Hooton to Hadlow Road, 3rd April 2022

We walked another section of the Wirral Way today, from Hooton to Hadlow Road Station and back. There was a chilly breeze when we started out, but it is sheltered in the sunken, tree-lined path, so once the sun came out it was lovely.

Much of the Hawthorn foliage is now well out, but other trees are slower. Some were still grey and bare. The Oak buds were just breaking, the first Sycamore leaves were out, but other trees are harder to identify when the foliage is new. There were lots of young saplings that we were calling “Hornbeam”, but now I think they might have been young self-seeded Birch of some kind (and later realised were Hazel, of course. )

Lots of birds were in song. Robins trilled everywhere, Blackbirds scuttled across the path, one or two Jays swooped past, Great Tits and Chaffinches were singing (as well as a distant rooster) and we counted eight singing male Chiffchaffs, one about every 350 – 400 yards. The Pussy Willow flowers were still out, full of pollen, and we spotted a small black wasp or bee foraging among them, although it was too fast-moving to catch a picture of.

There wasn’t much storm damage to see, just one or two snapped trees which were cut up and left as log piles. There has been lots of hedge trimming and clearing carried out this winter, so the path was wide and airy. Flowers were coming on well. We spotted Dandelions and Forget-me-Nots, Lesser Celandine and Dog Violet. The few Coltsfoot were closed, the Garlic Mustard and the Green Alkanet were only leaves yet, but higher on the bank some Yellow Archangel was in bloom.

Several white-flowered trees were out. This is Blackthorn, of course, which was a magnet for Bumble bees.

This was Wild Cherry, I think. Prunus avium.

This one must surely be Bird Cherry Prunus padus. My books say it isn’t supposed to flower until late May, so this must be just one aberrant tree. (By the way, look at those Latin names of the cherries, guaranteed to confuse. “Avium” means “of birds”, so what was Linnaeus thinking when he named those two?  The only lame excuse I can think of is that it must have been different in Swedish!)

Along the way we noticed that the Horse Chestnuts varied in their spring progress. Some had only breaking sticky buds, some had very droopy newly-emerged leaves, while the one by the steps at Hooton had abundant erect flower buds.

Hadlow Road was a station when the Wirral Way was a working railway line. It has been preserved in its 1950s condition as a handy stopping place, with café and loos. We ate our sandwiches there, at a picnic table well-patrolled by Robins, and with a well-fed House Sparrow colony in the adjacent hedge.

During the return walk to Hooton the sun shone, and there were far more people about. A Wren was in a low branch and we thought we glimpsed a Treecreeper. Some early butterflies put in an appearance – a Speckled Wood and this rather slow-moving Comma.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards Chester at 10.15, arriving Hooton 10.48. Returned from Hooton on the 2.29 train, arriving Central 3.00.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Hooton to Hadlow Road, 3rd April 2022

Neston and Wirral Way, 27th March 2022

Neston town centre

What a lovely day! I have been in Ireland, which has also had two weeks of sunshine, and it was sunny and warm again today. We rode the bus across the Wirral, looking at the gardens full of Forsythia, early white Cherry blossom, Magnolias, Flowering Currant and just-opening red Crab Apple blossom. The Norway Maple trees were starting to open their lime green flowers. St Mary and St Helen’s church in Neston has a picture-perfect little country village churchyard, with the peaceful old graves covered with Lesser Celandine and Forget-me-not.

We walked down Church Lane, but instead of joining the Wirral Way immediately we took the footpath south-west past the water treatment works. The hedgerows were alive with singing Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Robins and Chiffchaffs. We heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, the Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits were foraging in the trees, a Pied Wagtail and a Skylark were feeding in an open field and a Buzzard cruised overhead, hunting.  A Pussy Willow (Goat Willow) had its flowers out, and early bumble bees were buzzing around the pollen.

Daisies and early Dandelions were everywhere, and the hedges were full of Blackthorn.

We went as far as the broken walls of the old quay, where we had our lunch overlooking the marsh. There was no sign of the recent fire damage, just a distant Little Egret.  Then we retraced our steps to Old Quay Lane and along a footpath that took us to the Wirral Way.  

We spotted the earlier Buzzard on the ground, tearing at something, so it had its lunch, too.

