Declared a Local Nature Reserve in October 1998, Stevenston Beach LNR contains one of the most dynamic dune systems in Ayrshire: significant areas of foredunes are still forming. This dynamic, varied environment provides a home for many rare dune plants and invertebrates. Ayrshire's sand dune systems continue to be destroyed by golfing and other leisure developments, making Stevenston Dunes LNR an increasingly important natural asset.
Rare sand dune vegetation such as Babington's Orache and Isle of Man Cabbage have been recorded and there is a bountiful supply of common dune wild flowers, such as Kidney Vetch, Tufted Vetch and Bird's-foot Trefoil, which in turn support large numbers of insects. Lots of Common Blues, Small Heaths, Small Coppers and Graylings can be found in the dunes on hot summer days, as can hundred of red and black Six-spot Burnet moths.
Rare sand-nesting bees and waspsThe dunes are more exposed and weather-beaten than the dunes on the Ardeer Peninsula. Consequently, the density and diversity of bee and wasp species is less pronounced than the peninsula's. However, several rare bee and wasp species have been recorded here. The Northen Colletes (Colletes floralis) is a rare mining bee that has its international stronghold in the Machair and sand dunes of western Scotland and Ireland. It can commonly be encountered on the reserve's Hogweed flowerheads in July. Another aculeate frequently seen on the reserve's umbellier flowerheads is the Common Spiny Digger Wasp (Oxybelus uniglumis). This small but attractive black and white wasp gets its name from the large spine that sticks out of its thorax like a dorsal fin. National records suggest that the population at Stevenston Beach LNR is the northernmost population in Britain.
One of the specialities of Irvine Bay's dune systems is the rare Megachile circumcincta, which breeds on the reserve. It's rare cuckoo bee, Coelyoxis elongata, can also be found on the reserve flying low over the ground in search of M. circumcincta nests to kleptoparisitise.
Birdlife on the neighbouring beachThe neighbouring beach supports large flocks of waders. Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover in particular are present in good numbers. Hundreds of Oystercatchers can be present on the neighbouring beach park. Unusual birds that regulary occur on the beach during autumn migration include Brent Goose, Little Stint and Golden Plover. Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff also occur on migration, but less frequently.
The beach's strandline supports a rich invertebrate fauna, which is taken advantage of in winter by small flocks of passerines such as Twite, Linnet, Pied Wagtail and, occasionally, Snow Bunting. Overhead, Ravens can often be seen flying between the Ardeer Peninsula and the slaughterhouse in Saltcoats, where they feed on discarded animal parts.