Leasowe, 18th July 2021

On what may have been the hottest day of the year we walked north from Moreton Station down Pasture Road, towards the sea front. The land on the east (right) is owned by Premier Foods and surrounds a Typhoo tea factory. There are new houses being built south of the factory site, but to the north is a popular green oasis called Ditton Lane nature area. Wirral Council have recently designated it as a Local Wildlife site, but the decision remains open to appeal by Premier Foods. There are said to be a large number of rare native Black Poplars there, but all we saw from the road was a Buzzard keeping watch from overhead. On the way back there were a couple of House Martins.

We crossed over into North Wirral Coastal Park and followed the path along the River Birkett towards the old lighthouse. The path was lined with masses of wild flowers: Great Willowherb, Green Alkanet, White and Purple Clover, Meadowsweet, Buttercup, Himalayan Balsam, Golden Rod, Common Mallow, Wild Carrot, Yarrow, Bindweed, Creeping Thistle, Coltsfoot leaves and clumps of Horseradish leaves. This red seedy plant confuses me. Is it Mugwort? Fat Hen?  After a rummage I now think it’s either Common Sorrel or Sheep’s Sorrel, with the latter more likely as it’s near the coast.

There were tufts of Ragwort everywhere. It’s many years since we saw huge numbers of the black-and-yellow caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth, but we keep checking. None at Leasowe, but we saw a few yesterday at Lydiate.

We climbed up to the top of the sea-defence bank. The tide was way out, revealing an almost-empty beach (but the sea comes crashing against the sea wall at high tide in autumn gales.)  Leasowe is on the north-facing Wirral coast, with the Mersey and Dee estuaries on either side. To the left we could see all the way to Anglesey and the Great Orme, to the right we could see the docks at Seaforth and northwards along Crosby beach, and in front were the turbines, which were not spinning at all today.

We wandered south-westwards on the top of the bank. The birds on the sand were humdrum – Carrion Crows, Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, while a few Starlings flew over, and we spotted just two Swallows.  Several White butterflies were abroad, and during the day we also saw a Comma, a Speckled Wood and a Red Admiral. Then we came down off the bank and headed back northwards via an overgrown path just inland of the Wirral Coastal Trail. It was almost machete-worthy, like Darwin’s tangled bank, made of walls of Reeds, Himalayan Balsam and Willow scrub, bound together by Brambles, Bindweed and Goose Grass.

Despite appearances, there was no chance of getting lost and we soon spotted the lighthouse, which led us back to better-trodden paths.  We stopped to admire this blue-flowering shrub. Is it some kind of Ceanothus? There are often garden “escapes” (more likely “dumps”) here, so it could be anything.

Yesterday (Saturday) was another very hot and sunny day for the MNA walk in Lydiate. We spotted two or three Yellowhammers.  On the Leeds-Liverpool canal there appears to be a breeding colony of Emperor dragonflies, south of Rimmer’s Swing Bridge. We saw several flying back and forth and a female clinging to waterside vegetation as she laid eggs.  The more common dragonfly, the Broad-bodied Chaser, was also there in good numbers and one male posed for me on a dead leaf of Arrowhead.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.35 towards West Kirby, alighting Moreton 10.55. Returned from Moreton on the train at 14.41, arriving Liverpool at 15.05.

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Sefton Park, 11th July 2021

The park was quieter than usual, not as crowded with people (or birds) as we often find. This may have had something to do with the state of the water. The main lake was blotched with blue-green algae. Signs all around the railings warned people and dogs to keep clear: even the local fishermen and the model boat club have been banned.

But most of the usual birds were there. Plenty of Coots, Mallards, Black-headed Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A large flock of Canada Geese hung around for bread on the eastern bank. We never see them nest or breed here, so are they all juveniles? The Coots seem to be constructing nests all over the place, and we were surprised to see a Terrapin basking on the side of one. There used to be lots of Terrapins in the lake, ex-pets from the Ninja Turtles boom, but we thought they had all been removed when the lake was drained and cleared some years ago. Either one survived the purge, or it is a recent introduction. At the north end were a pair of Mute Swans with a single well-grown cygnet, a Cormorant on a post and a Great Crested Grebe. No sign of the Little Grebes, though.

