West Kirby, 3rd March 2019

The record-breaking February heatwave finished with the threat of Storm Freya, expected to arrive mid-afternoon. We cancelled our plan to go to Carr Mill Dam, where there is very little shelter, and headed for West Kirby instead. A light rain persisted all day, and it was very murky over towards Hilbre Island, with nobody attempting the crossing. 

We noted the five young Stone Pines outside Morrison’s supermarket then walked along South Parade from the Dee Lane slipway.

A solitary Cormorant perched on a jetty, balancing on its tail, but there was no point in it spreading its wings, they would have got even wetter.

Despite the drizzle, the sailing club carried on practising their route around the buoys on the Marine Lake.

We lunched in Coronation Gardens with its brave display of spring flowers and an interesting wind vane sculpture of three wild geese. There was no sign of a plate giving the name of the artist, though. We headed back via the tiny Sandlea Park. There were some Dog Roses still blooming straggily in a flower bed and the seaside plant Alexanders was coming into flower. There were no leaves yet on the Walnut trees, but one tall young tree with light-coloured bark and lanceolate leaves caught our eye. Was it a Eucalyptus? To our surprise it looked like some kind of Cotoneaster. They don’t usually make it to tree size. A group of Long-tailed Tits were in a Birch and a Wren was in a rough corner. The heavily-pruned Flowering Currant were starting to blossom.

On our way to Ashton Park we saw a genuine Eucalyptus tree in a garden – the fairly common Snow Gum Eucalyptus pauciflora.  There was a Pied Wagtail on the pavement and a Collared Dove accompanying a flock of House Sparrows coming to fat ball feeders in Park Road. Over our head was a series of loud “wheeping” calls. A Nuthatch? No, it was a pair of Starlings sitting side by side on a high branch, and one was trying to impress its prospective mate with its mimicry. Various ornamental garden trees were coming into bloom, including this lovely Magnolia.

In Ashton Park the Weeping Willow was just coming into leaf, and there were the usual Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Herring Gulls and a Canada Goose. We heard what might have been a Song Thrush in the shrubbery. A Rat was skulking about in the reeds at the south end of the lake, under the Blue Atlas Cedar. Then on to the last bit of the Wirral Way leading back to the station. There were masses of Alexanders all along the banks and the first Hawthorns were coming into leaf.

Another of the garden trees I had spotted earlier was the very early-blooming Cherry Plum, which has been out for about two weeks. In the last few days some lower-growing shrubs have started to erupt into white blossom, and I think they must be Blackthorn. Happily, there was one Blackthorn on the Wirral Way so I was able to compare them. The Cherry Plum is a small tree with a trunk, the first thing to flower every year, and its white flowers have pink hearts. The Blackthorn is a shrub, with very dark bark, thorns, whiter blossom and longer stamens.

Cherry plum
Blackthorn

Public transport details: Train at 10.03 from Lime Street Station, arriving West Kirby at 10.35.  Returned on the 2.01 train, arriving Liverpool 2.35.

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Landican Cemetery and Arrowe Park, 24th February 2019

The thick, soft mist on the Wirral made Landican Cemetery look very dream-like before the sun evaporated it.

The recent unseasonably warm weather has made the Spring suddenly gallop ahead. Blue Tits were being contrary by prospecting the “wrong” nest boxes, ones that weren’t really designed for them. One was in a three-apartment Sparrow box near the entrance and another was carrying nesting material to an open-fronted Robin box.

In some rough ground off the eastern border was a Goat Willow with the first pussy willow flower of the year, breaking out its yellow pollen.

The cemetery was opened in 1935 and the plantings of architectural evergreen trees like Lawson, Leyland and Monterey Cypresses, now look as the planners envisaged. The Golden Irish Yews (which are all-male clones), are covered with ripening pollen sacs. Many of the more recent plantings of young bare deciduous trees still have their identifying labels, so we found a Sorbus hybrida ‘Gibsii’, which is a kind of Rowan with non-pinnate leaves, a Salix pentandra, which is Bay Willow and also a couple of Crab Apples ‘John Downie’, which will have pale pink blossom and red and yellow fruit. At the corners of the Commonwealth War Graves plot are two young trees with the early signs of pink blossom. We have noticed them before but haven’t been able to identify them. Today we found a labelled tree elsewhere with the same buds and bark, so now we know they are Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’, a kind of ornamental flowering Pear, native to China and Vietnam, but planted widely in the USA and becoming popular in Europe

Along the edges of the cemetery were more natural or native trees, including Silver Birch and Lombardy Poplar, and some of the less-modern planting included White Willow with its orangey-red twigs, Hazel with its yellow catkins and Italian Alders with their dramatic long purplish catkins.

