Town Centre, 18th February 2018

Not a lot of nature or wildlife today. It was “Visit My Mosque” weekend so we decided on the spur of the moment to visit the oldest mosque in Britain, the Abdullah Mosque in Brougham Terrace, run by the Abdullah Quilliam Society. It was founded in 1887 by the English solicitor William Henry Quilliam, who converted to Islam and took a new name.

It was in a former private home, which later became a back storage room in the old Register Office. Then it went to rack and ruin and is now being restored as a working mosque. We had a tour around the whole building, where there is still lots of refurbishment work going on. They have saved some of the old plaster mouldings and also the ancient Victorian kitchen range in the basement.

All the ladies on the tour were given a red rose on leaving and we all had a ride around the block in a two-horse carriage (a brougham?)

Then we headed back to the city centre. There is a row of small, neat trees on Lime Street, outside St George’s Hall, which have dark crimson new twigs and buds. Margaret thinks they are Limes (very appropriate in Lime Street!) and I suspect they might be Small-leaved Limes because there are no twiggy bases to the trunks. We need to look at them again when they flower. We lunched in St John’s Gardens, enjoying the mild weather for a change. We checked some old tree friends there – the London Planes around the perimeter with the four “interloping” Single-leaved Ashes; two Indian Bean trees and now only four Trees of Heaven by the plaque to the French Prisoners (one of them was cut down last autumn); there is also a Dove Tree, also known as a Handkerchief tree. Symmetrically placed are two Willow-leaved Pears and the side beds have about six Chusan Palms, only one of which seems to have a proper trunk.

Daffs were starting to flower under the trees.

Then we went around the back of the Museum, to the shrubby traffic island under the fly-over, before Hunter Street. There are three Rowans there, several old Cherries, and also what might be a few White Poplars, but we’ll need to look at them again.

William Brown Street was busy with people coming from the New Year celebrations in Chinatown, and going into the Terracotta Warriors exhibition. The hotels, pubs and restaurants will do very well from that this year.

Public transport details: Bus 18 from Queen Square at 10.12, arriving West Derby Road / Everton Road at 10.20. Returned to Liverpool on the 18 bus from West Derby Road / Nevin Street at 12.20, arriving Lime Street at 12.30.

Next few weeks:
25th February, destination not decided. Meet Queen Square at 10am

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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Sefton Park, 11th February 2018

Despite the occasional hail showers, it was a good day for both trees and birds. Our very first bird was a Ring-necked Parakeet, calling and flying overhead as we approached the southern end of Sefton Park lake. There was a huge flock of Black-headed Gulls out in the middle, and the usual Mallards, Moorhens and Coots at the jetty end, joined by two Little Grebes. We usually see them in the more secluded area by the island, but they seem to be getting bolder.

The Canada Geese were honking, head-bobbing and parallel-swimming, getting in their breeding season mood. Several first-winter Mute Swan cygnets were scattered around the lake, perhaps five or six of them. Are they from the astounding brood of nine we saw last September? I suspect that only some of them were. The park cygnets are usually all ringed at the same time, with consecutive codes, but we saw only three with blue Darvics, 4CLY, 4CLZ and 4CUZ, while at least two more had no Darvic rings at all. Had the ringers not been able to catch all nine cygnets last autumn, or are the unringed ones new arrivals from other parks? We made our way along the lakeside under hail and a very threatening sky.

More Parakeets were flying around in the trees on the western side of the lake. The notices exhorting people to desist from feeding bread to the birds seem to be working, and we saw at least two lots of sweetcorn being offered, with one pile of corn on the far side attracting four Magpies. One rather odd duck was in close company with the Mallards.

Several trees were old friends. There is a mature Atlas Cedar on the west bank of the lake, unusual because it isn’t the blue ‘Glauca’ variety (as almost all the others we see are) but is apparently the basic green type. Other trees were Yews, Scots Pines, the Narrow-leaved Ash ‘Raywood’, the champion Black Walnut opposite the bandstand and the nearby Weeping Ash. The row of gnarled old Cherries near the fountain had a grey ghostly light on their bare branches.

