Kind­est cut of all for many species

Midweek Visiter - - The Sefton Coast -

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.

Pic­ture by STEVEN FALK of the Bees, Wasps and Ants Record­ing So­ci­ety (BWARS)

The Gold-fringed Ma­son Bee is an­other species which will make these grass­lands its home

Pic­tures: JOHN DEMPSEY

The grass­lands of Crosby Coastal Park – newly mown, they cre­ate a haven for or­chids, Sky­larks and in­sects

IAN WOLFENDEN

Left and above, a Colour ringed Sky­lark in song

STEVEN FALK (BWARS)

A Coastal Leaf­cut­ter Bee

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