On the Sefton coast the Gems in the Dunes team have worked hard over the winter, with local partners to improve the fortunes of some of the rarest species that call the coast home, as part of the national Back from the Brink programme.

National Trust Formby pond completed

At Formby, natterjack toads have been helped by the creation of two new breeding pools out on the sand dunes, that will help connect existing pools together once again along the coast. Areas around the pools have been cleared too, providing open expanses of bare sand that make ideal hunting and foraging grounds for northern dune tiger beetles and sand lizards as well as the toads. Once established the damp pool edges may also become suitable for some of the rare bryophytes found on the coast. In the past the pools in this area were successful natterjack breeding pools for many years, however they disappeared when inundated by blowing sand. It’s hoped that in the future, they will once again become successful breeding pools. We worked closely with our partners at National Trust Formby to locate the pools in a suitable area in order that they work with the landscape, whilst a local contractor carefully scraped the sand out to leave two shallow sandy pools with gently sloping sides. The toads favour these sort of pools as shallow water warms up quickly in the spring and the gently sloping sides make getting in and out of the water easier.

Natterjack toad spawn from 2019 Northern dune tiger beetles

The Queens Jubilee Nature Trail in Southport, is home to a very small number of natterjack toads. Not that long ago numbers were much higher, but they have declined significantly in the last twenty years, as the site has become inundated with scrub, which has reduced the suitability of large areas for many species. As part of the Gems in the Dunes project, we have been working with our partners at Green Sefton and local contractors over the winter, to remove scrub from one of the natterjack toad breeding pools. By removing the scrub that shaded the pool, the water will warm up much quicker and benefit the toads. Further habitat improvement works took place as part of this year’s Herpetofauna Workers Meeting, volunteers from around the country helped to clear areas of invasive scrub from the sand dunes on site, which will benefit a whole variety of other wildlife too.

Queens Jubilee Nature Trail before work Queens Jubilee Nature Trail after work

We are looking forward to once again, being able to go out and survey when movement restrictions allow, with our partners and fantastic team of volunteers to see how all the pools are doing in terms of natterjack breeding. Whilst access is still permitted on the coast for exercise, including dog walking please remember to keep your dog under control around the pools so as not to harm or disturb the toads, toadspawn or tadpoles. Your help with this is much appreciated.