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.”

Bantham Beach & Avon Estuary

Mark Harold, South West Regional Director for the National Trust said: ‘Today (3 July 2014) we have been informed by the agents acting on behalf of Evan’s Estates that we have been unsuccessful in our bid to purchase Bantham Beach and Avon Estuary in South Devon.

‘We are extremely disappointed at this decision.  We, along with many thousands of people who have contacted us over the past few weeks encouraging our involvement in its future, care very passionately about Bantham.  We believe this is a very special place, held dear in the hearts of many, not only locally, but also those who have fond memories of childhoods and family times spent there.

‘We will of course continue to care and protect for ever and for everyone the 40 miles and 3,000 hectares of the South Devon coast we already care for. We would also want, if possible, to work with any future owners of Bantham Beach & Estuary and ensure that this beautiful location is continued to be enjoyed by the many thousands of people who have told us how much it means to them.

‘We would like to thank everyone for their support of our fundraising appeal. As a charity the Trust relies on the generous support of its supporters who help us care for some of the most beautiful and vulnerable stretches of coastal land in the country.’

National Trust launches coastal appeal in bid to buy Bantham beach and Avon estuary

A view from the coast of the golden sands at Bantham beach, popular with families and walkers

A view from the coast of the golden sands at Bantham beach, popular with families and walkers

A multi-million pound fundraising appeal is being launched today by the National Trust in a bid to raise money to acquire Bantham beach and the Avon estuary in south Devon.

One of the finest estuaries in South West England and the best surfing beach in south Devon, this coastline is a place that has captured the hearts and minds of generations of holiday-makers and local people.

If the appeal is successful the Trust would maintain the high-quality access enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people every year and would work hard to further enhance the landscape along the estuary as a home for nature.

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100 Days later: Lessons from this winter’s storms

The coastline in the South West of England saw more drama than Coronation Street or EastEnders this winter. Dramatic pictures made for a compelling story as the coast was hit hard by the worst weather in living memory. National Trust coast and marine adviser Tony Flux reflects on some of the lessons from the storms 100 days after the last big weather event on Valentine’s Day:

It can be quite tricky to get your head around coastal change. Often the stretches of coast that we love to visit will appear to be changing very little during our lifetime. We think of the coast as a constant; a place that we know well.

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Volunteers help Formby clean up its act

This April, National Trust rangers at Formby beach near Liverpool welcomed a team of volunteers to help with their Big Beach Clean.

Rubbish colleceted during the Big Beach Clean, Credit Kate Martin

The clean-up operation, organised by the Marine Conservation Society, attracted some 90 volunteers who collected a staggering 2,075 discarded items of litter. The selection of rubbish weighed in at over 340 kg and even included a rusty watering can and a large bakery crate.

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Adapting to a future where defence is the last resort

A clear national strategy is urgently needed to help coastal areas adapt to the twin pressures of rising sea levels and extreme weather, according to a new report published today by the National Trust.

Demolition work taking place at Birling Gap. Credit National Trust, John Miller

Demolition work taking place at Birling Gap. Credit National Trust, John Miller

As one of the UK’s biggest coastal owners, the Trust has seen many of its sites battered by the winter storms or hit hard by the high tides – with one, Birling Gap in East Sussex, experiencing seven years of erosion this winter.

These impacts have meant that the charity has had to fast-forward many decisions about land and buildings in its care, looking at how to adapt coastal places in the months ahead, rather than years or decades.

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Studland beach: forecast – changeable

Mike Collins is a Senior Press Officer with the National Trust. Following a visit to Studland Beach, he tells us how the winter storms have affected this coastal beauty spot.

Studland on the Dorset coast is a classic beach; golden sands with a dramatic seascape from east to west and town ebbing into countryside. More than a million people every year come to this jewel on the south coast seaside.

This popular and much-loved beach is on the front-line of how our coastline is changing and the challenges of managing the scale and pace of change that is happening now.

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