The banks of the Wirral Way were full of Arum leaves and lots of Wild Garlic, some of it just in flower.

The Oak buds were breaking out their flowers and leaves.

The first Cow Parsley was in bloom.

We walked as far as the car park, then down Station Road to the Old Quay restaurant. On this Mother’s Day it was full to capacity, with a rope up to deter more arrivals. The fire damage was near there, with a large chunk of the marsh showing black from the charred vegetation. (Sorry about the blotches – I had to shoot right into the sun.)

There were hordes of people in Parkgate, with a big queue at the famous ice cream shop. We hurried along and were just in time at Mostyn Square for the 1.30 bus back to Liverpool.

Public transport details: Bus 487 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.29, arriving Brook Street Neston at 11.20. Returned on the 487 bus from Mostyn Square Parkgate at 1.30, arriving Liverpool 2.25.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Neston and Wirral Way, 27th March 2022

Liverpool docks, 13th March 2022

We met at the Albert Dock, from where we had planned to walk south, but found that we were heading into the teeth of a very strong breeze with the sun in our eyes, so turned to walk the other way, past the cruise terminal and all the new hotels around Princes Dock. The “Dazzle” ferry was just coming in.

There was a big ship berthed at the cruise terminal, the Fred Olsen Borealis.

At first we saw very few birds, just the odd Gulls, Crows and Pigeons, with a pair of Mallards in the dock. There are very few trees along there, but suddenly four little sparrow-sized birds flew in and perched in a bare ornamental tree outside the Crowne Plaza hotel. Not Sparrows and not female Snow Buntings. We decided in the end that they were female Linnets, not what we would usually expect in the city centre. More good finds were two sleeping Lesser Black-backed Gulls, looking like porcelain ornaments, and a Turnstone pecking about in a bit of fenced-off waste ground, dwarfed by the Herring Gulls.

We turned around at Alexandra Tower. On the pontoons in Waterloo Dock were half a dozen Cormorants.

We could see though to Princes Half-Tide and Victoria Docks (see top picture) framed by the red cranes at Seaforth and Jesse Hartley’s octagonal clock tower. There were four distant Mute Swans, possibly juveniles, and some Canada geese on the far bank. We returned on the inland side of Princes Dock. Several Cormorants were swimming and diving in the dock, and were coming up with long, thin, silvery fish. Sand eels?  We lunched in St Nicholas’ churchyard then headed off home early.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Liverpool docks, 13th March 2022

West Kirby, 6th March 2022

North Wales (not the islands) from West Kirby

Just off the Wirral peninsula are three tiny islands, accessible at low tide over the sands from West Kirby, but cut off twice a day by the tide. Furthermore, it isn’t safe to walk straight to the main island itself, Hilbre, at any tide. Walkers must first cross on a slightly raised path over half a mile of sand to Little Eye then turn right, northwards, to Middle Eye and then on to Hilbre Island itself. It is two miles to the boat house at the far end of Hilbre Island, where the seals bob about in the water and look back at you. It is only safe to make the crossing when the tide is going out and there is time to get there and back without getting stranded. Tide times and safe crossing times are posted on the notice board at the Dee Lane slipway.

The path to Little Eye

We weren’t intending to visit the islands today, because high water was due just after 1pm, but we thought it would be a good day for bringing birds close to shore. It was another lovely day, with almost continuous sunshine, calm but cold, and we still needed our woolly hats. From the Dee Lane slipway we walked northwards on South Parade and then on the sandy path towards Red Rocks. The Spartina grass has come around from Hoylake and parts of the former West Kirby beach are now turning to saltmarsh. Will it be like Parkgate one day?

There were plenty of people walking over the sand towards Little Eye. Didn’t they know it was the worst possible time? We could see the sea coming in beyond Hilbre itself. In previous visits we have seen rangers in dune buggies, heading off people going the wrong way but there didn’t seem to be any about today. There were no interesting birds at first, just random gulls flying about. However, on the landward side we spotted a pair of Stonechats at the top of a spiny bush and then one or two Skylarks making low song flights. We stopped to look at a stalked plant by the side of the path. Is it Sea Kale? Yes, it looks like it. The leaves, stalks and roots are edible and are now thought to be delicacies, but we left it alone.

