Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes April 2017

Purple Ramping-fumitory (Dr Phil Smith)

Since I started these notes in 2007, almost every April has been characterised by prolonged drought conditions. However, with a total of about 5mm of rain falling on five days during the month, this has been arguably the worst yet. The Met. Office acknowledged that April 2017 was the 10th driest on record for the UK but most other parts of the country had far more rain than us. Climate scientists have shown that spring droughts here are linked to persistent high-pressure systems over Greenland. These interfere with the North Atlantic Jet Stream that controls our weather and are the result of a warming trend in the Arctic brought about by climate change. This has major implications for our wildlife, not to mention agriculture and water supply but the TV weather presenters were still having apoplexy at the slightest hint of rain in the forecast. So much for our “green and pleasant land” as vegetation became parched and numerous grass fires were reported, one destroying Heysham Moss Nature Reserve in north Lancashire.

Discovery awaits in the twilight: Take part in the National Bat Monitoring Programme by Chloe-Lea Longden

Bat Detecting (BCT/Anne Youngman)

Bat numbers in the UK have declined dramatically over the last century. You can help to monitor how the UK's bats are currently faring by taking part in the Bat Conservation Trust’s National Bat Monitoring Programme surveys which involve observing these fascinating mammals in your local area.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes March 2017

Common Toad (Dr Phil Smith)

In contrast to the previous six dry months, March had average rainfall with measurable amounts on 12 days, most notably on 22nd when several hours of steady rain was something we haven’t experienced here for over a year. Despite this, there was minimal recharge of the water-table, my measuring point at the Devil’s Hole dune-slack being still 5cm below ground by the end of the month. Breeding by Common Toads, Common Frogs and Smooth Newts was therefore restricted to the deeper wetlands on the coast. Common Toads were active at Cabin Hill on 4th, when about 100 batches of frog spawn had already been laid in the main scrape. Later, I counted 50 dead Common Toads at this site, only four of which had been predated. I have seen mass mortality of this species here before but those corpses had been partially eaten. This time, the cause of death remains a mystery. The Lifeboat Road Natterjack scrapes were almost dry but it was good to see many immature Smooth Newts under pieces of wood, reflecting last year’s better breeding conditions.

Tony Carter: A Mission to Ainsdale

Caloscypha fulgens (Tony Carter)

I received a request from Kew Herbarium to collect some specimens of the morels that can be found at the Ainsdale Sand Dunes Reserve. They are recorded as Morcella elata (Black Morel), an uncommon species.  A recent European molecular study has revealed some new species. There is a distinct possibility that the Ainsdale dune collections and British sand dune collections in general, belong to a species not previously recognised in Britain.

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