As it was the last Thursday in the month we had our regular Colourful Coast beach clean. 32 wonderful people came along to Whitehaven’s North Shore in the bright and chilly winter sunshine.
With this many people we decided to do a litter survey as well as a beach clean. We use the Marine Conservation Society survey methodology so that we can add all of our data to the national picture of marine litter around the UK. Our project officer, Sophie, has spent the afternoon adding all the results together and loading them onto the MCS website. The results can be found her – 191031 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey.
What the results don’t show is the massive amount of net that a few hardy volunteers spent all their time trying to remove. This involves sitting on cold rocks and using a hacksaw to cut through all of the tangled net and then dragging it back up the rocks. Along with 12 bags of rubbish, 3 large pieces of metal and some fencing today was a very good day and we left the beach a lot cleaner.
As always, a massive thank you to our volunteers. See you at St Bees in November??
A few weeks ago we wrote about the ‘Get Cumbria Buzzing‘ project, which we’re excited to be involved with. This project aims to create more habitat for pollinators across key routes in Cumbria. On the Whitehaven Coast we’re concentrating on planting bulbs at key areas around the Haig grasslands. We started this process last week along Solway Road and with the help of some lovely members of the public we planted about 750 bulbs. We’ve chosen lots of native species that will bloom in the springtime.
Most of the bulbs are daffodils, snowdrops and snakes head fritillaries. We also planted a small number of bluebells which ideally should have shady spots (like under tree cover) but we’ve spread a few through the trenches to see if they survive. When we’d finished planting the bulbs and had put the turf back over to protect them over the winter we sprinkled some yellow rattle seed over the whole area. We inverted the turn to try and kill off some of the thick grasses that are currently thriving in the areas we are planning to plant bulbs.
Yellow rattle is a semi-parasitic grassland annual. This means that it weakens grasses by feeding off the nutrients in their roots. Some of the areas we are planting bulbs in are very grassy and haven’t been cur much in the last few years. So we hope that by planting yellow rattle alongside the bulbs we will weaken the grass which will inevitably come back and be giving the bulbs the best chance of thriving.
We have lots more bulbs we need to plant this autumn so we’ve organised another planting day on Saturday 9 November from 12pm until 3pm. We’ll be on the Solway Road verge again and will have all the bulbs, tools and equipment needed (this includes biscuits!) so just come down and give us a hand. Whether you can make it for 3 hours or 10 minutes everyone is welcome to help out or just come for a chat about what we’re up to.
Yesterday (Thursday 24th October) we had members of the public reporting one, or possibly two, beached cetaceans at St Bees beach. When we headed down there we realised there was only one animal that had been moved by the tides so it had been mistaken for two different animals. Unfortunately it was dead, and possibly had been for some time and it was likely that the sea had washed the carcass ashore.
While it’s always sad to see such a thing, it also gives us a fascinating chance to get close to a creature we know is out there but never normally see. This was an adult harbour porpoise, probably a female. We are unsure of the cause of death. There were a lot of injuries to the face/beak but these could have occurred after death in the sea or on land. There were marks around the tail which could have been inflicted by a boat but, again, we have no way of telling if this was pre or post death.
As with any stranding we reported this to the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP). CSIP has been running since 1990 and is funded by Defra and the Devolved Administrations. They coordinate the investigation of all whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans), marine turtles and basking sharks that strand around the UK coastline. As well as documenting each individual stranding, they also retrieve a proportion for investigation at post-mortem to allow them to establish a cause of death. Strandings that undergo post-mortem examination provide valuable information on causes of death, disease, contaminants, reproductive patterns, diet and also useful pointers to the general health of the populations living in the seas around our coasts. This provides useful baseline data to help detect outbreaks of disease or unusual increases in mortality. The CSIP depends on the public’s help in the reporting of strandings around the UK.
More information about the CSIP and what to do if you find a stranded animal can be found on their website or by reading their strandings leaflet which they have kindly let us share CSIP_leaflet
Due to the fact that the animal had been washed quite far up the beach by the recent high tides we also notified Copeland Borough Council (the beach owners) as they may decide to remove or dispose of the body.