We don’t usually come here in summer, so it was lovely to see some familiar trees in full leaf. The Narrow-leaved Ashes (Fraxinus angustifolia ’Raywood’) were still dark green, saving their magnificent purple and gold colour for the autumn.  The County Champion Black Walnut Juglans nigra opposite the bandstand was superbly elegant.

The tree just around the corner from the “Oasis in the Park” café was probably an Indian Bean Tree Catalpa bignonioides, although we discussed the atypical slight point or lobe on either side of some leaves. It looks as if it is on the way to being a Hybrid Catalpa Catalpa x erubescens and not quite the same as another on the other side of the stream.

Near the old aviary a Comma butterfly sped past. On the nettles below the second Indian Bean Tree we found a Harlequin Ladybird nursery. The adults were just emerging from their larval coats. On this picture of three individuals, the top one is a larva, while the other two are adults with the larval coat clinging to their backs.

The stagnant stream by the café was completely covered with green scum, looking like a solid surface. Was this more of the blue-green algae? On it were thousands of long-legged flies. A Moorhen sat on the edge, not going in, but snatching as many flies as it could reach.

Just around the corner from the Eros Fountain, north of the path going east to the Plane Walk, three young trees were planted several years ago. We have noted them before, but now we see them in summer we are becoming more confident that they are Foxglove trees Paulownia tomentosa. The bark is a bit ridgier than we expected, but Mitchell’s tree book says this is typical of young trees.

The trickling stream in the Fairy Glen looked a bit “off”, too, appearing greyish like dirty dish water. Some little girls were fishing with dipping nets, and were bringing out tiny Sticklebacks, so the fish weren’t affected by the odd water. This is where Kingfishers are often seen, although they may be away breeding, as there is nowhere in the park for them to dig riverbank nest holes. A mother Mallard had six ducklings, perhaps hatched that morning. (Only five in the picture, because one was lagging behind, as one always does.)

Along the wildlife woodland path we spotted a fleeting Wren and just one Ring-necked Parakeet. We stopped to listen to some odd calls from the woods, which turned out to be the contact calls of a brood of young Magpies, just fledged, looking like adults, but clambering clumsily around the branches. Earlier we had also found a Jay’s blue wing feather.

Some trees have a second flush of new leaves in the summer, known as Lammas growth. (Lammas Day is 1 August). Here’s a Red Oak showing the effect.

There is a wildflower meadow, but it is a few years old and there was nothing much growing but yellow Hawkweed. However, find of the day was an Emperor Dragonfly, resting on the grass, and seemingly tangled in a grass seed-head. When disturbed it seemed to struggle for a moment, flew off level and unsteadily for a few inches then soared away.

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Crosby, 4th July 2021

On a very hot and sultry morning we met at the Waterloo Sunset café at the south-western end of South Road, Waterloo, for a walk along the beach, by two nature reserves and through the seafront gardens.

There is a newish little nature reserve on the south-east corner of the Marine Lake, made up of a  boardwalk through reeds and plantings of native trees. We spotted one Common Blue Damselfly (but there would surely have been many more) and also a male Reed Bunting perching on a high reed. On the unmown grassland as we emerged there were patches of Bird’s Foot Trefoil (the food plant for several of the Blue butterflies), orchids in the long grass, and several butterflies on the wing. First was an unidentified White, then a Meadow Brown sipping from Creeping Thistle and finally what I think was  a Large Skipper, the sharp black line on the wing identifying it as a male. That new nature reserve is a success!

