Wildlife at Formby

A red squirrel eats a nut at the base of a tree at Formby

With long stretches of beach, sand dunes, pine woods and deciduous woodland stretching over 1000 acres, Formby's varied terrain is home to a diverse range of wildlife that we care for all year round.

Red squirrels

Formby is within the North Merseyside and West Lancashire Red Squirrel Stronghold, one of a few refuges left for red squirrels across the UK. We are very proud of our red squirrel population at Formby, and want to do what’s best for them. 

In Winter breeding behaviour can often be spotted from January onwards, watch for red squirrels chasing each other round tree trunks and through the canopy. Many visitors ask if red squirrels hibernate and are surprised to find out that they don’t. They’ll be awake all Winter surviving on the food they foraged for in Autumn.

A small red squirrel sits amongst branches at Formby

A threatened species

In 2007, the deadly squirrel pox virus reached the Formby area, wiping out around 80% of the red squirrel population. A hard winter further reduced the population to only 15% of the pre-pox level. However since then the population has recovered, and it's now back to approximately 85% of the levels in spring 2002.

Find out more about squirrel pox and how you can help us care for Formby's red squirrels

Video

Formby's red squirrels fight back

A study carried out in 2013 by the University of Liverpool looked at the effects of the squirrel pox virus on the population of red squirrels along the Sefton coast. Watch this video to find out more.

Sand dune wildlife

The dunes at Formby and along the Sefton coastline provide important breeding sites for a number of rare sand dune species, including several European Protected Species and Red Data Book species. These include the nocturnal Natterjack Toad, the colourful Sand Lizard and the beautiful Dune Helleborine.

During the Winter months some of our rarest species are tucked up hibernating both Natterjack Toads and Sand Lizards hibernate in burrows in the sand dunes where the temperatures barely fluctuate. 

Birdlife

With such a varied landscape there's a huge variety of birds to be seen at Formby. A recent survey of the beach included knot, Arctic tern, gulls, bar-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, sanderling and dunlin. The woodlands are home to tree creepers, nuthatch and greater spotted woodpecker while redpoll, siskin and crossbill can be seen from time to time. In the dunes, favourite sightings include meadowpit, skylark and wheatear.

Winter is a good time to look for waders feeding out on the foreshore, species include knot, sanderling, oystercatcher and dunlin.

Sanderlings dipping their toes in the water on the shoreline
Sanderlings dipping their toes in the water on the shoreline
Sanderlings dipping their toes in the water on the shoreline
Family walking in Rowallane Garden, County Down

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Red squirrel with a nut

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