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

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

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

 

An extended Heritage Coast moves one step closer

As you can imagine, we are excited to hear that our proposals to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast further north towards Whitehaven have been unanimously approved by Copeland Borough Council at this week’s Full Council meeting.

We’ve written previously about why we think the St Bees Head Heritage Coast should be extended, and the benefits this extension could provide.  We’ve been championing this coastline, with it’s unique and special qualities, for many years and have worked closely with Copeland Borough Council and Natural England to put together the evidence base for the extension proposals.  The proposals put to Copeland Borough Council officers also included a change of the name to St Bees and Whitehaven Heritage Coast, reflecting the importance of the new areas.

fleswick bay (stbees)

Pat Graham, Chief Executive at Copeland Borough Council, said: “We’re delighted to support this proposal. We are very proud of our stunning and unique coastline and this quality mark not only promotes what we have, but enables enhancement.  We had an extremely positive response to the consultation with people in favour of the proposal. There were no objections received from any of the consultees and in fact, some of our respondents requested that more areas should be included, but unfortunately no additional areas met the criteria.  We will now be working with our partners to ensure that we maximise the benefits the proposed extension should bring.”

Copeland Borough Council will now submit the proposed extension to Natural England who will work with the Council to draw up a partnership agreement to re define and adopt the new St Bees and Whitehaven Heritage Coast.

We’ll keep you updated!

Honeycomb worms

After we’d finished our beach clean today we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to film some of the Honeycomb worm reefs that are exposed along our coastline at low tide.  Check out the video to see them in their natural habitat.

We’ve written a blog post before telling you all about the Honeycomb worms (Sabellaria alveolata) so have a read of that if you’d like to know more.

Look out for the Honeycomb worms when you next visit the Colourful Coast!

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.

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