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.