Wildlife Notes

Rob Duffy: Sidewalk Botanist Goes Brookside: A short excursion down Court Hey Brook

Pools of the Brook, Court Hey Park (Rob Duffy)

Court Hey Brook is some 680 metres long within its Park and is crossed by two footbridges, one in the “middle” and the other at the southern end. It was never a boundary within the Victorian estate which ran uphill to the present Rimmer Avenue and it barely appears on any maps. It is hard to believe that its hydrology was significantly altered about a decade ago (United Utilities); designed to protect the east bank’s back gardens from being undercut by waters that have subsequently failed, the remnant sandbanks seem now arcane relics.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes June 2018

Maiden Pink (Dr Phil Smith)

Reports of Red-eyed Damselflies at new localities in Merseyside led Trevor Davenport and me to visit the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Aintree where this distinctive species can be found perching on Fringed Water-lily leaves. We logged about 25 Red-eyes, including several pairs, as well as four other species of dragonfly in this exceptional month for these ancient insects.

Rob Duffy: Sidewalk Botanist-June Notes

(Rob Duffy)

The “scrapes” in Court Hey Park are as dry as a bone and can be traversed to inspect the wetland flora-the flora of the pavement cracks too has altered completely under the unrelenting Sun but, with the disappearance of the widespread Thale Cress, many species, particularly Willowherbs, are surviving. Perhaps this is the time to get to grips with this common garden weed? Identification is not too difficult, depending on the shape of the stigma, whether there are ridges on the stem, the length of the petiole, or the length of the leaves and pods, to name but a few features. But, beware of hybridisation!

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes May 2018

Large Red Damselflies (Dr Phil Smith)

The Met. Office reckoned it was the warmest and sunniest May on record; it was also dry with measurable rainfall on only eight days. Forecasts of torrential thunder-storms came day after day during the last week but all we got were a couple of brief showers on 30th and 31st. The duneland water-table therefore fell rapidly, the Newest Green Beach at Ainsdale with 1000+ small Natterjack tadpoles on 2nd having completely dried up by 13th. Fortunately, tadpoles at several other sites, including the Devil’s Hole, survived until at least the end of the month.

Rob Duffy: Sidewalk Botanist gets close and personal with a saxifrage and illustrates the tribulations of using

I borrowed BioBank’s copy of “Poland” to try and resolve the mystery of its identity from a
fragment I had taken - comprising fully intact leaves- and found myself keying out Saxifraga
umbrosa (Pyrenean saxifrage) , or Saxifrage nivalis (Alpine saxifrage). I was really attracted to the
latter because “Poland” refers to “the long wavy cilia near the base” (of the petiole).

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

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