Last week in Formby – a rarity

Tony Carter reports: Last week, I decided to take a look at Raven Meols Hills in Formby as I hope to run a foray there next year. It has a good mix of sand dunes, conifer, birch scrub and heathland. Lots of fungi in the sheltered pinewoods but the dune heath was disappointing.

I found a quiet spot in the dunes to eat my lunch. I noticed that I was sitting beside a patch of Tulostomas melanocyclum (Scaly Puffball or Scaly Stalkball).  It is listed as a 2007 JNCC UK priority species, Critically Endangered because it is a very rare native species with restricted range, found and recorded from only six 10km squares in England and Wales.

20141212 Tulustoma melanocycum R  Meols

For years there was a large patch of these at Ainsdale Sand Hills Nature Reserve. The late Ken Jordan was the first to record them there. But they have slowly disappeared. I suspect because visiting forayers keep digging them up to look at them. I shall record them but keep the exact site a secret.

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off

Fungal Opportunism

Tony Carter reports:  An interesting example of fungal opportunism was in evidence in Liverpool in November. At the place where I park my car every day, the fallen leaves had been swept from the pavement and piled into the gutter to await clearance by the Council. Within the seven days that the leaves were there, two Geastrum triplex (Collared Earthstar) appeared. I wonder where they are now?

20141211 Geastrum triplex

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off

Southport, 30th November 2014

45 Southport bridge
Happily, it was a mild and sunny day with just a light wind, so we walked right down Southport Pier. The tide was out (when is it ever noticeably in?) and there were long views northwards to Lytham St Annes, and to Blackpool, where we could make out Blackpool Tower and the roller coaster called The Big One.  No very interesting birds at first, just Black-headed Gulls, some Lesser Black-backed Gulls amongst the Spartina grass, a cheeky Starling on the rail, and a couple of Redshanks further out. We perked up when about 40+ Shelducks flew up and headed northwards in a low line. Then, even further out, by the edge of a gully, we spotted a Little Egret.

At the end of the pier there is a visitors centre and café, with lots of old penny-in-the-slot machines. They charge £1 for 10 old pennies, which is stunning for those who remember there used to be 240 ! Happily I had remembered to bring some old pennies with me, so we had fun on the machines for half an hour, although nobody won a teddy.

45 Southport Cormorant

Then we strolled along the edge of the Marine Lake. A Cormorant was drying itself heraldically on a post. There were two very dark Mallard drakes, which were almost black, a few Tufties over on the far side, Herring Gulls, a Moorhen, and several Coots. One Coot bore a small Darvic ring on its left leg, black letters on white, saying AZC. I have reported it to Kane Brides.

There were no wild flowers that we could see, just gardener’s shrubs in the ornamental beds. Here’s a bright yellow Berberis.

45 Southport Berberis flowers

Two Pied Wagtails foraged on the paths, and further on we spotted this marvellously symmetrical Yucca with a huge flower spike, now gone over. It might be Yucca whipplei.

45 Southport Yucca spike












Near the fairgound dozens of motor cyclists had come to the end of their special Christmas run, in aid of the NW Air Ambulance. They were all dresed in red suits, and one posed for me, showing off his splendid onesie covered in Christmas puddings.

45 Southport pudding suit

This will be my last blog of 2014, so Happy Christmas to all.

Public transport details: Southport train from Central at 10.23, arriving Southport at 11.10.  Returned on the 2.30 train to Liverpool.

Here is the plan for the next few Sundays:
7th Dec  Xmas meal at New Brighton – meet Sir Thomas Street at 10 am
14th Dec  “Merry Music at the Mansion”, Calderstones – meet 10 am Liverpool ONE
Sunday walks will resume on 18th January. All winter 2015 walks will meet at 10 am Queen Square and the destination will be decided on the day, depending on the weather.

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.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off

Stanley Park, 16th November 2014

44 Stanley Autumn gate
We were greeted by a squawking Magpie at the park gates, and then had a look at the Shankly Gates on Anfield football ground and the Hillsborough Memorial, busy with tourists or mourners taking photographs. In the park, there was little colour apart from the autumn leaves of the Cherry trees. A few Ragwort were still in flower, one or two Daisies and a Buttercup. Of the shrubs, Fuchsias and Hydrangeas were flowering, as was Skimmia japonica with its dark red flowers and evergreen leaves showing well against Spotted Laurel. There was a bright splash of Snowberries in one corner, and by the Isla Gladstone conservatory someone has espaliered Cotoneaster onto the wall, making a brave show of red and orange berries.

