Page 1


MARIANNE TAYLOR

WILD COAST A celebration of the places where land meets sea


MARIANNE TAYLOR

WILD COAST A celebration of the places where land meets sea


For Alison. With fond memories of the seaside summers of our childhood... and thank you for forgiving me over the beach-ball incident.

Bloomsbury Natural History

Contents

An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square

1385 Broadway

London

New York

WC1B 3DP

NY 10018

UK

USA

Introduction 6 www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2015 Š Marianne Taylor, 2015

SAND

14

SHINGLE

44

ESTUARY

68

Š Photos Marianne Taylor 2015 except as noted on p.208 Marianne Taylor has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system,without prior permission in writing from the publishers.

WETL ANDS 92 ROCKS 118 CLIFFS & HEADL ANDS 142

No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organisation acting on or refraining from action as aresult of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author.

URBAN COASTS 170

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

ISL ANDS & OPEN SEA 188

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Index 204 ISBN: PB: 978-1-4081-8178-2 ePDF: 978-1-4081-8640-4 ePub: 978-1-4081-8641-1 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Designed by Nicola Liddiard, Nimbus Design Printed in China To find out more about our authors and books visit www.bloomsbury.com. Here you will find extracts, author interviews, details of forthcoming events and the option to sign up for our newsletters.

Acknowledgments 208


For Alison. With fond memories of the seaside summers of our childhood... and thank you for forgiving me over the beach-ball incident.

Bloomsbury Natural History

Contents

An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square

1385 Broadway

London

New York

WC1B 3DP

NY 10018

UK

USA

Introduction 6 www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2015 Š Marianne Taylor, 2015

SAND

14

SHINGLE

44

ESTUARY

68

Š Photos Marianne Taylor 2015 except as noted on p.208 Marianne Taylor has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system,without prior permission in writing from the publishers.

WETL ANDS 92 ROCKS 118 CLIFFS & HEADL ANDS 142

No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organisation acting on or refraining from action as aresult of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author.

URBAN COASTS 170

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

ISL ANDS & OPEN SEA 188

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Index 204 ISBN: PB: 978-1-4081-8178-2 ePDF: 978-1-4081-8640-4 ePub: 978-1-4081-8641-1 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Designed by Nicola Liddiard, Nimbus Design Printed in China To find out more about our authors and books visit www.bloomsbury.com. Here you will find extracts, author interviews, details of forthcoming events and the option to sign up for our newsletters.

Acknowledgments 208


To measure a coastline

6

Introduction Below Observing the

If you look at a very small-scale map of the world,

has similar properties to the mathematical

the coastlines of Britain and Ireland (in fact of all

phenomenon known as a fractal – a curve which

coastlines) are necessarily simplified – it is not

changes in complexity according to measurement

Everyone who enjoys country

adapted to the particular

possible to capture all the ins and outs without

scale. Fractals are in theory infinite in length,

walks and wildlife-watching will

features of the edge in question,

moving to a larger scale. At an increased scale,

and while coastlines are not true fractals, if our

have noticed the special magic of

or adapted to move easily

more detail can be shown on a map. If you make a

measurement of the British Isles’ coastline starts to

the ‘edge’ – where one kind of

between the two contrasting

measurement of the coastline from a small-scale

account for individual rocks and pebbles, we would

habitat meets another. Meadows

habitat types. This effect is no

and a large-scale map, the result from the smaller

(eventually) come up with a very large number

adjoining woodland, the uplands

more striking than along our

scale version will be shorter. For example, if you

indeed. The fact that the coastline shape constantly

where forest gives way to open

coastline – the point where land

measure the coastline of the island of Great Britain

changes thanks to tidal action only makes things

moor or heath, the reedy margin

meets sea.

as a series of connecting straight lines, each 100km

more confusing.

long, you’ll get a total length of some 2,800km. If

So anyone setting out to measure coastlines will

daily life of Puffins, such

of a lake – all are places where

as these on Skomer

wildlife seems particularly rich

more than 113 kilometres from

you reduce the lines’ length to 50km, more detail

need to choose a scale, and then at least different

island, Pembrokeshire, is

and abundant. The animals and

the sea, and the ratio of coastline

can be covered and the total increases to 3,400km.

countries’ coastlines can be compared accurately.

plants typical of each habitat

to land area is very high

Even the 50km scale is still vastly too coarse to

In a mapping project using a 1:250,000 scale, the

type are joined by others,

compared to similar-sized island

capture any real detail. But to how large a scale

World Resources Institute gives the UK a coastline

would you have to go to obtain an accurate result?

of 19,717km, and Ireland 6,437km. That places them

one of the great joys of coastal wildlife-watching.

