Seek out these 12 in New Year

Midweek Visiter - - The Sefton Coast - with John Dempsey

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 face­ 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

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