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
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:
https://www.sefton.gov.uk/around-sefton/coast-countryside/get-involved.aspx for more details.
Cleaning up the dunes and shore with Friends of the Sefton Coast