For the last week or so I have been noticing small trees breaking into very early white blossom and there were two of them in Landican. I think it’s Cherry Plum Prunus cerasifera. It usually comes out about two weeks before the Blackthorn, which was once said to be the earliest spring blossom. But this definitely isn’t Blackthorn – the flowers are on small garden and roadside trees, not on hedgerow shrubs with black bark and thorns!

There weren’t many birds about, just a Song Thrush on a path, a Chaffinch, a couple of Blackbirds, several Magpies and a calling Greenfinch, which we couldn’t see. There were plenty of fresh Molehills, and we always hope for Hares here, but we didn’t have any luck today. After lunch we crossed the road to Arrowe Park and strolled past its display of Crocuses under the Beech trees.

A Buzzard flew past, just above the Beech tops. The Common Limes in the park have been allowed to keep their twiggy bases (the ones on the streets near me are always “tidied up” by Sefton Council), and they provide wonderful dense thickets for small creatures to live in. For our tree list we also ticked Cedar of Lebanon, Atlas Cedar and Scots Pine, then went to look at the mystery trees near the tennis courts which we think might be Smooth-leaved Elm. Interestingly they were covered with pinkish flowery tufts, breaking out from brown shiny bud scales. Both the bark and flowers look like the photos of English Elm in Roger Phillips’s “Trees in Britain”, but the glossy leaves we saw last year definitely weren’t that species. So is it some kind of hybrid?

Public transport details: Bus 472 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.13, arriving Arrowe Park Road / Landican Cemetery at 10.45. Returned on the 471 bus from Woodchurch Road / Church Lane at 2.29, arriving Liverpool 2.55.

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Gorse Hill, 17th February 2019

From Aughton Park station we headed westwards up Long Lane, occasionally stopping to look at interesting things in gardens – a tiny bird’s nest up a bare tree, a diorama with model woodland birds and animals in the driveway of the Hillcroft Care Home, yellow Witch Hazel in bloom amongst the leaves of a pale evergreen shrub, a clump of very dark Hellebore and this lovely early pink Camellia.

We were half an hour early at the main entrance, so we walked around the paths by the orchard. There were bat boxes high in the trees, what looked like a Pussy Willow just starting to break its buds, two Buzzards and a Kestrel overhead and a Siskin picking the tiny seeds from a Birch cone. There were Hazels all along the hedgerows, shedding pollen from the long yellow catkins as we brushed past.

Gorse Hill is a nature reserve managed by the Northwest Ecological Trust and in 2010 it won one of the Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Service. In recent years they have made a feature of their Snowdrops, and today was their Snowdrop Festival. Although the woodlands weren’t exactly carpeted with them, there were certainly plenty of clumps along the edges of the paths in Cabin Woods.

We sat in the sunshine on the picnic benches by Seldom’s Pond and watched the little birds coming to the seed and nut feeders. The usual Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits, but also a Dunnock on the ground, a party of pink and black Long-tailed Tits and three or four Tree Sparrows, which are quite scarce locally.

Long-tailed Tit
Tree Sparrow

Signs told us that Snowdrops were also sometimes called “the snow piercer” and the first part of the scientific name Galanthus nivalis comes from the Greek words for “milk” and “flower”, while the second is Latin for “of the snows”.

There were also Primroses coming into flower and Hawthorn leaves breaking out in a few sheltered spots, our first of the year.

Many trees there have hanging name labels, and one unassuming shrub bore a sign saying it was a Wayfaring Tree Viburnum lantana. Hooray! We have never seen one, and it might be the only one on Merseyside. It was in our I-Spy book two years ago but we couldn’t tick it. The Wirral Wildlife Trust ranger told us that there were none in Cheshire, and that they only grew on the chalk in south-east England. There is nothing particular to see on this uncommon tree now, just bare brown twigs, but it will have white flowers and red berries (and it supports a number of moths) so we will have to come back for it later in the year. Then we sat in the sun on the edge of Five Acre field, looking at the view towards Southport, and hoping that one of the resident Yellowhammers would turn up. None did. Then we walked around by the northern edge back to Long Lane. The Starlings on Aughton church tower were screaking at a passing Buzzard.

