Seek out these 12 in New Year
OKAY, new year and new challenges. The Sefton Coast has a dazzling range of species – from the Mersey mouth overlooked by Antony Gormley’s Iron Men in the south, to the clouds of wildfowl and waders that throng the Ribble estuary at Marshside and Crossens in the north.
And in 2019, the Liverpool City Region is celebrating its Year of Environment as part of a national year of action ‘‘that aims to leave a better environment for the next generation to inherit and make our area one of the best places in the country to live, work and flourish”.
So I’ve picked 12 species for folk to seek out in Sefton’s wide range of habitats, from sand dunes to marshes, during 2019, as an impetus to get out and enjoy the wonderful landscape we have right on our doorstep.
Some of these species are easy to find, others require a little bit more effort, but none should be taken for granted as we are lucky to have them.
It is easiest to encounter some of them on guided walks led by Green Sefton, or partners like the Gems In The Dunes project, which works to improve habitats for key species like the natterjack toad, sand lizard and northern dune tiger beetle.
The first six to seek out in the first half of the year appear today – the second six will be publicised in the column next week.
Pink-footed geese should be fairly easy to connect with – they occur in large numbers and commute over the borough between roosting and feeding grounds on the Sefton coast and farmland behind the coastal strip.
Large “V” formations of them flap across our skies from now until the end of March.
A bit trickier is everyone’s favourite non-vascular plant – the Petalwort (only two millimetres across, but what a beast) is a dune system specialist that is best seen in the winter months north of Ainsdale.
Probably best to join a guided walk to see that one – look out for details at facebook.com/ greensefton and @GreenSefton_ or in the column.
As the days lengthen, avocets will reappear at Marshside RSPB reserve, travelling north from wintering grounds in France and the south coast to arrive from mid-February onwards.
The chromium yellow blooms of coltsfoot can blossom anywhere from Bootle to the Ribble from early March depending on temperatures, but gladden the heart as they herald Spring...
Come the end of March, the coast’s natterjack toads start to sing and northern dune tiger beetles start to scurry over warm dune slopes – again you can encounter these enigmatic species on guided walks, details of which will appear in the column or online at the addresses mentioned earlier.
So there’s the first six to be getting on with – how many can you find?
We’ll look at another six next week that are best found in the warmer months that seem such a long way off at the moment...
Left, coltsfoot – anywhere from Bootle to the Ribble estuary Below, one of the stars of the Sefton coast show – the natterjack toad
John works for Green Sefton, the new Sefton Council service which brings together the coast & countryside, parks & green spaces, flooding & coastal erosion, risk management and grounds maintenance teams for a joined-up approach to the vital management, development and oversight of Sefton’s beautiful coastline, parks and green spaces. This column looks at the flora, fauna and history of the coastline, and the work carried out to protect it.
Pink-footed geese: look out for them flying in ‘V’ formation
Above, the northern dune tiger beetle reappers in late March
Above, expect avocets at Marshside
Left, the petalwort – catch it while you can during the winter, north of Ainsdale