Strangely, a lone guitarist was standing up on the bank playing and singing a selection of sixties and seventies numbers (Paranoid by Black Sabbath 1970, Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones 1966 and Your Song by Elton John 1970). What an incongruous selection!

The sea was now in as far as the gap between Hilbre and Middle Eye. We thought we saw something like a seal on the distant sand. It was the right sort of size and shape but it didn’t move at all and they are rarely seen on the landward side of the islands. Maybe it was just driftwood. With about an hour to go to high tide a Little Egret appeared on the salt marsh. Was it waiting for easy pickings as the tide filled the marsh?

We turned back towards West Kirby then, to find a place for lunch. There were excellent views over to the Point of Ayr near Talacre on the North Wales coast. The lighthouse there shone a bright white when the sun hit it.  In the left middle distance of the picture are some of the people who had been recklessly heading for Little Eye on the raised path, found themselves in danger of being cut off and had to wade through an ankle-deep channel to get to safe sand.

On the pontoons in the Marine Lake were Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, a Common Gull, Redshanks, and a Turnstone.

Five Redshank and a Turnstone

A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was swimming in the lake. They are newcomers to the Hilbre area in last few years, winter visitors from Svalbard or Greenland.

Common Gull in foreground, Brent swimming away

We had lunch in Victoria Gardens then walked back to the Dee Lane area. People were walking on the sea wall around the Marine Lake, looking  like they were walking on water. Some Cormorants, Oyster Catchers and Gulls had settled on Little Eye to wait out the tide.

At full tide all three islands were completely surrounded by water. At Dee Lane people were standing on the remaining bit of beach, dogs were running in and out excitedly and some kids were paddling.

We headed back to the station via Sandlea Park and admired the displays of daffodils and crocuses. A Flowering Currant bush was starting to bloom.

Note also that on the MNA short walk in Sefton Park on Thursday 3rd March we spotted a Coot with a white Darvic leg ring coded LNX. I have reported it to the ringer and will add the report when it arrives.   [Added 11 March. “LNX was ringed in Sefton Park on 30/11/2021 as an adult and has been seen there since a few times, I think it may be a breeder at this site. Good to confirm it’s still there – thank you!” ]

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.05, arriving West Kirby 10.35. Returned on train at 2.01, arriving Liverpool Central at 2.37

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on West Kirby, 6th March 2022

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.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Sefton Park, 27th February 2022

Landican Cemetery, 20th February 2022

We often go to Landican Cemetery at this time of year, hoping to see the Hares which sneak in from the surrounding farmland to snack on the floral tributes.  Sadly, we didn’t see any today, just lines of fresh molehills (which we can claim as a wild mammal “sighting”). It was a filthy day, gloomy and windy, with more heavy rain forecast for the afternoon. We had been thrashed by Storm Dudley on Wednesday, by Storm Eunice on Friday, and now Storm Franklin was revving up.  We half expected to see more trees down, but all was clean and tidy. The previous storms of the winter must have already taken out the weak ones. The prominent Monterrey Cypress merely had some broken branches tangled in its canopy, but a much-loved memorial tree by the side of the main drive had recently snapped right off. It had been cleared up, leaving just a pile of broken twigs for the gardeners to collect.

Most of the spring flowers like crocuses and the first daffodils had been flattened by the winds. Bunches of flowers and cherub ornaments were blown about higgledy-piggledy, and this tribute to someone called “Gazza” had been stripped.

We did look at the trees, admiring a marvellous old Cherry with a twisted trunk, the catkins on an Italian Alder and a red-twigged bare tree which was probably some kind of Willow.

Cherry with a twisted trunk
Italian Alder catkins
Bare red tree, Willow?

The pollen sacs on the Golden Yews appear to have protruded and opened at one end.

The wind became gustier as Storm Franklin approached. We sheltered for our lunch in a roofed alcove next to the central buildings. We thought the chapels were all closed up for the weekend, but we noticed a man and woman open a door, take in fresh flowers and bring out old ones. After they drove off we investigated and found a remembrance room for cremated remains, with closed niches covering all the walls. It was rather lovely.

By then it was raining hard, and it was time to go home!

