MNA Coach Trip Anglesey 20th January 2018

A rather soggy and cold start to our MNA Coach Trip programme of 2018. The first port of call was Holyhead – parking the coach just along from Holyhead Maritime Museum we quickly zipped up fleeces and donned waterproofs before scanning the main harbour. Patience was rewarded for many members who kept their eyes peeled for movement on the water – birds tantalisingly appearing for a few seconds before diving again beside the harbour buoys. We viewed a Great Northern Diver, a few Red-breasted Mergansers, a Great Crested Grebe, Shags and at least two Black Guillemots – one in ghostly winter plumage and another noted by Hugh and co. sporting dapper black summer plumage with white wing patches. On the grassy slope beside the harbour were a group of Oyks and Redshank. We wandered along stopping to watch a Peregrine in the distance above Breakwater Quarry, past the yachting marina and climbed the narrow lane beside a dilapidated hotel. In the lane edges was flowering Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans, and in the lane wall was the characteristic round leaves of Wall Pennywort Umbilicus rupestris.

Winter Heliotrope

We noted the yellow-green flowering umbels of Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum – an edible plant which has been naturalised in Britain since the days of the Romans. Some of its leaves were infected by the Rust Fungus Puccinia smyrnii.

Alexanders Rust Fungus

Some of the Tree branches in the lane were covered in Lichens mainly Old Man’s Beard Usnea sp. and the Strap Lichens Evernia prunastri and Ramalina sp. A bit of a Geology interlude examining the twisted layers of local Chlorite Schist used as building blocks in the walls.

Chlorite Schist

After scanning the harbour again and talking to a local fisherman who had been trying for Herring we wandered down to a cove with a fantastic storm beach – large cobbles had been tossed much further inland by recent stormy high tides than we had previously noted and the cobbles were also covered in discarded Sea Belt Kelp Laminaria saccharina that had been ripped from their holdfasts out at sea, as well as the sinistrally coiled polychaete Spirorbis spirorbis attached to Toothed Wrack Fucus serratus and a scattering of discarded plastic netting. The cobbles were comprised of the aforementioned Chlorite Schist with others being Quartzite & Jasper more typically found on Llanddwyn Island. A Turnstone and Rock Pipit kept the birders contented.

Storm Beach with washed up Kelp

Quartzite & Jasper

We climbed up to the open pasture area adjacent to the rocky coast leading up to Holyhead Mountain. Stonechat, Peregrine and a couple of vocal Chough proved exciting.

At sea were a few Cormorants and Shags with passing Oyks. The Welsh Mountain ponies came over to say hello – Les Hale becoming their friend for life with tempting polo treats.

Thanks for the polos Les!

Rocks were festooned with some of the typical Coastal Lichens with Sea Ivory Ramalina siliquosa, Maritime Sunburst Lichen Xanthoria parietina and Crab-eye Lichen Ochrolechia parella.

Sea Ivory (grey strap lichen), Maritime Sunburst (yellow encrusting), Crab-eye (white encrusting)

Robins, Prunes, Blackbirds, and Song Thrush put in an appearance as we neared the visitor centre with Moorhen, Mallard and a selection of Gulls on the small pond. Jackdaws were vocal on the quarry face and a Raven who had come to the end of its tether with their mobbing turned the tables and dived bombed them a couple of times. We ate lunch in the small visitor centre – the only Marine Life in the small aquarium being a Shanny a.k.a. Common Blenny Lipophrys pholis. Wandered back towards the coach a flock of Starlings overhead and a pair of Stonechat hopping around on the ground in a field in front of the Magazines – the two buildings that were used to store the black powder that was used to blast the rock in the quarry and the ammunition for the fog gun.

We boarded the coach for the short hop around to the old fishing harbour in Holyhead. Another Great Northern Diver, a couple of winter plumaged Great Crested Grebes and a Red breasted Merganser were noted. Some old containers on the quayside had a covering of dead Barnacles – a type of Acorn Barnacle Balanus balanus with steeply conical shell with prominent longitudinal ridges.

Acorn Barnacles

We continued along to Penrhos Coastal Park beside Beddmanarch Bay. The sun had put in an appearance but it was bitterly cold with the breeze. However the birding more than compensated with Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the shoreline – DaveB estimating numbers at 280+, also large gatherings of Waders – scanning through we identified Knot, Ringed Plover, dumpy bodied Dunlin, a dozen or so Curlew, similar numbers of Oyks, a few Redshank plus a few Shelduck. On the far side of the water channel were dabbling Teal and Wigeon rested up on the sand. The oblique angle to the setting sun briefly caused a Herring Gull’s legs to look somewhat yellow but it wasn’t to be… A Little Egret was spotted by John Clegg as we drove along the causeway on our journey home.