Near the Eros statue is a yellow Witch Hazel with an aromatic scent.

In trees near the old bowling greens, a Carrion Crow had picked up what looked to us like an old crisp bag and was pecking at it. Now that I blow up another picture, I can see that it was an empty bag of Mattessons Fridge Raiders (ready-to eat chicken nuggets). Several other Crows muscled in, and there was a bit of jostling going on for possession of the bag. Was there the smell of the food in it? They didn’t seem to be trying to get into the open end. Or was it just the shiny orange colour that was attracting them?

Alongside the path towards the Monument there is a mass of crocuses, not quite at their best yet.

There is a young Blue Atlas Cedar by the old aviary, and we started our lunch there, before we were interrupted by more hail. By the aviary path is a Birch infested with Witch’s Broom. There are many causes, but it is thought that the ones on Birch are usually caused by the fungus Taphrina betulina, which doesn’t kill the plant, just makes these twiggy excrescences appear.

We passed the magnificent avenue of mature London Planes on the way to the Palm House. The beds surrounding it contain two kinds of palm. The one with the plain trunk and long strappy leaves is a Cordyline Palm, also known as the Cabbage Tree, while the ones with hairy trunks and fan-shaped leaves are Chusan Palms, like the ones in St John’s gardens. Near the Darwin statue is a Corkscrew Hazel, also known as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick.

Next to the Hazel is an elegant slim Cypress tree of some kind, listing to one side. It had large smooth-scaled cones, looking rather like something’s droppings! It spoke to me of Tuscany, I have to say. When I looked it up at home I identified it as an Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens, classed as “uncommon”. It’s a new one for me.

In the Fairy Glen there’s a readily identifiable Deodar Cedar. There had been lots of recent trimming and digging in the shrubberies, with much of the soil looking well rooted-over as if a troop of wild boar had been through it. One shrub caught our eye, pruned well down, with the hollow centres of the larger stems neatly closed with plastic plugs.

A very confident Robin was sitting not much more than arm’s length away.

The Persian Ironwood doesn’t look interesting from a distance, just a low twisty tree, but from closer in we could see that it was flowering, with bursts of crimson stamens emerging from dark brown buds.

Another bird watcher tipped us off that there was a Great Crested Grebe near the island, but by that time it was hailing so hard again that we didn’t want to hang around. Even the Tufted Ducks appeared to be looking for shelter!

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.10, arriving Aigburth Road opp Ashbourne Road at 10.30. Returned from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane on the 82 at 2.03, arriving Liverpool ONE bus station at 2.20.


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Landican Cemetery, 4th February 2018

It was a brilliantly bright and sunny day, but an overnight frost had made the pavements very slippery. We went to Landican hoping to see Hares, which we have seen there before, but not today.

We did rather well for trees, though. Cemeteries always have elegant and architectural evergreens. The first one we looked at made an avenue of tall, neatly-conical trees, which were clearly some kind of Cypress, with droopy, feathery leaves and small cones. I’m pretty sure they were Lawson Cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. See top picture for a couple of examples of them. There was also a dense hedge of Leyland Cypress and a Common Yew by the bus stop. Our third Cypress was the one I think of as “the sticky-out one”. The trunk looks like several thick ropes twisted together, and the cones are over an inch long. It’s a Monterey Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa.

Most of the birds were tucked away, keeping warm. Greenfinches were calling from deep in the  evergreens. Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches made occasional appearances in deep hedgerows, but there were lots of curious Robins flitting about. We never saw more than one Magpie or Wood Pigeon at a time, and there was a lone Black-headed Gull poking about on the grass, showing its dark head feathers coming in.

Although the deciduous trees have no leaves at this time of year, many were easily identifiable by bark, fruits and catkins. The Hazel was a no-brainer, with its delicate yellow catkins.

