Sudley House, 16th February 2020

Even though we were in the middle of Storm Dennis, it was dry and mild, if a bit gusty. We got off the bus near the Liverpool Thorn Collection, a set of rare trees planted on the central reservation between Templemore and Rathmore Avenues. There were lots of large red haws and apple-type fruits still on the trees, but no leaves or blossom yet, of course. Then we climbed up to Sudley House, to the sound of the bell of Mossley Hill Church. From the top of Holt Field there is a wonderful view to the south. On the skyline were three churches. The church tower in the Italianate “campanile” style, could be All Souls, Mather Avenue. To the right of it were  two narrow church spires which we couldn’t identify.

In the grounds of Sudley House the Snowdrops were looking ragged, while the crocuses and daffodils were not quite out.

A Robin was singing from the hedge and there were Wood Pigeons and Magpies on the fields. Near the house someone had put out a pile of chopped apples by a stump. There was a Rat tucking in when we first looked, and later there was a queue of a Common Gull and a Carrion Crow, with a Grey Squirrel making off with its booty.

We went into the house to see their current exhibition of etchings by Whistler and Pennell “Etching the City”, then set off early after lunch, as several of us had other plans.

Public transport details: Bus 80A Great Charlotte Street at 10.13, arriving Rose Lane / Templemore Avenue at 10.40. Returned on the 61 bus from Elmswood Road / North Mossley Hill Road at 12.55 to various destinations.

Next few weeks:
23rd February, to be decided. Meet at Queen Square at 10 am

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 or a wet bench (A garden kneeler? A newspaper in a plastic bag?), 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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Liverpool Museum, 9th February 2020

Pyjama Cardinalfish Sphaeramia nematoptera

It was the day of Storm Ciara, with high winds, gusty rain showers and weather warnings. It was too risky to go anywhere near a park, where there might be falling trees, and we didn’t fancy dodging high waves on  the coast, so we played safe and went into the World Museum for a look in their Aquarium. They have some tropical fish, but they mostly specialise in species that can be found in local waters, like dogfish and wrasse. One tank had skates, rays and these Lesser-spotted Dogfish (aka Small-spotted Catshark) Scyliorhinus canicula, which live in shallow water all around the British coastline. We often see their egg cases thrown up on local beaches.

They have a few of the lovely Moon Jellyfish Aurelia aurita, wafting lazily around their tank. The signage said they live in the Albert Dock and we often see them stranded on local beaches.

The best treat was a Short-snouted Seahorse Hippocampus hippocampus. It looked like there was only one in the tank, clinging to some vegetation which it exactly matched. The camouflage was so good, that there could have been more hiding somewhere. This one was tiny, perhaps 2 or 3 inches long (about 7 cm), but it could have been longer if its tail was uncurled. The caption didn’t say it was local, but they are British, found off the south coast and the Channel Islands.

We had a quick look around the Egypt exhibition, where we learned how to write Liverpool in hieroglyphics, then had lunch and headed home early.

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Eastham Woods, 2nd February 2020

It turned out to be a lovely mild, sunny day, feeling like spring. Eastham Woods are mostly Beech and Sweet Chestnut, and the thick carpet of spiky husks showed that the Sweet Chestnuts had had an excellent year in 2019. On the ground were two Robins and a Blackbird, and higher up was something chucking, whistling and tweeting in an ivy-covered tree. It was a Song Thrush, perhaps looking for a sheltered nest hole. Nowadays the woods aren’t kept too tidy, and much of the fallen branches are left to rot, producing interesting crops of fungi.

Many people were out walking their dogs, including the local Pug club. We saw 14 of them in one group and more later on. One young Mum was scattering nuts and attracting wildlife for her toddler. A Jay came down for them, and all the nearby Grey Squirrels homed in on the free food.

The bird feeders at the back of the Visitors’ Centre didn’t have any Woodpeckers or Nuthatches today, just Blue Tits, Great Tits and the occasional Coal Tit, with a Dunnock on the ground and a Chaffinch in the shrubbery. We crossed the car park to the picnic tables, noting the evergreen Western Hemlock Tsuga heterophylla with its little woody cones.