Nowhere in the British Isles is

This turns out be an almost impossible task. The

at 16th and 38th place respectively among the 195

complexity of the coastline increases a little more

nations that the project assessed (of which 34 are

with every increment of scale. Even down to the

landlocked). In terms of land area, the UK’s and

centimetre, more detail is revealed. The coastline

Ireland’s positions are 80th and 120th respectively.

Above The rocky and

groups. Our coastline’s course is,

cliff to mudflat to boulder-beach,

in many regions, akin to a highly

each hosting its own distinct

rugged character of much of

challenging rally course, with

wildlife community. In some

the British coastline, such as

sweeping chicanes one moment

areas, the coastal flavour of the

this stretch of Pembrokeshire,

and tight hairpins the next, and

habitat reaches back inland

makes accurate measurement

with more than 1,000 smaller

many kilometres, along the

a real headache.

islands on top of the main land

banks of tidal rivers for example.

masses of Great Britain and

With seaside towns, once you are

Ireland, the total length of

off the beach and beyond the

coastline is well over 20,000

esplanade it can seem no

kilometres – although differing

different, from a wildlife point of

methods of measurement makes

view, to any inland town – but

it extremely difficult to assign a

there are differences, if you

definitive value. Along this

know where to look for them.

course, our coastal terrain changes from shingle to sand to

The wilder parts of the British coastline harbour some very


To measure a coastline

6

Introduction Below Observing the

If you look at a very small-scale map of the world,

has similar properties to the mathematical

the coastlines of Britain and Ireland (in fact of all

phenomenon known as a fractal – a curve which

coastlines) are necessarily simplified – it is not

changes in complexity according to measurement

Everyone who enjoys country

adapted to the particular

possible to capture all the ins and outs without

scale. Fractals are in theory infinite in length,

walks and wildlife-watching will

features of the edge in question,

moving to a larger scale. At an increased scale,

and while coastlines are not true fractals, if our

have noticed the special magic of

or adapted to move easily

more detail can be shown on a map. If you make a

measurement of the British Isles’ coastline starts to

the ‘edge’ – where one kind of

between the two contrasting

measurement of the coastline from a small-scale

account for individual rocks and pebbles, we would

habitat meets another. Meadows

habitat types. This effect is no

and a large-scale map, the result from the smaller

(eventually) come up with a very large number

adjoining woodland, the uplands

more striking than along our

scale version will be shorter. For example, if you

indeed. The fact that the coastline shape constantly

where forest gives way to open

coastline – the point where land

measure the coastline of the island of Great Britain

changes thanks to tidal action only makes things

moor or heath, the reedy margin

meets sea.

as a series of connecting straight lines, each 100km

more confusing.

long, you’ll get a total length of some 2,800km. If

So anyone setting out to measure coastlines will

daily life of Puffins, such

of a lake – all are places where

as these on Skomer

wildlife seems particularly rich

more than 113 kilometres from

you reduce the lines’ length to 50km, more detail

need to choose a scale, and then at least different

island, Pembrokeshire, is

and abundant. The animals and

the sea, and the ratio of coastline

can be covered and the total increases to 3,400km.

countries’ coastlines can be compared accurately.

plants typical of each habitat

to land area is very high

Even the 50km scale is still vastly too coarse to

In a mapping project using a 1:250,000 scale, the

type are joined by others,

compared to similar-sized island

capture any real detail. But to how large a scale

World Resources Institute gives the UK a coastline

would you have to go to obtain an accurate result?

of 19,717km, and Ireland 6,437km. That places them

one of the great joys of coastal wildlife-watching.

