Sand dune wildlife of Formby

Sand Lizard basking on bare sand

Formby is most famous for its Red Squirrels but did you know that it is also home to animals that are even more rare? These beautiful and elusive creatures make their homes in the fragile mobile dune habitats of the Sefton coast where their presence has helped the area to gain both UK and international conservation designations.

Natterjack Toad

This enigmatic amphibian is nocturnal and can be found in dune pools, or slacks, on warm nights during their breeding season from April to July. The males come to the pools first and call to the females using their distinctive ratchet-like song. These calls can be heard up to a mile away and have given rise to the Natterjack Toad’s local name - the Birkdale Nightingale. The female toads lay strings of spawn in the pools from which tadpoles hatch out. As the dune pools are shallow and warm, the tadpoles develop quickly and the young toadlets have usually all left the pools by late Summer.

These rare toads come to breed in pools within the sand dunes during late Spring and early Summer.
Single Natterjack Toad in breeding pool at Formby
These rare toads come to breed in pools within the sand dunes during late Spring and early Summer.

Sand Lizard

This colourful lizard can be quite hard to spot as it is very shy and has excellent camouflage. It likes areas that have a mixture of both bare sand and grasses and is probably most easily spotted when basking on the sand in the early morning sun. Although both sexes are beautiful, it is the male that is particularly striking with his bright green sides. The female is brown with a patterned back and can often be mistaken for a Common Lizard, a species that is also an inhabitant of the Sefton dunes.

Great Crested Newt

If you’ve ever thought you’d spotted a tiny dragon swimming around the pools at Formby then you’ve probably caught a glance of a male Great Crested Newt in his breeding outfit. This is the largest of the UK newt species and is most likely to be seen in the dune pools during the breeding season from March to June. At this time of year you can easily tell Great Creasted Newts from other newt species due to the male’s bright orange belly and the impressive crest down his back. Out of the breeding season you can occasionally find these rare newts hiding under fallen logs in the woodlands.

All of these animals are heavily protected and it is an offence to pick up, disturb, harm or kill either the animals themselves or their eggs, or to disturb or destroy their breeding or resting places.

To find out more about these fascinating animals and how to protect them go to the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust website.