Bird’s foot trefoil
Meadow Brown
Large Skipper

Beyond the fence along the south edge of the Marine Lake, are two pools within the dock estate, managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. You need a permit to go in by the dock gates, so lesser mortals just have to peer through the railings. There was rumoured to have been a Roseate Tern there the day before, so we had a look. There were Shelduck, Oystercatchers, about a dozen Curlew, Cormorants, Mute Swans, Canada Geese and rabbits. Some Terns were on the floating platform, but there have been no reports of them nesting this year, and there was no way to see if one was Roseate.

Then we walked north on the path along the beach. The high speed catamaran “Manannan” sped past on its way to the Isle of Man.

The Sea Holly was budding and the Marram Grass had big, soft flower heads, which I don’t remember seeing before.

Anthony Gormley has been here recently with some heavy machinery to rescue some of his Iron Men which had fallen and were lost in the mud and sand. I thought he had made them all level with the beach again, but some near the prom were still buried to their thighs. These kids clearly want to help him out.

There were a prodigious number of  Mute Swans on the Boating lake, at least 30. They get free handouts of food from the locals and their kids.

There were the usual Mallards, Canada Geese, a few Tufted Duck and a row of immature Herring Gulls sitting on the barrier.

The local pair of Black Swans, which commute between Waterloo and Southport, were also present. They are native to Australia, and must have escaped from a wildfowl collection.

We looked at three of the four beachfront gardens. The only birds were Sparrows, Magpies and Wood Pigeons. A lot of the shrubs were flowering magnificently, especially the Mock Orange, strewing its white petals all over the paths. There were plenty of Snowbells (Storax japonica), a bright yellow Broom, several Globe Buddleias and this gorgeous Tree Mallow.

This shrub is one that I’ve seen often but never known what it was. It has spiky leaves a bit like Holly, but on Sunday I saw it flowering for the first time. It’s a kind of daisy bush called New Zealand Holly Oleana macrodonta.

And for those of you who are wondering how my crop of Sweet Peas is going this year – excellent! Here are the ones I cut a couple of days ago.

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Calderstones Park, 27th June 2021

A day looking at trees in Calderstones is always a treat for me, there are so many rarities to find. We intended to go into the Japanese and Old English gardens, but found them closed because of a “dangerous wall and tree”, according to the sign. But on the formal lawn and beds outside was a lovely Cornus kousa, the Korean or Chinese Dogwood, at the peak of its lovely flowering.

Then we headed for the southern boundary, stopping on the way to look at an old stump with a low cranny which had been a nest of a Treecreeper family earlier in the year. (The arrow is mine!)

We were heading for the bog garden, but on the way enjoyed the woodland path along the Allerton Road edge.  There were lots of huge old trees, including this Oak in a clearing, which was probably Turkey Oak Quercus cerris. The leaves were bigger than we are used to but there were diagnostic bristly acorn cups on the ground below it.

There aren’t many birds around urban parks this time of year. The usual Blackbirds, Robins, Wood Pigeons and Magpies (and Canada Geese and Mallards on the lake), but we heard and spotted both a Chiffchaff and a Song Thrush, singing from high perches.

Song Thrush

We lunched on the edge of the woods, where a big old Poplar was shedding copious fluff. In the words of Richard Dawkins it was “raining DNA”. The fluff surrounds the seeds, helping wind dispersal, but that means the tree must be female. However, it looked rather like an upright “Lombardy” Poplar, which are all male clones. A puzzle! Perhaps it was some hybrid of a male Lombardy and a female Black Poplar.

They have planted several interesting rarities in the Bog Garden. This is a Caucasian Wingnut Pterocarya fraxinifolia, a member of the Walnut family, with its long strings of winged seeds.

Tulip trees are always a pleasure to see, but this area has an even prettier variegated one, Liriodendron tulipifera ‘Aureomarginatum’. They are quite rare.

Our eyes were caught by this unusual Maple with red-winged seeds and leaves with single teeth on each side. It looks like one of the Snake-bark Maples, but the bark was smooth and grey. After consulting the book, I now think it might have been a Red Maple Acer rubrum. They have spectacular autumn colour, so it’s worth another visit later in the year.