Nowhere in the British Isles is

This turns out be an almost impossible task. The

at 16th and 38th place respectively among the 195

complexity of the coastline increases a little more

nations that the project assessed (of which 34 are

with every increment of scale. Even down to the

landlocked). In terms of land area, the UK’s and

centimetre, more detail is revealed. The coastline

Ireland’s positions are 80th and 120th respectively.

Above The rocky and

groups. Our coastline’s course is,

cliff to mudflat to boulder-beach,

in many regions, akin to a highly

each hosting its own distinct

rugged character of much of

challenging rally course, with

wildlife community. In some

the British coastline, such as

sweeping chicanes one moment

areas, the coastal flavour of the

this stretch of Pembrokeshire,

and tight hairpins the next, and

habitat reaches back inland

makes accurate measurement

with more than 1,000 smaller

many kilometres, along the

a real headache.

islands on top of the main land

banks of tidal rivers for example.

masses of Great Britain and

With seaside towns, once you are

Ireland, the total length of

off the beach and beyond the

coastline is well over 20,000

esplanade it can seem no

kilometres – although differing

different, from a wildlife point of

methods of measurement makes

view, to any inland town – but

it extremely difficult to assign a

there are differences, if you

definitive value. Along this

know where to look for them.

course, our coastal terrain changes from shingle to sand to

The wilder parts of the British coastline harbour some very


Estuary

Where river meets sea, some very distinct habitat types develope. Rivers carry masses of sediment towards the sea, and this sediment contains plenty of organic material that serves as food for marine plants and small animals – these in turn attract larger animals. The mudflats that form around sheltered estuaries are magnetically attractive to wildfowl and shorebirds, which can congregate in mindboggling numbers, and the birds of prey that come to hunt them. The mud teems with small burrowing animals, and the tidal reaches of the river, where fresh and salt water mingle, have their own specialised wildlife communities. The influence of the sea on the river and its wildlife can reach more than 100km inland. Many estuaries around Britain have lost some of their wildlife interest as a result of development, but nature reserves protect some key sites, and some estuarine areas are internationally important for their wildlife. Walking around wild estuaries can be hazardous because of the soft muddy ground, but they are magnificent landscapes, with their big skies and expansive mudflats, with vast flocks of waders and wildfowl circling above.


Estuary

Where river meets sea, some very distinct habitat types develope. Rivers carry masses of sediment towards the sea, and this sediment contains plenty of organic material that serves as food for marine plants and small animals – these in turn attract larger animals. The mudflats that form around sheltered estuaries are magnetically attractive to wildfowl and shorebirds, which can congregate in mindboggling numbers, and the birds of prey that come to hunt them. The mud teems with small burrowing animals, and the tidal reaches of the river, where fresh and salt water mingle, have their own specialised wildlife communities. The influence of the sea on the river and its wildlife can reach more than 100km inland. Many estuaries around Britain have lost some of their wildlife interest as a result of development, but nature reserves protect some key sites, and some estuarine areas are internationally important for their wildlife. Walking around wild estuaries can be hazardous because of the soft muddy ground, but they are magnificent landscapes, with their big skies and expansive mudflats, with vast flocks of waders and wildfowl circling above.


Estuary

WILD COAST 70

RIVER VERSUS SEA Rivers and streams begin their

is pushed into river mouths, and

means a higher output of fresh

lives well inland, often on high

comes into contact with the fresh

water, but in a dry summer

ground, and their source point

water flowing down the river.

estuarine water becomes much

may derive from marshland, a

Because fresh water is less

saltier as river outflow is

lake, melting glacial ice or

dense than water carrying

reduced. The river and sea

natural springs of underground

dissolved salt, in very sheltered

generate opposing currents,

water. As they flow seawards,

conditions there are distinct

meaning estuary water can be

Estuaries have

small streams converge with

layers of fresh and salt water in

turbulent and dangerous. In a

long been of great

larger ones, and the growing

estuaries, but water movement

few estuaries, such as the

river has an increasingly

usually mixes the two to produce

Severn, the geomorphology

noticeable impact on

brackish water, which is salty but

encourages the development of

Below importance for industry, and more

As the tide goes in, salt water

surrounding land, carving out

less so than sea water. How salty

‘tidal bores’ – large, powerful

leisure pursuits –

channels through hard rock,

the water in an estuary is varies

rolling waves that travel upriver,

including wildlife-

and building sediment-rich

through the day as the tide

posing considerable danger for

floodplains as it nears the sea.

changes, but also through the

shipping but providing the

recently also for

watching.

