A fairly wet start and finish to the month were separated by a prolonged settled spell of about two weeks, rather typical of recent early springs. The dry period caused a fall of about 3.5cm in the sand-
A couple of days later, large numbers of Common Toads were assembling to spawn at Cabin Hill. It was rather disturbing to count 58 individuals recently killed by a predator that had mainly eaten just the back legs. We have seen this kind of mortality at Cabin Hill before but have never been able to identify the perpetrator. It seems to be quite unusual because Common Toads are protected by poison glands in their skin. On 25th, I counted 12 Smooth Newts in the scrape near Range Lane, Formby. These newts are common and widespread in the dunes but often hard to see because they prefer deep water at this time of year. Through my binoculars, I watched a female trying to eat Frog spawn, a behaviour I hadn’t observed before, though it is mentioned in the literature. Also new to me was a pale blue “tide-
Other signs of spring included the flowering of several kinds of willows. At Ravenmeols, the male “pussy willow” catkins of Goat and Grey Willow attracted hosts of queen bumblebees, mainly Buff-
Early insects included a Small Tortoishell on 7th and a black beetle I encountered on the frontal dunes at Ainsdale on 13th. I knew it was a weevil but this is an enormous family. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long to identify it on the internet as the Black Marram Weevil, a local insect confined to dunes around the British coast. A warm sunny Good Friday produced a Sand Wasp and a Groundhopper at Ravenmeols, while Pete Kinsella reported the first Vernal Mining Bees at Hightown, where he also saw three Wheatears and his earliest ever Swallow.
A meeting of the Altcar Training Camp Conservation Advisory Group brought news of Steve Cross’s monthly counts of shorebirds for the national wetland birds survey. During the winter, up to 37,500 waders flocked to the high-
The Sefton Coast’s reputation spreads far and wide. Recently, I was contacted by the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew to request a sample of Dune Wormwood seed for the National Collection. Crosby Coastal Park is one of only two British localities for a plant first found here in 2004.
Other birds on the move included Crossbills reported at several places along the coast. A mobile flock of 10 with their unmistakable chipping calls was at Freshfield Dune Heath Nature Reserve on 16th, while five Redpolls feeding on Sea Rush seeds made an attractive picture at Weld Road saltmarsh, Birkdale at the end of the month. The Redpoll used to be a common bird hereabouts but has undergone a massive decline both nationally and locally since the 1970s. Avocets continued their spring influx to the RSPB’s Marshside Nature Reserve, where I counted 60 on 14th. Remaining winter visitors included 38 Common Snipe and three Jack Snipe at Cabin Hill, where the flock of curious and surprisingly tame Herdwick sheep from the Lake District strolled right up to me. This attractive and hardy breed is ideal for conservation grazing on the National Nature Reserve.