In complete contrast to last year’s frigid conditions, March 2014 was warmer, sunnier and slightly drier than normal with rainfall on 10 days. This meant that the earlier wildflowers appeared on time and in plentiful supply. Indeed, by mid-
Our most notable annual, confined to dunes west of Southport Marine Lake, is the nationally rare Early Sand-
The other great botanical joys of March are willow and poplar catkins. My walk around the Wicks Lake area of Formby Point on 21st was enlivened by spectacular displays of Osier, the hybrid Fine Osier, Grey and Goat Willow, males of the two latter species having the familiar “pussy-
Also not to be missed at this time of year is Purple Willow, so I made a pilgrimage on 24th to see its superb male catkins at the south end of Larkhill Heath, Formby. Both here and, more especially, at Freshfield Dune Heath Nature Reserve, Gorse was flowering in golden abundance. However, this plant can become invasive and some Gorse had been cut back by the site managers at both these heathlands to improve conditions for other important denizens, especially reptiles. Other important management work included the digging of new scrapes for Natterjack Toads at Hightown dunes and Birkdale funded by Sefton Council’s Landscape Partnership Scheme.
The favourable weather also brought out lots of insects, including Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells emerging from hibernation in remarkably good condition. Queen Bumble-
Bird highlights included a winter-