Wildlife through the seasons at Formby

Male natterjack toad

Spring is a wonderful time of year at Formby as the air is filled with the sights and sounds of wildlife waking up and rare species creating new life. From the green flashes of male sand lizards, the gentle buzz of vernal mining bees, the loud ratchet mating call of natterjack toads to the sweet, unbroken song of a skylark in flight.

Amazing Amphibians and Rare Reptiles 

The Sefton Coast sand dune system is recognised as one of the most important dune habitats in North West Europe and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The mobile dunes create homes for rare species such as natterjack toads, sand lizards and great crested newts. Spring is an exciting and important time of year as these special residents begin their breeding journey to hopefully increase their declining populations.  

Sand Lizard basking on bare sand

Sand lizards

The males of these rare and protected reptiles emerge from hibernation in Spring, turning a bright green colour when they’re ready to mate. They’re tricky to spot as can be well camouflaged but love to bask on the sand during a sunny, spring morning.

Natterjack toads mating

Natterjack toads

These rare and protected amphibians start surfacing from their winter slumber towards the end of March. Under the cover of night they’ll be on the look out for warm, shallow pools in the dune slacks to breed and lay their spawn. On a still night their famous rasping mating croak can be heard up to 1 mile away.

" It’s such an exciting and important time for natterjack toads. We know how tempting a dip or paddle in the dune pools can be for people and dogs, but by sticking to the sea we can help these special creatures have the best chance of breeding."
- Izzie Spall, Ranger and Dynamic Dunescapes Project Officer

Beautiful Birds 

The spring air is filled with the beautiful sound of birdsong from skylarks and green woodpeckers to warblers including willows, chiffchaffs and white throats. Groups of migrating, wading birds such as dunlin can be found resting and re-fuelling on the shore. A whole host of birds are also heading to our shores to feed, breed and spend the summer with us including swifts and wheatears.  

A Skylark singing from a raised clump of Sea thrift on coastal grassland, Trevose Head, Cornwall.

Skylark

Nothing says spring more than the sweet, unbroken song of the male skylark in flight. These magical birds are in decline so it’s great to hear their song. They are a ground nesting bird, often building their nests in amongst the dune grasses, breeding between April and early August.

A green woodpecker (Picus viridis)

Green woodpeckers

Pairs of green woodpeckers bond in March and can often be seen together during this time of year. They breed in late April and unlike many other birds, both sexes incubate their eggs. Listen out for their territorial laughing yaffle call.

Interesting insects 

Beautiful butterflies always catch visitors eyes but there are many overlooked insects buzzing around in Spring too. All have such an important job to do pollinating flowers, plants and trees. 

Vernal mining bee

Vernal mining bees

These enchanting insects are often mistaken for honey bees and can be found on the sand in large numbers in the Spring. The adults emerge and immediately start looking to mate. The females then look for a place to make a nest in the dunes. They excavate long tunnels deep in the sand and seal them up once eggs have been laid.

A close up of a Orange Tip butterfly

Orange tip butterfly

A welcome sight at Formby in Spring and one of the first butterflies to appear. They can be seen fluttering about in meadows, hedgerows and woodland edges. Only the male has the distinctive orange tip.

Fabulous flora

Formby’s dunes, heathlands, grasslands and planation woodlands create a mosaic of habitats where many rare and more common wildflowers and plants thrive. Spring is a great time to see splashes of colour from daffodils, bluebells and dune pansies, spot the fluffy tufts of creeping willow catkins or catch the sweet scent of coconut from gorse.

Bluebells at Brimham

Bluebells

As the snow drops and daffodils fade away seas of bluebells can be spotted nestled away in shady, undisturbed patches of the Formby woodlands.

Creeping willow

Creeping willow

A low-lying bush found in the dunes, that readily disperses in all directions. It's very useful, offering shelter for other plants and animals. Songbirds use the soft seed fluff for nest material and vernal mining bees feed on the blooms or catkins.

Marvellous mammals 

Formby is famous for being home to rare red squirrels and there’s nothing better than spotting one jumping through the trees. There are many other mammals hidden away and thriving on this precious landscape too.

Rabbit

Rabbits

In spring rabbits start to become more active. They can often be spotted grazing in the grasslands. This helps keep the grass short, creating space for rare flowers. When they graze and burrow in the soft sandy soils nearer to the dunes they’re also helping to stop the dunes becoming too fixed and overrun with invasive scrub plants.

 

" Formby is a haven for wildlife and people. Our mission is to create an environment where both can enjoy this special place in harmony. Every time you pay to park, scan your membership, give your time or simply take your litter home with you, you’re helping us protect Formby’s precious wildlife. Thank you for your support"
- Kate Martin, Area Ranger
Walker on the coast path at East Soar, Devon

Follow the Countryside Code 

With more people than ever enjoying our coast and countryside places, we’re asking for your help in looking after them during your visit. Please help us protect wildlife and landscapes by following the Countryside Code, which includes taking any litter home with you and not lighting a barbecue or campfire.