44 Stanley cotoneaster

Shrubbery birds were scarce, yielding only Blackbird, Blue Tit and Chaffinch at first, although we later saw some Robins and a Mistle Thrush. On the grass was a young Herring Gull, some Black-headed Gulls and a couple of Common Gulls. Crows mooched around and there were several bold Grey Squirrels under the trees. We met MNA member Chris F near the Isla Gladstone Conservatory and admired the Himalayan Birch and a young Pin Oak. We lunched outside the conservatory, with weak sun trying to come out. Around the lawns were three young Crab Apple trees heavy with bright red fruit.

44 Stanley crab apples

Chris F showed us a fungus in the mulch around some young trees on the lawns. It is an alien, he says, although it’s been found here for a while. Is it coming in with the mulch? It’s Stropharia aurantiaca also known as Leratiomyces ceres and commonly known as the Redlead Roundhead.

44 Stanley Redlead Roundhead

On previous visits we had noted a circle of old London Plane trees, but hadn’t been able to identify the flat-topped tree in the middle. Now we think the central one is a Wych Elm, rather appropriate for a pretend pagan grove!

44 Stanley Plane and Wych Elm

On the lake were Canada Geese, Mallards, a couple of Moorhens and a Coot, all coming to Warburton’s Toastie from a Dad and a toddler. There was no sign of the male Mandarin duck, who may have moved on. Later one lonely Mute Swan cygnet joined the scrum, perhaps driven off by its parents already.

44 Stanley feeding geese

We spotted another bright young oak, again probably a Pin Oak, Quercus palustris, because the leaves are the wrong shape for a Red Oak.

44 Stanley Pin Oak

An old Cherry tree had Gannoderma fungus breaking out all around the base, so it hasn’t got much longer to live.

44 Stanley Gannoderma on Cherry

We crossed over into Anfield cemetery, spotting more Harlequin ladybirds looking for crevices on wood-effect gravestones. On damp mossy grass there were three colours of Waxcaps – white, bright yellow and golden brown. Wikipedia says “In Europe Waxcaps are characteristic of old, unimproved grasslands (termed waxcap grasslands) which are a declining habitat, making many Hygrocybe species of conservation concern. Elsewhere they are more typically found in woodlands. Most are ground-dwelling and all are believed to be moss associates. Around 150 species are recognized worldwide.”

44 Stanley Waxcap white

44 Stanley Waxcap yellow

44 Stanley Waxcap gold

High above about a dozen Pink-footed geese flew over and a Jay flew through the trees. We stopped to look at the gravestone of Norman Alexander Milne, which refers to “dear Mike”. He was the 1950s singer Michael Holliday, who is thought to have committed suicide when he was threatened with “outing” as gay by a Sunday newspaper. We also looked without success for the gravestone of William Herbert Wallace, “The Man from the Pru”, who was once thought to have murdered his wife in a famously mysterious case.

Public transport details: Bus 17 from Queen Square at 10.15 ariving Utting Avenue / Anfield Road at 10.30. We took various buses home, some on the 19 at 2.10 to Queen Square, arriving 2.30.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off

MNA Coach Trip Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve 9th November 2014

Twenty five members joined the final MNA coach trip of the year to Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Our fungi foraging got under way at Charnock Richard motorway services with the dark grey form of Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus var. columbinus and Smoky Bracket Bjerkandera adusta growing on a tree stump beside the coach.

As we approached Leighton Moss a few of us spotted the Great White Egret standing in the reedbed. After checking in at the reception, a group of us wandered along to the causeway. A few friendly Robins perched close to us in the bushes, a Nuthatch called and a Marsh Tit. We noted a few fungi species with Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon, Yellow Brain Tremella mesenterica and Oysterling Crepidotus sp. The Ivy Hedera helix flowers were covered in Common Wasps Vespula vulgaris which were moving around quite lethargically probably due to the cold.

MNA Leighton Moss Ivy1


As we walked along the causeway we had a few treats with a couple of Marsh Harriers gliding out towards the back of the reeds, a couple of Cetti’s Warblers giving brief bursts of song, Water Rails squealing and one of the closest views many of us have ever had of a male Bearded Tit low down moving through the reeds beside the path. We sat in the Public Hide and added Mute Swan, Shoveler, Coot, Wigeon to the list. Out towards the back of the reeds a line of disturbance in the water had us reaching for bins and scopes. An Otter was swimming along underwater causing ripples occasionally raising its head and diving down its sleek tail following behind. We continued along the causeway noting the seed-head from an Orchid, various Lichens with Oakmoss Lichen Evernia prunastri, Usnea sp. and Flavoparmelia caperata. A few more Fungi species with Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa and Leafy Brain Tremella foliacea. Another Cetti’s gave a more subdued song from the reeds and a Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta patrolled the path.

