Sefton Park, 27th February 2022

It was a gorgeous day today, dry and sunny, with just a chilly breeze. Miles better than recent Sundays. Hordes of walkers and their dogs came out after lunch, and spring is springing. For a change, we walked around the lake anticlockwise, interested to see two fishermen being interviewed and sent packing by what looked like park security. They had to remove loads of kit, tents, rods and trolleys. Were they blocking the path? Were they unlicensed?  We saw them again later in the day on the other side of the lake, so they were persistent.

The usual large flocks of urban birds were present on the lake. Canada Geese, Mallards, Coots, one skulking Moorhen, a huge flock of Black-headed Gulls, some young Herring Gulls, Feral Pigeons, three or four Tufted Duck and two Mute Swans.  No Grebes seemed to be about.

The “no bread” message hasn’t got through to everyone, and large chunks of doughy white were still being offered to the Canada Geese, which gobbled it up. They were surrounded by a flying flock of Black-headed Gulls and we noticed that one had a blue leg ring. Sadly all our attempts to get it to stand on the path to be checked or photographed were in vain.

The (female?) Coots had started nesting while the males out on the lake were acting out their aggression. Some were swimming low next to each other and making aggressive chipping calls, while others escalated their disputes to outright splashing and slashing.

Around the south side of the Palm House we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, and spotted a flock of Ring-necked Parakeets in an Alder tree. We eventually found the Woodpecker near some new bird feeders in a clearing. One of the Parakeets has developed a liking for a fat block.

Just around the corner a Heron was standing on a bank, slightly above us and quite close.

An evergreen shrub caught our eye, as it looked like Laurel but it was coming out in little purple and yellow flowers. It’s Japanese Laurel Aucuba japonica, which we have noted in autumn before, but not in spring. The species usually has spotted leaves, but this one was a plain variety.

One low Hawthorn bush was bursting into leaf all over. We headed down to the Persian Ironwood tree. It’s very bare this time of year, and it looks very gnarled and twisted. The shocking-pink flowers were nearly over.

We lunched on the picnic tables by the Palm House entrance, watching a pair of Song Thrushes on quiet lawn nearby. Then, to our amazement a large inflatable pink pig walked past! We followed it and its entourage to the open space near the Oasis café and discovered it was a group of vegan campaigners. There’s a volunteer inside it, walking it along. One side of the pig said “Love all animals, not just pets” while the other said  “Save the planet, go vegan”. It soon attracted a crowd who had leaflets pressed on them by an organisation called Viva! which is mostly about chickens, and their website, amusingly, is Life is Cheep.

Crocuses were out in abundance, especially by the side of the path leading to the obelisk. I don’t think we have ever seen them look so marvellous.

The Cedar on the western bank of the lake, near the southern end, is still not conclusively identified. I’m fairly sure it’s an Atlas Cedar Cedrus atlantica, but since it’s a green one, not the more usual blue (var. ‘Glauca’) it could easily be taken for a Cedar of Lebanon. One of the distinguishing features is that the cones of the Atlas are said by Mitchell to have a dimple in the top. They are usually hard to inspect, since they don’t fall off the tree intact, but fortuitously, a branch has come down in the recent storms.  So here are some cones and do they have dimples? Not very deep ones, I have to say. “Trees in Britain” by Roger Phillips has a photo of Atlas cones and says they are “flat-topped”, as opposed to the Lebanon cones, which “taper to the top” and look a bit pointy in his photo. I’m still plumping for it being an Atlas Cedar, not a Cedar of Lebanon.

In my local Alexandra Park in Crosby the Cherry Plum blossom is out.

Public transport details: 82 bus from Elliot Street towards Speke at 10.03, arriving Aigburth Road / Ashbourne Road at 10.21.  Returned on 82 from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane at 2.05, arriving city centre at 2.22.

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