It was a wet one; measurable rain fell in Formby on 20 days during December. The 13th, 19th and 26th were especially damp, the latter coinciding with named storm ‘Bella’. It was also relatively mild, with frost largely restricted to a few mornings late in the month. There was no snow; indeed, it is now ten years since the last major snowfall here in December 2010. Unsurprisingly, the sand-
It is worth looking back at the national weather picture for 2020. It was the third or fourth warmest year on record, one of the top ten wettest and top ten sunniest. The Met Office recorded the wettest February since records began, the sunniest spring and the wettest single day ever (in October). All this is consistent with climate change due to global warming, an issue that has been familiar to naturalists for 40 years or more. As highlighted in my Wildlife Notes, we have seen major northward shifts in the distributions of many breeding birds and also fast-
With mild conditions persisting early in the month, I was hoping to find my first December hoverfly; and did so at Wick’s Path on 5th. Predictably, it was just the very common Drone Fly Eristalis pertinax. It was accompanied on the fence by an assortment of other flies, including several Bluebottles, ten of which were sunning themselves on dead wood at Ravenmeols on 7th. However, that was about it for the month’s insects, while summer blooms could still be found quite easily. White Dead-
As insects and higher plants became harder to find my attention turned to birds but I wasn’t tempted by a rare Dusky Warbler from Siberia. Found by Andrew Spottiswood, it spent most of the month skulking in scrub patches on Ainsdale National Nature Reserve. A little more accessible was a Grey Phalarope which had been at Marshside for a couple of weeks before I got round to seeing it on 2nd. It was constantly spinning round on a pool to stir up invertebrates from the mud, typical behaviour for this small wader which breeds in the high Arctic, passing through Britain in small numbers on its way to tropical winter quarters. Disturbed by a passing raptor, an impressive flock of 300 Golden Plover and 1000 Lapwing took to the air over the waterlogged marshland. By 24th, this was deeply flooded, supporting 45 Pintail and almost 300 Tufted Ducks at the Hesketh Road end.
A search for a Snow Bunting on Ainsdale beach on 11th was unsuccessful but at least Pete Kinsella sent me fine photograph of the bird. A week later, the Hightown shore was completely quiet, apart from the distant roar of the surf and the trilling of Redshanks dispersing from their high-
The ponds on Freshfield Dune Heath Nature reserve were brim full and the paths wet and muddy when I visited on 28th. However, it was good to see that a large area has recently been cleared by volunteers of invasive Gorse and Silver Birch. This revealed what must have been an old bunker from the previous Freshfield Golf Course that was requisitioned to construct Woodvale Airfield in 1941. Relicts of military occupation were two concrete blocks on the heath. These have been colonised by round cushions of mosses, including the rather attractive Thickpoint Grimmia, a species not recorded for the Sefton Coast until it was found by Joshua Styles on similar habitat in 2017. Due to Covid restrictions, the ‘Buckthorn Bashers’ were unable to continue their scrub-
Here’s hoping the New Year will bring better fortunes for everyone.