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Common and Natterjacks Toads in Devil's Hole - Formby

WITH an extremely dry month and thousands of people flocking to Formby beach, following easing of lockdown restrictions, some of the rarest species are still hanging on. Within the Sand Dune Wetlands, at Devil's Hole, the biggest blowout in Europe, and which is often described as resembling a crater. This location, with steep slopes on all sides, holds just enough surface water to support both Natterjack tadpoles and the Common Toad's tadpoles. These amphibians need a safe, undisturbed body of water to lay their eggs in and for the species' tadpoles to develop into adult toads. Sadly, some dog walkers and tourists are unaware or do not understand, or worse, don't care, what these dunes have hidden within them and often let kids and/or dogs play in the water. Also, this year, litter has been a major issue, with local residents and National Trust doing their best to clear up the mess, before the water becomes too contaminated and adds more hardship to the desperate struggle of the tadpoles to develop as the water level falls.

The footage we shot continues on from the last footage we took, just after the eggs (Frog Spawn) hatched and the tadpoles (the larva) within the pond. At the best of times, it is a race against time, for the tadpoles to quickly develop from hatch out into tadpoles and turning in to toads, as the surface water dries up fast, but with the unusually hot month, this has accelerated the evaporation and natural drainage of the ponds. But, despite this desperately dry spell, combined with the afore-mentioned issues, both of the species, the Common toad and the Natterjacks toad's tadpoles have transformed into a new batch of amphibians.

The toads are usually solitary animals and over the summer and winter, they are hard to find. The toads and tadpoles on this footage might or might not be Natterjacks Toad's, as at this stage it is hard to tell the difference, but adult Natterjacks' exhibit a thin bold yellow stripe down the middle of the back. They also have notably shorter legs on which they walk rather than hop. But, both the Common Toad and Natterjacks Toads have the ability to alter the colour of their skin, either lighter or darker, to camouflage themselves into their surroundings, so spotting them is hard work. As they are mostly nocturnal creatures, this again makes seeing difficult for most of the year, but locals will again be looking forward to hearing them next year, as the cycle starts again. So if you wanted to know why they got their name that literally means the chattering toad you would understand if you ever hear them...

Interestingly, Natterjack Toad, the males are the loudest amphibian in Europe, with a loud, deep, croak, that can carry for miles. They do this chorus to attract mates and people living within the local area can often hear them late at night and early mornings, in early spring.

If you do visit the Sand Dunes on Merseyside, please remember that this is just 1 of the many rare species that call the area home. In fact the rare Natterjack toad is found only in few coastal locations in England and Scotland, where it prefers shallow pools on sand dunes, heaths and marshes, so please respect the area and do not drop litter or let your dogs play in the pools! Also, BBQ's, despite being illegal to use on the Sefton Coastline, can also result in fires, that can easily wipe-out the vegetation they require to hide in or worse still, kill them directly. So please don't use BBQ's!

Please note that mostly of these are Common toad, but you might spot the odd Natterjack on the footage. Natterjack toad is strictly protected by British and European Law, which makes it an offence to:- kill, injure, capture or disturb them; damage or destroy their habitat; or possess them or sell or trade them in any way.

More information can be found about the area on the National Trust website.

Marine Conservation Society calls on public to #KeepItClean

THE UK's leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), is calling on the UK public to:- 'Keep It Clean and Take It Home' as huge swathes of litter pollute outdoor spaces across the country.

Beaches, parks and public spaces are suffering the scourge of litter and single use plastic, from cups to gloves, takeaway food containers and face masks. It's easy to think that litter on land has no role to play at sea, whereas in fact, 80% of ocean litter comes from land. In a recent survey, 63% of those asked were very or extremely concerned about marine plastic pollution and 61% were very or extremely concerned about the health of our oceans. The concern for the health of our ocean must be echoed in our actions on land, whether on the beach, in a park or strolling down our local high street.

Almost a ⅓ (30.4%) of all litter found across the UK's beaches over the Great British Beach Clean was from the public, whether left on the beaches, blown in off the street or carried by waterways to the coast. The top ten most prolific items included cigarette stubs (42.6 per 100m); crisp, sweet and sandwich packets (30.9 per 100m); caps and lids (20.4 per 100m); alongside plastic or polystyrene pieces (143 per 100m). 'On the go' convenience packaging is amongst the most common types of litter, and one which could be easily avoided.

Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Officer said:- "There's no doubt that the pictures of litter on beaches across the UK from this past few weeks are the worst I have ever seen, yet the awareness of marine pollution is the highest I have ever known. We know the impact litter, particularly plastic, has on our marine environment so please remember, wherever you go, take your litter home"

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas said:- "Surveys have consistently shown that the UK public care about the fate of our ocean, are concerned about plastic pollution and want to see the health of the environment at the heart of the strategy for recovering from Coronavirus. So many of us realised how much being outdoors helped our physical and mental wellbeing during lockdown, and while most people are being responsible we need to ensure the few don't spoil it for the many. The increase of litter across the country shows standards are slipping. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to clean up after ourselves."

Join the conversation on social media and ensure everyone knows to #KeepItClean when spending time outdoors. For more information on the charity's Clean Seas work, working to bring an end to ocean pollution, please visit:- MCSUK.Org.

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