Wildlife Notes

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.

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.

Rob Duffy: Sidewalk Botanist - Early Spring Notes

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”.

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

Rob Duffy: Sidewalk Botany Report January-March 2018

Mistletoe, West Derby (Rob Duffy)

 

The year kicked off with the New Year Survey of flowering plants of the Liverpool Loop Line, which didn’t yield much, but what was quite inspiring on a cold, wet, afternoon, to this relative fern novice, was the abundance of Soft Shield Fern shuttlecocks (Polystichum setiferum), in the Broad Green “dell”.  I posted a photo of these on the “Friends of Liverpool Loopline” facebook page, hoping the cyclists and litter picking team would wax enthusiastic.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes February 2018

Metzgeria fruticulosa (Dr Phil Smith)

There was measurable rain on 10 days in the first three weeks of the month – about average – after which the “Beast from the East” set in, with exceptionally cold dry easterly winds from Siberia. This unusual weather pattern was due to warm air and high pressure over Canada and Greenland, leading to a blockage of the North Atlantic Jet-stream which should bring us rain-bearing fronts in February. Researchers have linked this to a warming trend in the Arctic, itself a consequence of rapid climate change.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes January 2018

Pink-foot Goose (Dr Phil Smith)

With 18 rain-days and the two named storms Eleanor and Georgina, January was wetter than average. This meant a welcome recovery in the dune water-table which returned to “normal” winter levels. I measured a rise of about 17cm at the Devil’s Hole blowout during the month, resulting in extensive flooding of the lower sections. This is good news for the Natterjack Toad which might have somewhere to breed in the spring.

Big tides and high winds early in the month created a storm surge which, although not as strong as those in the 2013/14 winter, produced some erosion at Formby Point and Hightown. I estimated a 5m loss of dunes at Hightown, impacting important populations of Isle of Man Cabbage and the rare Triple-hybrid Evening Primrose. In contrast, there were minimal effects at the Ainsdale end of Birkdale Green Beach, where the much wider shore absorbs the energy of the waves.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes December 2017

Amoecius brevis (Dr Phil Smith)

An unremarkable month for weather, December 2017 started and ended relatively mild with a cold snap in the middle. Many parts of the country had considerable snow-fall but, as usual, barely a flake was seen here. However, it was a little wetter than average with measureable rain on 20 days, though many of those had little more than a period of drizzle. Happily, the sand-dune water-table continued to rise, Devil’s Hole showing an increase of 15cm (6 inches) during the month, with surface water appearing at last in the deepest sections.

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