Public transport details: Bus 472 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.12, arriving Arrowe Park Road / Landican Cemetery at 10.46. Returned from the stop opposite on bus 471 at 12.55, arriving Liverpool 1.25.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Landican Cemetery, 20th February 2022

Gorse Hill Snowdrop Sunday, 13th February 2022

We disembarked at a deserted Aughton Park station on a damp and dreary day. The platforms are in a deep cutting, and the gothic atmosphere was enhanced by the cawing of Carrion Crows. We had some time to kill before arriving at Gorse Hill for their noon opening, so we did a detour around some of the well-tended front gardens in the streets off Long Lane. Our rewards included a Mimosa tree just coming into bloom and a beautiful early pink flower of Camellia.

On the MNA trip to Ellesmere on Saturday, one of the things that had drawn our attention was the male Yew trees, now covered with their little pollen sacs. There were more of them today.

We stopped to look at a Kestrel over the fields surrounding the pumping station. It always headed into the strong southerly south wind as it hovered, but it managed to hold position despite the blustery gusts. We arrived at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve just after it opened, and took the Cabin Wood trail, lined with clumps of Snowdrops.

We lunched at the picnic tables overlooking Seldon’s Pond. There are hanging bird feeders there, and we spotted fast-moving Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits but nothing more exotic. The pond was covered in green weed today, but it supports three species of Newts (Smooth, Palmate and Crested) as well as many dragonflies.  All along the trails are minibeast hotels and small mammal  habitats, made from waterproof “roofs” like carpet tiles, covered in twigs and branches.

We looked at the Wayfaring Tree Viburnum lantana, a rarity in Lancashire, although common enough further south. There is nothing to see on it at this time of year, it’s just bare twigs, but we plan to come again in May to see it flowering.  However, the first leaves of Hawthorn were sprouting by a sheltered hedge.

We headed home the easy way down Holly Lane and Gaw Hill Lane, admiring the displays of Hazel catkins in the hedgerows. We noticed that different trees develop at different rates. Some have young half-open catkins and no female flowers, while others have female flowers but spent catkins. Necessary for avoiding self-fertilisation, of course.

Next to the deep steps to the southbound train platform, the cutting is shored up by walls of wire cages (gabions) full of loose stone. Life finds a way even there, and we spotted a few pioneering shoots of Herb Robert.

Public transport details: Ormskirk train from Central at 10.17, arriving Aughton Park station at 10.45. Returned from Aughton Park station at 2.40, arriving Central 3.10.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Gorse Hill Snowdrop Sunday, 13th February 2022

Bidston and Flaybrick, 6th February 2022

We had planned to go to West Kirby, but after being awakened by hailstones hammering on my bedroom window, and fighting blustery showers on the way to the bus, I agreed with the others that we didn’t want to be blown off the beach into Liverpool Bay, so we headed for Bidston and Flaybrick instead.

We spent most of the morning wandering randomly in the sheltered woods at the corner of Upton and Boundary Roads, which are part of Bidston Nature reserve. The wood is mostly Birch and Scots Pine with an understory of Holly, Bracken and Bramble. It isn’t a remnant spot of natural ancient woodland, because one of the Hollies had yellow berries, meaning it was a planted modern variety. A pair of Blackbirds crossed our path and dived into a dense shrub: probably nest building in there. Many of the Birches were adorned with the bracket fungus Birch Polypore. The Holly leaf miner was disfiguring leaves in many places. One low shrub had some very early leaves breaking out, and we think it was Elder.

We arrived at Tam O’Shanter Urban farm not long before lunchtime. They have pigs, ponies, goats, sheep, alpacas, and several kinds of domestic fowl.

There were more birds there than in the woods, and they seemed quite relaxed around people. You expect that behaviour of the Robins, of course, and there was a pair hanging around the picnic tables. But we were surprised to see a Treecreeper right by us, inspecting a hole on a tree just over the fence.

On the open pastures we spotted about a dozen Redwings. They are usually distant and skittish birds, but here they were as relaxed as Magpies or Blackbirds.

As we crossed into Flaybrick Memorial Gardens the weather improved and the sun came out. We walked along a path we hadn’t taken before, called the “Founder’s Aisle”. It has the graves and memorials of many prominent Birkenhead worthies.