There were Silver Birches with their distinctive bark and thin pendulous branches. The skyline held several rows of classic tall Lombardy Poplars. Both types of Alder were frequently planted. The ordinary Common Alders Alnus glutinosa have small cones and purplish catkins next to them.

The Italian Alders Alnus cordata have far bigger cones, about an inch long, which seem to fall more easily.

Plenty of Golden Irish Yew stood at the crossroads. They have yellow-edged leaves and are all male, with well-developed pollen sacs.

And the London Plane tree is easy to spot by its patchy patterned bark and hanging “bobble” fruit.

After lunch we headed down to the south end, where there were still no Hares, but long lines of molehills everywhere. (We allow ourselves to count them as a mammal sighting!) There was also a Grey Squirrel scampering along a horizontal branch. That area is the newest part of the cemetery  and we were interested to see they are planting many unusual young trees there. Some still had their labels on – Cut-leaved Alder Alnus glutinosa ‘Imperialis’; Golden Alder Alnus incana ‘Aurea’, (a cultivar of Grey Alder); and two varieties of Crab Apple, Malus hupehensis (white blossom) and Malus ‘Mokum’ (dark pink blossom). I suspect it’s cheating to identify trees by the nursery label, not by their features, but I intend to count them on our year list anyway!

A pair of Buzzards soared against the blue sky, calling to each other. They were being harassed  by a Carrion Crow. At the eastern edge is a woodland area, provided for scattering ashes. Snowdrops and yellow Crocuses were blooming delicately under the trees.

Huge numbers of bird boxes were attached to the trees, all with nameplates for loved ones. Some trees had as many as four boxes crowded together, while in a quieter corner was a three-room Sparrow hotel.

As we left we spotted this striking young orange-twigged tree. I think it’s a White Willow Salix alba. The twigs are the same colour as Weeping Willow, which is the weeping variety of the same species, and much commoner.

Public transport details: Bus 472 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.14, arriving at Arrowe Park Road / Landican Cemetery at 10.45. Returned from Arrowe Park Road / opp. Landican Cemetery on the 471 bus at 2.27, arriving Liverpool City Centre at 3.00.

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Hunting the Bunting, 28th January 2018

Another bird hunt today, for a Snow Bunting reported near Crosby beach “in the field at the bottom of Harbord Road, with Skylarks”. So off we went to Waterloo. We searched the specified field, but no Snow Bunting. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls on that field, with two Lesser Black-backed Gulls which might have been of the dark “Baltic” variety. Also a single Common Gull standing alone, as they so often do. A flock of Oystercatchers flew in, peeping as they landed. We headed up past the Boating Lake to Crosby Prom, delighting in the first Skylarks singing overhead, which occasionally landed.

There is a warning sign put up by the council about chunks of decaying Palm Oil that have been washing up on the beach, supposedly from a shipwreck far out to sea.

The gusty wind blew sand into our faces, so we didn’t linger near the beach for very long. Just inland we spotted a pretty little white horse, about the size of a Great Dane, which was out for a walk on a lead. The Boating Lake had the usual Coot, Mallard and Canada Geese, with a few Tufties further out.

We retreated from the wind into Crescent Gardens. There were Daisies in flower, and the odd Shepherd’s Purse hanging on from the autumn. The shrub Laurustinus was also flowering, as was the Rosemary in the central herb garden. The undergrowth had been cleared around the bases of the decorative Holly trees, and we could see how vigorously they throw out suckers. We lunched there, with a threatening sky over the seafront houses.

In the southernmost Marine Garden the Silk Tassel Tree was blooming, throwing out its long catkins. There were surprisingly few tassels, though, in comparison to other years, when the tree itself had been almost obscured. The red flower of Quince were coming out, and the unripe Figs were about as fat as they will ever get in this climate. There is a wonderfully-shaped Holm Oak there, one of the best on Merseyside. Apparently the people who live opposite say it spoils their view and they want it trimmed. Perish the thought!