I hoped to see lots of Hazel catkins today, but the young saplings in the woods didn’t have any. Instead they had held onto their green leaves through the winter. But a big old tree in a hedge was putting on a show for us.

The railings overlooking the river were entwined with the fluffy seed heads of Old Man’s Beard Clematis vitalba, also known as Traveller’s Joy.

Down on the little beach a couple of Redshanks were probing the muddy sand.

Opposite the Eastham Ferry Hotel there are interesting views one way to Liverpool City Centre, Stanlow oil refinery the other and right opposite is Liverpool John Lennon Airport. It’s a great spot for aeroplane fanciers, and one man had a walkie-talkie which seemed to be picking up the pilot’s conversations with the control tower. He told us the plane just leaving was going to Geneva, while the one coming in to land was from the Isle of Man. The railings have recently sprouted some engraved padlocks – “love locks” – although some were combination locks, which we thought was cheating! Lovers are supposed to fix the padlock and throw away the key, symbolising that their love is eternal. On the way back to the bus, we noticed a splash of pale green next to the path and discovered two flimsy young Hawthorn bushes which had already put out their new leaves. That’s very early.

Public transport details: Bus X1 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.22, arriving New Chester Road / opp Woodyear Road at 10.45. Returned on the no. 1 bus from New Chester Road / Allport Road at 2.10, arriving Liverpool City Centre at 2.45.

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Crosby Coastal Park, 26th January 2020

It was a grey and overcast morning, with rain threatened for later. We walked down from South Road, Waterloo, on a bit of a twitch, looking for a rare Long-tailed Duck. At the south-east end of the boating lake were the usual suspects. Seven (Mute) Swans (a-swimming), many Mallards, Coots, Tufted Duck and Black-headed Gulls, all on the choppy water. On the grassy areas were Carrion Crows, Starlings and the ubiquitous Feral Pigeons. Then, to our surprise, we spotted two Turnstones pecking about on the grass. I’ve never seen them (just) inland before.

Hooray, the Long-tailed Duck was still there at the far north-west end of the lake, diving frequently and making it hard to get a picture. There must be plenty of food down there, because it hasn’t moved on after two or three weeks. It’s probably a juvenile female, not as handsome as an adult male, but a good tick for the year, nevertheless.

As we headed southwards towards the Lakeside Adventure Centre, the heavens opened, and we had to battle through a heavy rain squall mixed with hail and a cold driving wind. Very unpleasant! Happily, they let us sit in the back room overlooking the Marine Lake while we ate our sandwiches and dried out. In the same room was the Mosaic man – not one of Anthony Gormley’s, but very similar, apart from being covered in mosaic. I think it’s the one that was in Crosby Baths (the Leisure Centre) a few years ago.

The rain soon cleared up and we did a tour of the four seafront gardens. It was the right time of year to catch the catkins of the Silk Tassel tree Garrya elliptica in their glory.

Some of the Hollies were mildly infested with Holly leaf miner Phytomyza ilicis. The patches are caused by the grubs of a fly, eating the leaf from the inside. It’s one of the few things that can live on Holly.

Green spikes of Daffodils were shooting up and bunches of demure Snowdrops were just out.

There’s a big clump of dramatic windswept Crack Willow trees in the middle of Marine Garden (see picture at the top). Flowering Currant bushes were full of fat buds, with just a few beginning to show pink. The evergreen shrub Laurustinus had its white flowers out, and we admired the red berries with fourfold symmetry of some sort of Euonymus, perhaps Euonymus japonicus.

A few wild flowers were still struggling on. There were lots of Daisies on the lawn edges. We found one flowering plant of Red Dead-nettle and another of some sort of battered Sow Thistle. Near the north gate of Crescent Garden is a huge old Quince bush. Many of the crimson buds were swelling, but there were hardly any blooms. We were struck by the wonderful lichen encrusting its twigs and branches. I think it’s Maritime Sunburst lichen, Xanthoria parietina. It is often orange, but it’s grey-green when it grows in the shade, like this. The air down there must be very clean nowadays.

Public transport details: Bus 53 at 10.17 from Queen Square, arriving South Road / Waterloo station at 10.50. Returned on the 53 from Oxford Road / Courtenay Road at 1.45.

