August 2018

Freshfield Dune Heath: Rhacognathus punctatus

Rhacognathus punctatus (Dr Phil Smith)

Another interesting discovery at Freshfield by Dr Phil Smith. This Shieldbug (Rhacognathus punctatus the Heather Shieldbug) is otherwise unknown from locations in South Lancashire (VC59). As a whole there are only 200 records for the UK (NBN Atlas 09.08.2018).

The only other records for our area are from Coastal Surveys carried out by the natural history staff at the World Museum Liverpool. This survey produced 4 records of this species. All of them from locations within the same nature reserve and all collected on the 15th July 1997.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes July 2018

Coastal fire damage (Dr Phil Smith)

With the countryside in flames, farmers losing millions and the water-supply industry in turmoil, the TV weather presenters finally acknowledged the longest summer drought since 1976 and started to talk about the “chance” of showers, rather than the “risk”! We actually had six days with measurable rain during July but only on 29th was there enough to make a difference to the parched landscape. A spate of fires along the coast seemed inevitable. The biggest at Hightown dunes, Altcar Training Camp and Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve each destroyed several hectares, while several smaller blazes were also reported. Further afield, about a third of Lytham St. Anne’s Local Nature Reserve went up in flames. These fires can kill small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates but most plants usually recover quite quickly. Thus, after three weeks, the Hightown fire site was already showing regrowth of vegetation.