Today, I went down to Ainsdale – close to where I’ve done some habitat management volunteer work in the past – to do some volunteering for the Gems in the Dunes project. This project, led by Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, aims to preserve the sand dune habitat on the Sefton Coast, home to several species which are rare in the UK, such as natterjack toads, sand lizards and northern dune tiger beetles.
This habitat is threatened by a variety of factors, not least encroachment by humans. The problem that the other volunteers and I were addressing today was the overgrowth of sea buckthorn on the site. Native to the east coast of the UK, sea buckthorn becomes invasive when introduced elsewhere; thickets of it spread over the dunes, reducing the open marram grass habitat that the local wildlife needs to bask and thrive. Since much of that wildlife is inactive during the winter months, we could carry out the work while causing minimal disturbance.
The volunteers attacked the buckthorn with loppers and saws, burning the cuttings on a bonfire; any stumps were treated with glyphosate so that they wouldn’t grow back. Much of the last hour was then spent carrying buckets of water back and forth to make sure that the bonfire was completely put out! The weather was mild – through a combination of working and being close to the fire, you warmed up very quickly – and the manual work felt very satisfying, particularly as we made such an impact on that particular patch.
Check out the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation website if you are interested in volunteering yourself!