Sefton Council have put up another sign on the garden gate, warning that Rats are increasing in the gardens, possibly caused by residents putting out food for the birds, although they also say that litter and rubbish partly contribute. Baiting stations have been put out, and the Council are appealing for people not to provide them with “bird” food. Along a sunny wall the leaves of Daffodils were pushing up, with a few buds. The Daffs are already out in Greenbank Park, apparently.  One tree with copious thick leaf buds caught our eye, but we weren’t able to identify it. Tamarisk? I’ll have to keep an eye on it. Above the rockery the Crack Willows were stretching their orange twigs up to the sky.

We headed back northwards through all four gardens. In Adelaide Garden there were crimson berries of some kind of Berberis and our first Snowdrops.

The Friends of the gardens have recently replaced the old Toposcope, with a compass rose and lines indicating the direction and distance of various landmarks. There are the expected Blackpool 22 miles, Great Orme 35 miles, Snowdon 52 miles, but also the surprising Waterloo Belgium 369 miles, Waterloo Sierra Leone 3161 miles and Australia 9490 miles!

We checked the recently-cleaned pond in the northernmost Beach Lawn garden, hoping for frogspawn, but no luck. Our last scan for the Snow Bunting was fruitless, too. But not a bad day by any means – this time of the year it’s easy to add new things to our lists, so we had five new birds and seven new trees.

Public transport details: Bus 53 from Queen Square at 10.20, arriving Oxford Road / Blucher Street 10.55. Returned on the 53 bus from Oxford Road / Manley Road at 2.25.

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Pennington Flash CP 27th January 2018

Some pics from the MNA visit to Pennington Flash

Scarlet Elf Cup Sarcoscypha coccinea

Black Witches Butter Exidia glandulosa

Dogwood Cornus sanguinea

Common Greenshield Lichen Flavoparmelia caperata

Silver Leaf Fungus Chondrostereum purpureum

Orange Algae Trentepohlia sp.

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Hoylake, 21st January 2018

More bird spotting today, with a convenient high tide at Hoylake just after lunch, bringing the waders close inshore. Although the forecast was for heavy rain all day, in the event it wasn’t too bad, just very cold and blowy.

Only one tree tick today: in a pot outside a house in Manor Road was a pensioned-off but flourishing Christmas tree, a Norway Spruce, so that’s been added to the 2018 tree list. Then we walked down Hoyle Road and cut through Parade Gardens to North Parade, just north of the Lifeboat Station. The muddy sand was sprouting scattered tufts of Spartina grass and a solitary Redshank was pottering through the pools. Its old name is “Watchdog of the Marsh” because it calls and flies off at the least disturbance.

There is another kid’s pirate ship there, sister to the Black Pearl at New Brighton. Appropriately it’s called the Grace Darling.

A flight of Knot went southwards as the tide came in from the right. Sanderlings ran along the waterline and some Shelduck sauntered past.

There were also two Curlews, and a Greater Black-backed Gull which hunkered down by a patch of Spartina. A large flock of Oystercatchers stood by a reflecting pool and Cormorants lined up on a sandbank in front of the wind turbines.

The weather began to close in, and as Hilbre Island was cut off by the tide it dimmed in the hazy drizzle. At the top of the slipway by the Lifeboat Station we rummaged in the line of Bladder Wrack, dumped there by the last high tide, turning up various bits of biology. At the bottom right of the picture of our finds is a Razor shell (not further identified), and an egg case of the Common Whelk, also known as a Sea Wash Ball, looking like a blob of bubble wrap. Above them are two kinds of “Mermaid’s purses”. The small light ones on the left with curly tendrils look like the egg-cases of the  Lesser Spotted Dogfish while the bigger, darker ones on the right could be from the Spotted Ray. See this ID key from the Shark Trust.

