Per­fect time to help boost dune habi­tats

The Sefton Coast Land­scape Part­ner­ship pro­motes the cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage of the Sefton coast and is sup­ported by Sefton Coun­cil, Nat­u­ral Eng­land, the Na­tional Trust, Lan­cashire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Mersey For­est. This col­umn looks at

Midweek Visiter - - The Sefton Coast -

THE smoke rose up over the dunes in the soft au­tumn sun – a sure sign that vol­un­teers and mem­bers of the coast and coun­try­side team were busy im­prov­ing habi­tat in the dunes at Ains­dale.

Au­tumn is the per­fect time for work like this – re­mov­ing scrub and old fence­lines and burn­ing it af­ter the breed­ing sea­son has con­cluded and most of the spe­cial dune flora and fauna is head­ing to­wards the dor­mancy of the win­ter months.

Tasks like this are care­fully man­aged, with the fire bri­gade in­formed and ex­pert rangers on hand.

This work opens up dunes sites and stops ar­eas of sand (which are cru­cial for many of our rare species), from dis­ap­pear­ing un­der Sea Buck­thorn and Birch scrub.

Re­mov­ing the scrub means the sand can move around and form new land­scapes, rather than be­com­ing smoth­ered by fast­grow­ing bushes and saplings.

It is a never end­ing bat­tle, as in­creased ni­tro­gen lev­els and the nat­u­ral propen­sity for scrub veg­e­ta­tion to de­velop in habi­tats like this means the dunes are con­tin­u­ally un­der as­sault.

There’s noth­ing wrong with a bit of scrub, of course, but it has its place and that place isn’t an open dune sys­tem.

Un­for­tu­nately scrub is detri­men­tal to most of the sand dune wildlife we en­joy.

As work to clear ar­eas starts up, Nat­ter­jack Toads and Sand Lizards will be tucked up un­der the sand in suit­able dunes un­til the spring, and the glo­ri­ous or­chids of sum­mer are a re­ced­ing mem­ory.

(In­ci­den­tally, please don’t use metal de­tec­tors any­where in the dunes –dig­ging to in­ves­ti­gate a “beep” can have fa­tal con­se­quences for hi­ber­nat­ing toads and lizards).

So this is the time to help im­prove the habi­tat for all these mar­vel­lous nat­u­ral trea­sures, although the “Friends of the Sefton Coast” vol­un­teer army has been busy this year al­ready.

Some im­pres­sive fig­ures have landed on my desk this week that I just had to share.

Did you know that from April to Septem­ber this year, over 750 vol­un­teer vis­its were made to the Sefton coast and that more than 1500 vol­un­teer hours were given to the beaches, dunes, woods and parks.

This time wasn’t just spent on vi­tal clean ups, although more than 550 bags of rub­bish were re­moved by vol­un­teers and 100 bags of rigid plas­tic was sent for re­cy­cling.

Vol­un­teers also worked on sur­veys in­clud­ing the Sand­wich Tern roost count at Ains­dale, and on ac­cess and habi­tat im­prove­ments all along the coast.

If you’d like to get in­volved and reg­is­ter as a vol­un­teer with Friends of the Sefton Coast, go to:­try­side/get-in­volved.aspx for more de­tails.

Clean­ing up the dunes and shore with Friends of the Sefton Coast

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