Great British Beach Clean 2018

As part of the Great British Beach Clean we’ve added an extra beach clean to out usual monthly efforts.

We’ll be heading to Whitehaven’s North Shore on Saturday 15th September between 10.30am until lunchtime to record and remove all the litter we find.  We know from our last beach clean that there is a lot of rope caught in amongst the rocks so we’ll be hoping to tackle some of that and finally get it removed.

Give Sophie an email to let us know if you’re coming down so she can buy enough biscuits for afterwards sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

Heritage Open Days Fog Signal Station walk

*** This event is now FULLY BOOKED please contact sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk to be added to the reserve list ***

This year we’re again taking part in Heritage Open Days and opening up the St Bees Head Fog Signal Station for a select few people.

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers. Every year in September, places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community and history. It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – and it’s all free.

On Sunday 16th September we’re organising an 8 mile guided walk from Whitehaven to St Bees Head as part of Heritage Open Days.  As we walk past the site of the old Haig mining museum along the 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 to Whitehaven.  It’s a great chance to hear a little bit more about this stunning stretch of Heritage Coast.  Places are limited so please contact our project officer Sophie if you’d like to book a place or find out more information sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

160526 St Bees Fog Horn Station (c) Sophie Badrick (19)

Blooming jellyfish!

Last week at as the tide went out at St Bees it left behind a large number of small jellyfish, marooned on the sand.  This jellyfish bloom was probably caused by suitable conditions of warmth, sunshine and calm seas meaning that numbers of jellyfish build up.  Jellyfish aren’t strong swimmers and, while they can pulse their bell shaped bodies, they can’t move quickly which means if the tide turns and rushes out they often get left on the sand.

Most of the jellyfish seen at St Bees were moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), which is one of the commonest jellyfish in UK waters.  The Marine Conservation Society have more information on all the jellyfish we commonly see in the UK, and a few more exotic visitors.

Some UK jellyfish do sting so we definitely don’t recommend touching any jellies you see washed up on the beach, but have a good look – these beautiful and delicate creatures will be washed back out to sea with the next tide.

Walk and work – behind the scenes at Birkhams Quarry

Join us next week (Wednesday 8th August) 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

Big Butterfly Count!

If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare over the next few weeks then why not get outside with the family and join the big butterfly count.

Run by Butterfly Conservation the big butterfly count is a nationwide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Over 60,000 people took part in 2017, submitting 62,500 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK.

We’ll be doing some butterfly counts at Haig over the next few weeks so why not come along and give it a go – no need for any special equipment as we’ll have ID guides and recording sheets.

Drop our project officer Sophie an email if you’d like to know more sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

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.

cof

cof

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.”