhens were skulking near the edges. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls, which have now nearly all moulted out their black heads, with just a few still having a faint shadowy cap. The Swallows flying over the lake were all young ones without tail streamers, so perhaps their parents have already left for Africa. A few House Martins flew amongst them.

36 Taylor swan view

There was lots of weed in the lake, and there was a sign on the fence saying the Rangers believe it is starving the water of oxygen. They plan to dredge it out and leave it on the jetty by the boathouse so that all the invertebrates can get back into the water. After a few days they will send it off for recycling. Another sign advised that feeding bread to ducks is bad for them, and the message was reinforced by a child’s drawing of happy, healthy ducks and ducklings.

36 Taylor bread sign

We stopped to examine a young tree in a cage by the boathouse bank. Its bark was mottled like Holly (which is “smooth pinkish-grey, freckled and striated” according to Mitchell). The dark glossy leaves weren’t spiny, though. Was it a Holm Oak? We spotted some rudimentary seeds which might have been undeveloped acorns, but the bark of a Holm Oak is supposed to be “brownish- black or black, shallowly cracked into small, square, thin, dry and often curling plates.” It didn’t look like that. We’d have liked to ask a Ranger but the Ranger’s office was closed.

36 Taylor tree 1 bark

36 Taylor tree 1 leaves and fruit

There was Purple Loosestrife growing on the water’s edge and ripe Elderberries in the hedges. On the far side was a Great Crested Grebe carrying quite a big fish. He or she went to a single humbug-headed juvenile, who grabbed it and swallowed it down in a single gulp. A Heron was hunting under trees and there was a pair of adult Mute Swans with five cygnets, but we saw no leg rings on them.  Two small fluffy ducks perched on a rock in the north corner of the lake, and we thought at first that they were Mallard ducklings, but they were probably Tufted duck, either juveniles, or adults in eclipse.

36 Taylor ducks on a rock

Near the Ranger station were two young trees with unusual scaly bark. Leaves were alternate, with a rough surface, and looked like Elms – uneven at the base of midrib, called “shouldered”. We though they might be Wych Elms, but Wych Elm bark is said to be smooth and silvery-grey in young trees, becoming finely cracked in black as they mature. The best match I can find is the hybrid Dutch Elm, whose bark is “distinctively cracked into shallow small flakes” and whose leaves are said to be “variable in size on the same tree and often buckled or puckered”.

36 Taylor tree 2 bark

36 Taylor tree 2 elm leaves

The Quarry Garden was damp, shady and ferny. The only birds were Robin, Wood Pigeon, Blackbird and  Blue Tit.  Amongst the shrubs like Heuchera and Mahonia was a young Chilean Pine (Monkey Puzzle) looking a bit sick and twisted, so perhaps it is in too wet and shadowy a spot for it to grow well, but I suppose the idea was for it to look “prehistoric”. On the collection of petrified wood were scatterings of small orange globules, perhaps a fungus or a lichen.

36 Taylor fungi on petrified wood

The cultivated form of Red Dead-nettle was attracting several small hovering insects and at least one Carder Bee, which foraged right into the flowers.

36 Taylor spot the bee

We climbed up to the viewpoint over to Billinge Hill, with Winter Hill further away to north east. Small parties of Canada Geese were flying eastwards and honking. All the trees in view were still green, there are no autumn colours starting yet, although the berries are mostly all ripe. We wandered back thorough the damper, wilder woody paths, looking for flowers, There is still quite a lot of Ragwort in flower, and Ivy-leaved Toadflax on the old walls. Elsewhere were Buttercups and Daisies in the lawns, some late Bramble flowers, Self-heal, Great Willow Herb straggling in the shrubbery and Bittersweet.

Public transport details: 10 bus from Queen Square at 10.17, arriving Prescot Road / Toll Bar (outside the park) at 11.05.  Returned on the 10A bus from Prescot Road / Toll Bar at 2.10, arriving Liverpool 3.00.

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Woodvale to Lydiate, 24th August 2014

The forecast was for cool and overcast weather but they got it wrong – it turned out to be sunny and warm, a bit too warm for us to be walking as far as we did. We started this fourth section of the Trans-Pennine Trail where we left off last time, at the north end of the Formby by-pass, where it joins Moor Lane. The old Cheshire Lines Railway, which closed in 1952, runs south from here across the fields of the Lancashire plain, with comparatively few easy access points to make the walk shorter.

There were Swallows on the wire in Plex Moss Lane, and horses in many of the paddocks. We had a close encounter with a horse and rider on a narrow section of the trail.

35 Woodvale horse and rider

We lunched by the wayside at the junction with North Moss Lane. It was a surprisingly busy spot, with lots of bikes and walkers passing by. In this sunny corner there were lots of Speckled Woods, and one of the White butterflies. There was even a big dragonfly zooming about. It didn’t sit still at all, but we think it was an Emperor. The field behind us was streaked with red caused by large drifts of the plant called Redshank.

35 Woodvale field of Redshank

As we crossed the open plain we noticed that most of the grain crops seem to be in, and there were Crows and Wood Pigeons in the stubble. Lots of Starlings perched on telegraph wires, a big flock of Lapwings came up, and 20-odd Mallards flew over, heading north west towards Ainsdale. At the old railway bridge over Downholland Brook a Greenfinch came to a puddle to drink and the birds catching insects overhead were House Martins. Had they been nesting in the buildings of the Pumping Station? Right in the middle of the bridge was an old concrete pyramid, a left-over anti-tank defence from WWII.

