NMARG was formed in 2005 and is a group of about 60 members who are mostly involved with the conservation and monitoring of the reptiles and amphibians found in the area, especially the rarest two species, the Merseyside Race Sand Lizard and the Natterjack Toad.
During the Winter months, we undertake habitat management work, in partnership with other ARG groups and the Sefton Council Coast and Countryside Ranger Service. This vital work involves the clearance of unwanted scrub and trees, especially Sea Buckthorn, a highly invasive alien shrub on the Sefton Coast, which would otherwise shade out the precious Sand Lizard and Natterjack habitat. In the Spring, NMARG members also help to create and maintain the patches of bare sand essential for Sand Lizard egg laying.
During the Spring and Summer months we spend a large amount of time recording and monitoring the local reptile and amphibian species, especially the rarer species. NMARG's EPS licensed members also provide training in reptile and amphibian surveying.
Anyone wishing to get involved, seeking advice or supplying records are very welcome. Please contact Mike Brown at email@example.com
The intermittent warm, sunny weather of the last few weeks has fetched plenty of male Common Lizards and Sand Lizards out of hibernation, and even females are beginning to appear. We have currently recorded about 30 Sand Lizards this year, including about 12 of last year's hatchlings. Many of these hatchlings are still surprisingly small, perhaps due to being born late last year.
The male Sand Lizards at present lack the vivid green colouration seen a bit later in the Spring. This is only achieved after their first slough.
Despite the number of sand Lizard sightings already achieved, numbers are still worryingly low at most sites.
Our latest conservation weekend saw the largest turnout of the Winter, NMARG members being joined by ARG volunteers from ARGSL, SWWARG, NERAG, FARG and Bangor University! Starting in brilliant sun shine, about 30 volunteers continued the tree and scrub clearance started on the previous task, whilst 8 people were involved with the tree and scrub clearance on an overgrown steep bank formerly containing a good population of sand lizards. Another 8 were drafted over from the other site on the Sunday, to help feed the wood chipper which we had hired for the day. This work was only possible thanks to a generous grant from the British Herpetological Society, as well as previous funding from ARG UK.
During the preceeding week, a party of 4 from ARC had travelled up from the South and tackled 4 different sites on the Sefton Coast which had also been identified for urgent tree and scrub removal to benefit sand lizards and matterjack toads. This means that 6 sites in total have seen significant tree and scrub removal in one week!
Our second joint ARG conservation task of the Winter, on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th January, 2014, went well, with a great deal more unwanted tree and scrub growth (especially Sea Buckthorn) cleared from an overgrown area of the Sefton Coast which still supports a population of sand lizards and a few pairs of Natterjacks. Hopefully, both will increase in the future.
8 volunteers from NMARG, together with 5 from ARGSL and 2 Chainsaw Operators from SWWARG, in conjunction with John Gramauskas from Sefton MBC operating the chipper, worked hard all day Saturday and created huge piles of cut brash as well as several wagon loads of chippings (see pictures above). A much smaller group went back on the Sunday morning and cleared more Buckthorn at one end of the site in continuous driving rain.
Our first joint Conservation task of the Winter, when we were ably assisted by three Chainsaw Operating Volunteers who had travelled all the way from South Wales (Pete Hill and Richard Pond of SWWARG) and Bolton (David Orchard of ARGSL), together with four of our members, went very well and was a great example of what can be achieved with the help of other ARG groups. A tremendous amount of unwanted tree and scrub growth was cleared from the North Birkdale Dunes, creating and improving Sand Lizard and Natterjack Toad habitat in the area, see photos in the Photo Gallery. Organised in conjunction with the Sefton Coast and Countryside Ranger Service, we were very lucky with the weather, bright sunshine prevailing over the two days, with typical 'bracing' winds off the sea. Although we were not able to burn any of the vast amount of brash generated at the time, that will be taken care of in the future.
Our next scheduled task, again in conjunction with other ARG groups, is on the 25 & 26 January, 2014, but we may be able to arrange a smaller task for our group before then, to help dispose of the brash from this task, and to tackle some small Sea Buckthorn patches. Watch the 'Events' section for more details !
The hot sunny weather of the last few weeks has accelerated the emergence of tiny Natterjack toadlets and the newly metamorphosed youngsters can now be seen round many of the remaining pools, including the recently constructed scrapes. Carefull treading is needed, however, as the babies are no bigger than small ground spiders, which their scurrying gait closely resembles.
As the pools dry up under the scorching heat of the sun, some of the little toadlets can be found seeking shelter and moisture under any available pieces of wood and other debris, emerging at dusk to feed on tiny invertebrates.
Great Crested Newt larvae can now be found in some of the remaining dune slack pools, bizarre looking creatures with their feathery gills and broad spotty tails ending in a fine filament. At up to two inches long, they are much larger than the Smooth Newt larvae, and they tend to be much more visible, as they hunt voraciously for their prey in the open water.
NMARG's first volunteer habitat management weekend of the current Winter will be on November 25 - 26, on the Sefton Coast, when we will be tackling an area of Sea Buckthorn scrub which is invading valuable Sand Lizard and Natterjack habitat at Ainsdale. The work will involve cutting down, dragging off and burning this highly invasive spiky shrub and is vitally important for the continued survival of the Merseyside Race Sand Lizard and the maintenance of suitable terrestrial habitat for Natterjacks. This task will be undertaken in conjunction with ARC's Gems in the Dunes project and the Sefton Council Ranger Service. Anyone interested in helping out, please contact Mike Brown by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Mike Brown (chair)