Crosby Marine Lake, 21st January 2024

At this time of year, when we re-start our Sunday walks, there are often uncommon birds on the local coastline. Today was one of those days and we set off on a twitch. There had been reports of an adult male Smew on Crosby Marine Lake, a very striking white-and-black bird, and it had definitely been seen there on Friday and Saturday, but sadly, it was gone today. I think I have only ever seen one in my life.  But we saw some other unusual birds there, which were nearly as good.

Potters Barn park

The last few days have been very cold and frosty, but it warmed up yesterday and today was mild with occasional showers. However, Storm Isha is brewing up. In Potter’s Barn park we noted a Robin, Blue Tits, a Blackbird and Grey Squirrels. Someone seems to throw down patches of seed for the birds and one had attracted a shy Collared Dove.

At the flooded car park at the south-eastern corner of the Marine Lake was a party of early-rising birdwatchers, having a break near their cars. They had already been in the adjacent Seaforth Nature Reserve and reported no Smew there, and not on the Marine Lake either. Bad news for us. However, we like all birds, and along the path on the southern edge we passed a noisy colony of House Sparrows, hiding in a thorny thicket near the dock mural.

As we got a view of the water we saw our best birds of the day, two or three Goldeneye and a Red-Breasted Merganser. They were diving and feeding, so there must be quite a lot of shellfish for them on the bottom.

Two Goldeneyes, one apparently strutting his stuff for the other
Red-breasted Merganser

A Heron also flew off, and later we saw a Little Egret in the reeds, then in flight over the water.

We climbed the bank to look through the railings into Seaforth NR, but there was nothing to see. There is no way in on that side: the only entrance is through the main dock gates, and they say that in the interests of security visitors must be members of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust AND apply for an annual permit, which incurs a hefty fee.

But there were Crows and Magpies on the bank, and Oystercatchers and Wood Pigeons on the grass.

Magpie foraging in the undergrowth
Wood Pigeon

We headed into Marine Gardens for lunch. The wind was getting alarmingly gusty, but we found a sheltered spot in the rockery, and listened to the wind roaring through the branches of the old clump of Crack Willow.

This shrub with the red berries gave us pause. I’m sure we have looked at it before, and it looks like some kind of Euonymus. I looked it up at home, and it is Evergreen Spindle Euonymus japonicus. Most gardening websites advise against planting it, as it never flowers or fruits when clipped, they say, but they grudgingly admit it does well in coastal sites.

I could walk home from there, and looked for things in flower as I went. Marine Gardens had a clump of Greater Periwinkle flowering well. There were Snowdrops and Laurustinus in Victoria Park and the small winter-flowering tree Viburnum x bodnantense in a neighbour’s garden. My garden had quince buds just starting to break, a garden-variety Primrose and one very late and ragged flower of New Zealand Daisy Bush.

Greater Periwinkle
First snowdrops
The winter-flowering shrub, Laurustinus
Viburnum x bodnantense
One very late flower of the New Zealand Daisy Bush

Public transport details: Bus 53 from Queen Square at 10.10, arriving Crosby Road South / opposite Marlborough Road at 10.40.  The others returned on the 53 bus from outside Waterloo Station at about 1pm, but I could walk home.

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