Public transport details: Train at 10.17 towards Ormskirk, alighting Aughton Park at 10.45. We missed the 2.40 back to Liverpool, so got the 2.45 one stop outwards to the terminus at Ormskirk, then sat on the same train as it made the return journey at 3.07, arriving Liverpool Central 3.38. 

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Crosby, 13th February 2019

This was an MNA midweek short walk, starting at Waterloo station at 11am. Unfortunately Merseyrail are working on the platforms, trains are off, so would anyone brave the Rail Replacement bus and come out? Yes, there were eventually six of us, Jim, John, Barbara (me), Dave, Robert from the LBS (botanists) and Val. We walked down South Road and through Marine Gardens, where our first bird was a Collared Dove. Blackbirds and a Robin in the shrubbery and plenty of Snowdrops and Crocuses coming out. In an odd corner south of the Lakeside Adventure Centre and the Marina Club there is a pocket-sized nature reserve, with boardwalks through marshy reeds. We looked for frogspawn but there was none to be seen. Alder catkins were opening and we spotted the first Coltsfoot of the year

A Raven flew over, mobbed by crows. An Oystercatcher flew past. Two Cormorants were diving in the Marine Lake. A very dark Lesser Black-backed Gull perched high on a scaffolding structure in the lake, probably the Baltic subspecies. We peered through the fence to the Seaforth Nature Reserve, seeing Rabbits, Lapwings, Common Gulls, Canada Geese, Pied Wagtail, Black-tailed Godwits, Teal, some Magpies on the fence, one Curlew walking on the grass and a group of Shelduck.

Then we strolled northwards along the prom, past the Iron Men on the beach. Something was hovering over the sand. Was it a Kestrel? When it came nearer we saw it was a Cormorant! Was it really hovering or was it flying directly towards us and only seemed to be imitating a Kestrel?  The resident Skylarks were tweeting softly in the dunes, but when the sun came out three took to the air at once. We went to look at the clump of the very rare plant, the Dune Wormwood, Artemisia campestris ssp. maritima. It wasn’t very impressive, I have to say, but it is the star of this week’s “Sefton Coast” column in the Midweek Visiter newspaper. It is only found in two places in the UK, and Crosby is one of them. The other is on the Glamorgan coast.
In a sandy gully we spotted a little pinkish Dunnock-like bird, pecking about on its own. We considered a Twite, got the book out, and decided it was probably a female Linnet. You don’t often see one of those on its own.

We returned alongside the Boating Lake, noting the usual birdlife – Canada Geese, Mallards, Black-headed Gulls, several young Herring Gulls, two Common Gulls, Starlings, Carrion Crows, seven Mute Swans and a handful of Tufted Duck. To our surprise there was also a pair of Goldeneye, diving to feed.

We finished at just after 1pm, having walked 2.5 miles.

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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Chester, 10th February 2019

We entered Grosvenor Park at the north east corner, off Dee Lane, and spent a happy hour in the chilly sunshine wandering about looking at the trees. There is a tall Giant Sequoia Sequoiadendron giganteum (which may only be quite young) at the northern edge, which had dropped some very large cones.

We admired the rich mahogany bark of a Tibetan Cherry, some young Turkey Oaks with retained leaves and whiskery buds, and this lovely cone of the Tulip Tree, about 4 inches long.

We lunched in the rose garden. Some scattered grain attracted sixteen Wood Pigeons but the Blackbird that had been hopping about in the shrubbery didn’t come out to compete for it. Half a dozen Jackdaws flew over. Then the sky went very dark and we had a brief rain and hail shower, which sent us scrambling for shelter under the Yews.

Along the lower path with the ruins of the old church we spotted a Contorted Hazel and an Indian Bean tree with huge numbers of hanging bean pods. It must have been a lovely sight when it was in flower. There was another redwood-type tree there, with red shaggy bark and tiny cones at the tips of the cypress-like branchlets. I didn’t have my tree book with me and was puzzled by it, but now I see it was probably a new one on me, a Summit Cedar Athrotaxis laxifolia.

A tree with four trunks caught our attention. What is that light grey bark with long dark fissures? Happily, there was another nearby with a tree label. It’s a Katsura, which will have heart-shaped leaves like a Judas Tree in the spring. Its leaves turn yellow in the autumn and smell like candy floss.

Then we headed down to the Groves, looking at the Black-headed Gulls (BHGs) along the riverside, hoping to find our interesting Norwegian commuter. There were a lot of them there of course, but none with leg rings at first. There were plenty of Mallards, two Mute Swans, a single Cormorant diving and fishing, and a few Moorhens. Then we spotted a BHG with a ring perched on a railing.

