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.