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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Kew, Southport, 14th January 2018

At this time of the year we often do a bit of mild twitching – going specially to see an unusual bird that has been reported locally. Three or four Cattle Egrets had been reported in Kew on Saturday, which were probably the same ones as we saw last year at Marshside. But a new year and a new tick!

Before we set out we looked at the trees in Williamson Square, to start our 2018 tree list. There are six Ginkgoes outside what used to be Stoniers, and three Holm Oaks outside the football shop. But what are the other two there, and the one in Queen Square in the corner by New Look? They appear to be of the same species, but we puzzled over them all last year when they were in leaf. They have yellow-green pinnate leaves, but they definitely aren’t Ash. Could they be False Acacia (Robinia) or Honey Locust (Gleditsia)?  One of my Christmas books was “London’s Street Trees” where I read that the Japanese Pagoda Tree Styphnolobium japonica is newly in fashion as a street tree and is often mistaken for the two I named above. So it that what they are? The way to tell is if the new shoots are a dark bottle green, but we peered at the bare twigs from all angles and couldn’t see any green. Maybe the new spring growth will be green.

We enjoyed the long bus ride up through Lydiate and Halsall, spotting crops of cabbage and sprouts still in the fields. It was cold, but bright and sunny. In Kew we headed down Bentham’s Way, past Dobbie’s garden centre, detouring briefly to look in Fine Janes Brook. There was a  Moorhen and a Mallard, with a Kestrel hovering over the rough grass.  We were able to identify some winter trees – Alder with its dark purplish catkins and cones, Ash with last year’s keys and black buds, Horse Chestnut with their sticky buds and horseshoe-shaped leaf scars. The young pines were Scots, not Corsican, identified by their narrow pointed cones, which point downwards in their second year. There was also a Larch, with small cones scattered along the twigs.

We arrived at the target field on Bentham’s Way, opposite Christ the King school playing fields, and there was a single Cattle Egret at distance, right against the sun, and looking like a hunched over Little Egret, but that’s our tick!

In the playing field were the usual Herring Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Carrion Crows and Starlings, and also a single Common Gull and a few Oystercatchers and Curlews with their heads down, probing the short grass. On the way back to Kew woods, we admired the orangey twigs of the bare Willows and the coppery dried leaves of the Beech hedge outside Dobbies (see top picture). After lunch we walked around the “woods”, which are still mostly low scrub. A Robin flitted around the hedges and we admired the bright bark of the red-stemmed Dogwood.

One young tree of the Cherry type had a most unusual trunk. Half way up it the bark changed, as if it had been grafted, but there was no lumpy graft scar. What happened there?

And more catkins, this time probably of Hazel, because there were no Alder cones, and the catkins were yellowy-brown.

Then we headed into Dobbies for loos, tea and cake. S & R Raptors were displaying their American Kestrel, Barn Owl and this fierce Little Owl.

As we were waiting outside Dobbies for the bus into Southport, a Buzzard flew in and sat on the fence on the other side of the road, completely unfazed by all the traffic going past.

Public transport details: Bus 300 from Queen Square at 10.25, arriving Town Lane / Town Lane Kew at 11.35. Returned on the 44 bus from Town Lane Kew / Bentham’s Way at 2.32, arriving Southport Eastbank Street at 2.48, and we just made the 2.58 train from Southport Station back towards Liverpool.

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Croxteth, 10th December 2017

There was a “snow bomb” over Wales and the Midlands, but Liverpool was just off the northern edge of it, so we escaped. There was a slow fall of very light snow all day, but nothing stuck. We took the mile-long walk from West Derby Village to Croxteth Hall. The ground on either side of the path is very wet and marshy, with deep icy ditches. Many of the trees lining the path have died because it is too boggy for them. There used to be a big pond in the woods, apparently, which has now silted up, so maybe that’s where the excess water is coming from. About 100 Pink-footed Geese flew over in a double V, heading north, perhaps escaping the snowstorm.

Where it is drier someone has put up new bird boxes on the trees. There were Black-headed Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the fields, and a Dunnock under a tree. This tree, twiggy at the base so probably a Lime, had flaking bark and what looked like the furrows of boring insect larvae  below.

