RSPB’s senior policy officer Gareth Cunningham is back with another tale of his seabird journey. In this blog post, Gareth visits the beautiful St Bees Head in Cumbria.
Back in May I travelled across England to visit a few of our best seabird sites. Some of these we asked to be included in the Government’s proposals to protect current Tranche 3 Marine Conservation Zone consultation (for a bit of background, have a look at my earlier blog).
The planned route across England for the first week
The good news is two of the sites I visited have been included in the proposals; St Bees Head and Coquet Island. But the work doesn’t stop there as we need to make sure these sites move from just proposals to being fully designated. Only then will the fantastic wildlife that lives and breeds here be fully protected.
It was serendipitous then that St Bees Head was the first seabird site I reached on my journey. I had, by a stroke of luck, managed to pick one of the hottest and driest weeks of the year so far. The chance of riding for hours in soggy gear was slim so I set off knowing my biggest challenges would be the tedium of motorways and making sure to stay hydrated.
The roads were quiet, and heading towards St Bees Head, it’s easy to see why the Lake District is such a popular place with walkers and other tourists. Rolling hills, wooded glades and picturesque streams greeted me at every turn. Soon St Bees Head loomed, home to England’s only nesting black guillemots.
The stunning cliff views from St Bees Head
Currently the land at St Bees Head is protected for its significant seabird colony - including nearly 10,000 common guillemot and lesser numbers of fulmar, kittiwake and puffin. However, the waters around the colony have no legal protection even though they are essential during the important breeding season.
This is why the site has been suggested as one of the amended Marine Conservation Zones in the Defra Tranche 3 consultation. We hope that it is given formal protection to ensure that this thriving seabird colony is safe whilst at sea as well as on land.
You can watch the short video of my visit below.
Waving goodbye to St Bees Head I hit the road once more, travelling east towards Hexham. Eventually I found my accommodation for the evening; The Sill was an amazing YHA located in Northumberland just a stone’s throw from Hadrian’s Wall. As would become the norm for my trip, the evening consisted of downloading videos, charging batteries and checking the map.
Keep up to date with the latest news on all things marine (including the tranche 3 MCZs) via twitter and the blog pages. In the meantime our friends at the Wildlife Trusts will soon be launching an action giving people the chance to have their say and support these new MCZ's. Check here for updates.