It flew off and we followed it. We tracked it down to the jetty under the City Walls and found that it wasn’t our Norwegian friend J4U8, but a different one, number T4R0. I have since looked it up and it appears to have been ringed in Poland. What a cosmopolitan lot the BHGs are in Chester!
Added Tuesday 12th Feb. Yes, this bird IS from Poland – I heard from the Gdansk museum today. Ringed as a nestling in 2010 at a lake called Zbiornik Przykona between Poznan and Lodz. It’s been commuting between its home lake and Chester ever since. BHGs are amazing little birds!

Public transport details: Train to Chester from Lime Street low level at 10.17, arriving Chester 11.01. Returned on the train from Chester at 2.30, arriving Liverpool 3.15.

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Sudley House, 27th January 2019

It was very windy, with “wintry showers” forecast, so we decided to go where there would be warmth and shelter, and headed for Sudley House, a small museum in south Liverpool whose grounds are used as a public park. We got off the bus in Templemore Avenue, home of Liverpool’s “Thorn Collection” – several dozen rare Hawthorns and Medlars planted on the wide central reservation there. We didn’t stop to look at them, because there isn’t much to see at this time of year, merely noting in passing one unidentified rarity with pale bronze bark like some birches, but bearing many large red hawthorn-type fruits with one seed, some growing on short twigs springing low down out of the trunk. On Dromore Avenue a single crimson rose was blooming in a garden. Then we climbed up Holt Field, noting the bare Manna Ash trees next to Kylemore Avenue, and across Mossley Hill Road to Sudley House. Some crocuses were out beneath the trees, and lots of snowdrops.

On the east lawn they have a huge old Tulip Tree and a newly-planted Monkey Puzzle, about knee-height, protected by a circle of fencing. Two big old Beeches flank the path around to the back of the house and Daffodils were just opening on the south lawn. There were a few Redwings high in some tall trees and about half a dozen Common Gulls on the open field.  On the a stump of a felled tree was a large crop of Hoof Fungus.

One small Hazel had put out a mass of catkins, and we hunted for the tiny female flowers, which are just like a bud about a quarter of an inch long, but with bright red stigmas protruding, to catch the wind-borne pollen from (hopefully) a different tree.

Sudley has a new sign up about some tree planting in the grounds.  In 2007 they planted eight English Oaks to celebrate Liverpool’s 800th anniversary. They also say they have a Crab Apple collection, a Hawthorn Collection and have begun to plant a WWI Centenary wood, although it is  hard to tell what’s what in the winter. Olive also showed us a leaflet from the Woolton and Gateacre Labour Party, saying that the Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund had bought two new Oaks for Reynolds Park and also a rare Chinese Rubber Tree called Eucommia. We will have to look out for that next time we go!  We lunched on the south facing terrace, overlooking the Hillsborough Memorial Rose Garden.

In a sheltered spot by the path to the old walled garden some garden Campanula was still in bloom, and an old wooden door was showing a different kind of bracket fungus, emerging from all the joints, bright orange and black against the blue paint.

Sudley House was built in 1824, and bought in 1883 by George Holt, a partner in the Liverpool shipping firm Lamport and Holt. He extended the house and redecorated the rooms much as they are today. Like many wealthy merchants he collected paintings and displayed them around the house, and Sudley is now the only house of a Victorian merchant that still has its original paintings. They include work by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Landseer, Millais and Turner. After George died in 1896 his only child Emma continued to live there until she died in 1944. Both she and her father had been important local philanthropists, and Emma’s final act of generosity was to leave the house, the pictures and the grounds to the people of Liverpool, on condition that the house was to be preserved with the paintings in situ and the grounds were to be a public park. It is now managed by National Museums Liverpool and specialises in exhibitions of 20th century ball gowns and evening wear, left to the Museums by wealthy society ladies. All very well if you are interested in posh frocks, but we went animal-spotting. Our first find was this fresh bird imprint on one of the windows. I think there’s a older one to its left. They were probably Wood Pigeons, and since there were no dead birds on the lean-to roof below, they probably survived the collision.

We noticed a huge letter-opener made of ivory in Emma Holt’s study, something that’s not allowed nowadays! We also studied this Mink stole and calculated it might have been made from about 50 dead minks.

They also had some lovely old children’s toys, including this fantastic carved wooden Noah’s Ark. It was made in Germany in about 1860-1870 and the sign commented, “A Noah’s Ark was one of the few toys thought suitable for children to play with on a Sunday because it related to a story from the Bible.” The inclusion of moles, flies and spiders is imaginative, but the carver had probably never seen any real Zebras, because these look like painted-up Mules with those huge ears!

