Kindest cut of all for many species
YOU missed a bit! the phrase goes. Well, Green Sefton didn’t, but folk could be forgiven for failing to spot a slight change in the mowing regime in the northern area of Crosby Coastal Park this year.
The grassland north of the marine lake is mown once a year, and received its annual haircut recently.
This is already yielding results for a number of species which call the coastal park home – a profusion of marsh orchids graced the site this summer, and the area’s famous breeding Skylarks benefited from the increase in insects and seeding grasses to feed on and raise their youngsters.
Ringer Ian Wolfenden has been studying the Skylarks of the Sefton coast for many years and is currently involved in a project on the birds at the coastal park – he took the stunning pictures of the birds with this week’s column.
Ian has put a combination of colour rings on these birds so they can be identified individually at range, allowing him a unique insight into their behaviour.
He monitors them as they forage or roost at all hours of the day and in all weathers.
This winter a few “island” areas of grassland have been left completely unmown to create further feeding opportunities for the park’s larks, leaving another food source for them to take advantage of.
Why do we have to do this for Skylarks?
Well, apart from the obviously blissful experience of hearing them singing high over the coastal park in spring and summer, as a species they also really need our help.
The UK population of Skylarks crashed in the 1990s, with over half of them gone – and numbers are still falling coastally and on farmland.
Imagine a world where you couldn’t hear an avalanche of notes tumble forth from hovering Skylarks in the clear blue sky of a spring morning...
Anywhere that holds a population of them, like Crosby Coastal Park, is to be cherished.
Even in winter they are engaging birds – their “chirruping” calls often alert you to their presence as they fly over dunes and grassland on broad brown wings edged with white.
But other visitors to the park are doing well too thanks to the mowing regime.
Ben Hargreaves of Lancashire Wildlife Trust is an expert on invertebrates and especially the bees.
Since the mowing regime changed Ben has discovered previously unrecorded species at the site visiting the park including Coastal Leafcutter Bee and Gold-fringed Mason Bee.
Both of these species are “polylectic” – this means they feed on a variety of plants, and utilise pollen and nectar from a number of blooms, including Birds Foot Trefoil, and Restharrow, which flourish in areas of shorter sward along the Sefton coast.
The Gold-fringed Mason Bee nests on old snail shells – which is just the thing to be found in the coastal grassland.
The Gold-fringed Mason Bee is another species which will make these grasslands its home
The grasslands of Crosby Coastal Park – newly mown, they create a haven for orchids, Skylarks and insects
Left and above, a Colour ringed Skylark in song
A Coastal Leafcutter Bee