Southport, 24th April 2022

Southport is a seaside resort north of Liverpool, which was founded in 1792 and had its heyday in Victorian times. It advertised itself as more genteel than Blackpool, with covered arcades and high-end shops. The era of foreign holidays hit it hard, but it has the second longest seaside pleasure pier in the British Isles and is still one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK.  We don’t often go there in spring or summer, preferring to avoid crowds, but it wasn’t too bad today. The southern arm of the Marine Lake had a different population of birds than we see in winter. There was only one Black-headed Gull for instance, where we usually see hundreds. And all the Herring Gulls scrambling for bread seemed to be juveniles. Have all the adults gone back to their breeding grounds?

There were the usual Mallards and Pigeons, just a few Canada Geese, one or two Coots and rather more Greylag Geese than we are used to. One pair had four little goslings while this group of six adults were shepherding a crèche of 18 little ones.

There were over 40 Mute Swans, many clearly last year’s cygnets, still showing some brown plumage, but others were all white so may have been sub-adults. Two of them were sitting on the edge, preening, and they bore white-on-blue Darvic rings. I reported them to Steve Christmas of the North West Swan Study, who said 4BXD was ringed as a cygnet at Leasowe, Wirral on 8/12/2015 (so is now six years old) while 4DNT was ringed as a cygnet at Parsons Meadow, Wigan on 22/10/2020 (so is now two years old).

The park around the lake is very “tidy” and we detected the liberal use of herbicide on the path edges. There wasn’t much in the way of “weeds” and we saw only one Bumble Bee all day. It may be tourist-friendly, but it’s not very naturalist-friendly. A raised corner bed by the miniature railway had escaped the gardeners’ attentions, and was lush with Bluebells and Dandelions.

Two Swallows swooped over the water, my first of the year. Over on the far side, where they moor the “swan” and “flamingo” pedalos, we noticed that one is now painted up as a Black Swan, in honour of the vagrant pair which are often seen here. That’s a nice touch.

In front of the new Big Wheel I spotted a very mutilated tree. It’s the one on the right against the wheel, a Cedar. It’s not a Deodar Cedar because the needles were all the same length. It might have been an uncommon green Atlas Cedar (most are blue) or even the now-rare Cedar of Lebanon, but it was impossible to get close to it, and it was very sadly cut about.

After a trip to Morrison’s we returned through King’s Gardens. The only birds were Starlings, one Blackbird and a Wood Pigeon. To be fair, it isn’t a good place for trees because of the strong, salty onshore winds, and the sparse well-trimmed shrubberies seem to be healthier. There are a few stunted Hollies and Scots Pines, but one other half-dead tree caught my eye. Some twigs seemed bare while others were producing growth. Blow me, it was an Elm, almost certainly a Wych Elm. There aren’t many full-sized ones of those left.

We went around the back of Southport Theatre, where the promenade overlooks the inaccessible islands in the northern arm of the lake. We were hoping for a Heron, or even Egrets, but there were just more Canada Geese, more young Herring Gulls, and an addition to the day’s list, a single Lesser Black-backed Gull.  
Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.23, arriving Southport 11.05. Returned on 14.28 from Southport station.

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