At first glance, sand can seem a harsh, inhospitable environment – yet dunes are teeming with life. Those flanking the Sefton Coast host a diverse community of rare and beautiful species, including this iridescent northern dune tiger beetle photographed by Alex Hyde while documenting the Gems in the Dunes project, part of the wider Back from the Brink conservation programme. “These ultra-predators are just berserk – speedy and tricky to photograph,” he recalls. “They’ll charge anything that moves.” Habitat restoration work at Sefton – home to Britain’s largest northern dune tiger beetle population – included the creation of open sand patches for such animals to bask on and burrow in.
The setting sun gilds the grasses crowning Sefton’s dunes, signalling a changing of the guard: diurnal species retreat into burrows, while their nocturnal counterparts emerge to feed and mate. “Each morning, little half-moon holes in the slopes reveal where tiger beetles left their burrows,” says Alex, “and tiny tracks spidering the dunes – footprints of insects, sand lizards, natterjack toads – write stories into the sand.” Protection of this habitat, much of which has been destroyed across Britain, is vital; on the Sefton Coast alone, some 81 per cent of bare sand has gone since 1945.
Photography can be challenging in the dunes, where invertebrates such as this sand bear spider are camouflaged against the speckled grains – “when they’re not dashing off to hunt like greased lightning”, adds Alex. This is another species benefiting from habitat management by the Gems in the Dunes team: volunteers clear scrub and create bare sand.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Can The World's Tallest Trees Survive?
Some 30 million people a year make a pilgrimage to northern California to see the towering coastal redwoods. But can the remaining stands of these remarkable trees survive the triple scourge of climate change, drought and wildfires?
NICK BAKER Reveals a fascinating world of wildlife that we often overlook.
Scottish beavers on the rise
Eurasian beaver numbers are expanding fast, but not without conflict with farmers and landowners.
Far away in French Polynesia, a little songbird is clinging on to survival. Can the Fatu Hiva monarch beat the odds?
MIKE DILGER'S WILDLIFE WATCHING
ON THE MUDFLATS In his series of great places to watch wildlife in the UK, the star of BBC One’s The One Show points out the surprising joys to be taken from the muddiest of places, teeming with invertebrates and a refuge for waders and wildfowl.
Seabird chicks fall foul of giant centipedes
Petrels are among the unexpectedly varied diet of the very hungry arthropods.
The RIDDLE of the ROAN
Blighted by clumsy conservation could there now be signs of hope for Africa’s second largest antelopes?
In May, a minke whale got lost in the Thames, capturing the nation's interest. But why do whales swim up rivers? And how can they be helped?
Spotted among the trees
Capturing the perfect shot of a jaguar in the vast tropical forests of French Guiana proved a tough challenge for Emmanuel.
Golden leaves, delicate fungi and migrant wildfowl in all their finery – it’s time to embrace autumn.
The WHISKEY COCKTAIL Revival
From classic Old Fashioneds to more elaborate concoctions, here’s how to drink whiskey now
Tom & Haleya AWKWARD EXES
The Mission: Impossible co-stars are navigating a breakup while still filming!
UK PERMITS DEVELOPMENT OF GENE-EDITED CROPS IN LIMATE FIGHT
Britain’s government plans to allow researchers to use gene-editing techniques to develop crops that can increase yields, reduce the need for pesticides, and cut greenhouse gas emissions as the U.K.’s exit from the European Union allows it to deviate from the bloc’s rules.
Mixed, in Memory of Alex Rubinshteyn
UK ENERGY CRISIS: GOVT IN CO2 DEAL TO AVERT FOOD SHORTAGES
The British government agreed to support an American-owned firm that produces much of the U.K.’s carbon dioxide, a deal designed to avert shortages of meat, poultry and packaged foods amid a crisis triggered by soaring energy costs.
Weights, a skateboard, and protein-packed meals keep S.W.A.T.’s Alex Russell feeling fine.
QUEEN LIZ ICES OUT GREEDY CHARLES!
Profiteering prince loses game of thrones to king-in-waiting William
MONSTER HUNTER STORIES 2: WINGS OF RUIN is an approachable spin-off.
FACEBOOK SLAMS UK ANTITRUST WATCHDOG OVER CALL TO SELL GIPHY
Facebook has criticized the U.K. competition watchdog’s provisional decision ordering that it sell offGiphy because it said the acquisition of the company stifles competition for animated images.
MAYIM'S FLYING SOLO ON JEOPARDY!
MAYIM BIALIK is the latest winner in the revolving-door contest to fill Alex Trebek’s big shoes at Jeopardy! — she will temporarily replace Mike Richards, who stunned the industry by stepping down almost as soon as he was named winner of the prized TV job!