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Sefton Park, 19th January 2020

On our first Sunday walk of the new decade we were looking for signs of spring. It was a misty and frosty morning, not looking promising. However, both Blackbirds and Robins were singing from hedges as I walked to the bus. Sefton Park lake was hazy in the distance, and full of the usual birds – Canada Geese, three Mute Swans, hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, dozens of Coots and a few Moorhens, about a dozen Tufted Duck, two first-winter Herring Gulls and a handful of Little Grebes. The birds certainly FELT it was Spring. The Canada Geese were hooting and parallel swimming, the male swan was pecking at the Canada Geese, the male Coots were swimming low and threatening each other, while the females were collecting nesting material.

We were looking for winter and spring flowers, although we discounted the Gorse. Near the Eros fountain there is a Witch Hazel which I take a picture of nearly every year, and it was particularly splendid this year.

Right next to it was a low evergreen shrub with leaves like Privet, but a bit bigger, which had white flowers and black berries. My friend Google Images helped me identify it as Sweet Box or Christmas Box Sarcococca confusa. It is said to smell of vanilla or honey, but we didn’t notice that.

We had lunch by the old aviary, and noticed a Wren climbing the mossy sloping back wall, probing for small insects, and acting like a Wallcreeper. Some Ring-necked Parakeets flew over, squawking, while a small party of Goldfinches were feeding in amongst the Alder cones. Other birds were the ubiquitous Wood Pigeons, and a murder of Carrion Crows, gathered around a spot on a muddy bank. It wasn’t (murdered!) carrion they were after, though, just a handful of thrown seed. Lots of volunteer litter-pickers were about, doing their good work and helping to make the Park the beautiful place it is, even in winter.

The Viburnum bodnantense near the café, which was savagely pruned a year or two ago, is sprouting again, and putting out its winter flowers.

Near the Palm House the Contorted Hazel had immature catkins.

We usually come to the park on the first walk of the year because it is the RSPB’s day for stimulating interest in next week’s Big Garden Birdwatch. This year’s children’s activity was embedding black sunflower seeds in apples, to make hanging bird feeders.

I was also taken with the picture on one of their tablecloths – a hedgehog outline full of woodland.

They have some unusual trees inside the Palm House. Last year I discovered a rare Norfolk Island Pine, and today we found a Coffee bush Coffea canephora, a “Robusta’ variety from Africa, bearing loads of berries. The raw green coffee beans are inside the berries, but they don’t smell of anything until they are roasted.

Outside, a Nuthatch was visiting the bird tables. In the Dell was one small clump of Snowdrops just about to bloom. The Persian Ironwood tree, another early bloomer, was showing off its small crimson flowers, about 1 cm (half an inch) across.

As I neared home in Crosby I was stunned by this glorious fiery sunset.

Public transport details: Bus 82C from Elliot Street at 10.10 arriving Aigburth Road opp Ashbourne Road at 10.30. Returned on the 82 bus from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane at 2.40, arriving Liverpool ONE bus station at 2.55.

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Leasowe, 8th December 2019

Leasowe is on the north coast of the Wirral, a known area for birds, and even the Merseyrail station signs tell people what to look for.

It was a very blowy day, but there is a very high bank there, part of the sea defences, and we stayed in its shelter all day, not seeing the sea at all.  From Moreton station we headed down Pasture Road and turned left into the Wirral Coastal Park, along the path by the river Birket. The hedgerows were bare and wintry, with hardly any berries or flowers, just a few dried up Haws, but House Sparrows were chirping and there were two Mallards on the Birket. The Alders are beginning to show signs of next year’s spring, putting out thick brown catkins.

In a wet field near the lighthouse a few dozen Black-headed Gulls were huddling in a puddle, accompanied by a handful of Lapwings.

Near Lingham Farm there was a Kestrel surveying the horse fields from the top of a telegraph pole, and a Robin hopping about in some thorny bushes. Flock of Starlings dropped in, then wheeled off again, and some flights of 50 or 100 Lapwings came up in the distance. Was there a bird of prey scaring them? Occasionally we heard the bubbling call of a Curlew, but we didn’t see it. We were looking for any sheltered seats to have our lunch, but they were all on the top of the bank, where it was almost too windy to stand upright. So we settled onto a big square stone block by the side of the path, with a view of Leasowe lighthouse.