The Long Pond was so green with weed and algae that we couldn’t see if it was frozen or not, but the ducks were all swimming in one clear patch. Two of the Mallards were mostly black and noticeably smaller, about the size of Teals. I wonder what happened there!  There is a Sweet Gum /  Liquidambar tree on the bank, which the old books say rarely fruits in Britain, but once again it was covered with spiky balls. That’s a sign of climate change, I think. The Yew trees in the shrubberies around the Hall, all appear to be male: none showed any red berries at all.  There are half a dozen old Limes in a line along the east side of the walled garden, which appear to have been planted on little hillocks, or perhaps the ground has sunk away. They have very knobbly graft or pollard lines at about head height. How odd they are!

One of them has gone explosively twiggy where the trunk forks, making a thicket like the drey of a giant squirrel.

There’s a Swamp Cypress around there too, still hanging on to its wonderful dark red needles.

The snow seemed to be gearing up, so we thought we’d better head for home. A few more common birds were about – Blackbird, Great Tit, two Greenfinches high in a tree. Jackdaws were calling from the stable block and a Song Thrush was foraging in a field.

We went around by the farm, and inadvertently raised the expectations of the Highland cattle. Their food must come that way, and they thought we were bringing it! They mooed happily and gave us expectant stares.

Here’s our tree species count for the year. We got 69 from the I-Spy book and another 56 which were not listed there. That’s a total of 125 tree species seen, including the rarest, a Wollemi Pine at a secret location that we have been asked not to publicise.

Public transport details: Bus 12 from Queen Square at 10.17, arriving West Derby Village at 10.32.  Returned on the 12 bus from West Derby Village at 1.45, arriving Queen Square at 2.10.


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Eric Hardy Prizewinner 2017

Melody Horan of the School Of Environmental Sciences, Liverpool University has been awarded the Eric Hardy Memorial Prize 2017 for her MSc thesis ‘An Investigation Into How Urban Trees Impact Air Quality Within Central and South Liverpool.’

Melody (right) is pictured with her MSc supervisor Dr Fabienne Marret-Davies (left) at the recent Graduation reception.

Melody has recently joined Miller Goodall Acoustics and Air Quality as a Graduate Air Quality Consultant and the MNA wish her the best in her career.

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Chester, 3rd December 2017

I wanted a Norway Spruce, and now they are everywhere as Christmas trees! There’s hardly a town square or greengrocer’s shop without several of them on display. What I really want, though, is one with its roots still in the ground. There’s a tall, narrow conifer in Grosvenor Park, Chester which might be one. Although there were no papery Spruce cones hanging below its branches to confirm it, and no woody fir or pine cones on the ground beneath to tell us it wasn’t a Spruce, I will count it (or the Christmas trees) as our last I-Spy tree of the year, taking us to 1280 points.

The little pond in the park had only Mallards, Moorhens, and some Black-headed Gulls. Fearless Grey Squirrels were underfoot everywhere, and someone had thrown down monkey nuts for them (peanuts still in their fawn papery shells). One was left, and some pigeons were squabbling over it. Finally a Wood Pigeon made off with the bulky prize, swallowing it whole, shell and all, down into its crop. A bit further on we saw a squirrel displaying some semi-natural behaviour, burying one of the monkey nuts after carefully looking about to see that none of its rivals was watching.

On one of the lawns there were two tiny little Ragwort plants in flower, only four or five inches tall. They are tough little plants to be flowering so late in the year.

Near the rose garden is a Tulip Tree bearing lots of cones. We never see the flowers in such profusion. Do they flower just a few at a time, I wonder?  Some of the cones had Ladybirds on them, all appearing to be Harlequins. I think they instinctively climb at this time of year, looking for a crevice to overwinter in.

More Harlequin ladybirds were at the tops of the bollards along the riverside at the Groves. They couldn’t get any higher and were circling the tops, probably stranded but unable to choose to go down again.

Garden-variety Campanulas were sprouting and flowering all over the old wall up Souter’s Lane.

There is a very strange droopy tree on the lawn by the Cathedral. Our first reaction was to call it the famously pendulous Brewer’s Spruce, but the foliage was definitely cypressy.  I didn’t inspect it very closely, but after looking it up I suspect it might be the pendulous variety of Nootka Cypress Xanthocyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’, sometimes nicknamed the Afghan Hound Tree, and you can see why. I will have to look at it again in the summer, when it is said to have conspicuous bright navy cones, 2cm across.

