Taylor Park St Helens, 2nd April 2023

Our intention today was to go to Carr Mill Dam, hoping we weren’t too late to see dancing Great Crested Grebes, but we had to change our minds quickly at St Helens bus station. We found the half-hourly bus we though we would get (the 352) had been reduced to hourly and we would have had to wait for 40 minutes. Blow that! So we hopped on the next 10A and went to Taylor Park.

Taylor Park is on land formerly part of the Eccleston Estate. In 1892 the landowner gave 47 acres to St Helens Town Council for use as a public park. It was never manicured “parkland”, with exotic foreign plantings, but its woods appear to be made up of mostly native trees, with only the shrubberies holding alien plants like Rhododendron and Cherry Laurel. Most mature trees were still bare, but the Daffodil displays were looking lovely.

The moles seem to be active at this time of year, and there were plenty of molehills on the grass, mostly flattened by the gardeners. Twice we came upon mounds of earth with small holes or tunnel entrances next to them. Have the moles been poking their heads out to check the lie of the land?

There were masses of Sycamore seedlings under the shrubs, throwing up their strap-like first leaves. Along the woodland paths we noted Elder and Hawthorn well in leaf, young Hornbeams  and Horse Chestnuts breaking their buds, but no sign yet of Beech or Oak. We heard or saw plenty of woodland birds – a Chaffinch singing, two Treecreepers, Robins, Great Tits and a fast-moving Goldcrest heading for a Scots Pine. A Nuthatch was calling its loud wheep! wheep!  Later, near the Visitors’ Centre, we heard our first Chiffchaff, but couldn’t see it. Around the lake a Willow had some past-their-best catkins of the pussy willow type, but it‘s hard to say if they were from Grey Willow Salix cinerea or Goat Willow Salix caprea.

The only “wild flowers” apart from the Dandelions, was this patch of Red Dead-nettle.

It was still grey and overcast by lunchtime, although the forecast had promised sunshine. We wanted to sit in the Quarry Garden, but it was closed, so we found seats up some steps, opposite a massive Cherry Laurel. A Blackbird came to crumbs. Many of the passing dogs were of the type we call sandwich sniffers, and we had to be on our guard.  Behind us was an evergreen shrub with white flowers emitting a lovely scent. It looked similar to Sweet Box, but this one’s flowers were bigger and wider, and Sweet Box is definitely a winter flowering plant – January and February only. So I don’t know what this was, but it was lovely.

There weren’t many birds on the lake. The Black-headed Gulls all seem to have gone away to their breeding grounds but there were plenty of Canada Geese and Mallards, two or three pairs of Tufted Ducks and gangs of fighting Coots.

In a quiet corner were these three oddly-marked patchwork Mallards, probably brothers and sisters from the same brood. These groups of distinctive ducks often stay together for all their lives, and we will look out for them again.

We struck off the path across the big field to see a magnificent white Cherry in blossom on the boundary with the golf course. The flowers were so dense they almost obscured the branches beneath. It’s some sort of cultivated early variety, I think.

There was one Mute Swan on the lake, hanging around by some bushes. As we came around the back of them we spotted the other Swan, probably the female, sitting on a nest. It’s a pity about the rubbish and litter they have collected, but it probably does them no harm.

Also loitering by some different overhanging bushes was a single Great Crested Grebe. It’s very likely his mate was sitting on a nest, well-hidden and further back.

Near the Visitors’ Centre, on the fenced-off bank, were several Moorhens, and two of them bore orangey-red rings on their legs. They were D33 and D34, probably ringed at the same time. I reported them, but the website didn’t return a report, perhaps because this is a new study, with only 47 birds ringed so far.

Public transport details: Train from Lime Street station (towards Blackpool) at 10.17, arriving St Helens Central at 10.45. Then bus 10A at 11.00, arriving Prescot Road / Toll Bar at 11.10. Returned on the 10A from Prescot Road / Toll Bar at 2.20, arriving Liverpool 3.17.

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