The only flowers we saw were some just breaking out on the Ivy, and the bright yellow of the Gorse. There is an old country joke that goes “When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season”. Of course, Gorse is ALWAYS in bloom!

We returned by a way we’d not taken before, northwards on the Wirral Circular Trail along the Birket on the other side of Pasture Road. It was another sheltered path, running alongside the Typhoo Tea factory, and it led us to a different station. There were two Moorhens on the river bank, and we could hear a Buzzard calling, but we didn’t see it. A single bumble bee flew past us groggily at head height. Was this a fertile queen which had emerged from hibernation? There’s hardly anything for her to eat, unless she can get some nectar from the Gorse or Ivy. The only other berries we saw today were these on an evergreen shrub, probably some kind of non-native  Pittosporum, either Mock Orange or Australian Laurel.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards West Kirby at 10.05, arriving Moreton 10.25. Returned from Leasowe Station at 1.43, arriving Liverpool at 2.10. 

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Chester, 1st December 2019

It was a brilliant sunny day, but frosty underfoot. From Chester station we walked down City Road and Dee Lane to Grosvenor Park.  A Blackbird and a Wood Pigeon were making short work of a large crop of Holly berries. A party of Long-tailed Tits flitted through the pollarded Limes, and there was a Dunnock on the path. As a celebration of 130 years of the RSPB, some wickerwork bird sculptures have appeared, possibly made by the same artist who made the WWII aeroplanes last year. They represented a Cormorant, an Egret, a Hen Harrier and an Avocet, all birds important to the RSPB.

A Rat was foraging about, skulking under trees and benches and apparently minding its own business, living on wild food. We were struck by the comparison with the Grey Squirrels, which are greeted with delight and offered food from the hands of little children. It clearly helps to have a fluffy tail!  Grosvenor Park has several mature cedar trees, but most are Atlas Cedars and Deodars. There seems to be only one Cedar of Lebanon, across the lawn south of the Rose Garden. It has even-length needles in the usual cedar bunches (the Deodar’s needles are of variable lengths), and the cone has a domed top, not hollowed like an Atlas Cedar.

We lunched by the River Dee, and watched the local short-cruise boat coming in.

Then we went looking for the two ringed Black-headed Gulls, J4U8 from Norway and T4R0 from Poland. They were spotted again a week or two ago, but there was no sign of them today. Plenty of other BHGs, but not them. There were also some Mute Swans, a Moorhen and a few Mallards. On the “Danger – Weir” warning buoy we spotted a Cormorant.

The Christmas Market outside the Town Hall was busy, and I bought some Winter Aconite bulbs, which are probably a bit late to plant, but we’ll see. Then back through the Abbey Close and along the canal, accompanied by the sounds of the Cathedral bells. 

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.15, arriving Chester at 11.00. Returned on the 2.25 train, arriving Central 3.15.

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Sefton Park, 24th November 2019

It was a mild and damp day, and some of the plants think spring is coming. The Sticky Buds are out on the Horse Chestnut, and the winter flowers of Viburnum bodnantense (no common name) and Winter Jasmine were out, together with the early Hazel catkins.

The park lake was, as usual, full of gangs of birds which (apart from those who dive for fish) must be entirely supported by handouts of stale bread, or anything better that the visitors and their kids bring. There were huge numbers of Feral Pigeons, Mallards, Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls, and smaller groups of Coots and Moorhens. A few Mute Swans were there too, and further out were Tufted Duck, a single Pochard, several first-winter Herring Gulls and a single Common Gull.  One Great Crested Grebe was gliding about on its own, looking quite austere without its breeding finery.

Some Cormorants were sitting on the chain posts.

The trees have now turned fully autumnal with striking copper carpets of Beech leaves under the trees. Here and there were splashes of different colours, like this bright butter-yellow Ginkgo, almost hidden in the Dell.

The County Champion Black Walnut (for both girth and height) which is opposite the bandstand had dropped a prodigious quantity of round black fruit onto the path and into the puddles under the nearby seat. Many of the Alder bushes around the lake were laden with cones, and some trees still had crops of berries (Whitebeam?).

At the top of the steps below the Rathbone statue is a clump of Caucasian Wingnuts, still bearing long strings of double-winged seeds.