The Christmas market was busy, and then we headed back to the station through Abbey Square and the Kaleyards. Oddly, they have a large pigeon loft there, and a sign asking people not to feed pigeons anywhere else. I wonder if that has worked? I can’t remember seeing flocks of pigeons anywhere else in the city, so maybe it has.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.15, arriving Chester 11.00. Returned on the train from Chester at 2.55, arriving Central 3.40.

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Sherdley Park, St Helens, 26th November 2017

There was a brief hail shower as we left Lea Green Station, but by the time we had made the short walk to Sherdley Park it had passed over. By the Sustrans cycle path is a set of “portrait bench” metal sculptures featuring the endurance athlete and fundraiser Steve Prescott, the comedian Johnny Vegas and an anonymous glass blower.

We headed for the small lake, but there were only Mallards and a supermarket trolley in it. However, we did see a Treecreeper nearby. A tall tree caught our eye, and the remaining dark red foliage on it clearly marked it as a conifer. It didn’t have the figured trunk of a Dawn Redwood, so we think it was a Swamp Cypress (which their website claims they have, but no location given.)

There used to be a Pet’s Corner in the park, with Wallabies, Rheas, and other birds and small mammals, but it was closed in February 2017.

Some Goldfinches were twittering on Alder cones, joined by some Long-tailed Tits, while three Crows cawed at us from an overhanging branch. Despite the sun coming out, the open parkland was quite cold and bleak. We found an old metal shelter for our lunch and thought about leaving early.

We decided to have a look at a woodland path heading northwards, and it was much more to our liking. Delph Wood, made up mostly of Beech, was sheltered from the wind and felt much more natural. It’s known as a good bluebell wood in spring, so we may return then. A mixed flock of Tits passed through, with a couple of Chaffinches, and John spotted a Buzzard flying off through the trees. The floor was carpeted with bronze Beech leaves, while the woods had occasional splashes of yellow from the Norway Maples and darker red from the Oaks.  One tree had striking vertically-cracked bark and yellow fallen leaves with long points. I have looked them up at home, and it WAS a Hornbeam, although the leaves we have seen recently have been much smaller. Many books say the bark cracks like this, too.

A stream runs through the wood, with little bridges over it, and some of the paths were very muddy, not all provided with causeways!

Another squall threatened, and the low sun provided a wonderful rainbow. It also lit up a young tree, perhaps a Rowan or Whitebeam, with white tips to its branches.

Public transport details: Manchester Airport Train from Lime Street at 10.15 arriving Lea Green station at 10.45. Returned from Lea Green at 2.35, arriving Lime Street 3.00.

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Princes Park, 19th November 2017

Princes Park in south Liverpool was designed by Joseph Paxton and opened in 1842, one of the first parks in England to have public access. There is an active “Friends” group, who have been planting many unusual young trees in the last few years. Many of them have QR codes attached, enabling people with smartphones to look up the tree’s name and description.  To see their current tree list, go to the FOPP website. Under “About us” there is a menu item “Park Trees”. At the bottom of that page the QR numbers are listed, each leading to names and descriptions. On each description page, at the bottom right, is a link to a map of tree locations.

Our main target today was one of the very few remaining trees on our I-Spy list, an Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens. The foliage is said to smell of shoe polish, although when we sniffed it we found only a faint aroma. It was worth 20 points, which we doubled by correctly answering the question “How does this tree get its name?” (Not hard – it’s because of the scented leaves, wood and resin.) We now have 1265 tree points.

We admired the lovely rusty-red foliage of the Dawn Redwood, which is one of the very few deciduous conifers, then headed down to the area near Windermere Terrace to look at their collections of Thorns and Rowans. There isn’t much to see at this time of year, and we should plan to return in both spring and autumn, to look at the flowers and the fruits. Sadly, we found some trees missing, both the Midland Hawthorn “Paul’s Scarlet” (their number 18) and the Vilmorin’s Rowan (their number 24). We lunched in the sunshine, overlooking lake, then set off around the west side. The Silver Maple Acer saccharinum  (38a) has very deeply-cut leaves, which we have previously mistaken underfoot for Oriental Plane leaves, when we were here on the MNA short (and very wet) walk last month. This is what Silver Maple leaves look like. They very rarely go red, just yellow.

Their Autumn-flowering Cherry Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ (30) was blooming demurely.

They have a Foxglove tree, with its huge leaves, and we were amazed to see that it appears to be in bud already.