Our real target was a Dragon’s Claw Willow Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’. It’s so rare it doesn’t appear in most tree books, but an old Calderstones tree leaflet has one marked. I think it might be this one in an obsure corner. The trunk and inner branches are very contorted, but it has been severely pruned and the new growth looks like sparse weeping willow. The leaves are a bit twisted-looking, so it might be the one.

On the way back we went to look at the struggling Mulberry, which appears to have nearly died some years ago. It still has lots of dead outer branches but the core is re-sprouting well and bearing immature fruit.

Public transport details: Merseyrail train from Blundellsands and Crosby at 9.52, arriving Liverpool South Parkway at 10.27. Then bus 86 at 10.352, arriving Mather Avenue / Storesdale Road at 10.41. Up Ballantrae Road to the south-west entrance to the park. I came home on the bus 61 for Bootle, and was surprised at just how widely it roamed on the way north!

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Woolton and Childwall Woods, 20th June 2021

It had rained in the night, the first rain for a week or more, and it was still damp and humid as we entered the Black Wood (part of Woolton Woods). The sun was shining through trees, but it was very quiet and still. The only sound above the faint traffic noise was a Blackbird singing.

Woolton and Childwall woods in the south Liverpool suburbs, although adjacent, originated as the parkland and woodland of two different great houses. The land of Woolton Hall originally belonged to the Knights Hospitaller but was confiscated by the crown during the reformation. Various owners have held it over the centuries since then until it was acquired by Liverpool City Council in the 1920s. Childwall Woods were planted with Beech and Sweet Chestnut in the 1700s by Isaac Greene, a wealthy attorney from Prescot. None of the histories of either estate suggest that any of the wealth of the previous owners came from slave trading, which is unusual for Liverpool.

The oldest Beech trees in Woolton Woods are reaching the ends of their lives and are full of fungi. This huge growth might well be Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarium,which is traditionally found on Birch but is being seen more on Beech as the climate warms.

The wildflowers on the path edges were Bramble, Wood Avens with its yellow flowers and hooked seeds, Cow Parsley and Wild Garlic that had both mostly gone over, and some patches of Dog’s Mercury, which is a  sign of ancient woods.

Childwall Woods, on the other side of Woolton Road, lead through to an open area called Childwall Fields, a wild Buttercup meadow dotted with orchids. There seemed to be three kinds, a dark cylinder, a taller lighter one with spotted leaves, and a shorter fatter one with dark purple flowers. We mulled over “Early Purple” and “Common Spotted” in the books, but they hybridise so readily that identification is very difficult. They are just lovely, that’s all.

We stopped to examine a young Alder tree with holes in the leaves. As we suspected, it was full of Alder beetles. There were some patches of eggs, and some pairs of mating adults, but we couldn’t find any grubs. There must have been some somewhere to have chewed those holes in the leaves.

Along the sunny path we admired the Elder trees, currently in full bloom. One Hazel tree already had half grown nuts. The Brambles, Ground Elder and Hogweed had bees visiting them.

Birds seen or heard included Robin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, a fast flypast of a Jay, a  Song Thrush, and a Wren in a Lime tree in Childwall Woods. Our only butterfly of the day was this very new-looking Speckled Wood, bright and colourful, which had perhaps just emerged from deep in the grass.

Public transport details: Bus 81 from Balliol Road at 9.57, arriving Countisbury Drive / Childwall Park Avenue at 10.35. Returned at 2.17 on the 81 from Woolton Road / Cabot Green.

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Allerton Towers,13th June 2021

Three of us met on a warm, humid, overcast day. Allerton Towers is an easy “first choice” destination for our first venture out after several months. (See also 9th August and 13th September 2020).

The Hawthorns in the “Hawthorn and Holly” walk seem to be recovering from their bad 2020. They were in sparse leaf, with some blossom going over. The occasional healthy branch showed they are the variety ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ with pink double flowers.

