Project Manager, Fiona Sunners fills us in on what’s been happening with ARC's Gems in the Dunes project on the Sefton coast over the summer and what they've got planned for the winter season.  

Well it looks like the wildlife has been carrying on as normal, despite our activities being slightly curtailed! Over the summer we were a bit more active once again, as restrictions were lifted. Some of our volunteers returned to the dunes with us, to help create more sand patches for the sand lizards, whilst others attended our northern dune tiger beetle online training before embarking on surveys out on the dunes. With the help of the volunteers, we have been able to gather tiger beetle records for the majority of the coast (at least for the August population) and have a peak count of over 3500 beetles.

Other volunteers picked up their natterjack toad surveys, spotting a handful of late spawn strings and keeping an eye on tadpole activity. We were really pleased to find toadlets at many of the pools on the coast, and quite surprised to see such good numbers at one of the pools in Formby, that we knew had been heavily used by visitors during lockdown. Toadlets had not been recorded at the Queens Jubilee site since 2012, although adults and spawn have been recorded there the last few years, so it was really great to see toadlets there again this year.

Despite not being able to survey early on in the sand lizard season, we have managed a few sightings of adults along the coast over the hotter months of July and August. However one of our volunteers who only lives 10 minutes from the dunes has managed to see a fair few lizards on the site he monitors, even throughout lockdown when out exercising. Now it’s hatchling season, each year I’m surprised how small they are compared to the adults, as are the volunteers when they first spot them, but it’s a great feeling when you do catch sight of them. A huge thank you to all our volunteers over the summer months – we couldn’t do it without you! Don’t put your feet up yet - there’s still plenty going on.

As October approaches we are planning our bryophyte surveys, searching for Petalwort and Sea bryum as well as the particularly scarce matted bryum, not recorded here since the 1930’s! So there will be plenty of searching on our hands and knees once again. We are also thinking about the habitat management work we have to do in the project. We’ll continue with work to improve the sand dunes for all of our key species and many more; by clearing scrub from shaded dune slopes and overgrown slacks, to increase connectivity, basking, foraging and egg laying sites, as well as clearing vegetation from within the pools to make better spawning sites.

Our plan is to continue working with our volunteers on these tasks as much as we can. We will continue to follow the ever-changing guidance in order to keep everybody as safe as we can, following social distancing and hygiene measures throughout. If you are interested in finding out more, please get in contact with us at [email protected]