35 Woodvale bridge and pyramid

There weren’t very many wildflowers by the wayside, perhaps because the path is so dry and open. The best display was of Yellow Toadflax. Margaret said she thought it was a common railway plant, so is it a relic from those days?

35 Woodvale Toadflax

Near the Sewage Treatment plant there was a shadier, damper corner, full of Himalayan Balsam, Ragwort, Purple Loosestrife and Hemp Agrimony.

35 Woodvale Hemp Agrimony
Hemp Agrimonly

35 Woodvale Himalayan balsam
Himalayan Balsam

We came off the trail at New Carr Lane, walked a few hundred yards south along the tarmac of Acres Lane then turned into the field path which runs up to the back of Lydiate Hall farm. We flushed a Grey Partridge there, which exploded out of the undergrowth right in front of us. The Hayloft café was a welcome sight and we had time to sit down with a pot of tea before getting our bus home. We walked five and a quarter miles today, of which about four and a half was the Trans-Pennine Trail. We are now nine and three quarter miles from the start at Southport.

Public transport details: X2 bus at 10.15 from Queen Square, arriving Woodvale 11.05. Returned on the 300 bus at 3.21 from Our Lady’s RC church, Lydiate, arriving Liverpool 4.13.

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Shropshire Union Canal, Ellesmere Port to Stoake, 17th August 2014

34 SU canal bridge view











It was a day of sunshine and light showers, but the sun was shining when we arrived at Ellesmere Port Station and we stopped to admire their small wildlife plot, with pictures of butterflies placed amongst the flowers.

34 SU canal EP garden

We walked down Meadow Lane to the canal and turned south. It seems that autumn has arrived quite early this year. The berries on the Rowan trees are all red, as are the ones on the Guelder Rose. Hawthorn berries are still half way between green and red. Sloes are ripe, and Damsons are falling. Many of the blackberries are quite big and sweet. But although there were plenty of Hazel shrubs in the hedge, there were no Hazel nuts. I don’t think I have even seen or taken a picture of a Hazel nut in the local area. Why not?

34 SU canal Rowan berries

34 SU canal Guelder Rose
Guelder Rose

Wood Pigeons flew from side to side, and the water had Mallards; a family of Coots, made up of both adults and three well-grown chicks; Moorhens, including one quite small chick, less than a week old. After we passed under the M53 we came to the regular spot of a Heron, who had a bulging crop after a big meal.

34 SU canal Heron

There was a red Damselfly on the path, but it moved off too fast for us to to identify it. However, when we stopped for lunch at Mason’s Bridge there was a Common Darter basking in the sun on the south-facing coping stones, almost invisible against the sandstone.

34 SU canal Common Darter

Some interesting flowers along the canalside. Arrowhead was all the way along after lunch, and also Gipsywort and Figwort. One plant that always had its feet in the water looked a bit like Himalayan Balsam but the flowers were orange. My book tells me there is such a thing as Orange Balsam, which flowers July and August and lives on canal and river banks. That must be it.

34 SU canal Gipsywort

34 SU canal Orange Balsam
Orange Balsam

We noticed that the tops were cut off much of the Arrowhead and suspected water voles but later concluded that it must have been the verge cutter when it came along a week or two before.

34 SU canal Arrowhead cut off

Near the sewage treatment plant a male Banded Demoiselle flew past. We left the canal at Stoke Bridge, and sat for a while in the tiny Stoake Nature Reserve, which was just one tiny field. There were Molehills, a Speckled Wood, a green/blue dragonfly which wouldn’t sit still to be identified and the spotty leaves of Common Lungwort. In the pretty little village of Stoake we passed a house gate saying “Beware of the Dog”, but the first time we passed it there was a horse in the garden, and the second time there was a goose. We never did see the dog.

34 SU canal beware horse

There are some fine old Irish Yews next to the Church of St Lawrence.

34 SU canal Stoake church

On the gravestones the village was variously spelled Stoke, Stoake or Stoak. The oldest one we found was of a man called Samuel Yoxon who died in 1775 aged 47. There was also the grave of a boy of 9 called Nelson Burt, “drowned in the River Mersey during the hurricane of the 5th and 6th of December 1822″. He may have been named by his father after the great Lord Nelson who had died eight years before young Nelson Burt’s birth.

34 SU canal Nelson Burt

There was a strange ghostly horse in a stable.

34 SU canal ghostly horse

We walked about a mile up Little Stanney Lane to get the bus in Cheshire Oaks, spotting the fresh corpse of a Rat on the way and a Spindle tree in the ornamental hedge. We just made it to the bus back to Ellesmere Port station.

34 SU canal dead rat

34 SU canal Spindle fruit

Public transport details: 10.30 train from Liverpool central to Ellesmere Port, arriving 11.05. Returned on a little green number 36 bus from Cheshire Oaks at 3.00, arriving Ellesmere Port Station at 3.07. Train to Liverpool at 3.19, arriving Liverpool 3.55.

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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.


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