We stopped by a big old tree with gnarly bark and deeply-cut palmate leaves. Was it an old Silver Maple?  No, the seeds were hanging spiky balls, so it was definitely not a Maple. Was it a Sweet Gum? The fallen leaves didn’t have that tree’s characteristic aromatic scent, so we concluded that was probably an Oriental Plane Platanus orientalis. I wonder if it is as old as the park, 175 years old?

Up on the west bank of the lake are two multi-trunked Chinese Privets Ligustrum lucidum, which we saw in copious flower in October, but they have now gone over. They are tall, attractive evergreen trees, and the flowers, looking like ordinary privet on steroids, are said to be wonderfully scented. Pity we missed that. There were just a few little ripe berries.

Our autumn colour seems to have finally arrived. The Beech leaves are coppery and on Saturday at Carsington Water all the Field Maple leaves were a lovely bright yellow. This fabulous little crimson Maple was on a steep bank in Princes Park, and there are so many species and varieties, they are nearly impossible to identify. Intensely red is all I can say!

We now have just eight trees left in the I-Spy book year challenge. I would have loved to get them all, but it isn’t going to happen. Here are the ones we are still missing.
1. The English Elm, now almost completely extinct in England following Dutch Elm Disease.
2.  Wayfaring Tree. It’s one of the Viburnums, and lives on chalk, so we won’t find it around here. I asked the Cheshire WT ranger about it, and she confirmed there definitely weren’t any in Cheshire, so not much hope for the rest of Merseyside.
3. Wild Service Tree is quite rare, and although native, is said to be found only in pockets of ancient woodland.
4. The Pencil Cedar is one of the Junipers, which are all very rare in Liverpool. The only ones we have found so far are in Calderstones Park, in the Old English and Japanese gardens, all heavily topiarised, and I don’t think any of them were Pencil Cedars.
5. White Cedar, which isn’t a cedar at all, but is Thuja occidentalis. We are very unskilled at conifer identification, so if this isn’t listed on a park’s tree map (which it isn’t) we have little chance of noticing it
6. Cider Gum. The common Eucalyptus of waysides and gardens is the Snow Gum, and we’ve seen plenty of them, but no Cider Gums.
7 and 8 are Norway Spruce and Sitka Spruce, both very common trees nationally. I am almost ashamed to admit to not finding any, and my Scottish relatives are laughing their socks off, but Spruces are trees of higher, colder climes. Mitchell says definitely that Sitka Spruces are absent from town parks and gardens, and that sickly Norway Spruce are occasionally found in gardens as planted Christmas trees. I don’t feel so bad now.
If anyone knows of an example of one of these eight missing trees that the Sunday Group could easily find in the few remaining Sundays of the year, I’d appreciate a heads-up!

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Great Charlotte Street at 10.04, arriving Princes Avenue / Kingsley Road at 10.15. Returned from Princes Road / Princes Gate West on the 75 at 2.30, arriving Renshaw Street at 2.40.

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MNA Coach Trip Carsington Water 18th November 2017

Crikey! Time flies – it’s been four years since the MNAs last visit to Severn Trent Water’s Reservoir at Carsingston Water. Usually we take a clockwise direction from the visitor centre to the heated hide at the Wildlife Centre before following the trail towards Lane End, Sheepwash and Paul Stanley bird hides. After consulting the recent bird sightings on the Carsington Bird Club website we decided to head anticlockwise along the dam passing the valve tower towards Millfields Bay.

Bruce, Ron and Hugh

Millfields Bay

The water level in the reservoir was at around ¾ full and stone boulders were exposed along the edge of the dam area where a Pied Wagtail was tail bobbing around. Plenty of Coot, Lapwings on the water’s edge, Mute Swans upending, Tufties, a couple of Great crested Grebes in ghostly winter plumage and a smattering of Teal. Further along at Millfields a great gathering of Wildfowl with Goldeneye at least 4m,1f with one male giving very close views and a few displaying, Wigeon calling ‘pjiew pjiew,’ Pochard, more Tufties, 1m,2f Shoveler joining a handful of Gadwall and Wigeon in a gloopy mud patch. Three Ruff were flying around for a while.


A bit lunch before Fungi- ing around the adjacent trees which produced some nice finds – Common Jellyspot Dacrymyces stillatus, Crystal Brain Exidia nucleata, Oysterling Crepidotus sp. Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon, Green Elfcup Chlorociboria aeruginascens, Wood Blewit Lepista nuda and Oak Crust Peniophora quercina with Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa and Hairy Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum further along the trail.

Wood Blewit


Oak Crust

We were surprised by the variety of Plants still flowering noting Red Campion Silene dioica, Herb Robert Geranium robertianum, Bush Vetch Vicia sepium and plenty of Common Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium.

