The Grayling is a butterfly mostly associated with coastal grasslands. Its caterpillars feed exclusively on grasses, especially fescues, bents and hair-grasses. The adults seek out thistle, bramble and other flowers as sources of nectar and require plentiful areas of bare ground on which to bask to gain sufficient warmth to fly.
Northern Dune Tiger Beetle is extensively found along a 15 kilometre stretch of the Sefton Coast which is estimated to support up to 75% of the species’ British population. It was recorded from 105, separate 100 metre squares, on the Sefton Coast during a 1999 – 2003 survey. The species is almost continuously recorded between Birkdale in the north and Hightown in the south. The most southerly record for the species is from Hall Road Crosby.
Natterjacks require a mosaic of habitats in fairly close proximity: wet slacks and pools of varying depths some of which hold water until mid- to late summer for breeding; short grassland and bare sand for feeding; and open sand ridges for burrows.
Between 1995 and 1998, the Pond Life Project undertook a survey of 1000 ponds in the Northwest. Of these 500 were north of the Mersey although no sites surveyed were within the boroughs of Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens or Liverpool. The Pond Life survey showed that 25% of ponds in the northern part of the survey area contained Great Crested Newts. Furthermore, in some urban areas (e.g. Wigan) the percentage of occupied ponds was higher.
Great Crested Newt surveys have been carried out on Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006. Evidence of Great Crested Newt occupation was found in 31 ponds and temporary slacks.
There was a very large reduction in the size and distribution of the North Merseyside population during the 20th century – perhaps as much as 80%. The current estimate of the local population is 1,000 adults. These are all located in the Sefton Coast sand dunes and surrounding area and are spread over widely fragmented sites. The Sefton population is considered the rarest of three ‘geographical races’ in Britain. One population within the Sefton coast area appears to be genetically distinct from the others, due to isolation.
When faced with competition from Grey Squirrels, Red Squirrels have been shown to compete for longer in conifer forests with a mix of tree species and a diverse age structure of trees to ensure continuity of food. The presence of large-seeded broadleaved trees (oak, chestnuts, beech and hazel) aids Grey Squirrel colonisation and threatens Reds.
The national survey of 1989-90 located water voles at 75% of Merseyside sites. A 1999-2000 survey found water voles present in 53% of all suitable North Merseyside locations. Liverpool has little suitable habitat for water voles, whereas 75% of sites in St Helens were positive.
A small number of species, including House Sparrow, House Martin and Swift, are truly urban in that they breed almost entirely in or on buildings. Starlings are also highly dependent on buildings for nest sites. All these species are believed to be in significant decline but survey difficulties in urban areas have meant that scientific data have been difficult to assemble. However, both House Sparrow and Starling were added to the list of UK BAP Priority Species in 2007 because of their declining populations.
Although still common and widespread, the Song Thrush went into dramatic decline in the mid-1970s with an estimated reduction in numbers of 73% in farmland and 49% in woodland between 1968 and 1993. Overall numbers fell by 50% between 1970 and 2005 but more recently have increased by 17% between 1994 and 2006. The decline is believed to have been more marked in the north of the country.
The Sefton Coast between Blundellsands and Cabin Hill NNR supports densities of up to 37 pairs per square km – amongst the highest known in the UK lowlands. Farmland around Rainford also supports above average densities (up to 8 pairs per square km). Smaller, but still notable densities are found in Speke/Garston, Tarbock and farmland between St. Helens and Kirkby. Small populations persist in urban areas including at Otterspool and the Rimrose Valley.