On the left a huge old Scots Pine had come down in the recent storms, and even after some clearing work, the trunk was was still propped up by a gravestone. It may have smashed several others as it came down.

In recent years the Friends have been clearing a lot of Ivy and undergrowth along that side, and we wondered if the Ivy had been holding up some of the old trees! Another effect of the tidying has been to let in more light, and a low spreading plant with heart-shaped leaves has taken advantage. It is Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans. The pink flowers are a welcome splash of colour in these dark months, but it is listed by DEFRA as an invasive non-native species: Luckily, only the male plants are found in Britain, so it can only spread by underground rhizomes.

One very early cherry tree was in delicate flower, probably a Cherry Plum Prunus cerasifera, one of the first European trees to flower in spring. Wikipedia says “often starting in mid-February”. This one is about a week earlier than that, and blooming amidst the debris of another fallen veteran tree.

We noted a couple of newly-planted young trees. One with a nursery label was Crataegus monogyna ‘Alboplena’, which will be a white double-flowered Hawthorn. Another was more of a puzzle because it had no label.  It was along the path where the Hollies were savagely pruned a few years ago but are now sprouting well. I think the garden managers are hoping to clip them into a neat row of conical pillars. This new tree fills a gap on one side of the path. The leaves are stiff and glossy like Holly, but the leaf-points are fewer and regularly spaced. Once again Google Images came to the rescue when I looked it up at home. I think it is a variety called ‘Nelly Stevens’, a hybrid between English and Chinese Holly. It is fast-growing, takes a natural pyramidal form and sets abundant red berries without the need for a male plant. Sounds ideal for its position.

Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.05, arriving Upton Road / Boundary Road at 10.25. Returned on the 437 bus at 2.01 from the stop opposite the one we arrived at, in Liverpool at 2.24.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Bidston and Flaybrick, 6th February 2022

Birkenhead Park, 30th January 2022

For my first Sunday walk of 2022 it was bright and dry, but quite cold. (I should have been out last week, but missed it because I hadn’t put it in my diary!) We decided to keep it simple and go to Birkenhead Park.


The lake had the usual Mallards, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Coots and Moorhens, but also three Tufted Ducks, a male and two females. A sign on the railings urged people not to hand-feed or touch the waterfowl and if a dead bird was found, to tell the Visitors’ Centre or ring DEFRA. Sounds like bird flu control measures to me. Two or three weeks ago John saw two dead Mute Swans in Walton Hall Park and reported them. However the Swans here were fine, with two big cygnets feeding peacefully under a Weeping Willow.

There were plenty of Magpies, Wood Pigeons and Feral Pigeons looking out for free food, and also lots of cheeky Grey Squirrels. A Blackbird was almost submerged as it foraged in deep leaf litter in a flowerbed. They love rummaging under dead leaves, and happily throw them about if they can.

About 50 yards north of the Swiss Bridge we spotted a mystery. A branch shooting from the base of a scruffy lakeside tree bore a coating of woolly stuff like fungus or insect webs. The tree may have been a brown-barked Poplar or an Alder, it was hard to tell, but the woolly stuff was new to us. Anyone seen it before?

The sun came out and the gulls congregated at the top of a Monterey Cypress to catch the warmth.

Near the Rockery, high in a tree by the side of the lake, we came across our Corpse of the Day, a dead bird dangling like a gibbetted outlaw. You can just see some fishing line angling off to its left, so the poor creature seems to have been caught in discarded tackle. It’s hard to make out what it was, but it was Crow-sized, perhaps a Magpie.

There was a felled Beech at the eastern end of the lake. It wasn’t storm damage, it had been intentionally cut down. The stump was a good 4 feet in diameter, suggesting the tree was something like 150 years old, and it may have been one of the park’s original trees from 1847. Many of the cut sections had dark hearts, so it looks like it was diseased. The experts on the Facebook group “Trees of Britain and Ireland” suggest it might have had Brittle Cinder fungus Kretzschmaria deusta, which causes a soft rot and makes the tree dangerously likely to fall. Various bracket fungi were also suggested. Looks like a good decision by the park managers in any case.