MNA Leighton Moss Leafy Brain1

Leafy Brain

We stopped to watch a flock of Fieldfares settled amongst Hawthorns before continuing up the track towards the farm with grassy fields on either side looking for some Fly Agarics Amanita muscaria that Harry had mentioned to us. We couldn’t see them but the field held a number of male and female Pheasants and our ‘Corpse of the Day’ a female. We continued back and on through the woodland towards Lower Hide finding the Fly Agarics Amanita muscaria on the other side of a hedge in the field. More Pheasants were pecking around the undergrowth with a couple of bold males rushing up to us in hope of a hand-out. DaveB fed one with some leftover bread. We were outdone when a reserve visitor walked by us whistling and calling ‘come on’ and the Pheasants followed him along like the Pied Piper.

MNA Leighton Moss Pheasant1

Plenty of other fungi interest with Waxy Crust Vuilleminia comedens – a grey resupinate fungi with purple tinges growing beneath the bark on dead branches causing the bark to characteristically roll-back, Common Jellyspot Dacrymyces stillatus, Peniophora quercina – a resupinate fruit body of pinkish purplish patches growing on oak, Oak Barkspot Diatrypella quercina.

MNA Leighton Moss Peniophora quercina1

Peniophora quercina

MNA Leighton Moss Oak Barkspot1

Oak Barkspot

Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae, the black boot-lace rhizomorphs of Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea.

MNA Leighton Moss Jelly Ear1

Jelly Ear

Milkcap Lactarius sp. with fresh speciemens exuding a thin peppery tasting milk and a few of the older decomposing specimens covered in what looked like a bright yellow slime mould.

MNA Leighton Moss Milkcap Lactarius1

Milkcap showing milk secretion

MNA Leighton Moss Decomposing Lactarius1

Milkcap covered in Slime Mould

Wrinkled Crust Phlebia radiata – a wonderful orangey crinkled resupinate fungi.

MNA Leighton Moss Wrinkled Crust1

Wrinkled Crust

A few woodland birds with more Robins, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Long-tailed and Great Tits.

Down at Lower Hide we added Teal, a male Goosander, three female Goldeneye, Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, a couple a Snipe and a large flock of Jackdaws in a distant field. On the return walk we heard a Chiffchaff calling, noted a number of nest-like growths of Witches Broom on Silver Birch caused by the Fungus Taphrina betulina, another Fungi – Crystal Brain Exidia nucleata and Galls on Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria leaves caused by the Gall Midge Dasineura ulmaria. At the feeding area close to the reception a bold Grey Squirrel was hanging upside down on a nut feeder before falling off to be replaced by a Coal Tit. Close by a young Yew Taxus baccata was covered in seed cones  – bright red waxy berry-like structures called arils surrounding the single seed. A log placed on a stone wall was conspicuously stained green due to infection by Green Elfcup Chlorociboria aeruginascens.

MNA Leighton Moss Yew Berries1

Yew seed cones

MNA Leighton Moss Green Elfcup Staining1

Green Elfcup staining

Catching up with other members sightings many had seen Red Deer and a Bittern along at Grizedale Hide, also Pintail and a Vole sp. were mentioned. Another great MNA trip to one of our favourite reserves.

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

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off

Waterloo, 2nd November 2014

43 Waterloo blue sails
On a breezy day with a blue sky we walked down from Waterloo station to the beach, noting a Magpie already refurbishing its nest. There was a Red Admiral on the wall, probably looking for a crevice to hibernate in.

43 Waterloo Red Admiral

On the smaller lake (called the Boating Lake, although there are no boats for hire nowadays) were Mallards, Black-headed Gulls, a Moorhen, Canada Geese, a row of young Herring Gulls along the breakwater, and a few Tufted Duck. A Linnet went down into the reeds on the far side.

43 Waterloo Boating lake

There is a sign up about danger from Blue-green algae.

43 Waterloo Blue green algae

Up in the dunes was a small flower, probably Sea Rocket Cakile maritima. It’s supposed to be  purple, but this one was a very pale lilac. It’s also only supposed to flower until August, too, but it was in a sheltered sunny spot.

43 Waterloo sea rocket

Broken mussel shells littered the prom and the hard paved areas. Birds must be dropping them to get at the meat inside. There weren’t so many as there are broken cockles at New Brighton, but the Waterloo birds are learning the trick. There were good clear views over the Iron Men, a fishing boat and Leasowe Lighthouse to the Welsh hills beyond.

