According to the Met. Office, April was: “An incredibly notable month in terms of statistics.” It provided the lowest average minimum mean temperatures for the country since 1922 and was one of the sunniest and driest Aprils on record. Here, not a drop of rain fell for 30 days between 28th March and 27th April. As reported last year, these spring droughts are known to be linked to climate change but the general public is not being told this.
As in April last year, the dry sunny weather was good for insects but not for wild plants. At the month’s end, the dunes looked parched, with little new growth. We were lucky that there were no major fires. The largest at Cabin Hill National Nature Reserve covered about 100 x 50 m, being constrained by sandy tracks and light winds.
I need to begin in late March with a rare visitor from the south, a Striped Hawkmoth that Richard Walker found in his moth-
Turning to April, the ‘insect of the month’ for me was the tiny Spring Heath Robberfly. In Britain, it is restricted to southern heathlands and a few coastal dune systems. It was thought to be rare on the Sefton Coast until I found several last spring. Being wise to its likely presence, I kept an eye open and recorded the remarkable total of 29 during April, most being photographed. Several were eating prey in the form of small flies.
A singing Chiffchaff was a backdrop as I strolled down Formby’s Range Lane on 2nd. The first Black Poplar catkins were showing but about a week late. I was on my way to the Devil’s Hole blowout which was still deeply flooded, making it difficult to measure the height of the water-
On 23rd, Cabin Hill Wood had its usual display of hybrid Bluebells and Primroses, attracting a plenty of butterflies, including Orange Tips, Speckled Woods, Small Tortoiseshells, a Comma and Large, Small and Green-
Falklands Way dunes and the adjacent Ainsdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve were also productive. Highlights included several Spring Heath Robberflies on sandy paths, together with a large colony of Sweet Violet on the edge of woodland that was planted here in 1973. Several collapsed and rotting Silver Birches were a reminder of their short life-
Another regular trip during the month was along Wick’s Path to Wick’s Lake at Formby Point. Spring Heath Robberflies featured again, this time on a sunny, sheltered fence line. Also here was the bristly parasitic fly Tachina ursina, whose furry coat helps it to keep warm in early spring. One of several solitary bees I photographed was identified by Ben Hargreaves as the Grey-