The driest autumn and winter in living memory continued for the first part of the month with measurable rainfall on only three days up to the 17th. Finally, more normal Atlantic conditions reasserted themselves, with high winds of storm “Doris” rattling in on 23rd. At last, some proper rain fell on each day from 21st to 28th. Nevertheless, this had minimal impact on the depleted water-
As usual, February produced plenty of signs of spring, Patricia Lockwood reporting a Red Admiral butterfly on the first day. Snowdrops were fully out by the 5th at Range Lane and Cabin Hill Wood, the latter producing a spectacular display later on. Hightown dunes had a Yellow Crocus on 14th, while the joyous song of a Skylark and the first flowers of Colt’s-
Meanwhile, wintering birds were still very much in evidence. Visiting Hightown for the high-
At Ainsdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve, I was entertained by 16 small friendly Redpoll cattle, doing a great job of grazing down the coarse vegetation on the inner dunes. The condition of this area has improved noticeably in the last few years, with patches of bare ground and sandy tracks ideal for colonising by small plants and insects. I was also able to walk into the largest slack, normally deeply flooded at this time of year. Immediately obvious was a large stand of Purple Moor-
Finally, Trevor Davenport sent me a splendid photograph of a large female Sparrowhawk which killed a Wood Pigeon in his Freshfield garden, returning repeatedly for several days to feed on the carcass.
Visiting Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve with Joshua Styles to look for mosses and liverworts (bryophytes), I was delighted to find a plant of Hard Fern, a rarity on the coast recorded from only one other locality. Later, Josh sent me an impressive list of 43 bryophytes he found on Freshfield Dune Heath, 16 being new to this reserve.