At the bus stop on Rose Lane we noticed a big old Privet bush laden with black berries.

Public transport details: Bus 80A from Great Charlotte Street at 10.14, arriving Templemore Avenue / Rose Lane at 10.37. Returned on the 80A bus from Rose Lane / Mossley Hill station at 2.52, arriving Liverpool at 3.20.

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Sefton Park, 20th January 2019

Despite a cold and misty start, the day turned out to be surprisingly mild and sunny. We decided to go to Sefton Park, as the Liverpool RSPB group were holding their usual event in the Palm House, which they usually do in the week before the Big Garden Birdwatch, to get people in the mood.

We had a wonderful day for birds, getting our 2019 list off to a great start. The south end of the lake was packed with the usual freeloaders – huge numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Canada Geese, many Coots bickering amongst themselves, Mallards, and the ubiquitous Feral Pigeons. We got to wondering if the white shields on the Coot’s faces were made of hard stuff like beaks or were soft like feathers. None of us has ever touched one. We assume  it must be hard, but the shields look “rough” in close-up, like dense feathers. There were “no bread” signs all around the railings, and many were complying, but there’s always one family who have to bring out the doughy white sliced, isn’t there!

There was one Greylag Goose in with the Canadas, and a few Moorhens over on the east side. Further north were other Gulls keeping aloof in the centre of the lake – several Herring Gulls and one each of Lesser Black-Backed and Common Gulls. Eighteen Tufted Duck were clustered amongst them. Near the island was a single Little Grebe and four Mute Swans, two adults and two grown-up Cygnets. Overhead, loud squawking and screeching announced fly-pasts of Ring-necked Parakeets. Several Mandarin Ducks were reported in the park over the Christmas holiday, one female and two males. One male has paired up and we have hopes of successful nesting. The other male has apparently been seen off by the winner and is now lurking in the “River Jordan” pond with Mallards. He’s a very handsome fellow, though.

Amongst the trees there were Wood Pigeons, Carrion Crows and Magpies. Someone had thrown down a handful of seed, attracting Great Tits and Blue Tits, as well as a Robin and a Blackbird. Many Grey Squirrels were hanging about, mooching food or scampering up and down tree trunks. Daffodils were shooting up and demure clumps of Snowdrops were just about to open.

Near the café were several early blooms. Forsythia was just coming out, the pink flower clusters of Viburnum bodnantense had persisted since before Christmas, and the Witch Hazel near the Eros statue made a splendid show

By the Aviary there is a wonderful old Birch which is infected with “Witches Broom”, which makes it grow dense twiggy excrescences

There have been three Kingfishers about in the park recently, and one or both females were said to be in the Dell, but there was no sign when we passed by earlier. But the male was present on the island, and we glimpsed him briefly before he flew off. There’s a Weeping Beech on the other bank of the stream there, and as usual it bore its squad of Black-headed Gulls, keeping watch from the top branches. Note also the marvellously figured trunk of the Dawn Cypress in the foreground.

As we headed towards the Palm House we spotted a Mistle Thrush on the big field.

The bird table outside the Palm House was well loaded up with seed, with several telescopes trained on it. A Nuthatch was a regular visitor

Opposite the Darwin statue is an Italian Cypress and a Corkscrew Hazel, and further around in the ornamental borders near the Peter Pan statue there are Chusan Palms (with scaly, hairy trunks) and Cordylline Palms.

Inside, the RSPB activities were in full swing. They had duck food (wheat) for 50p a bag and it was selling well. There were also lots of kid’s activities like drawing birds and making masks. There’s a Robin that lives inside the Palm House and he or she was hopping about on the carpeted dais behind the main RSPB table, lured by a bowl of mealworms.

We went back via the Dell and one of the female Kingfishers had turned up again and she was sitting very still, watching the water intently. Then, marvel of marvels, she dived and we heard the plop! I don’t think she caught anything, though.

While the rest of the gang were watching a Treecreeper playing hide-and-seek around a tree trunk,  I was admiring the crimson flowers of the Persian Ironwood tree.

The lakeside was very busy in the early afternoon, with runners, cyclists, people walking dogs and families feeding the ducks. Not many of them noticed this roosting Heron up a tree overlooking the lake.

Our birdlist for the day = 27, including several Pied Wagtails spotted on the lake edge. Pretty good for a city park.

