The month was dominated by the ongoing drought, now comparable to that of 1976. No rain fell at all until 12th May, there being only eight days subsequently with minimal precipitation. A mini heat-
As in April, our Natterjack Toads suffered. The only surviving tadpoles I could find were in a few inches of water in the three deepest scrapes at Ainsdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve. A visit there on 3rd also produced thousands of brightly coloured White Satin moth caterpillars on Creeping Willow, together with one of the much scarcer Dark Tussock. A pair of Stonechats and the first Wall butterfly of the season were also welcome sights, as were several plants of the gorgeous Dune Pansy Viola tricolour subspecies curtisii. A recently published Handbook on British Violas controversially maintains that Dune Pansy is restricted to Braunton Burrows in Devon and the East Anglian Breckland, other records from western dunes being merely dwarfed coastal forms of Wild Pansy Viola tricolour subspecies tricolor. I sent the co-
The often warm and sunny conditions favoured at least some of our dune fauna, the nationally declining Wall and Small Heath butterflies appearing in good numbers, while two fresh Painted Ladies dashing around on Birkdale Green Beach hinted at a migratory influx. Northern Dune Tiger Beetles were also active on suitably sandy slopes, such as those at Devil’s Hole and the Newest Green Beach ridge where I counted 30 at the end of the month. Less welcome at the Devil’s Hole were over 50 drinks bottles and cans which were collected for recycling.
At least two weeks earlier than usual, spectacular Banded Demoiselles appeared at Alt Bridge, Downholland Book, on 11th, while the same day I watched a Broad-
Another highlight was a new plant for the dune coast, Drooping Star-
On 22nd, Patricia and I travelled the few miles inland to Haskayne Cutting Nature Reserve to count the marsh-
Since 1980, I have been studying a large area of grassland on wet acid sandy soils east of the railway line at Hightown. Several reports have described its rich flora, including over 20 Royal Ferns, together with many other usual plants and a rich insect community. I was therefore horrified to discover late in the month that the whole area had recently been ploughed up. According to regulations amended in 2017, Natural England must be consulted before conversion of an area of more than 2 ha of permanent grassland to arable agriculture. Investigations are underway.
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