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

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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