Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes April 2018

Natterjack Toad (Dr Phil Smith)

April 2018 really broke the mould. Since the millennium, we have got used to prolonged droughts, with April showers a distant memory. This month, measurable rain fell on 12 days and, although it was mainly colder than average, there was a heatwave from 18th to 21st with the highest April temperatures (in London) since 1949. Remarkably, the dune water-table actually rose by 4.5cm during the month. The result was the best Natterjack Toad activity for several years. For the first time, these rare amphibians spawned in the youngest section of the Green Beach at Ainsdale. Although usually nocturnal, some amorous male Natterjacks started calling during the afternoon of 9th and I found three pairs as well as ten Smooth Newts, while Skylarks were singing their hearts out overhead and 18 migratory White Wagtails foraged on the shore.

Sefton Coast: Aegialia arenaria

Aegialia arenaria (Dr Phil Smith)

I saw several of these tiny (4mm) dung beetles recently at the Green Beach and Devil’s Hole. I thought they were an Aphodius sp. but Gary Hedges sent them to the national dung beetle expert and, despite my dreadful photographs, they came back as Aegialia arenaria. This is fairly common and widespread but largely coastal on sand.  I hadn't noticed them before.

Rob Duffy: Sidewalk Botanist - Early Spring Notes

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Chickweed in flower (Rob Duffy)

Last Saturday, the 14th, was the warmest day (at 14 degrees celcius) in nearly 5 months and an excursion across the Roby fields and ponds was a positive pleasure. Beyond the M62 bridge, a huge field of young winter wheat covers a kilometre in length and somewhat less in width; within it a series of ponds are enclosed by hawthorn hedges, ditches run with clear water and here and there are alder and willow “carr”.

Hugh Harris: Lunt Meadows and Wetlands Nature Reserve, SD3402

Water vole (Peter Trimming)

Lunt Meadows is an entirely new 77 ha wetland nature reserve, located along the River Alt floodplain, owned by the Environment Agency, in North Merseyside. It is sited adjacent to an area of raised bank suspected to be the first point of overtopping in a flood event. In July 2010 the River Alt bank did breach in this location and an area of 80 ha was inundated to a maximum depth of 1m. Developing habitats include wet grassland, reedbed, fen and open water. The site is managed primarily for breeding waders and water vole.

Jim Pearson: The Purple Fumitory

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Fumaria purpurea (Dr Phil Smith)

Purple Ramping-fumitory is a nationally scarce and endemic to the UK, the only place it grows naturally in the world. It is an annual plant which used to be widespread in the mixed farming and arable areas of Britain. However, during the last 50 years it has undergone a drastic decline throughout its former range largely  due to modern farming methods such as the move to autumn sown cropping and  the introduction of broad-spectrum herbicides which threaten its continued existence. It has also declined in areas where there has been high arable reversion to grassland

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes March 2018

Juniper Shieldbug (Joyce Jarvis)

With a few snow flurries at times, and a “mini-beast from the east” on 17th, March was certainly colder than average, while measurable rain on 17 days kept the water-table topped up. The Devil’s Hole at Ravenmeols was impressively flooded, though well below levels seen in 2008, 2013 and 2016. Despite the low temperatures, a few Common Frogs and Common Toads were out and about from about 10th but peak activity was much later. On 21st, I counted 70 batches of frog spawn and the first spawning of Common Toads at Birkdale Green Beach. Earlier, Cabin Hill produced a few Common Toads but no Common Frogs or spawn were seen, probably because the water was too deep to explore effectively. Two pairs of Lapwings were displaying over the fields behind the reserve, their characteristic “pee-wit” call bringing back memories of my childhood when these now uncommon breeders were ubiquitous

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