We continued through woodland with Long-tailed, blue and Great Tits, a few Robins, Blackbirds then found an Alder tree that had attracted a handful of Goldfinch and a female Siskin – other Siskin could be heard calling as we wandered along. We located a flock of Redwing sitting high up in the bare branches of a few Trees and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew across the track. The light was already fading so we re-traced our steps past the Stones Shelter with its sitting room design with wooden furniture, piano, lamps stand and telephone etc.

Stones Shelter

Meeting up with the rest of the group at the visitor centre – John Clegg and co had seen a Kingfisher close to the Carsington Sailing Club and Harry Standaloft and Les had seen a large flock of Fieldfare. There we also had Mammal of the Day – a Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus scurrying across from beneath the bird feeders to a small hedge.

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, 12th November 2017

We attended the Remembrance Service at St George’s Hall on a bright and sunny day, but with a perishingly cold wind blowing down Lime Street. Thoroughly chilled, we retreated to the Museum’s  picnic area on the fourth floor for lunch. And once we were nicely warmed up we didn’t fancy setting out again for Princes Park, as we had planned, so we stayed for a look around.

The Natural History area on the fourth floor has been re-arranged, and we admired the large slab of rock (about six feet long) taken from Storeton Quarry in the 19th century and showing the tracks of Merseyside’s very own prehistoric beast, the crocodile-like ancestors of the dinosaurs called Pseudosuchians. These tracks show their small front feet and large back feet, which are about the size of a human hand.

There were cases of exotic butterflies on display, and also a useful box of British rodent skulls.

The man who does the “Replicated taxidermy” was selling his wares, including this rather splendid Dodo head.

In the drawers of specimens were two birds still missing from our I-Spy lists, a Yellowhammer and a Bullfinch, but I think it might be a little desperate to try and claim long-dead specimens!  Here’s the Bullfinch, flanked by a Siskin and a Hawfinch.

We admired this marvellous Ammonite, about two feet across.

In the aquarium on the first floor was a display about the Mersey Estuary, mentioning Grey Seals, Smoothhound Sharks, Thornback Rays, the 2015 Humpback Whale and the return of Salmon since the river has been cleaned up. In a tank of local sea creatures were two Lesser Weever fish Echiicthys vipera. Each one was sitting quite still, partly buried in the sand, but with the black spine visible. This one was about 2 inches long. They are why we should not wade about on local beaches with bare feet, because the spine gives a very painful sting. The answer, apparently, is to put the affected foot in a bucket of hot water, to denature the protein venom.

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New Brighton, 5th November 2017

House Sparrows chirped at us from the shrubs outside Wallasey Grove Road Station, and we headed down Groveland Road, Newport Avenue and Bayswater Road to King’s Parade and the New Brighton seafront at Harrison Drive. It was blowy even there, and on the last bit of sheltered grass before the seafront, various gulls, Starlings and Oystercatchers were sheltering. At Kings Parade a strong northwest wind was driving the high tide against the sea wall.

Huge waves and plumes of water were crashing over the edge, throwing gobbets of spume like  blobs of raw meringue to the far side of the road. It was invigorating, but we didn’t walk on THAT side!

It was more sheltered as we approached the built-up area near Bubbles World of Play, and we spotted a Mute Swan sheltering in a corner of the model boating lake. On the south side of King’s Parade near Atherton Street we looked at a shrub hanging over a wall that appeared to be the Duke of Argyll’s Tea Tree. The flowers were pinker than the one at Marshside, so maybe it was something else.

The pontoons behind Bella Italia were full of roosting waders.

They were mostly Redshanks, but at the edges of the tight flock were Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, and Dunlins with their black legs.

Near the corner was a single winter-plumaged Knot. You don’t often see one of them on its own!

Our usual lunch seats in a seaside shelter were cordoned off while gangs of workers stacked up speakers for this evening’s “River of Light” fireworks display. We found seats in Marine Park. Then we strolled along the riverside, south of Fort Perch Rock, where it was less windy. New Brighton have joined the “sculpture trail” fashion, choosing a mermaid as their emblem. There are six of them, variously painted, and a storyboard about a young sailor who lost his heart.

We went as far as the children’s driftwood pirate ship, the Black Pearl, then up to New Brighton Station for the train.

Public transport details: New Brighton train from Central at 10.20, arriving Wallasey Grove Road at 10.38. Returned from New Brighton station at 2.23, arriving Central at 2.50.

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