In suburban gardens the Forsythia and Quince are flowering and the Magnolia buds are just bursting. It was a sunny spring-like day, but with ominous clouds over Parkgate.
In the pools on the marsh were Mallard, Black-headed Gulls, Canada Geese, Moorhen, Redshank, Teal and Oystercatchers. A Pied Wagtail flew in near the wall, and a Little Egret flew by, now a common sight at Parkgate. Less common was a Great White Egret, stalking about like a Heron.
A squall blew in from the Welsh side, bringing cold gusts of driving rain, but it went off just as we reached the picnic tables at the Old Baths. After lunch, we took the path to the Wirral Way and walked to Neston.
About twelve Curlew flew up from adjacent field, and passed overhead, calling. At one of the few gaps in the thick hedges we were able to look into a stubble field, which must have had plenty of spilled grain, because there was a flock of Linnets, several Carrion Crows, a Chaffinch, a Mistle Thrush and two male Pheasants. Dunnocks were sitting up high and singing, not skulking in the undergrowth as they usually do, and a succession of Robins sang us along.
Signs of spring flowers were pushing up. Wild Arum and Wild Garlic are just leaves yet, but there were a few early flowers of Hogweed, Cow Parsley and Lesser Periwinkle. The first of the Lesser Celandine were showing their bright yellow blooms.
The best plant of the day was something of a mystery. We spotted several clumps of pale lilac flowers, very low to the ground, rather like crocuses, but the flowers were hooded. There were five or six clumps of these odd flowers, all in the same few yards of verge, but no more anywhere else.
I think it was Purple Toothwort, Lathrea clandestina. It is parasitic on the roots of Willow, Alder and Poplar and likes damp, shady places. It isn’t native, it’s a “neophyte”, and has been in the UK for over a century. Still fairly uncommon, although the Wirral is one if its known haunts. It was not far south of the Brooklands Road bridge, on the east side of the Wirral Way.
We emerged from the path behind the church of St Mary and St Helen, Neston. One grave was planted with Forget-me-Not, which is quite appropriate but we didn’t know what to make of the one planted with Wild Garlic. It made us think of Vampires!
Opposite the bus stop is this wall sign for the Neston Female Society, founded 1814. It seemed appropriate for International Women’s Day.
Public transport details: Bus 487 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.29, arriving Parkgate Donkey Stand at 11.22. Returned on 487 from Neston at 3.44, arriving Liverpool 4.20.
Next few weeks: No more Sunday walks until further notice.
Anyone is welcome to come out with the Sunday Group. It is not strictly part of the MNA, although it has several overlapping members. We go out by public transport to local parks, woods and nature reserves all over Merseyside, and occasionally further afield. We are mostly pensioners, so the day is free on our bus passes, and we enjoy fresh air, a laugh and a joke, a slow amble in pleasant surroundings and sometimes we even look at the wildlife!
If you want to join a Sunday Group walk, pack lunch, a flask, waterproofs, binoculars if you have them, a waterproof pad to sit on if we have to have lunch on the grass or a wet bench (A garden kneeler? A newspaper in a plastic bag?), and wear stout shoes or walking boots. We are usually back in Liverpool City Centre by 4pm at the latest.
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.