ST. BEES HEAD RSPB RESERVE
CUMBRIA (St. Bees, Whitehaven), (W)
00o00´/00o00´ ha m
April to June (06.09.2007)
Birding Site Guide
This is an RSPB coastal reserve situated sw of Carlisle and s of the Solway Firth. The reserve can be reached by train from Carlisle in an hour or so or by bus (every 2 hours 6 days a week). If driving take the A595 from Carlisle to Cockermouth and then Whitehaven and St. Bees. Places to stay of all types abound, including cheaper options of camping and Hostels. Best time to visit is late spring to summer for the seabird breeding colonies.
There is an interesting 5 mile coastal path between Whitehaven and St. Bees, which can be done leisurely in 5hr, and is well worth doing if time permits. There is a transition between the softer Jurassic sandstone of the n and the hard Triassic cliffs of St. Bees in the s. There is also the mining history, with ruins along the coast where ventilation shafts fed air to the undersea coal shafts, some of which are very old and extend upto 8 miles out. Birds to watch for come from the seabirds colonies of St. Bees, which includes one or 2 Black Guillemots, and odd pairs of Raven and Peregrine. At St. Bees reserve there is a 5 year plan between the RSPB and the National Trust to attract nesting Chough back to the site after a 60 year absence, at the moment there are only rare visits in winter by young birds from the Isle of Man, which is visible in the distance across the water. Various finches and pipits are common along the coast also. Autumn passage of seabirds, particularly Manx Shearwaters (which breed on the Isle of Man and other islands) can be observed from the coast with telescope if there is a strong onshore (w) wind blowing.
Otters Lutra lutra are not uncommon along this coast, but are more often nocturnal, and it requires a certain amount of luck, usually early morning or on an evening to spot them. The breeding season when the young are out and about offers the best opportunity, as there are more animals about and the parents are busy helping to feed the voracious young.
The Cumbrian coast is noted for its scattered populations of Natterjack Toad Bufo calamita, which breed in small coastal pools often set in dunes.
The coastal flora is interesting and varied, some nice common flowers are Sheeps-bit Jasione montana and Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis and various vetches.