Get Cumbria Buzzing!

North West Cumbria is home to an amazing variety of wild pollinators including bumblebees, hoverflies, solitary bees, butterflies and moths.  These pollinators may be tiny but their impact is huge. Pollinators help provide one third of the food we eat, pollinate more than 80% of our flowering plants and contribute around £690 million a year to the UK economy.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly basking in the sunshine

But, our wild pollinators are in trouble. More than half of UK bee, butterfly and moth species have declined in the past 50 years, and 30 species of bees face extinction. Over the last 75 years we’ve lost 97% of our flower rich meadows, 50% of our hedgerows, and 60% of flowering plants are in decline.

We’re working with Cumbria Wildlife Trust on the ‘Get Cumbria Buzzing’ project which aims to try and take action to halt this loss.  The aim is to provide vital stepping stones of a network of flower rich habitat. These stepping stones will enable our wild pollinators to move freely along the network across North West Cumbria.

A short video about the project can be found here.

We’re planning lots of events for you to get involved in so look out for details on the website and social media and lets #getcumbriabuzzing

Heritage Open Days 2019

Once again we’re running the ever popular Fog Signal Station Guided Walk as part of Heritage Open Days.  This year we’re running the walk on Sunday 15th September.  We’ve written about this fascinating building before St Bees Head Fog Signal Station

As we walk along the Whitehaven coast to the Fog Signal Station you’ll see and hear about the industrial history that has shaped this coastline and continues to do so today. We’ll stop for a break at St Bees Head Fog Signal Station with a chance to look inside this normally closed building which perches precipitously on St Bees Head. Then we’ll return along the coast towards Whitehaven. It’s approximately 8 miles along clifftop rights of way.

This is a free event but booking is essential – email our Project Officer Sophie to find out more or to book a place sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

The numbers are in…

Auks on the cliffs at St Bees Head

The RSPB have just released the numbers of birds they’ve counted while surveying the cliffs at St Bees Head this year.

Razorbill and guillemot numbers have gone back up after a sharp decline last year.  This summer there were  171 razorbills counted on the cliffs and over 12000 guillemots – those numbers wont surprise any of you who’ve been up on St Bees Head and experienced the sight, sound and smell of the birds on a warm and sunny day!  This is great news for north west England’s only cliff-nesting seabird colony.

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs at St Bees Head, Whitehaven

Small numbers of puffin and black guillemot are also present but these species are much harder to see as they nest in more inaccessible places so you have to have a keen eye to spot them on the water.

After worrying years with low chick numbers in 2016 and 2018, 2019 looks to be a successful year for kittiwakes raising chicks with approximately 1 chick being raised per nest.

While the peak number of birds has now passed for the year there are still a some birds to be seen on the cliff ledges, and with views over to the Isle of Man on a good day it’s worth the trip.  Look out also for linnets, stonechats, whitethroats and rock pipits as they sing from the heath and gorse along the cliff-top.

Stonechats galore

Our Project Officer was out on the Colourful Coast last week and saw, and heard, a large number of stone chats along the way so decided to try and record their call.  It’s not the best video but if you put the sound up and listen carefully you’ll hear why these little birds get their name.

The stonechat (latin name Saxicola rubicola) is a robin sized bird that are frequently seen flicking their wings while perched, often doing so on the tops of low bushes. As its name suggests, birds utter a sharp loud call that sound like two stones being tapped together.

Our first visit to Birkhams Quarry this year

We’ve been working with Marshalls Stancliffe Stone and visiting Birkhams Sandstone Quarry, just outside Sandwith, for a number of years.  As part of their planning permission Marshalls Stancliffe Stone is required to restore areas of the quarry site once they have finished being worked for stone.  At the end of 2016 topsoil from elsewhere on site was spread over the first restoration area.  The decision was made not to use plug plants or seed the restoration area but to let it vegetate naturally using the seedbank in the topsoil.

The site is developing nicely with a good range of wildflower species now found across the site.  We visit up to three times a year in the growing season to keep weedy species from becoming dominant (by removing most of the ragwort, bracken, dock and thistle) and record all the species we find on each visit. Our first visit for 2019 was on 13th July.  Four volunteers worked alongside our Project Officer to pull up ragwort, nettle, dock and bracken (we decided to leave the thistle as it’s not big enough to pull up yet) and then we spent some time recording all the flowers and grasses we could see.  We only spent about half an hour doing this and still recorded over 30 species which is great.  Our next visit will be on 24th July – come along and join in!

The species we found are listed below:

Birds foot trefoil

Bluebell sp

Bracken

Bramble

Broad leaved dock

Cocks foot

Common nettle

Common sorrel

Creeping thistle

Creeping buttercup

Devils bit scabious

Foxglove

Gorse

Harts tongue fern (possible garden escapee)

Heath bedstraw

Herb Robert

Hogweed

Hop trefoil

Meadow grass

Meadow vetchling

Ragwort

Ribwort plantain

Rosebay willowherb

Sedge sp.

Silverweed

Spear thistle

Speedwell sp

Tufted vetch

Tormentil

White clover

Yarrow

Yorkshire fog

We’re buzzing about this new project

We are excited to be part of the Get Cumbria Buzzing project which the Cumbria Wildlife Trust has just announced.

