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 firstname.lastname@example.org
On Sunday, December 17th, despite the incessant rain and drizzle, a amll group of NMARG members cleared a further area of Sea Buckthorn, in a dune slack and south-west facing slope adjacent to the area cleared on 26th November, on the edge of the grazing enclosure on the Ainsdale LNR. It is hoped that this will encourage Sand Lizards to spread landwards from the more frontal dunes.
On a bright, but very blustery day, we managed to clear Sea Buckthorn from a 100 metre stretch of south-east facing sand dune ridge at Ainsdale, making the habitat more suitable for Sand Lizards and Natterjacks.
Our two rare species of herps, the Natterjack and Sand Lizard on the Sefton Coast are always at the mercy of the elements when it comes to breeding success and every year throws up different conditions.
This year, because of the preceding dry Winter, many of the dune slack pools and 'scrapes' were already dry when the Natterjacks arrived to bred in them in the Spring, and others dried up soon after. In consequence, although final figures are not yet available, counts of successfully metamorphosed Natterjack toadlets in the summer were very low this year, with many sites producing none. This is not, however, a total catastrophe, as the Natterjack is a relatively long-lived animal, and experts consider that if one year in four is a good Natterjack breeding year, then the population will remain stable.
Sand Lizards lay their eggs in the sand and are then dependant on warmth and sunshine to hatch them.This year has seen a rather mixed bag of weather during the Summer and only a few hatchlings have been sighted so far. Hopefully, hopefully we will get some warm, sunny weather in September and October, to enable more successful hatching and to enable those hatchlings to feed up well before entering hibernation. In contrast to the Natterjack, Sand Lizard populations cannot be sustained unless there are frequent years of successful breeding.
A dozen people from NMARG and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Biodiverse Society Project attended the latest reptile and amphibian survey training day at Ainsdale on Saturday, May 6th, which included walks out into the dunes for a couple of practical sessions. Unfortunately, due to the dull, cold weather, we were unable to find any lizards, but we did manage to find and compare eggs of Great Crested Newts and Smooth Newts, as well as adults and juveniles of both species. We also found fresh spawn strings and tadpoles of Natterjack Toads and, after dark, a few adult Natterjacks in the 'scrapes' , although it was too cold and dry for any males to be calling.
A very wet morning for our latest scrub clearance task, but the weather cleared up a bit later, and at least it wasn't spiky stuff this time, just Poplar suckers and Sycamore we removed from a fixed dune site with an important, but declining, Sand Lizard population.
Habitat management work for Sand Lizards at Ainsdale. Mainly clearance of invasive Sea Buckthorn , Poplar and other scrub.
We are creating sand patches for Sand Lizards on a long bank overgrown with grass, on a golf course where Sand Lizards formerly existed and have the potential to recolonise, in the Southport area.
Natterjack Walks have been organised by Sefton Council and Natural England during the likely period for Natterjack Breeding, as follows :
Friday, 18th April Natural England - Ainsdale NNR - leader Pete Gahan
Saturday, 19th April Sefton Council - Hightown?
Friday, 25th April Sefton Council, meeting at Ainsdale Discovery Centre - leader John Gramauskas
Saturday, 26th April Natural England - Ainsdale NNR - leader Pete Gahan
Bookings should be made as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment.
Bookings for Sefton Council are on 0151 934 2967 and for Natural England on 01704 578774
Now that the bird nesting season is commencing, we are restricted to the removal of very invasive Sea Buckthorn and Poplar suckers and regrowth, using hand tools only. For this task, we will be attacking small Poplars and Sea Buckthorn at two sites in Ainsdale which were previously good Sand Lizard sites and will greatly benefit from even this more 'Gardening' type of work.
Further scrub and tree removal in order to improve habitats for sand lizards. For this task we will be joined by a large contingent from the South Lancashire ARG !
Continuing tree and scrub clearance for improving habitat for sand lizards in the Birkdale area, we will again be joined by two Chainsaw Operators from SWWARG, as well as several members of the South Lancashire ARG. More details later.
tree and scrub clearance on the Birkdale Dunes with the help of other ARG Group members. Please contact Mike Brown for further details.
Mike Brown (chair)