Reflecting the national fame of our dune flora, a dozen members of the Cleveland Botany Group from Middlesbrough spent several days here in early July, staying in a Southport hotel. They were delighted to see some of our great rarities, such as Isle of Man Cabbage, Baltic Rush and Sharp Club-rush, the latter in its only British locality at Birkdale. Their expertise was invaluable, as they were able to confirm that a single plant found at Birkdale Green Beach last month was not the Common Sea Lavender (Limonium vulgare) but the much rarer Rock Sea Lavender (Limonium binervosum), a first ever record for South Lancashire. Its nearest site is Hilbre Island, which is where the seed may have come from.
The Dragonfly Atlas survey has been a bit of a washout this month but I was pleased to see a couple of Emperor Dragonflies (Anax imperator), our largest species, on the Green Beach on 24th and a Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) patrolling a woodland glade at the National Trust on 11th July. The better weather forecast for August should give these warmth-loving insects a boost, including the several kinds that visit garden ponds. Interested readers can contribute records via the Atlas web-site www.dragonflies.org.uk.
July is usually a quiet month for bird-watching but the keen sea-watchers did well out of the blustery weather, with several sightings of Storm Petrels off Formby Point early in the month and 240 Manx Shearwaters on 14th. Gannets, terns and Arctic Skuas were also reported in good numbers. Rare species included a Glossy Ibis at Marshside from 10th to the end of the month and an American Pectoral Sandpiper there on 22nd – 24th. A remarkable count of 117 Avocets was made at Banks Marsh on 18th. Meanwhile, a little further afield, a Bittern was booming at Wigan Flashes, a reward for many years of restoration work by Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Wigan Council.