A much welcome burst of sunshine for the first part of DaveBs and my walk along the Sefton Coast starting on the Green Beach at Ainsdale and continuing in a meandering line along the saltmarsh, shoreline and dunes in a Southerly direction before ominous clouds rolled in as we approached Ainsdale .
Always a great area for honing your skills on maritime plants we were pointed in the direction of a few by a local naturalist we met and pondered over others with the assistance of the Collins Field Guide to Wildflowers. A varied list included: Marsh Horsetail Equisetum palustre, Polypody Polypodium vulgare, Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris, Sea-purslane Atriplex portulacoides, Sea Sandwort Honckenya peploides, Common Mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum, Sea Campion Silene uniflora, Red Campion Silene dioica, Thrift Armeria maritima, Creeping Willow Salix repens, Common Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis, Sea-milkwort Glaux maritima, Biting Stonecrop Sedum acre, Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Silverweed Potentilla anserine, Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Bush Vetch Vicia sepium, Common Vetch Vicia sativa, Black Medick Medicago lupulina, Red Clover Trifolium pratense, Evening Primrose Oenothera sp. Common Milkwort Polygala vulgaris, Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum, Common Stork’s-bill Erodium cicutarium, Sea-holly Eryngium maritimum, Parsley Water-Dropwort Oenanthe lachenalii, Hemlock Water-Dropwort Oenanthe crocata, Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris, Wild Parsnip Pastinaca sativa, leaves of Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata, Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis, Hound’s-tongue Cynoglossum officinale, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, leaves of Great Mullein Verbascum thapsus, Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys, Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum and Sea Arrowgrass Triglochin maritimum.
In one of the dune slacks dedicated to Natterjack Toads Bufo calamita there was a good number of wriggling tadpoles mainly confined to the edge of the pool. A couple of dessicated Common Frogs Rana temporaria were found later on in the dunes.
Swallows zipped around and Skylarks, Mepits and a good number of Reed Buntings were in fine voice in the dunes. We watched a couple of Sedgies non-stop in their grating repetitive song plus a Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and a few Wrens. A mob of Jackdaws took offence to a Carrion Crow in their patch.
Masked Crab – such a fine Corpse of the Day you get it twice 😉
A bit of beachcombing produced finds of Hornwrack Flustra foliacea, Pod Razorshell Ensis siliqua, Rayed Trough Shell Mactra stultorum, Common Whelk Buccinium undatum, Prickly Cockle Acanthocardia echinata, Necklace Shell Euspira catena, Sea Wash Ball Egg Case of Common Whelk Buccinium undatum, Sea Potato Heart Urchin Echinocardium cordatum, Sand Mason Worm Tubes Lanice conchilega, Mermaid’s Purse of Thornback Ray Raja clavata, dead Common Shore Crab Carcinus maenas. I mentioned to Dave that I quite often find the remains of Masked Crabs Corystes cassivelaunus along this coastline and true to form we found a few skeletons that definitely made Corpse of the Day. I posed one on some old fishing net. Algae washed up on the shore were mostly Spiral Wrack Fucus spiralis with a few fronds of Knotted (Egg) Wrack Ascophyllum nodosum.
On the shoreline there was hundreds of Dunlin with approx. equal numbers of Ringed Plover some of which allowed us to approach quite close, twenty of so Bar-tailed Godwits strode about the shallows and cackling Shelduck were around along with the usual Gulls and two Sandwich Terns.
Wader footprints in the sand
Returning to the dunes in one of the slacks containing flowering Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis and Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus we watched a Little Egret stalking about, waggling one of its feet in the hope of disturbing any fish. We’d seen a few Butterflies with a couple of Large White Pieris brassicae, a Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas, and a Peacock Inachis io. Best sightings were of three Wall Lasiommata megera feeding on Dandelions but too flighty to catch on camera and around ten Small Heaths Coenonympha pamphilus. Two caterpillars of Yellow-tail Euproctis similis favoured the leaves of Alder Alnus glutinosa whereas another two favoured those of the invasive Japanese Rose Rosa rugosa.
Two ‘Woolly Bears’ the caterpillars of the Garden Tiger Moth Arctia caja were on the path.
Other insects included Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum, a Northern Dune Tiger Beetle Cicindela hybrida, a Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis conspicua, a 2-spot Ladybird Adalia bipunctata, half a dozen Green Lacewings Chrysoperla sp. and a couple of Stretch Spiders Tetragnatha sp. Three female Four-spotted Chasers Libellula quadrimaculata were patrolling the dunes.
As we approached Ainsdale we notched up a few more plants with Sea Spurge Euphorbia paralias, Beaked Hawk’s-beard Crepis vesicaria, Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. coccinea and Northern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza purpurella. Walking back up the Shore Road to Ainsdale station we then added English Stonecrop Sedum anglicum and Common Restharrow Ononis repens.
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.