The severity of the drought afflicting most of lowland England finally resulted in some TV weather presenters belatedly admitting that “we might need some rain”. This from people who would evidently prefer to live in the Atacama Desert was progress indeed. Here, I noted significant rainfall on only four days in the month. Dr Derek Clarke, who monitors the sand-
Apart from a cold snap early on, it was incredibly mild for most of February. The result was the early appearance of flowers, such as the Garden Grape-
It was accompanied by other escapees, including the attractive Early Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus), Spring Crocus (C. vernus) and the hybrid between them. By the end of the month, the first large garden Daffodils were flowering in various places on the coast, this being several weeks earlier than usual. Following the trend, I saw a queen Buff-
A visit to Cabin Hill National Nature Reserve on 21st produced Early Crocus and Sowbread (Cyclamen hederifolium). These are new species for the reserve list now totalling an impressive 366 vascular plants. The 50 Herdwick Sheep and five Shetland cattle that winter on the reserve have done a great job grazing down coarse vegetation, thereby helping to maintain this diversity. I was particularly interested to see the impact of the cattle on stands of Grey Willow. They have browsed off the young twigs, smashed tracks through the dense scrub patches and even stripped bark off some of the branches. This small hardy breed could have a role in scrub control elsewhere on the coast.
Despite the unseasonal weather, plenty of wintering birds remained throughout the month, though summer-
On 7th, two flocks of Pink-
On my way home, I stopped off at Southport Marine Lake where two immature Shags were on the breakwater. A more usual occurrence was the closely related Cormorant at Sands Lake, Ainsdale, on 23rd. Just as I took its photograph, this bird lightened its load to assist takeoff.
The last three days of the month were spent supervising the deepening of Natterjack Toad breeding sites at Hightown and Lifeboat Road, Formby. We also managed to excavate a new scrape in the Ravenmeols frontal dunes where the habitat is ideal for Natterjacks except that there has never previously been any water for breeding. Now all we need is some rain!