Margaret also found one small section of a different sort of seaweed, with bigger bladders. I think it’s Knotted Wrack or Egg Wrack Ascophyllum nodocum which has large individual bladders spaced along a flat frond. This short bit had just two bladders, each a couple of inches long. (Thanks to John for the loan of the 50p piece for scale). It’s common all around the North Atlantic coasts.

There were two Pied Wagtails on the pavement as we made our way northward to Kings Gap. The spits and spots of rain settled into a downpour so we were soaked and cold by the time we got to Hoylake Station. Today’s new sightings were one new tree and seven new birds for our year lists.

Public transport details: West Kirby train from Central at 10.35, arriving Manor Road at 11.00. Returned on the train from Hoylake at 2.04, arriving Liverpool Central at 2.35.


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MNA Coach Trip Anglesey 20th January 2018

A rather soggy and cold start to our MNA Coach Trip programme of 2018. The first port of call was Holyhead – parking the coach just along from Holyhead Maritime Museum we quickly zipped up fleeces and donned waterproofs before scanning the main harbour. Patience was rewarded for many members who kept their eyes peeled for movement on the water – birds tantalisingly appearing for a few seconds before diving again beside the harbour buoys. We viewed a Great Northern Diver, a few Red-breasted Mergansers, a Great Crested Grebe, Shags and at least two Black Guillemots – one in ghostly winter plumage and another noted by Hugh and co. sporting dapper black summer plumage with white wing patches. On the grassy slope beside the harbour were a group of Oyks and Redshank. We wandered along stopping to watch a Peregrine in the distance above Breakwater Quarry, past the yachting marina and climbed the narrow lane beside a dilapidated hotel. In the lane edges was flowering Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans, and in the lane wall was the characteristic round leaves of Wall Pennywort Umbilicus rupestris.

Winter Heliotrope

We noted the yellow-green flowering umbels of Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum – an edible plant which has been naturalised in Britain since the days of the Romans. Some of its leaves were infected by the Rust Fungus Puccinia smyrnii.

Alexanders Rust Fungus

Some of the Tree branches in the lane were covered in Lichens mainly Old Man’s Beard Usnea sp. and the Strap Lichens Evernia prunastri and Ramalina sp. A bit of a Geology interlude examining the twisted layers of local Chlorite Schist used as building blocks in the walls.

Chlorite Schist

After scanning the harbour again and talking to a local fisherman who had been trying for Herring we wandered down to a cove with a fantastic storm beach – large cobbles had been tossed much further inland by recent stormy high tides than we had previously noted and the cobbles were also covered in discarded Sea Belt Kelp Laminaria saccharina that had been ripped from their holdfasts out at sea, as well as the sinistrally coiled polychaete Spirorbis spirorbis attached to Toothed Wrack Fucus serratus and a scattering of discarded plastic netting. The cobbles were comprised of the aforementioned Chlorite Schist with others being Quartzite & Jasper more typically found on Llanddwyn Island. A Turnstone and Rock Pipit kept the birders contented.

Storm Beach with washed up Kelp

Quartzite & Jasper

We climbed up to the open pasture area adjacent to the rocky coast leading up to Holyhead Mountain. Stonechat, Peregrine and a couple of vocal Chough proved exciting.

At sea were a few Cormorants and Shags with passing Oyks. The Welsh Mountain ponies came over to say hello – Les Hale becoming their friend for life with tempting polo treats.

Thanks for the polos Les!

Rocks were festooned with some of the typical Coastal Lichens with Sea Ivory Ramalina siliquosa, Maritime Sunburst Lichen Xanthoria parietina and Crab-eye Lichen Ochrolechia parella.

Sea Ivory (grey strap lichen), Maritime Sunburst (yellow encrusting), Crab-eye (white encrusting)

Robins, Prunes, Blackbirds, and Song Thrush put in an appearance as we neared the visitor centre with Moorhen, Mallard and a selection of Gulls on the small pond. Jackdaws were vocal on the quarry face and a Raven who had come to the end of its tether with their mobbing turned the tables and dived bombed them a couple of times. We ate lunch in the small visitor centre – the only Marine Life in the small aquarium being a Shanny a.k.a. Common Blenny Lipophrys pholis. Wandered back towards the coach a flock of Starlings overhead and a pair of Stonechat hopping around on the ground in a field in front of the Magazines – the two buildings that were used to store the black powder that was used to blast the rock in the quarry and the ammunition for the fog gun.

