The stunning 180-mile Cumbrian coastline is a wonderful place to explore sand dunes and discover the specialist wildlife that can be found amongst these everchanging mountains of sand.

Various plants and animals thrive within the varying habitats of the dune system, and Cumbria’s dunes are home to some exceptionally scarce species, such as the natterjack toad, dune helleborine and coralroot orchid.

Natterjack toads are extremely rare amphibians and around half of their UK breeding sites are found in Cumbria. A number of characteristics differentiate the natterjack from the common toad.

The most obvious is the yellow line down the middle of the natterjack’s back.

It’s also smaller and more olive-green, with shinier and smoother skin than the common toad.

Because its hind legs are shorter than those of the common toad, the natterjack tends to run instead of walking or crawling, giving it the name, ‘running toad.'

Both species are poisonous and raise themselves up, inflating their lungs and arching their back to appear larger and to face the poison-secreting glands towards a potential attacker.

Natterjack hotspots are Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve near Ravenglass, where they breed in the small ponds and can be seen hunting for insects in the short grass.

Also Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve (National Trust) with over 40 pools and Mawbray Banks (Solway Coast AONB), where conservation work to redesign an existing pool and build new pools has improved the habitat for breeding natterjack toads.

Another fascinating creature of the dunes is the northern dune tiger beetle, found at Drigg and at just one other location in the UK.

Not only is it rare, this exquisite beetle is also said to be one of the fastest beetles in the world!

It can be seen chasing its prey across the sand in short, sharp bursts, before stopping for a second and moving again.

Two co-existing populations of the northern dune tiger beetle emerge at different times of the year, so the best time to see one is when each population peaks, in May and August.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is working to create and restore habitat for natterjack toads across Cumbria as part of Dynamic Dunescapes, a multi-partnership project led by Natural England, and funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and EU LIFE Programme.

To find out more about wildlife on Cumbria's sand dunes, download our free Great Places to See Sand Dunes guide: