Seabirds on National Trust coastal places

We take a look at four of the key seadbird species found on National Trust land across England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

Sandwich tern

The report reveals that National Trust land is hugely important for Sandwich terns, with nationally significant colonies at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, Farne Islands, Cemlyn Lagoon, Green Island and Brownsea Island Lagoon.

Sandwich tern in flight at Blakeney Point in Norfolk

Sandwich tern in flight at Blakeney Point in Norfolk

Ajay Tegala, coastal ranger at Blakeney, said: “On Blakeney Point the breeding terns have been surveyed for over 100 years. Carrying out surveys as well as observing the colonies enables more to be learned about these birds and how we can help to protect them.”

Manx shearwater

Virtually all Manx shearwaters in the world breed in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. National Trust sites Lundy island, Middleholm in Pembrokeshire and Lighthouse Island, County Down all hold populations of this burrow nesting seabird.

A Manx Shearwater in flight

A Manx Shearwater in flight

Like other burrow nesting seabirds, Manx shearwaters are very vulnerable to predation by rats. When, in a partnership with RSPB and Landmark Trust, the National Trust removed the rats from Lundy Island, it led to a spectacular increase in numbers.

In Northern Ireland, the population of Manx shearwater on Lighthouse Island was recognised as being of global importance with just less than 1% of all Manx shearwater now breeding there.

Atlantic puffin

Despite increasing population numbers on the Farne Islands, which attract more than 52,000 visitors every year, the islands’ most famous residents, 40,000 pairs of puffins, also face a challenging future.

Wetter, windier summers can greatly impact their breeding success as was evident in 2012. Heavy flooding of the puffin burrows meant that one of the islands failed to produce any chicks, despite being home to 12,000 pairs of puffins.

The Atlantic puffin colony recovered and is now the second largest in the UK, with 10% of the total UK population breeding there.

David Steel, Lead Ranger on the Farne Islands, said: “I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Britain visiting many fabulous seabird reserves, but the intensity, close proximity and astonishing views of the seabirds on the Farne Islands make it one of the most remarkable wildlife experiences this country has to offer.

“With the inevitable changes to our coast, innovative thinking is needed such as considering new sites that can be made into suitable habitats.”

Arctic terns

Populations of Arctic tern on National Trust sites are of a national significant level in England.

An Artic tern after some successful hunting for food

An Artic tern after some successful hunting for food

The most southerly colony of Arctic terns is found on National Trust’s Blakeney Point in Norfolk.

Study reveals threats to UK breeding seabirds

UK breeding seabirds are under threat from a triple whammy of extreme weather, predators and human disturbance, a new National Trust report has revealed.

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

The study of seabird sites along the Trust’s 742 miles of coastline was carried out by the conservation organisation to evaluate the importance of National Trust locations for seabirds and to recognise the issues that impact breeding success.

Following the findings, the report calls for more regular monitoring to help detect any changes in seabird colonies, which can happen over a short period of time, and a greater awareness of human impact on breeding populations.

The most prevalent potential threat to seabirds was identified as the effect of extreme weather. This was evident in Blakeney in Norfolk this winter when the severe tidal surges changed the beach profile forcing more than half of the little terns to nest in low areas. The high tides that followed in mid-June caused the nests to flood, resulting in a very poor breeding season, with only 10 fledged young from 108 breeding pairs

Little terns at Long Nanny in Northumberland faced a similar threat. To help combat the problem, National Trust rangers spent three months between May and August providing a 24 hour watch on the nesting birds by camping next to their breeding site.

Predation from rats, foxes and mink was also identified as a problem at nearly all sites. The managed removal of predators is now a priority for the Trust and more regular monitoring will help to detect any issues early on.

In 2001 Manx shearwaters on Lundy Island, Devon were barely able to breed because of the threat from predators. A partnership project was established to remove them and by 2004, once the predators had been eradicated, the shearwaters have made a spectacular recovery.

Lundy has since been designated the first Marine Conservation Zone in England and hosts nationally significant numbers of Manx shearwater, with 1% of a total UK population of 295,045.

The third most common risk to breeding success was found to be human disturbance by walkers and their pets.

If nests are disturbed it can displace seabirds, leaving the young vulnerable to predators. However, even if they are not displaced, seabirds can become stressed when disturbed which can greatly impact their wellbeing.

The National Trust is encouraging walkers and visitors to the coast to be aware of the potential impact of disturbing nesting seabirds during the breeding season.

Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “Seabirds are part of what makes the British and Irish coastline so special.

“A seabird colony is an assault on your senses; it has a unique smell; distinctive calls, such as that of the Kittiwake, which sounds just like its name; and they are a fascinating sight as they lift off from the cliff.