71

year. Higher rainfall in winter

Left An aerial view of a ‘coastal plain’ estuary shows clearly its complex, branching form.

opportunity for the dramatic

estuaries – their coastlines are

for the thousands of shorebirds

sport of river surfing. Tidal bores

not very different to sea-facing

that migrate from the Arctic to

also help to aerate the water,

rocky shores or cliffs, although

temperate areas (and in some

which helps encourage wildlife.

their water is less saline. A third

cases as far the southern

Estuaries come in several

kind of estuary is ‘bar-built’,

hemisphere) and back every

forms. ‘Coastal plain’ estuaries

where barrier beaches or spits of

year. Some wader species do

form where rising sea levels

shingle and sand enclose much

breed in Britain and can be seen

have flooded or ‘drowned’ an

of the estuary, forming a lagoon

at estuaries all year round, but

unglaciated, lowland river valley.

which shrinks or completely

their numbers are dwarfed by

From an aerial view they usually

empties at low tide, leaving

the migrants and those that stay

show a tree-like form. The

exposed muddy shores. The

with us over winter.

estuary of the River Fal in

Alde/Ore/Butley estuary

Cornwall is a good example of

complex in Suffolk is an example

shores is more pronounced,

this estuary type, and most other

of this type.

more prolonged and involves far

estuaries on the south coast of

more birds than does the return spring migration. This is because

‘Fjord’ estuaries form on

MUD-RUNNERS Around the coast of the British

northern, rocky coasts and have

Isles, there are a number of

to reach their wintering grounds,

steep banks without associated

particularly large and

and are near the start of their

mudflats. Many firths and sea

ecologically rich estuaries which

journey so need to take on plenty

lochs in Scotland are fjord

are effectively service stations

of fuel. Numbers are at their

England are the same kind.

Estuary

Autumn migration along our

the flocks are in no great hurry


Estuary

WILD COAST 70

RIVER VERSUS SEA Rivers and streams begin their

is pushed into river mouths, and

means a higher output of fresh

lives well inland, often on high

comes into contact with the fresh

water, but in a dry summer

ground, and their source point

water flowing down the river.

estuarine water becomes much

may derive from marshland, a

Because fresh water is less

saltier as river outflow is

lake, melting glacial ice or

dense than water carrying

reduced. The river and sea

natural springs of underground

dissolved salt, in very sheltered

generate opposing currents,

water. As they flow seawards,

conditions there are distinct

meaning estuary water can be

Estuaries have

small streams converge with

layers of fresh and salt water in

turbulent and dangerous. In a

long been of great

larger ones, and the growing

estuaries, but water movement

few estuaries, such as the

river has an increasingly

usually mixes the two to produce

Severn, the geomorphology

noticeable impact on

brackish water, which is salty but

encourages the development of

Below importance for industry, and more

As the tide goes in, salt water

surrounding land, carving out

less so than sea water. How salty

‘tidal bores’ – large, powerful

leisure pursuits –

channels through hard rock,

the water in an estuary is varies

rolling waves that travel upriver,

including wildlife-

and building sediment-rich

through the day as the tide

posing considerable danger for

floodplains as it nears the sea.

changes, but also through the

shipping but providing the

recently also for

watching.

