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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