Public transport details: 82 bus from Eliot Street at 10.10, arriving Aigburth Road opposite Ashbourne Road at 10.25. Returned on the 82 from Aigburth Vale at 2.45, arriving Liverpool ONE bus station at 3.00.

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A Norwegian commuter

Remember this Black-headed Gull that John C spotted in Chester before Christmas? I have just heard back from the ringing group in Norway, and it seems J4U8 is a regular commuter between Stavanger and the River Dee, a journey of around 1000 miles each way. It’s a male bird, and was ringed in March 2012 in southern Norway. It was then estimated to be three years old. Since then it has wintered every year in Chester by the River Dee, occasionally straying into Grosvenor Park, and has gone back to the Stavanger area each April, presumably to breed.
If you go to Chester, keep an eye out for this amazing little gull.

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Parkgate, 16th December 2018

Yesterday we were subjected to Storm Deirdre, which lashed Liverpool with wind and rain, but it was comparatively mild today. After getting off the bus at Parkgate Mostyn Square we walked along the quayside to the so-called Donkey Stand, where there was the usual civic Christmas tree.

The tide was out, but we scanned the marsh for birds. There were some Oystercatchers on a grassy bit and a distant bird of prey sitting up above the reeds on a higher twig: perhaps it was a Buzzard but it was too far out to identify. Two or three Little Egrets were poking about. One flew up and came down in a different place and disturbed a dozen Lapwings, which we wouldn’t otherwise have seen. A smart-looking Heron was close in.

In the pools were the usual Mallard, Teal, and various gulls. Then northwards from Burton came a male Hen Harrier, being mobbed by gulls and Crows. Eventually he dropped whatever it was he had caught, and he flew off. One Carrion Crow went down into the reeds to find the prize the Harrier had dropped.  After all that excitement,we strolled along to the Old Quay restaurant for our Christmas lunch.

Afterwards we walked back up to Neston for the bus. In the churchyard of the Parkgate and Neston United Reformed Church we stopped to look at two handsome trees, a Monkey Puzzle and a bare Weeping Ash.

The Sunday Group’s tally for 2018  is 84 species of birds, 163 species or varieties of trees and 5 species of mammal (if we are allowed to count molehills!), all seen within the range of our Merseytravel pensioners’ bus passes. Not bad for parks, cemeteries and odd woody corners in an urban area.

Public transport details: Bus 487 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.30, arriving Mostyn Square Parkgate at 11.25. Returned from Brook Street, Neston, on the 487 at 14.36, arriving Liverpool 15.30.

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Chester, 9th December 2018

The morning was bright and sunny, but the rain came down heavily after lunch and washed us out! We started in Grosvenor Park, and noticed that they have re-instated their very smart tree nameposts, probably related to their tree trail leaflet. This Indian Bean tree was festooned with hundreds of hanging pods.

There were several Cedars. The Blue Atlas Cedar and the Deodar had nameposts, but two or three others might have been green Atlas Cedars or Cedars of Lebanon (I favour the former) but they weren’t identified. Perhaps they aren’t sure either!  Amongst the flowerbeds were four willow Spitfire sculptures, built to mark this year’s centenary of the RAF. They are by local artist, Sarah Gallagher-Hayes.

The Grey Squirrels were very bold, scampering right up to us and trying to climb up our legs! The park has a Weeping Beech, and we were amused to see it had a row of birds perched on top, just like the one in Sefton Park, which is always “owned” by a gang of gulls. Oddly, birds don’t seem to like Weeping Ashes quite so much. Another star tree is the Strawberry Tree by the lookout at the south eastern corner of the park. That too had a prominent namepost.

We lunched at The Groves, overlooking the Dee, and hoping to see the Black-headed Gull from Norway, but it wasn’t anywhere near us. One young BHG was squawking and begging like a chick from all the adults, and also from us and our lunchboxes!

After a brief heavy shower we strolled up to the Roman Garden, and admired the tall narrow Italian Cypresses Cupressus sempervirens, which are fairly rare trees, but an entirely appropriate choice here.

We walked along the walls from Newgate to the Eastgate clock and then headed towards the Christmas market. Unfortunately, our plans were foiled by the biggest shower yet, which was torrential. We sheltered under the covered Rows, listening to the Carol Singers, and as soon as we could, headed back to the station.

Public transport details: Train from Liverpool Central at 10.15, arriving Chester 11.00. Returned on the 1.55 train from Chester, arriving Liverpool 2.40

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