We boarded the coach for the short hop around to the old fishing harbour in Holyhead. Another Great Northern Diver, a couple of winter plumaged Great Crested Grebes and a Red breasted Merganser were noted. Some old containers on the quayside had a covering of dead Barnacles – a type of Acorn Barnacle Balanus balanus with steeply conical shell with prominent longitudinal ridges.

Acorn Barnacles

We continued along to Penrhos Coastal Park beside Beddmanarch Bay. The sun had put in an appearance but it was bitterly cold with the breeze. However the birding more than compensated with Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the shoreline – DaveB estimating numbers at 280+, also large gatherings of Waders – scanning through we identified Knot, Ringed Plover, dumpy bodied Dunlin, a dozen or so Curlew, similar numbers of Oyks, a few Redshank plus a few Shelduck. On the far side of the water channel were dabbling Teal and Wigeon rested up on the sand. The oblique angle to the setting sun briefly caused a Herring Gull’s legs to look somewhat yellow but it wasn’t to be… A Little Egret was spotted by John Clegg as we drove along the causeway on our journey home.

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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Kew, Southport, 14th January 2018

At this time of the year we often do a bit of mild twitching – going specially to see an unusual bird that has been reported locally. Three or four Cattle Egrets had been reported in Kew on Saturday, which were probably the same ones as we saw last year at Marshside. But a new year and a new tick!

Before we set out we looked at the trees in Williamson Square, to start our 2018 tree list. There are six Ginkgoes outside what used to be Stoniers, and three Holm Oaks outside the football shop. But what are the other two there, and the one in Queen Square in the corner by New Look? They appear to be of the same species, but we puzzled over them all last year when they were in leaf. They have yellow-green pinnate leaves, but they definitely aren’t Ash. Could they be False Acacia (Robinia) or Honey Locust (Gleditsia)?  One of my Christmas books was “London’s Street Trees” where I read that the Japanese Pagoda Tree Styphnolobium japonica is newly in fashion as a street tree and is often mistaken for the two I named above. So it that what they are? The way to tell is if the new shoots are a dark bottle green, but we peered at the bare twigs from all angles and couldn’t see any green. Maybe the new spring growth will be green.

We enjoyed the long bus ride up through Lydiate and Halsall, spotting crops of cabbage and sprouts still in the fields. It was cold, but bright and sunny. In Kew we headed down Bentham’s Way, past Dobbie’s garden centre, detouring briefly to look in Fine Janes Brook. There was a  Moorhen and a Mallard, with a Kestrel hovering over the rough grass.  We were able to identify some winter trees – Alder with its dark purplish catkins and cones, Ash with last year’s keys and black buds, Horse Chestnut with their sticky buds and horseshoe-shaped leaf scars. The young pines were Scots, not Corsican, identified by their narrow pointed cones, which point downwards in their second year. There was also a Larch, with small cones scattered along the twigs.

We arrived at the target field on Bentham’s Way, opposite Christ the King school playing fields, and there was a single Cattle Egret at distance, right against the sun, and looking like a hunched over Little Egret, but that’s our tick!

In the playing field were the usual Herring Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Carrion Crows and Starlings, and also a single Common Gull and a few Oystercatchers and Curlews with their heads down, probing the short grass. On the way back to Kew woods, we admired the orangey twigs of the bare Willows and the coppery dried leaves of the Beech hedge outside Dobbies (see top picture). After lunch we walked around the “woods”, which are still mostly low scrub. A Robin flitted around the hedges and we admired the bright bark of the red-stemmed Dogwood.

