In complete contrast to last year, this desperately dry autumn and winter continued throughout December, with only nine days producing measurable rainfall. Much heralded in the media, two named storms were little more than damp squibs, producing an hour or two of light rain and a fresh breeze. Predictably, the dune water-
While the dunes are always rather quiet in December, the Ribble marshes invariably provide some excitement. Over 2500 Wigeon close to the coastal road embankment at Crossens on 5th were an impressive spectacle, while later in the month, 1100 Golden Plover and a Great White Egret added further interest from the same viewpoint. In addition to the now ubiquitous Little Egrets and regular Great Whites, the Cattle Egret, is being seen much more often in our area, having started to breed in the UK in 2008. An email from Tim Vaughan alerted me to one near Hightown on 11th that was patrolling the verge right next to a fairly busy road, completely ignoring the traffic. What it was finding to eat at this time of year is a mystery, as this species usually relies on insects disturbed by grazing animals, especially of course cattle.
On 6th, I joined a group of about 30 Biodiverse Society volunteers and organisers on a walk from Ainsdale Discovery Centre to the Green Beach. This fascinating pioneer habitat is not seen at its best on a dull cold December day; nevertheless a variety of gulls and waders competed for attention with a perky Stonechat. Ben Deed of Merseyside BioBank collected two notable fungi: a rust called Puccinia recondita on leaves of Sand Couch and an ergot from Common Cord-
Another fascinating fungus is the Winter Stalkball Tulostoma brumale which turned up again in some abundance on track-
I never get tired of tracking down the Pink-
The excellent Wildlife Trust reserve at Mere Sands Wood is usually worth a visit, this being one of the few places locally where Goosanders can be seen in winter. Sure enough, on 18th I counted eight there, including two smart males. Stock Doves were calling from the trees as I did a circuit of the reserve, unexpectedly flushing a Little Egret from a trackside ditch. Less welcome was a Grey Squirrel. Mere Sands often supports a few Red Squirrels, these being susceptible to the pox virus transmitted by Greys. Just after my visit, a Bittern was photographed from one of the many hides.
I hurried over to Ormskirk on 28th in the hope of seeing a group of Waxwings which had been feeding on ornamental Rowan berries in Coronation Park for nearly a week. Fortunately, eight were still there, though rapidly running out of berries which were also being eaten by several Blackbirds. The Waxwings disappeared the following day, a flock of about the same size appearing soon afterwards at Seaforth.
One of the highlights of December was receiving my copy of the Lancashire Bird Report for 2015. Edited by Steve White and superbly produced by the Lancashire & Cheshire Fauna Society, the report is packed full of fascinating information, including a summary of ringing recoveries that show where many of our birds have come from or go to during their extraordinary migrations. A case in point is an Avocet colour-