Wirral nature reserve set for facelift that could secure Natterjacks' future

Wirral nature reserve set for facelift that could secure Natterjacks' future

Natterjack Toad. Picture: Rose Manby

Red Rocks Wildlife Reserve. Picture: Paul Clarke

First published in News

IMPROVEMENT work planned for a Wirral nature reserve could secure the future for one of the region's rarest creatures.

Red Rocks wildlife haven in Hoylake includes almost 20 acres of sand dunes, wetlands and reedbeds, providing a home for the rare natterjack toad, which is found nowhere else across Cheshire and Wirral.

The Wildlife Trust for Cheshire & Wirral, who manage the designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is to start major work to safeguard areas of the nature reserve crucial to the natterjack's survival.

The loudest amphibian in the UK - thanks to its gurgling calls in the mating season, the natterjack toad is restricted to mainly coastal areas in the North West, East Anglia and heathlands in parts of the West Midlands and down across the Home Counties.

At the heart of the programme is the creation of more 40 square metres of new pools and improvements to existing wetland areas or ‘slacks’ within the reserve that the toad's favour.

The reserve is a key migration stopover point for birds arriving in the UK in spring and autumn, and boasts an impressive list of rarities, along with breeding species like skylarks and reed warblers.

One of the biggest problems facing the Wildlife Trust is the loss of the typical open sandy areas that demonstrate the dune habitat is in the most optimum condition for the species that usually thrive there.

To help maintain this, some areas of soil and vegetation will be removed to expose the sand below.

The plans have been approved by U conservation agency, Natural England, who have also funded the work at the reserve which will continue year-on-year.

Matt Allmark, reserves officer with the Cheshire & Wirral Wildlife Trust, said: "We understand when people see diggers and machinery heading onto a much-loved wildlife area that alarm bells might ring, however on this occasion it's all for a good cause.

"The nature of the changes we're making in conjunction with Natural England may look quite stark to begin with, however our aim is to achieve the right balance for these delicate dunes which has been lost in recent years.

"Along with the natterjack toads, Red Rocks is home to a number of regionally rare plants and wildlife, and with the impact of non-native species it’s sometimes necessary for us to lend a hand in redressing the right balance of habitats.

"Our hope is that these works will help to secure a nature reserve that will continue to be home to natterjack toads and more for years to come."

Work is expected to begin in February and during this time some areas of the reserve will have restricted access when machinery is operating.

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