There were magnificent displays of flowers all around Maghull station, and congratulations are due to the Maghull in Bloom volunteers and their sponsors, including the Great Mogul pub and other local businesses.
Access to the canal is down Rutherford Road and over the footbridge. A great day for butterflies started with a damaged Comma on the footbridge handrail, soon followed by a Large White, bird-pecked in almost the same place.
One of the many fishermen said the canal is well-stocked with Bream, Tench, Roach, Perch and Pike. We saw many young fish swimming about in the murky waters in Maghull town centre and another fisherman told us they were Roach, which smell bad when they are caught. Further along we watched yet another angler bring in a Bream, then remove the hook and put it back.
On the fields bordering the canal we noted Carrion Crows, Starlings, Jackdaws, Sparrows and Black-headed Gulls. A Cormorant flew high overhead, heading westwards. One Moorhen seemed to be living on top of a hedge on the other side, while another clucked at us angrily as we passed her three tiny black balls of fluff, perhaps hatched just that morning. There were some very tiny Mallard ducklings, too.
There was a Green-veined White butterfly on Creeping Thistle, a second Comma, and a Red Admiral flew across the water. Several Holly Blues were hanging around in the nettles.
Also on the nettles was this small orangey Ladybird with something like 18 spots. Not one of the commoner ones, and I think it’s the Water Ladybird Anisosticta 19-punctata. North west England is getting near to the northern end of its distribution.
Masses of flowers on the tangled verge, including Great Willowherb and Rosebay Willowherb, Yarrow, Honeysuckle, Meadow Sweet. Pineapple Weed, Tufted Vetch and Burdock. None of the Ragwort had any Cinnabar moth caterpillars here either. On the canal edge were the water-loving Water Mint, Marsh Woundwort and Gypsywort.
Just after the Maghull Business Centre there’s a Fig tree on the opposite bank, and what looks like a small palm-type tree. Are they the remains of a garden that’s now built over, right to the water’s edge? There are other surprising things in some of the gardens. One had a very convincing-looking pair of bird sculptures of dancing Cranes. Near Lollies Bridge 17A there’s an Indian Bean tree on a lawn, and one verge has four very active beehives.
We checked all the Buddleia trees on the other side, but there were hardly any butterflies on them. Just one Peacock all day. Where are the dozens we used to see on Buddleias not so many years ago? It was better on the towpath, where we added Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and the always-photogenic Speckled Wood.
There were Greenfinches calling and Swifts overhead. On another lawn we spotted a Mistle Thrush and a Song Thrush feeding side by side. Blackberries and Cherries are ripening. By Lollies Bridge someone had fished a filthy old bike out of the canal, and it was propped up to dry. It was covered with what we think were freshwater mussels. They were smaller than the marine variety, just a little bigger than a pistachio nut shell. There must be plenty of them living down there, providing food for water birds. Our last interesting flower was a Nettle-leaved Bellflower on a shady bank, with just one spike, and another one that had fallen over.
We came off the canal at Jackson’s Bridge, onto Hall Lane. Near the junction of Eager Lane we heard a Yellowhammer, but couldn’t see it. Some of us got the bus on the main road right away, but four of us went to the Hayloft for tea and a visit to the Farm Shop.
Public transport details: Ormskirk train at 10.10, arriving Maghull 10.30. Returned on the 300 bus from Southport Road / Hall Lane (outside the RC church) at 3.35 (which was the 3.29, late), but we could have got the one an hour earlier. Arrived at Bootle New Strand at 4.05.