Not far from the central café by the Eros fountain is a young tree that we had thought was a Foxglove tree, but now we see that not only are there two of them, but that they were bearing long pods. They must be Indian Bean trees Catalpa bignonioides, also known for their huge leaves. See this brown leaf, with a couple of pods and a normal-sized Hornbeam leaf for comparison.

An old rotting log had a marvellous crop of beautiful fungi. They looked like Oyster Mushrooms and smelt wonderful. They would be gourmet food if they were Oysters, but not being experts, we didn’t dare forage any.

Inside the Palm House we noticed for the first time a large tree with strange fronds. The sign said it was Araucaria heterophylla, origin Norfolk Island. Blow me, a Norfolk Island Pine! It’s a relative of the Monkey Puzzle, endemic to Norfolk Island in the South Pacific and vulnerable to extinction in the wild. They don’t grow in the open in Britain, they need hotter, drier summers, but there may be occasional ones in hothouses like this. I have glimpsed the odd ones in Mediterranean countries, catching the eye by their oddly symmetrical and primitive shapes, like children’s drawings of pine trees.

At the north-east corner of the lake is a young sapling on the bank that I check every time I pass it. I think it’s a Butternut, an American species of Walnut, Juglans cinerea. In the summer it has huge compound leaves, like Ash but at least 18″ long (50cm). The only other one I’ve ever seen was in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Today I looked at the oddly-shaped leaf scars on the bare twigs, which reminded me vaguely of Munch’s painting The Scream. A bit of Googling confirmed that Butternut twigs and buds do indeed look like this.

There are three Kingfishers living in the Park nowadays, but they weren’t showing themselves today, sadly. However, we did see (and hear) more than half a dozen Ring-necked Parakeets. The prettiest bird of the day was a Little Grebe or Dabchick, with its fluffy powder-puff back end, and the bubbles showing it had just bobbed up from a dive.

One additional note, the two Black-headed Gulls which make international commutes in the winter are back on the Dee in Chester, J4U8 from Norway and T4R0 from Poland. They feature in this year’s MNA newsletter on page 18. Keep a look out for them!

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Great Charlotte Street at 10.03, arriving 10.20 at Aigburth Road opp Ashbourne Road. Returned on the 82 from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane at 2.40m arriving Liverpool ONE bus station at 2.55.

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Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, 17th November 2019

Flaybrick was opened in 1864 as Birkenhead Cemetery, and contains the memorials to many famous Victorian worthies of Wirral. It is now Grade 2* listed as being of Specific Historical Interest and is one of the Significant Cemeteries of Europe. It is now also an arboretum, containing over 80 species of tree, including some Champions and some rarities.

Over 400 of the people buried there were killed in one or other of the World Wars. There is an annual Remembrance Service for them in the old chapel, and this year they attached to the chapel railings a crocheted poppy for each of them, accompanied by a label with the name of the casualty.

It was an overcast and damp day, and we headed along to the RC section, which until recently had been seriously overgrown. A team from the Friends has been hard at work for over a year, clearing undergrowth, uncovering forgotten graves and making new woodland paths. We met some of them, still hard at work, and one was the lady who had crocheted the hundreds of poppies.  For all its former wildness, there weren’t many birds to be seen. Plenty of Wood Pigeons and Magpies, of course, but only occasional fleeting glimpses of Blue Tits. However, when we crossed the road to Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm (where there are picnic tables and loos), we were closely observed  by a Robin, who clearly had plans for our crumbs.

Also at the farm were two donkeys, saddled up and ready to give rides to little children. I was amused to see that they were named Homer and Marge.

It seems like only last week that I was commenting that plenty of green leaves were still on the trees but we have since had a couple of stormy nights, and most deciduous trees are now nearly bare. Back in Flaybrick, and walking around the oldest C of E section, we were disappointed to have missed the wonderful bronze display of the Cut-leaved Beeches, but they had dropped beautiful carpets of leaves onto the paths.

We kept on glimpsing a tree with a startlingly yellow canopy of leaves, and eventually found it. It was just the very common Norway Maple, nothing special, but a star at this time of year.