Nearer the orangery two of them were different. They had larger white blossom and simple ovate leaves, and they look like one of the rarer thorns.

Off the walled garden the Laburnum arch had gone over, but still looked pretty.

On the lawn we spotted a huge tree, a False Acacia or Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia. It was a bit sparse at the top, but it has never been hemmed in and has spread very widely. It had some of its Laburnum-like white flowers, too.

Near the Rose Garden we heard and saw both a Mistle Thrush and then a Song Thrush. There weren’t many birds about, just the ubiquitous Wood Pigeons and Magpies, although we did get a glimpse of a Dunnock. A cone under the Bhutan Pine looked squirrel-chewed, but we broke up the intact lower half looking for how the seeds are formed. They nestle in pairs inside the bottom of the scales.

Home news: Five Swifts appeared over my garden on 1st June, and they are still around, flying low around the houses at sunset. They must nest nearby but I have never spotted them entering any holes under eaves. A pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls have nested amongst the chimneys on a house in Myers Road West. According to the neighbour opposite them, they have three chicks, and are dive- bombing anyone who walks by.  Here’s one of the parents keeping guard (but no chicks to be seen yet).

Other neighbours, with gardens next to mine, say a Hedgehog has been seen again (I saw it myself last summer). I’m seriously thinking of getting a trail camera!

Public transport details: Bus 76 from Queen Square at 10.02, arriving Menlove Avenue / Cheddar Close at 10.40

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Thornton, 27th September 2020

I went on a short solo wander on Sunday morning to explore the rough land between Thornton Garden of Rest and the new Broom’s Cross Road. I took the bus to Edge Lane / Water Street and walked to the old Thornton village centre, which still has its ancient cross base and a set of stocks. They can’t be very old stocks because they appear to be made of cast iron. Perhaps they replaced older wooden ones.

Alongside the Nag’s Head pub is an old road called Holgate, which used to lead to a footpath into the farmland, but is now crossed by the fast new road. Happily, they put in several pedestrian crossings while they were building, to accommodate ancient rights of way, so I was able to achieve my ambition of stopping the traffic on that stretch.

I planned to go and see the ancient monument, the original Broom’s Cross, but the footpath was too overgrown. There was a bird of prey overhead, probably a Sparrowhawk, which had put up a large flock of small brown birds from the farmer’s field, possibly Linnets. High-pitched goose calls overhead attracted my attention to a small flock of Pink-footed Geese, heading eastward. They are regular migrants to south Lancashire for the winter.

Stopping the traffic again (what fun!), I took the new footpath alongside the road, leading to a patch of rough meadow. One Large White butterfly was still on the wing. Flowers still showing were Ragwort, Bindweed, Red Clover, and the lovely curled-up seed heads of Wild Carrot.

The path across the meadow led to the back of the local cemetery, Thornton Garden of Rest. The only birds seemed to be Magpies, Crows and Wood Pigeons, but there were plenty of small groups of people, visiting graves on this lovely bright autumn day.

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Crosby, 20th September 2020

In view of the impending new restrictions, where use of public transport is discouraged, the group didn’t meet this week, and I walked locally instead: through Victoria Park and all four Crosby seafront gardens, and came back northwards along the beach.

The glory of Victoria Park at this season is the orange berries of Pyracantha, a shrub also known as firethorn, and you can see why. Each patch was full of the cheeps of House Sparrows. It was still and quiet in mid-morning, and several Grey Squirrels were larking about. There have been sightings of Red Squirrels here recently, but I didn’t see any. The Magpies and Wood Pigeons were loafing about, one Blackbird was flicking through fallen leaves and another was listening for worms under the dewy grass.

The park’s wildflower meadow has now gone over, showing just clumps of Michaelmas Daisies and a few Evening Primroses and late Buttercups.  It has been a good year for Crab Apples, with some garden trees heavy with them.