“Our emotional connection with these birds along with what they tell us about the health of our seas means that it is vital for us to look after the places where they nest.”

Autumn Fruits

MRO in Knepp shepherds hut colour NH - CopyIt might still be August, but National Trust nature and wildlife expert, Matthew Oates, tells us why the signs of autumn are already on show.

“The signs are everywhere.  This is going to be a bumper autumn for nuts, seeds and berries, and most of these fruits are appearing remarkably early too.

“The hedges are already well-reddened with hips and haws, from wild roses and hawthorns.  A superb blackberry crop is developing, though it needs more sun and the tap switching off.  Many Blackthorn tangles are purple with sloe berries, awaiting the first frosts before they can be gathered.  Crab Apple jelly is also nicely on the menu for this autumn. Holly and Rowan berries are profuse and absurdly well advanced – in many districts these have been showing red since early June.  There should be a plentiful supply of Holly berries for Christmas, unless hungry birds eat them first.  Elder berries are developing well, as the summer was not dry enough for the bushes to abort their fruits, as happens in drought years.

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Four bee-eater chicks take to the air

Four bee-eater chicks have fledged on National Trust land on the Isle of Wight thanks to aTwo juvenile bee-eaters, credit Andy Butler joint protection operation by the National Trust, the RSPB and Isle of Wight naturalists. It is the first time the birds, who usually nest in southern Europe, have bred successfully in the UK for 12 years.

Three of the chicks fledged last week and the fourth has tried out its wings in the last couple of days. If these survive, this will be the most successful ever bee-eater breeding attempt in the UK. The last successful attempt, which resulted in two chicks, was in county Durham in 2002, the first for 50 years.

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Boscastle Reflections Ten Years On

Ian Kemp, General Manager for North Cornwall, reflects on the Boscastle flash floods which devastated the village a decade ago.

Ten years ago my job took me to Boscastle only once every ten days or so. August 16th 2004 just happened to be one of those days.

The day after the flash floods revealed the extent of the devastation caused to Boscastle. Credit National Trust.

I had gone to the village for what should have been a routine meeting with our shop staff.  By mid-afternoon the river had swollen to the size of the Thames at Westminster and the shop staff and I found ourselves scrambling up steep valley sides to safety under the watchful gaze of an RAF helicopter rescue crew.

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Hambledon Hill and the story of human history in the UK

National Trust archaeologist Martin Papworth explains why Hambledon Hill is such a special place for the story it tells of the British Isles over thousands of years:

“Dorset is internationally renowned for its hillforts. Hambledon Hill is of pre-eminent significance and only challenged by Maiden Castle for the successive phases of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age archaeological features contained within its ramparts.

A very special hillfort, Hambledon Hill is rich in human history.  Credit: Ross Hoddinott

A very special hillfort, Hambledon Hill is rich in human history. Credit: Ross Hoddinott

However Hambledon’s archaeological earthworks and buried features are far better preserved and more clearly visible on the ground than at Maiden Castle because they haven’t been ploughed.

Hambledon overlies part of an exceptional complex of Neolithic causewayed enclosures, used by academics and experts to illustrate the nature of our earliest farming societies over 5,500 years ago.

Hambledon’s remains include evidence for communal occupation, feasting, conflict, exhumation and burial. Finds of polished axes from the Lake District, Wales and Cornwall demonstrate its wide-ranging importance for trade and exchange at this time.

The continuing significance of Hambledon for burial is demonstrated by the Neolithic long barrow (around 3500-3000BC) that occupies the crest of the hill and the five Early Bronze Age round barrows (around 2200-1600 BC) that lie around it.

The visual impact of the site is enhanced by the drama of its massive sinuous ramparts and ditches. They follow the contours of the hill, replacing a Late Bronze Age (around 1000-800BC) settlement enclosure. Throughout the Iron Age, this imposing landscape statement developed as a complex of defensive earthworks with additional ramparts and gateway outworks added at various times from around 600BC. Within the defences are the terraces for over 300 round houses enabling visitors to walk down streets and visualise a thriving community.

Today’s stunning views across the Blackmoor Vale into Wiltshire and Somerset offer an immediate understanding of the prehistoric advantage of this strategic place.

Hambledon is the northern archaeological partner to Hod Hill which shares this chalk outlier defined by the rivers Iwerne to the east and Stour to the south and west. Hod has little occupation evidence from early prehistory but becomes increasingly dominant from around 300BC.

Hambledon holds the evidence for earliest British prehistoric settlement and Hod continues the story up to the Roman Conquest.

Hambledon and Hod are two halves of a whole and are of such importance that joint conservation ownership and management offers the best conservation protection for these exceptional sites.”