There were vey few flowers about, just the winter-flowering Laurustinus and Gorse, with a few Daisies in the grass around the Visitors’ Centre. There wasn’t much tree activity yet, either, but one Hazel tree was putting on a good show of male catkins (yellow and dangly) and female flowers (smaller, with bright red stigmas sticking out.)

The deciduous trees like oak and beech didn’t fruit well last year, but the conifers seem to have done much better. There were lots of seed clusters on the Monterey Cypress, and a profusion of downward-hanging cones on the Brewer’s Spruce near the huge Town Gates.

Outside, we looked at a wonderfully ornate old building, erected in 1871. It was Britain’s first purpose-built College for Art and Science and became internationally famous as the Birkenhead College of Art. In 1993 it became the head office of Stanton Marine. We were perplexed by the words on the gates saying “British East India Company”, but it didn’t refer to the historic East India Company but a newer firm, formed in 2004, which took over Stanton Marine. The building is now called The John Laird Centre after the man who originally paid for it as a college.  

Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.10, arriving Park Road North opp Newling Street at 10.25. Returned on bus 437 from Park Road North / Trinity Street at 1.25, arriving Liverpool at 1.35.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Birkenhead Park, 30th January 2022

Eastham Woods, 12th December 2021

What a surprise! A clear, calm, dry day, and the sun even shone. Right off the bus, on the busy New Chester Road, I noticed that the severely trimmed Hawthorn hedge was full of lichen. Despite all the traffic, the air must be cleaner than expected.

All through Eastham woods there were trees down, the legacy of storms Arwen and Barra.  A superseded sign on the gate said “Attention keep out. Unsafe storm-damaged and windthrown trees ahead. Footpath closed for storm clear up works and your protection.” The gate was open, though, and most of the path blockages had been cleared.  Some trees had snapped clean off, while some had failed at ground level and the whole root-plate was upended.

Snapped tree
“Windthrown” tree

At one spot, where an old poplar had fallen across a wall and the path, there was an interesting chainsaw cross-section of the multiple trunks and the stems of the Ivy.

All was quiet and still in the damp air.  We could hear the distant rumble of the New Chester Road behind us, the bell of Christ the King church striking 11 and a rugby coach shouting instructions to his young players. On the lawn by the Leverhulme Sports club were three Blackbirds, a Robin and a Song Thrush, all pecking about. One of the Blackbirds kept running at the thrush as if to see it off its territory.

The songbirds were all quiet and furtive, but we spotted plenty of Magpies and Wood Pigeons. One broken tree had a Wren clinging to it, and a Jay flew in to have a look at us.

We stopped to look at the remains of the massive old Beech tree. It was once Wirral’s tallest tree at 80 feet high, but it may have been down for 20 years, now. It has been left to rot and enrich the woods. There isn’t much of it left, but it supports lots of mosses and fungi. We were able to recognise and name Jelly Ear and Candlesnuff, and also admired this pretty one which we don’t know.

On the way back we spotted a little mouse darting around the “mouth” of the old tree, although it moved too fast to be photographed. Yet another gift from the old tree to the woodland community.

In sheltered areas some trees were still in leaf. Hazels and Sycamores still had some yellowing foliage, while the retained autumn leaves of the young Oaks and Beeches glowed when the sun caught them.

The Ranger’s office was closed so we had no special views of the birds on the feeders in the garden at the back. We sat at the picnic tables and thought there was a Redwing in the undergrowth, but couldn’t see it clearly. The tide was well out, leaving sandbanks in the river Mersey. There were a few gulls on them, and an Egret, but they were all too far out to identify. This is the view up the river south-eastwards, towards Helsby and Frodsham.

We walked northwards a bit along the Wirral Circular trail, as far as Job’s Ferry. A sign there says it is 2.5 miles to Port Sunlight station, so maybe we will try that one day. We were also looking for winter wildflowers, but all we found were one solitary Dandelion and a couple of Gorse bushes.

There will be no more Sunday group walks now until 23rd Jan, although I may be out and about in local parks, weather permitting, looking for signs of spring. Happy Christmas and New Year to all

Public transport details: Chester bus 1 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.12, arriving New Chester Road / opp Woodyear Road at 10.50.  Returned on the X1 from New Chester Road / Allport Road at 2.50. arriving Liverpool 3.20.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Eastham Woods, 12th December 2021