An unfortunate discovery

While beach cleaning last week our Project Officer discovered a porpoise washed up on Whitehaven’s North Shore.  While the creature had clearly been dead for some time, so there was no question that it could be a live stranding, we still reported the individual to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).  They confirmed the individual as a female harbour porpoise due to the spade shaped teeth (dolphins have needle shaped teeth).  Due to the level of decomposition there was no way to determine cause of death.

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The UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (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 publics 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

Introduction to insects workshop

We have the final workshop in this summers Nature Recorders series coming up next week.  So if you’ve always wanted to know the difference between moths and butterflies or how many legs an invertebrate has and why spiders are bugs not insects then this free workshop is for you!

The workshop will be held in Whitehaven on Thursday 19th July, from 10am until 3 pm.  It’s free to attend but places must be booked via sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

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Behind the scenes at the Quarry

A few weeks ago we made one of our annual visits to Birkhams Quarry, just outside Whitehaven.

As part of their planning permission the quarry operator is required to restore areas of the quarry once they have finished being worked for stone.

At the end of 2016 topsoil from elsewhere on site was spread over the first area of restoration.  The decision was made not to use plug plants or seed the restoration area but to let it vegetate naturally using the seeds already in the topsoil.

This summer we’ve worked at the site with local volunteers doing a variety of jobs recording the species we find on site and beginning to remove plants such as bracken, nettle, dock and thistle.  If left unchecked these could become dominant and shade out the wildflowers and grasses we want to encourage. The restoration area is developing nicely and the variety of species that have already established is encouraging.

On our last visit in June 2018 we found:

Agrimony

Birds foot trefoil

Bluebell sp

Bracken

Bramble

Broad leaved dock

Burdock

Bush vetch

Catsear

Cocks foot

Common nettle

Common sorrel

Creeping thistle

Creeping buttercup

Devils bit scabious

Foxglove

Germander speedwell

Gorse

Herb Robert

Hogweed

Hop trefoil

Lesser celandine

Meadow foxtail

Ragwort

Ribwort plantain

Sheep sorrel

Silverweed

Spear thistle

Speedwell sp

Tormentil

White clover

Wood vetch

Willowherb sp

 

Blaze destroys important wildlife area at St Bees Head

Firefighters were recently called out to tackle a large blaze on the South Head at St Bees, which has damaged an important area for nesting birds and wildlife.

An area the size of around four football pitches has been destroyed following the fire which broke out on the evening of 12 June. The area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so is an important place for wildlife. The gorse and heath habitat that has been burned was home to a variety of nesting birds, plants and butterflies that have been badly affected by the fire.

Dave Blackledge, RSPB Site Manager for St Bees Head said: “This is a stark reminder of how easily fire can spread following the dry conditions we have had in the past few weeks. Whilst unintentional, the consequences can be devastating for wildlife. Around 30 nests of birds such as stonechat, linnet and whitethroat, which breed on St Bees Head, have been lost to the blaze, and it is likely many of the adult birds were unable to get away from it too.

“The site is also home to some unusual plants like bloody cranesbill and a range of butterflies such as wall brown and large skipper that have all been affected by this incident. Thankfully the fire did not reach the 25,000 thousand strong seabird colony that St Bees is famous for, as the majority of those breed on the RSPB reserve on the North Head. However, a careless act can do a lot of harm, and we ask that all those visiting the site are respectful of the habitat and the wildlife here to avoid future problems.”

Kate Doughty from Natural England, who oversee Sites of Special Scientific Interest, said: “It will take many years for burnt the clifftop habitats at St Bees to recover and there is a risk that some of the special rare plants that grow there may never return. We are all extremely relieved that the seabird colony avoided a similar fate, thanks to the fantastic job performed by the firefighters from Cumbria Fire and Rescue.”

St Bees Head fire

You may have heard or seen on the news that there was a fire on St Bees Head overnight on Tuesday 12th June.  This has caused a large amount of damage to the area.  The RSPB, who own much of the land, have released the following statement:

“We are currently unable to get access to the site as it had been closed off by the police. Consequently, we don’t know the extent of the damage caused by the fire on the South Head at St Bees. 

Our understanding is that a large area of gorse and heath on the southern part of the reserve has been destroyed, which will have affected birds including stone chats and linnets, as well as a range of butterflies.

However, we are we are hopeful that the seabird colony is unaffected as the majority of these birds nest on the North Head.

We will be able to ascertain the full extent of the damage once we are permitted onsite.

We would like to say a huge thanks to the fire fighters who tackled the blaze.”

Once we have any more information we will update the website.

 

Wildflower workshop

Next week we have another workshop in our Nature Recorders series. We’ll be joining forces with Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre once again to deliver this workshop on wildflower and plant identification. Come along and learn how to identify wildflowers using a key, books, and hand lens. The workshop is free but booking is essential, contact sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

Work and walk – a chance to see behind the scenes at Birkhams Quarry!

Join us for this unique opportunity to carry out some practical conservation work in a working quarry. We will walk from the old Haig Mining Museum, passing signs of Whitehaven’s mining past up to Birkhams Quarry where we will get a chance get a behind the scenes view of this sandstone quarry. When we’re there well spend a short time carrying out some conservation work on an area of restored wildflower grassland and record what species we find. For more information or to let us know you’re coming along email sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Nature Recorders

We had a fantastic day with Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre recently, running a workshop to introduce people to biological recording.  The aim of the workshop was to demystify how to turn your plant and animal sightings into valuable biological records.  Stuart, from CBDC, did a great job of taking us through the process.  The weather was kind and we also got to head outside for an afternoon putting our new found skills to the test, recording all the plant species we found on a quick walk around the Haig grasslands finding three types of buttercup and two vetches in the first few metres of the car park.

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Once we’ve got a full list of the species we saw we’ll post it on here so you can see just how many different species we found.

 

There are two more workshops planned this summer, we’ll post details when they’re finalised.

Nature recorders wanted!

Visitors looks for wildflowers

The Colourful Coast Partnership and Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre are launching a new programme of events aimed at getting people out recording the nature the find in their local area.

The Nature Recorders programme will encourage local people to map, identify and record the habitats and species of the Copeland coast.  Stuart Colgate, Recoding Officer for the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre says ‘We have good records of some species but there are still gaps in our knowledge.  We hope these sessions will encourage people to get out, records what they see and upload their results.  This will provide valuable information about the plants and animals of the area that haven’t been well recorded like plants, fungi and most invertebrates.’

To start this process there will be a series of free events, starting next Thursday (24th May) with an ‘Introduction to Biological Recording’ workshop in Whitehaven.  This will cover how to turn random sightings of wild plants and animals into valuable biological records.  These sessions will help volunteers find out more about the habitats and species we find in the area and learn how to submit their records to the Data Centre which can potentially be used for generations to come.

We really want to get people out spotting, identifying and recording wildlife so whether you’re a complete novice or already know the names of plants and animals you see while you’re out and about there will be an opportunity for you to be involved. If you want to gain some new skills, discover more about your local area or contribute to our knowledge and understanding of this amazing area then we’d love for you to be involved.

The free training is open to anyone, if you would like to get involved or would like more information please email Sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk or phone 07342088015