The spring drought continued and intensified during May, which was the sunniest and driest in England since records began in 1929. By the end of the month, water companies were requesting cutbacks in the rate of water use, while some TV weather presenters were reluctantly admitting that “We might need some rain.” Meanwhile, vegetation on the dunes and road verges dried to a crisp, fires inevitably breaking out along the coast and on moorland. Fortunately, many of our dune wetlands, recharged by a wet winter, still had surface water, though the water-
The effects of the drought were evident at Haskayne Cutting Nature Reserve where Patricia Lockwood and I did our annual count of marsh-
In general, insects, seem to have done well during the drought, though it is likely to impact the grass-
Several birds mimic other species and I was greatly entertained by a Sedge Warbler at Sands Lake incorporating phrases from Oystercatcher and Song Thrush into its chattering song. I was pleased to find Bog-
There were some spectacular finds by others during the month. Reports of Hairy Dragonfly at Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve were finally confirmed on 25th when Phil Boardman took an excellent photograph of a male. This was the first for Lancashire and North Merseyside of a dragonfly that is slowly expanding its range. Also new to the region was Pete Kinsella’s Pine Callicera, a rare hoverfly that used to be confined to Caledonian pine forests in the Scottish Highlands. From 2011, it began to turn up in pine plantations in England. On 20th, Pete decided to check Ravenmeols for the hoverfly and, after only an hour of searching, spotted two males high up on a pine trunk. He suggests that further searches in the Sefton pinewoods will surely produce more sightings of this charismatic insect. Finally, Gary Hedges of the Tanyptera Project at World Museum Liverpool went to Freshfield to hunt for a very rare, scarab beetle, the tiny Red Dune Crawler Rhysothorax rufa. After sieving large amounts of sand in the frontal dunes, he was rewarded by a single dead specimen of the target beetle. It has only ever been found at five British localities, this being the first for 14 years of a species that is listed as “endangered” in the UK and has drastically declined from being described as “abundant” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
As I write these notes, a Song Thrush is singing full blast in the garden. Perhaps it is one that I fed during the winter. This month, water rather than food has been crucial for garden birds. From my lounge chair, I have watched Starlings and House Sparrows jostling to drink or bathe in a bowl that sometimes needed topping up several times a day. Surely June can’t be as dry as this!