The four seafront gardens were also quiet. Some autumn flowers were still blooming, including more Evening Primrose, Yarrow, Dandelions, Hawkweed, Red Valerian, late flowers of Bramble and a single Poppy in a sheltered corner. Masses of Ivy are still in bud, and the Snowberry was putting out its last flowers.

There were dozens of Black-headed Gulls and young Herring Gulls on the Marine Lake, and some Mute Swans hanging around the edge. A further dozen or more Mute Swans were on the Boating Lake, with the usual Coots, Mallards and Canada Geese. Less common regulars were a couple of dozen Tufted Duck and two or three Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The local pair of escaped Black Swans had been reported here in the week, but they seem to have decamped back to Southport. On the approaches to the beach cute new signs have been fixed up, exhorting people not to leave litter.

In the bare sand on the dune edges were some specialist plants, including Sea Holly and Sea Rocket.

Sea Holly
Sea Rocket

A skein of Canada Geese flew over, and a flock of a hundred or more Knot or Dunlin flew south in a shape-shifting group. I made a foray into the older dunes to see one of Britain’s rarest plants, the Dune Wormwood, known from only two sites in Britain – here and on another beach in South Wales. Last year cuttings from the Crosby clump were transplanted to other local sites, just in case some disaster befalls this original spot. Dune Wormwood flowers in September, but it isn’t much too look at, with a few tiny yellow petals poking out from a cluster of succulent sepals. This is about as good as it gets.

Dune Wormwood
Dune Wormwood flowers

Near Crosby Baths there was quite a crowd coming onto the beach and settling in for picnics and  sand castles with the kids. I picked my way through them carefully and headed home.

Last week I went to Southport Botanical Gardens in Churchtown, looking for five champion trees, but only found one of them so far, the Wild Service Tree Sorbus torminalis (another “lifer” for me).  However, I did see this odd pair of droopy trees planted in their arboretum area. The one on the left is a Brewer’s Spruce Picea breweriana, while the one on the right is a Weeping Nootka Cypress Cupressus nootkatensis ‘Pendula’, often nicknamed the Afghan Hound tree, for obvious reasons. I think the gardeners who planted two different droopy species side by side thought it was a pun!

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Allerton Towers, 13th September 2020

I was at Allerton Towers on my own on 9th August 2020, so you can read about it in my previous post, but this was the first time five of us had been together since 8th March, and we chose the park as the easiest place for Olive, as it is near to her home. It was a wonderfully warm and sunny day, and overhead a Sparrowhawk was harassing a Buzzard. The park has very many Sweet Chestnuts, and they were all looking very healthy, green and glossy with copious spiky nut cases.

My goal was to find and photograph the champion Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima. At 21 meters and 247 cm around the trunk, it is the Lancashire girth champion (but not the tallest, that one is in Alexandra Park, Whalley Range.) We found it in the shrubbery between the walled garden and the main path.

In the same area we spotted a mystery shrub with leaves like Persian Ironwood, but flowering like Witch Hazel. The experts on the Facebook group “British and Irish Trees” suggest it is Virginian Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginiana. The RHS website says the flowers “appear from mid-autumn to late autumn, emerging while the leaves are still green and remaining as the leaves turn golden yellow and fall. H. virginiana is the species from which medicinal witch-hazel extract is made.”

Two other minor adventures to report. Last Friday the local female Sparrowhawk was in my garden again. She had the leg bone of something, which she was picking clean. She became aware of me behind the patio window, so she flew off into the Camellia and gave me one of those stares, before making herself scarce. When I looked later there were no remains, and no scatter of feathers, so she had killed elsewhere and taken her leftovers away with her.