43 Waterloo welsh view

We looked through the fence into Seaforth Nature Reserve, where there were Rabbits, Curlew, a Robin, a Goldfinch on a twig, a Pied Wagtail, a Skylark, Cormorants, some mixed Gulls, Coots, Lapwings and some other waders on the far side which were silhouetted against the sun and hard to make out. The fine mossy sward on our side of the fence was full of rabbit droppings. Some Ragwort and Evening Primrose were still flowering as were the last few Daisies.

43 Waterloo daisies

We had lunch overlooking Marine Lake, watching the small blue-sailed yachts manoeuvring around a buoy. As we emerged from the car park area, near the bright mural on the side of the warehouse, we spotted about 20 little clumps of a white-flowered plant in the dust on the side of the road. I think it was Black Nightshade Solanum nigrum.

43 Waterloo black nightshade

We strolled around the Marine Gardens. At the corner of Adelaide Gardens there was a good show of red and orange Pyracantha berries under an oak hedge.

43 Waterloo pyracantha berries

There is plenty of Ivy in the shrubberies, but most of the flowers have gone over now and there were just a few small insects high up on the remnants. Birds included a Great Tit, some Long-tailed Tits and a colony of House Sparrows cheeping contentedly. We came across this fresh burrow in the turf, about 18″ deep, with a paw print in the spoil. It’s a bit big for a rabbit burrow, and there were no rabbit droppings anywhere. Could it have been made by a fox?

43 Waterloo burrow

43 Waterloo paw print

We noted a Tamarisk tree with its odd ferny foliage, which will be a striking pink in the spring.

43 Waterloo tamarisk

There’s a Blue Plaque on one of the houses to Capt Edward John Smith  who lived there from 1898 to 1907, before he became Captain of the Titanic.

43 Waterloo Blue plaque

Public transport details: The Northern line trains were off for engineering works, so 53A bus from Queen Square at 10.20, arriving Waterloo Station at 10.53. Returned on the 53A from Mount Pleasant/South Road at 2.12.


Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off

Autumnwatch Unsprung

It was nice to see a marine themed quiz on yesterday evening’s Autumnwatch Unsprung. A lot of the visitors to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve who were asked to identify the mystery objects seemed to struggle. We have seen all of them during MNA trips on the Merseyside and Wirral coast.

Mermaid’s Purse – the egg case of  Lesser Spotted Dogfish (Small spotted Catshark) Scyliorhinus canicula

The Shark Trust is asking members of the public to record any Mermaid’s Purses that they find washed ashore. This will provide valuable information on species abundance and distribution and information on the whereabouts of potential nursery grounds.

Egg case identification charts and how to record your finds can be found at

MNA Mermaids Purse Dogfish1

Heart Urchin a.k.a. Sea Potato Echinocardium cordatum

This species favours sandy shores feeding on organic deitrus

MNA New Brighton Heart Urchin1

Sea Wash Ball – the egg case of the Common Whelk Buccinum undatum

MNA Sea Wash Ball2

Cartilaginous Bone from a Shark or Ray

MNA Cartilaginous Bone1

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off

West Kirby, 26th October 2014

It was overcast and mild today, 15 or 16 degrees, but with a strong breeze.  Our first bird of note was a Buzzard over Bidston tip, seen from the train. In West Kirby the Mahonia was blooming in the brief sunshine, and a big Ivy in Sandlea Park still had many small flies and hoverflies on it. It was very blowy down by the front. The windsurfers were having a wonderful time, leaping and turning in the strong gusts.

42 West Kirby kites over Hilbre

We were just before a high tide (9.02m at 11.57), built up by the wind. Many birds had been blown over from Hilbre by the strong onshore winds. Next to the marsh there were lots of Oystercatchers, several hundred Starlings in the reeds and about 40 Pale-bellied Brent Geese sheltering on the water margin.  A biggish jellyfish had been stranded on the beach, possibly a small Barrel jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus, although I wouldn’t  insist on the identification.

42 West Kirby jellyfish

By the Dee Lane slipway we enjoyed an RSPB poster, showing the lengths of bird beaks and what they could reach in the sand.

42 West Kirby bird beak poster

We walked south along the prom, enjoying the sound of the wind wailing through the masts and rigging of the ships at the sailing club. There was spray splashing up onto the prom and a dead bird in the surf, probably a Magpie.

42 West Kirby dead bird in surf

We headed for the shelter of Victoria Park for lunch, spotting a Pied Wagtail on the bowling green and a late flowering Cordyline or Yucca spike.

42 West Kirby Cordyline

There was Ivy-leaved Toadflax blooming on a garden wall in Victoria Drive as we headed up to Ashton Park. People were still feeding bread to the birds despite notice about Angel Wing. Park birds included Mallards, Pigeons, Black-headed Gulls, Moorhens, Coots, Greylag and Canada Geese, and many young Herring Gulls. We think we spotted first, second and third year birds, but  no adults.

