This is the time of year when the Great Crested Grebes do their famous mating dance, so despite the weather forecast threatening strong winds and hail, we set off for Carr Mill Dam, the nearest place to see plenty of them.
It was surprisingly sunny as we took the path along to Otterswift Farm. The hedgerows had Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blue Tit and Great Tit. The Blackthorn is out, Hawthorns are in early pale green leaf and there is lots of blooming yellow Forsythia in gardens and municipal roadside plantings. We got to the “19-arches” bridge in time for lunch, and kept our eyes on the 10 or so mated pairs of Grebes that were in view on either side. They were swimming and diving, but sadly, not strutting their stuff.
There were also lots of Canada Geese and a few Mallards lingering on the sheltered side. We had a few flurries of hail as we set off along the muddy paths of the east side of the lake. Despite some very strong gusts of wind and one very heavy hail shower, we made it around in record time, hardly stopping to look at anything! At the spot called the The Goyt, where a little brook joins the lake, the water was very high and the woodlands below were wetter than I remember seeing before. Some Wild Garlic was showing its leaves and there were patches of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage.
On the firmer footing of Garswood Old Road we spotted a Cormorant flying towards the lake and heard a Greenfinch. The overflow was also in spate, with the spillway down to the Sankey Brook foaming white over the stepped surface. After a reviving pot of tea in the Toby Carvery Waterside, we headed back for our bus.
Just to add that on the MNA short walk to Arrowe Park on 6th March we spotted three Mandarin ducks, two males and a female, lined up on a log in the Arrowe Brook. More possible ducklings to look out for later in the year! It looks like a small population may soon be established on Merseyside.
Public transport details: The Blackpool train from Lime Street at 10.18, arriving St Helens Central at 10.45. Then bus 352 (towards Wigan) from St Helens bus station at 10.55, arriving Martindale Road / Deepdale Avenue at 11.06. Returned on the 352 bus from Carr Mill Road / East Lancs Road at 2.10, arriving St Helens bus station at 2.20. Some of us got the 2.35 train back to Liverpool, arriving Lime Street station at 3.05.