In the week Margaret and I went to Gorse Hill Nature Reserve to find the Wayfaring Tree, Viburnum lantana. It’s a British native, and common in the south of England on the chalk, but far rarer in t’north. The Cheshire Wildlife Trust ranger told us a few years ago there were none at all in Cheshire. In February 2019 we spotted a labelled one at Gorse Hill, where they have a policy of planting native trees and shrubs. Of course, there had been nothing to see then, on a winter’s day, so we went back last week and found it again. It’s an unassuming small multi-stemmed tree, with plain leaves, and you wouldn’t look at it twice, usually. Its unique feature is the bunches of berries that ripen at different times, so you get red and black ones in the same cluster. And there they were! Hooray. It MIGHT be the only one in Lancashire, so it’s a good tick for tree-spotters. (It’s a “lifer” for me, the first one I have ever seen.)

Public transport details: 76 bus from Queen Square at 10.02, arriving Menlove Avenue / Cheddar Close at 10.39. Returned from Woolton Street / Mason Street (Woolton Village) on the 75 bus at 2.10, arriving Liverpool at 2.40.

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Rimrose Valley Country Park, 6th September 2020

There is a distinct touch of autumn in the air, and the Michaelmas Daisies are blooming everywhere. The feast of St Michael isn’t until 29th September, so the flowers are early. I didn’t go for a nature walk last weekend, which was a bank holiday when everywhere was likely to have been crowded. This week I opted for Rimrose Valley Country Park, near home, so very easy to get to. Until 1978 it was a council tip, but from 1993 it was grassed and planted and has become a much-loved local amenity.

In 2013 the council announced a proposal for a new road to the docks, running right down the middle. That threat has galvanised the local community to form a Friends group and campaign for its preservation. Last year they planted a huge wildflower meadow within the old running track.  It isn’t looking too bad, one year on. There are still plenty of Poppies, Cornflowers, scented Corn Chamomile, and Corn Marigolds. One Small White butterfly was flitting about. The big cranes at the docks are visible in the background.

Other plants by the wayside included Ragwort, Bindweed, White Dead-nettle, a late blooming of Bramble, Red clover, Yarrow, Mugwort, Teasel, Burdock with its spiky seeds and Great Willowherb. In the hedgerows the berries are all ripening – Rose hips, Guelder Rose, Dogwood, Rowan and Hawthorn. The Elderberries are just on the turn.

Guelder rose berries
Dogwood berries
Rowan berries
Hawthorn berries
Unripe elder berries

The only birds I saw in the park were Wood Pigeons, Magpies and House Sparrows. On the canal there were plenty of Mallards, just getting over their moult. A dozen or so Herring Gulls sat on the apex of the roof of the three-storey flats opposite, calling and screaming at something that had bothered them. Was it me or was it the cyclist that swept past on the towpath? A group of five or six adult Coots were being very aggressive to each other, so they are about two seasons ahead of themselves.  Other Coots still had small chicks. I noticed one adult with two half grown chicks, one smaller than the other, so maybe it was a runt, or maybe it didn’t belong. The adult seemed to be driving it off, and the little one was calling piteously. Then it came back, all was quiet for less than a minute, then the parent started pecking at it again and saw it off. It’s a hard life (or death) being a baby Coot.

A fisherman was meditating quietly on the bank, hoping for Roach or even Carp.

The only leaves turning colour for the autumn were on the branch tips of Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). The book calls the colour crimson, but it looks like a smoky purple to me.

In a sunny nettle patch several ladybirds were basking. I think they were all the invasive Harlequin ladybirds. One was black with orange spots, one was orange with small black spots and the third was orange with big black spots. Nearby a spider appeared to be building a web.

A Speckled Wood butterfly was on a ripe Blackberry which had been missed by the pickers. It looked like it was feeding on a squashed drupelet (the name of the individual berries).

At the Red Lion bridge there is a Canal and Waterways depot, with guest moorings. I admired the flowers on the roof of this canal boat with the unusual name of Zephyranthes. That’s the Latin name for the Lily genus, so I wonder if the owner was a lady called Lily?

A short intense rain shower sent me into the Tesco supermarket, then I ate my lunch overlooking the canal, dropped into Lidl Seaforth then took the bus just a few stops home.

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