The eastern half of Ardeer Quarry was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2011 for its wildlife and community value. It contains a diverse mix of habitats in a relatively small area: semi-mature broadleaved woodland, small stands of conifers, wet woodland, a sizeable pond, marshland, grassland and overgrown Brownfield land are all crammed into this urban green space. The result of this habitat diversity is a great variety of plant and animal species.

The stands of conifers support a typical breeding assemblage of coniferous woodland birds, such as Coal Tit, Goldcrest, and Wood Pigeon. The broadleaved woodland supports a good variety of woodland birds such as Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit. The small pond on the reserve hosts ten species of dragonfly and damselfly, a bountiful supply of frogs, toads, and newts, and breeding Little Grebe, Mallard and Moorhen. The grassland and Brownfield areas support a good assemblage of common butterflies, including Common Blue, Ringlet and Small Heath.

The three most important parts of the reserve

Three parts of the reserve in particular are of significant importance to wildlife. The Woodhead Plantation at the north east of the reserve contains a mix of woodland types, including Birch woodland, wet woodland and long-established open woodland with a plentiful supply of mature shrubs. This diversity of habitat types supports a wide variety of unusual moths including Beautiful Carpet, Scallop Shell, The Seraphim and Garden Dart.

At the other end of the reserve, towards its southern edge, is an area of swamp and Willow carr, a remnant of a much larger wetland that once existed in the town. As well as supporting attractive water plants such as Purple Loosestrife and Yellow Flag Iris, this part of the reserve also plays host to a variety of unusual wetland moths, including Oblique Carpet, Bulrush Wainscot, Pinion-streaked Snout and Haworth's Minor.

The third particularly interesting area of the reserve lies at it's southern edge. A former railway siding, this Brownfield area is now rich in wildflowers, including orhchids. There is also a lot of bare ground here, promoting warmth and, in turn, thermophilic insects. A couple of species of butterfly typical of dry grassland are found here and nowhere else on the reserve: Small Heath and Grayling.

An important site for pollinators

The reserve is a haven for pollinating insects. The garden wall at the Dubbs Road entrance to the reserve holds breeding Patchwork Leafcutter Bees (Megachile centuncularis), which can sometimes be seen flying in and out of the wall or feeding on nearby flowers. In spring and early summer, Dandelions around the Dubbs Road entrance are an important foraging resource for the common mining bee Andrena bicolor. Later in summer, the Ragwort and Wild Carrot lining the path to Gavin's Wee Pond provide food for the common and widespread Halictus rubicundis. One of the site's more unusual mining bees is the tiny 'yellow-faced' bee, Hylaeus hyalinatus. At the northern limite of its UK range in Stevenston, this species has only been recorded from a very small number of sites in Scotland. Ardeer Quarry LNR is an important refuge for the rare mining bee, Andrena coitana, which has been found on the reserve several times, but is rarely encountered elsehwere.

Over 300 species of moth have been recorded on the reserve, including several rare species. The small Dingy Shell is very uncommon in Scotland, but is regularly found at Ardeer Quarry, no doubt in part due to the abundance of its foodplant, Alder. Scallop Shell is another rarity associated with wet woodland that is frequently found on the reserve. Other rarities recorded on the reserve include Bordered Pug, Toadflax Pug, Bordered Sallow and Scotland's first Pine Leaf-mining Moth.

An integral part of the local habitat network

The proximity to the coast (1km; the dune habitats of the Ardeer Sandhills used to stop just short of Ardeer Quarry) influences the nature of the species present at the site: Sea Radish, Sand Sedge and Grayling are all species characteristic of Britain’s thin coastal strip and have all been found on the reserve. Furthermore, the proximity to the sea causes the ground temperature to be slightly warmer here than inland and so the waterbodies at Ardeer Quarry often remain free from ice when inland ponds and ditches are frozen. Consequently, frosty conditions often bring in bird species such as Water Rail, Teal and Common and Jack Snipe, which have fled frozen waters further inland.

The reserve lies next to the former ICI grounds – now a wilderness of woodland, grassland, dune and wetland habitats. There is consequently a significant exchange of wildlife between these two sites, which boosts the quantity and diversity of wildlife at Ardeer Quarry. Birds such as Woodpigeon, Siskin, Kestrel and Buzzard can frequently be seen flying between the old ICI Black Powder Wood and Ardeer Quarry, and if it wasn’t for the large heronry at the neighbouring industrial site, Grey Heron would be a rarity at Ardeer Quarry rather than a regular visitor. Mammals too travel freely between these two sites. Roe Deer and Grey Squirrel are perhaps the two most obvious examples, but otter and probably bat species also move regularly between these sites too.