By Tessa Cole, RSPB Senior Research Assistant, FAME
Now we’re very nearly at the end of the seabird breeding season I’ve got a chance to breathe and write a blog! Every year it amazes me how quickly the work escalates as the auk chicks hatch and again how quickly the cliffs empty and turn in to ghost cities when the auks fledge. Seabird colonies are always noisy atmospheric places but when the auk chicks are ready to fledge this noise increases with the guillemot chicks making a “winnit” noise to their dads who are out at sea trying to entice them to jump off the cliff. Some chicks have it easy being able to jump straight in to the sea, whilst others bounce on to the rocks below before having to clamber over more rocks avoiding the swooping greater black back gulls and predatory bonxie (Great Skua). My heart is generally in my mouth as I watch this spectacle. There is a sense of relief when you see them reach the sea but really this is just the start of their journey in to the big wide world.
This year was more frantic than normal on Colonsay, thanks to ten days of bad weather just when we least wanted it…..when the auks chicks hatched. This meant we spent the rest of the time catching up. Whilst the other FAME teams were concentrating on fulmar chicks we were still madly running up and down the west coast of Colonsay looking for tagged razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes! We still have a few tagged kittiwakes to catch back but their chicks are all large now so we have stopped deploying tags for the season. Fulmars are in inaccessible locations on Colonsay so it’s unlikely that we will be able to catch one, meaning that our season will end up finishing along with the other FAME colonies. Look out for an update from the Orkney team (Yvan and Juliet) on here soon.
Now we have the fun job of sitting opposite cliff tops looking for incredibly cute fluffy fulmar chicks to complete our productivity monitoring and the not so fun job of data entry. Thankfully the current weather has encouraged us to stay inside and get on with data entry instead of being distracted by the beautiful beaches of Colonsay!
The FAME project is funded by the European Commission through the European Regional Development Fund, Atlantic Area Transnational Programme to the sum of €2.2 million with an additional €1.2 million funded by the project partners. Investing in our common future
Earlier this month we celebrated National Marine Week, slap bang in the summer holidays. Many of you have been getting involved and showing you care about our spectacular coasts and wildlife.
It kicked off in fine style with an update from our colleagues in Wales showing Environment Minister John Griffiths how much the people of Cymru care about our sealife, presenting him with an image of a Manx shearwater made up of the 3000 signatures of those who signed our pledge for better protection of seabirds at sea.
It’s not all about campaigning (though that’s vitally important – more will happen towards the end of the year). It’s also about enjoying our seaside, and sharing that sense of fun and wonder. You shared some spectacular seaside pictures on our Facebook page. And in a quick poll, over three quarters of you said that you plan to visit a UK beach this summer – some going north of Inverness, others to the southerly tips of Cornwall. It just goes to show that wherever you live in the UK, a great coastline is not too far away.
Which means we can all do a bit to help our salty wildlife sometimes. We shared some ideas on this blog during National Marine Week – simple things we can do at any time. Little steps by lots of people add up to something big.
If you have a little more time and energy, why not volunteer on one of our coastal reserves? Check out the opportunities near you on our volunteering page.
But most of all – lets celebrate our sealife. We have world class wildlife here. Help us keep it that way.
Image: Anthony Griffiths
This week I’ve been waxing lyrical about our coasts, and I thought I would round off the week with a celebration of our marine and coastal wildlife.
I have a soft spot for arctic terns. Apart from being incredibly graceful, they manage a gob-smacking annual migration of over 22,000 miles. It's the longest migration of any bird, and worthy of our admiration for that fact alone.
Arctic tern, Farne Islands; Kaleel Zibe (rspb-images.com)
Also getting my ‘seal of approval’ are seals. They are amazingly intelligent and truly playful. As a SCUBA diver, I have had them tug on my fins, and seen them following divers around, gliding just above and behind them in the diver’s blind spot. The stream of bubbles exhaled by the diver hits the seal’s underside, and I imagine they like the feel of it – rather like a mobile Jacuzzi!
Harbour seal, Beara peninsula; Anthony Griffiths
Being underwater is a real privilege. The range of colours can be spectacular, with hot red and orange sun stars, pale pink sea urchins, carpets of brittle stars, and comical tompot blennies.
Sea urchin, Heather Griffiths
Tompot blenny, Heather Griffiths
These are just a few of the hidden jewels that inhabit our seas. The wildlife beneath our waves can be the hardest to protect – out of sight, often mobile, and poorly monitored. We are working hard to change that. It’s a bit of a waiting game right now, but watch this space to keep up with the latest developments as soon as they happen.
And in the mean time, why not show your support for our sealife by telling us what wildlife you hope to see at the seaside this summer. Tweet us @natures_voice, or post on our Facebook page today
Here's looking at you! Heather Griffiths
Look at the colour of that sea. Glorious! A tropical beach? No, it's St Ives in Cornwall. We really do have world class coasts!
Looks nice and clean too. Yesterday I made a little plea about beach litter, including cutting down on plastic bag use. You may remember it's a bit of a bug bear (or is that 'bag bear'?!) of mine.... I've just seen that four excellent organisations have joined together to organise Break the Bag Habit, where you can call for your MP to support the introduction of a levy on single use bags in England. I've signed it - it's a simple step for nature, and will help make our marine environment cleaner and safer.
Well done to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage :o)
I’m getting excited as I’m off to Holkham Bay on the North Norfolk coast this weekend. The big skies and wide golden sands fringed by woodland are a great place for pretty much anyone, whatever your interests. I love to let my dogs run free, take a salty dip, kayak through the saltmarshes, and the wildlife is always a draw.
Holkham Bay (with my dog in the foreground!)
Whilst there, I’ll be heading just up the coast to Titchwell Marsh. A fabulous place to visit, the brackish reed beds are a haven for bitterns and bearded tits, and joining one of the guided walks is a great way to enjoy an enormous range of wildlife. This year alone they have recorded over 680 species! The impressive Parrinder Hide offers great views of the pools, and the cafe is well worth a stop too.
Many of our reserves have wonderful coastlines. Ramsey Island off the Welsh coast has spectacular 120m high cliffs, and the cliff top heathland is awash with flowers in summer.
Ramsey Island, Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
If seclusion is what you are after, take a summer ferry from Oban to Coll and you will be treated to a shell white beach fringed with an abundance of wild flowers in the machair. If you are lucky, you may even see the world's second largest fish glide through the waters – a basking shark! These elusive ocean giants can be seen further south too – try Labrador Bay in Devon. This well-known beauty spot is worth the trip anyway.
You may like your seaside sojourn to have more activity. Tucked into one of the few undeveloped stretches of the West Sussex coastline, Pagham Harbour offers fun for all the family, with a wide range of activities and events all year round. Belfast Lough also offers great events all year round, and is an oasis of calm just 10 minutes from the centre of Belfast.
Belfast Lough, Simon Watterson (rspb-images.com)
For hustle and bustle of a different tone, head to one of our cliff top reserves, such as Bempton Cliffs. Take a summer picnic, and experience the sights, sounds and smells of the miraculous seabird spectacle at the peak of the breeding season.
You can also get out on the water at Bempton, on one of our wonderful gannet and puffin cruises. With expert commentary and a chance to see over 200,000 seabirds, it’s a Date with Nature to remember.
Puffin, Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Do you have a favourite seaside spot? Share it with us @natures_voice, or post on our Facebook page