Colourful carpets of life make for dazzling summer
WHEN is the best time to enjoy the wildlife of the Sefton coast?
The stirring spectacle of thousands of wintering Pink Footed Geese on the Ribble estuary in winter is quite something. So are the first notes of the Natterjack Toad choir tuning up in spring or the hyperactive behaviour of Red Squirrels in the autumn.
But if you speak to the naturalists who know the coast well, most generally agree that for all-round breathtaking biodiversity, the best time to come and have a look around is the last two weeks of June and first week of July. Why then? Well, almost all of the spectacular dune plants are in bloom, often forming dazzling carpets of colour.
It is a great time to appreciate the variety of protected orchids or still stranger plants like the Adder’s Tongue Fern, or beautiful Bog Pimpernel.
The Natterjacks may have stopped singing, but it is often possible to see tadpoles metamorphosising into tiny toadlets and most of our butterflies, including the biggest, the Dark Green Fritillary, are on the wing.
Dragonflies patrol sheltered dune pools and bird numbers start to build on the coast again as autumn migration starts up (they work on a different calendar to us – for them our high summer is the time to build up supplies of fat in preparation for long autumnal journeys).
Days are longer and (hopefully) warmer and the natural world responds – the dunes in June are remarkable.
To celebrate this peak time to enjoy the wonders of the Sefton coast, I’ll be leading a series of three free walks aimed at taking in the best that the coast has to offer.
I can’t guarantee we’ll see everything – but that’s always an excuse to return to this remarkable landscape at a later date.
The walks will take place on Friday, June 15 when we will set off from Ainsdale train station at 10am for a circular route through the dunes north of Shore Road, Ainsdale, searching out our special flora and fauna, before returning to Ainsdale station.
Then on Saturday, June 16, we will be exploring the dunes at Hightown and Alt Estuary, meeting at Hightown station at 10am (the circular walk will conclude there too).
Finally on Thursday, June 21, we will meet again at Ainsdale station at 10am to complete a route that will take in the grazed dunes of the local nature reserve and Ainsdale National Nature Reserve, before returning to Ainsdale station.
Each walk will take two and a half to three hours, and you will need stout footwear and weather appropriate clothing.
It can be very hot in the dunes in summer, so a cool drink and sun hat is recommended too.
The walks are free, but booking is essential – for details please call 0151 934 2964 or email john. email@example.com.
Dragonflies including Broad Bodied Chasers (this is a male) take to the wing Above, protected plants like the Bee Orchid can be found in sheltered corners
The Bog Pimpernel can flourish in high summer