The bark of one tree caught our eye, and it looked like one of the Snake-bark Maples. The tree survey of July 2017 hadn’t mentioned one of those, but we know there are some trees that were missed. Is this one that the survey team overlooked? The tree had lost most of its leaves, but we managed to snag one that had lingered. A quick scout through my tree book (Mitchell’s Field Guide) suggests it might be a Père David’s maple Acer davidii, variety ‘Ernest Wilson’.  It had reddish buds in pairs on opposite stalks.

We looked at the Tulip Tree, hoping for spectacular autumn colour (the tree is famous for that in good years), but all the leaves were down, and they didn’t look as if they had been impressive. But we had more luck with the Swamp Cypress. It is one of the very few conifers which changes colour and sheds its leaves in the autumn. We caught it just on the turn. When it is doing that lovely subtle shading from green to red, it’s my favourite tree in all of Merseyside.

And finally, just as we were going, a good bird. From the top of a bare tree a Great Spotted Woodpecker had us under surveillance, making sure we were leaving its domain.

Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.04, arriving Upton Road / Boundary Road at 10.30. Returned from the opposite stop on the 437 at 2.01, arriving Liverpool 2.22.

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Crosby beach, 10th November 2019

What a lovely day! There was a clear blue sky and it was calm and still. There had nearly been a frost overnight, as people were scraping car windows as I set out, but there were no frozen puddles. Our first stop was Bootle, where we attended their Remembrance service. Then we took the bus up to Crosby and lunched on a picnic table outside the Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre. The thick hedges were full of House Sparrows, some bathing in puddles and others picking about after the picnickers.

On the boating lake were the usual Mallards, Coots, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls. There were also some winter visitors: several black-and white Tufted Duck and a couple of russet-headed Pochards. The beach was quite busy on this lovely day, and the Iron Men were lost among the real people wandering about. There are at least four on this picture, with others in the very far distance.

Some of the Iron Men have recently been dug up to re-set those which had developed a “lean”. I thought they were also going to fix the ones where the sand has moved, making them stand above or below the beach level, but apparently not. However, they all seem to have had a spruce up and polish, with all barnacles and encrustations removed, and now they glow bronze in low sun.

I had brought my newly-acquired seashore book, Beachcombing and the Strandline by Steve Trewhella and Julie Hatcher, and we hunted along the tideline. We didn’t find anything startling. The seaweed was just the very common Bladder Wrack with the occasional strand of Egg Wrack – black strap-like fronds with large (2cm) single bladders along the stipe. The plant grows a new bladder each year, so you can “age” the weed as you do with tree-rings. But if all you get is broken pieces, you can’t conclude anything. There were Razor shells, but most were damaged and broken and were hard to identify. We think we saw both the Common Razor Shell Ensis ensis and the Pod Razor Shell Ensis siliqua. There were also plenty of Common Cockles and Common Mussels.

Cockles and Mussels …

The fine oval shells (pink when fresher) are Tellins, but whether these are Baltic Tellins or Thin Tellins, we couldn’t say.

Tellins

There were a few snail-like Periwinkle shells and quite a lot of small Auger shells Turritella communis. They grow up to 5cm (2 inches), but these were smaller. Notice also that the one on the left appears to have a small round hole near the top. This looks like the work of a “driller killer”, probably a Dog Whelk, although the rarer Oyster Drill does this as well.

Auger shells

We saw a Pied Wagtail rootling for insects in the old Bladder Wrack. On the way back to the bus we walked into the dunes. John identified a distant bird flying away as a Snipe. We had gone to look at one of Britain’s rarest plants, which someone had shown us the location of last year. It’s called Dune Wormwood, and is known in only two patches in the UK, one in Glamorgan, and one here in Crosby Coastal Park. It isn’t much to look at, just dry brown stalks with marram grass growing through it. Its flowers are very underwhelming, too, I understand. The Coastal Park signage mentions it without giving away its precise location. Quite right!

Public transport details: 47 bus at 10.20 from Sir Thomas Street (diverted because Queen Square was closed), arriving Stanley Road / Keble Road at 10.32. From the same stop, the 53 bus at 11.45, arriving South Road / Waterloo station at 12.05. All except me returned on the 53 from Oxford Road / Courtenay Road at about 2.30, but I can walk home from there.

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