Get Cumbria Buzzing in North West Cumbria aims to get parks, school grounds and other green spaces around Workington, Whitehaven and Maryport buzzing with bees and pollinators thanks to £912,800 funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The ground-breaking project will see Cumbria Local Nature Partnership work with Highways England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust to get local people buzzing with activity to boost numbers of bumblebees and other wild pollinators and halt their decline.

Britain is home to an amazing variety bumblebees, hoverflies, solitary bees, butterflies and moths but their homes and food sources are under threat. Modern agriculture and increased urbanisation of towns and villages is seeing a major loss of habitats on which pollinators depend. Amazingly, they help to provide one third of the food we eat, are a natural pest control, and feed much of our wildlife while being responsible for a wide diversity of plants worldwide. Just 1 to 2% of flower-rich habitat in a landscape, or even a garden or park, is enough to have a significant impact on populations of wild bumblebees.

This three-year project will create, restore, and enhance 115 hectares of pollinator friendly habitat at 62 sites in North West Cumbria by connecting and restoring flower-rich habitats along ecological networks known as B-Lines. The project is dependent on volunteers for its success and opportunities for people to make a buzz include everything from gardening workshops to themed arts and crafts events, pollinator training courses to conservation days, educational workshops linked to the curriculum and many many more.

David Renwick, Area Director for the North, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“These two projects really are the bees knees for Cumbria, particularly as we’ve prioritised nature for the next five years. Both will see vital work undertaken through powerful partnerships with biodiversity organisations and local people – ensuring that important wildlife in decline is put back on our map thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.”

Ian Convery, Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Cumbria and Co-Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Rewilding Task Force, said:

“Community involvement is vital, as it will not only benefit individual species, but also acts as a catalyst for engaging communities in the wider environment with positive outcomes for biodiversity, the local economy and wellbeing. This is highlighted in the government’s 25 year Environment Plan as a key action to reverse the ongoing decline in biodiversity. We are looking forward to working with our community partners, alongside project partners to bring this exciting and transformative project to life.”

Tanya St.Pierre, Get Cumbria Buzzing Project Manager, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted! This funding allows us to create much-needed pollinator-friendly havens and wildflower highways, providing a lifeline for our bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. By transforming green spaces and working closely with communities, we aim to get Cumbria buzzing again. Everyone can help – please get in touch! 

The project wouldn’t be possible without the support and generosity of our partners and additional funders including Allerdale Borough Council, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Copeland Borough Council, Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre, Cumbria Community Foundation, Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust, Florence Arts Centre, Highways England, National Trust, Solway Coast AONB and Workington Nature Partnership.”

Dion Auriac, Project Manager at Highways England, said:

“Our roads connect communities across England and we’re committed to making sure our work supports the local economy and environment. That’s why we’re pledging £860,000 from our environment designated fund to the Get Cumbria Buzzing scheme to trial an innovative approach to managing verges on the A66 and A595 in Cumbria. We’ll be changing our grass-cutting and roadside maintenance systems to create habitats that provide food, shelter and nesting sites to help bees and other wildlife thrive alongside Cumbria’s major roads.”

The birds are back in town

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs at St Bees Head, Whitehaven

The birds at St Bees are back on the cliffs again for the summer, and we need your help once again to record whether they’re being disturbed.

The Colourful Coast Partnership is working with the RSPB, Natural England and Royal Yachting Association to recruit volunteers to take a walk up onto St Bees Head and observe the colonies for any disturbance, whether it comes from the air, the land or the sea.

Dave Blackledge, RSPB site manager, said ‘The bird numbers are increasing every year, which is great, but we need to understand if the birds are getting disturbed while they’re on the cliffs or on the water as this can affect their ability to raise healthy chicks or fish for food. We know that boats and climbers can sometimes unintentionally disturb the birds but we also want to know if there’s anything else, like birds of prey or drones, which could be having an effect’

Volunteers will be asked to go out once a fortnight and observe the seabirds from certain points along St Bees Head throughout the summer months, recording any interesting sightings. It’s not just skilled bird watchers who can get involved.   Sophie Badrick from the Colourful Coast Partnership says ‘Anyone who’s got a pair of binoculars and is happy to walk along the headland spending a few hours every fortnight viewing the birds and making notes can get involved.  We’ll be running a few training sessions in a couple of weeks to get volunteers up to speed and then it’s down to each individual to decide how often and when to go out surveying’.

The records will be collected by Natural England who can assess the levels of disturbance, whether this is an issue at the site and what kinds of activities are causing the issues. This will then allow Natural England working alongside the other Colourful Coast partners to focus on raising awareness to try and reduce the impacts of recreational activities on the breeding seabirds at St Bees Head so that the birds can continue to thrive.

Anyone who wants to get involved or would like more information should email Sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Basking shark spotted

Last week a basking shark was spotted just south of the Colourful Coast area around Seascale/Sellafield.

Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are the second largest fish in the world and the largest shark we get in UK waters.  They can grow up to 11 feet or over 3 metres long.  They are regular visitors to the Irish Sea in the summer months, however these elusive creatures are rarely seen from the coast of Cumbria.

Don’t worry, there is no need to fear these gentle giants as they only eat plankton.  The warm, still weather and plentiful plankton could mean that now is a good time to spot our ocean giants such as basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust are running regular SeaWatch events throughout the summer sp please check their website if you’d like to join in one of these events – you never know what you might spot.