42 West Kirby young HG

On the path were painted representations of the planets, with the arc of the sun across the path at the far end to show their relative sizes. The distances weren’t to scale, though. The outer planets would need to be several miles away.  In the Upper Park were a party of Long-tailed Tits, a Jay, a Blackbird and several Magpies.

42 West Kirby Ashton upper park

The clocks changed last night, but the clock of St Bridget’s struck 12, even though the face was showing 1pm. They seem to have adjusted the chimes backwards by two hours, not one. One unusual gravestone was for David Donaldson Wynn-Williams of the Antarctic, whom I looked up. He was a polar microbiologist, born in West Kirby.

42 West Kirby antarctic gravestone















There were lots of Harlequin ladybirds crawling about on an “Old Rugged Cross” gravestone, which was carved like wood bark but, frustratingly for them, had no under-bark crevices for them to get into. There was a larva, too, which seemed quite late.

We walked back along the Wirral way, and saw the West Kirby Lifeboat and its tractor coming out of the garage, having just topped up its petrol.
42 West Kirby lifeboat

Public transport details: West Kirby train from Central Station at 10.35, arriving West Kirby at 11.04. Returned on the 14.01 rain, arriving Liverpool Central 2.35.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off

Toxteth Moth III

Last night I had another Moth this one a Blair’s Shoulder-knot Lithophane leautieri. First discovered on the Isle of Wight in 1951 this Moth has rapidly colonized England and is now considered common. The larvae of the moth feed on the leaves and flowers of Cypress Cupressus sp. found in parks and gardens.

MNA Blairs Shoulder Knot Moth1

Posted in MNA reports | Comments Off

Ainsdale to Freshfield on the Woodland Path, 19th October 2014

41 Ainsdale woods

The day started with a blue sky and a fresh breeze, and I took the opportunity to look at the leaves of the Gingko trees in Williamson Square, whose green is now bordered with gold.

41 Ainsdale Gingko leaves

From Ainsdale Station we turned south along Mossgill Avenue and kept going south on the Woodland Path, (white spots on the map).

41 Ainsdale map

There were still some plants in bloom along the borders of the path. Evening Primrose, Ragwort, Scarlet Pimpernel, White Campion, Harebell, Red Clover, late Bramble flowers, and Common Storksbill.

41 Ainsdale common storksbill

We noticed the leaf rosettes of next year’s Mullein, which are very soft and furry. Someone said that birds sometimes pick pieces from the leaves to line their nests. It certainly felt snuggly enough!  Big clumps of Weld were still in flower at the tips, although they are only supposed to bloom until the end of September. As they say, it hasn’t read the book! The plant was formerly known as Dyer’s Rocket and was used for a yellow dye.

41 Ainsdale Weld

The path has been designated the “Butterfly Route”, but this late in the year we saw just one Red Admiral still flying, an unidentified distant moth and an unidentified speedy dragonfly. Near a gateway a very sluggish Queen Bee was crawling right in the middle of the path with walkers, bikers and dogs all going past. John rescued it on a twig and deposited it safely in the undergrowth, where it can overwinter in comfort.

41 Ainsdale queen bee

By the time we reached the picnic tables we were all too hot and stared peeling off layers. An enterprising Robin, knowing that people sitting down means lunch, came right onto the tables to forage for crumbs, which we obligingly supplied.

41 Ainsdale Robin

Bird life was very sparse, with Magpies, Jackdaws and Gulls overhead, a few Blue Tits in the woods, and two Carrion Crows scouting on a grassy verge, but we couldn’t see what they were looking for.

41 Ainsdale hunting crows

Some wild Asparagus plants were going autumnal on the edges, and one bore red berries. Will they grow into harvestable Asparagus in the garden? One of us plans to try it!

41Ainsdale Asparagus berries

On a damp bank was a good crop of the fern Common Polypody with its rows of spore- bearing organ called sori.

41 Ainsdale common polypody

Below the ferns was Liverwort, and some tiny toadstools, just an inch high and half an inch across.

41 Ainsdale tiny toadstools

We crossed the golf course, negotiated the level crossing and thus into Freshfield. There has been a good crop of Rowan berries this year.

41 Ainsdale Rowan berries

On the way home, dark clouds and a gusty wind were getting up. We are promised some storms later in the week.

Public transport details: Southport train from Central Station at 10.23, arriving at Ainsdale at 11am. Returned from Freshfield station at 14.11, due Liverpool city centre at 14.50.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off