Colour­ful car­pets of life make for daz­zling sum­mer

Midweek Visiter - - The sefton coast -

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. dempsey@sefton.gov.uk.

Pictures: JOHN DEMPSEY

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

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