One young tree of the Cherry type had a most unusual trunk. Half way up it the bark changed, as if it had been grafted, but there was no lumpy graft scar. What happened there?

And more catkins, this time probably of Hazel, because there were no Alder cones, and the catkins were yellowy-brown.

Then we headed into Dobbies for loos, tea and cake. S & R Raptors were displaying their American Kestrel, Barn Owl and this fierce Little Owl.

As we were waiting outside Dobbies for the bus into Southport, a Buzzard flew in and sat on the fence on the other side of the road, completely unfazed by all the traffic going past.

Public transport details: Bus 300 from Queen Square at 10.25, arriving Town Lane / Town Lane Kew at 11.35. Returned on the 44 bus from Town Lane Kew / Bentham’s Way at 2.32, arriving Southport Eastbank Street at 2.48, and we just made the 2.58 train from Southport Station back towards Liverpool.

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Croxteth, 10th December 2017

There was a “snow bomb” over Wales and the Midlands, but Liverpool was just off the northern edge of it, so we escaped. There was a slow fall of very light snow all day, but nothing stuck. We took the mile-long walk from West Derby Village to Croxteth Hall. The ground on either side of the path is very wet and marshy, with deep icy ditches. Many of the trees lining the path have died because it is too boggy for them. There used to be a big pond in the woods, apparently, which has now silted up, so maybe that’s where the excess water is coming from. About 100 Pink-footed Geese flew over in a double V, heading north, perhaps escaping the snowstorm.

Where it is drier someone has put up new bird boxes on the trees. There were Black-headed Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the fields, and a Dunnock under a tree. This tree, twiggy at the base so probably a Lime, had flaking bark and what looked like the furrows of boring insect larvae  below.

The Long Pond was so green with weed and algae that we couldn’t see if it was frozen or not, but the ducks were all swimming in one clear patch. Two of the Mallards were mostly black and noticeably smaller, about the size of Teals. I wonder what happened there!  There is a Sweet Gum /  Liquidambar tree on the bank, which the old books say rarely fruits in Britain, but once again it was covered with spiky balls. That’s a sign of climate change, I think. The Yew trees in the shrubberies around the Hall, all appear to be male: none showed any red berries at all.  There are half a dozen old Limes in a line along the east side of the walled garden, which appear to have been planted on little hillocks, or perhaps the ground has sunk away. They have very knobbly graft or pollard lines at about head height. How odd they are!

One of them has gone explosively twiggy where the trunk forks, making a thicket like the drey of a giant squirrel.

There’s a Swamp Cypress around there too, still hanging on to its wonderful dark red needles.

The snow seemed to be gearing up, so we thought we’d better head for home. A few more common birds were about – Blackbird, Great Tit, two Greenfinches high in a tree. Jackdaws were calling from the stable block and a Song Thrush was foraging in a field.

We went around by the farm, and inadvertently raised the expectations of the Highland cattle. Their food must come that way, and they thought we were bringing it! They mooed happily and gave us expectant stares.

Here’s our tree species count for the year. We got 69 from the I-Spy book and another 56 which were not listed there. That’s a total of 125 tree species seen, including the rarest, a Wollemi Pine at a secret location that we have been asked not to publicise.

Public transport details: Bus 12 from Queen Square at 10.17, arriving West Derby Village at 10.32.  Returned on the 12 bus from West Derby Village at 1.45, arriving Queen Square at 2.10.


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Eric Hardy Prizewinner 2017

Melody Horan of the School Of Environmental Sciences, Liverpool University has been awarded the Eric Hardy Memorial Prize 2017 for her MSc thesis ‘An Investigation Into How Urban Trees Impact Air Quality Within Central and South Liverpool.’

Melody (right) is pictured with her MSc supervisor Dr Fabienne Marret-Davies (left) at the recent Graduation reception.

Melody has recently joined Miller Goodall Acoustics and Air Quality as a Graduate Air Quality Consultant and the MNA wish her the best in her career.

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