71

year. Higher rainfall in winter

Left An aerial view of a ‘coastal plain’ estuary shows clearly its complex, branching form.

opportunity for the dramatic

estuaries – their coastlines are

for the thousands of shorebirds

sport of river surfing. Tidal bores

not very different to sea-facing

that migrate from the Arctic to

also help to aerate the water,

rocky shores or cliffs, although

temperate areas (and in some

which helps encourage wildlife.

their water is less saline. A third

cases as far the southern

Estuaries come in several

kind of estuary is ‘bar-built’,

hemisphere) and back every

forms. ‘Coastal plain’ estuaries

where barrier beaches or spits of

year. Some wader species do

form where rising sea levels

shingle and sand enclose much

breed in Britain and can be seen

have flooded or ‘drowned’ an

of the estuary, forming a lagoon

at estuaries all year round, but

unglaciated, lowland river valley.

which shrinks or completely

their numbers are dwarfed by

From an aerial view they usually

empties at low tide, leaving

the migrants and those that stay

show a tree-like form. The

exposed muddy shores. The

with us over winter.

estuary of the River Fal in

Alde/Ore/Butley estuary

Cornwall is a good example of

complex in Suffolk is an example

shores is more pronounced,

this estuary type, and most other

of this type.

more prolonged and involves far

estuaries on the south coast of

more birds than does the return spring migration. This is because

‘Fjord’ estuaries form on

MUD-RUNNERS Around the coast of the British

northern, rocky coasts and have

Isles, there are a number of

to reach their wintering grounds,

steep banks without associated

particularly large and

and are near the start of their

mudflats. Many firths and sea

ecologically rich estuaries which

journey so need to take on plenty

lochs in Scotland are fjord

are effectively service stations

of fuel. Numbers are at their

England are the same kind.

Estuary

Autumn migration along our

the flocks are in no great hurry


Estuary

WILD COAST 72

parts of the estuary soon get

available. The waders have a

manoeuvres, so they become a

zeroing in on any bird which

covered by water, obliging the

defence mechanism though.

twisting ball or ribbon of

doesn’t quite keep up with the

birds to move to other areas. If

When they see a raptor

fast-flickering movement, and

flock’s moves. Peregrine Falcon

the entire estuary fills up, which

approaching, the whole flock

tracking any one individual

is the raptor that you are most

may only happen on the biggest

takes to the air, and performs

becomes incredibly difficult. The

likely to see trying its luck on a

spring tides, the birds find a safe

spectacular synchronous

raptor’s best chance then is

wader flock, but the much

place above the high water mark,

smaller Merlin will also attack

and sleep for the few hours that

small waders like Dunlins.

they cannot feed. Several nature

Above Although it is a

highest because the flocks hold not just the adult birds that have

For resting and feeding

reserves near estuaries have

waders, energy is at a premium,

created artificial lagoons with

especially as they are likely to be

islands, which waders use as

forced into the air by birds of

safe high-tide roosting places.

prey from time to time. It is

To a hungry bird of prey, the

therefore very important that you

great concentrations of waders

take care not to disturb them –

represent an abundant food

don’t approach too closely, and

supply, and it would seem that

keep dogs under close control

even the most inexperienced

when walking near flocks of

raptor couldn’t fail to catch one

waders. There are several

bird from the huge numbers

superb nature reserves where

Washed out

73

Top It is important to avoid

small wader,

finished breeding, but a whole

the Curlew

new generation of youngsters.

Sandpiper’s

In spring, numbers have been

One of Britain’s most important estuary complexes is the

roosting or

reduced, the journey is almost

Wash in east England, and as well as attracting hundreds

feeding, especially

complete, and the birds are also

of thousands of feeding waders, in winter it also serves

in winter.

eager to reach the breeding

as vital habitat for nearly 100,000 Pink-footed Geese. The

grounds and claim a territory, so

geese disperse across Norfolk and neighbouring counties in

tend not to dawdle on the way.

the daytime, but the Wash is effectively their holiday hotel,

Sanderling

Some species that stop off at our

offering not feeding grounds but a safe place for them to roost

interrupts its

shores in good numbers in

through the long winter nights. Whatever the tide is doing they

shoreline feeding

autumn are hardly seen at all

can take shelter in this huge bay of mud and shallow water,

and moves up to

in spring.

safe in the knowledge that no Fox or other land predator is

dry ground to

likely to try to reach them. Well before first light, the flocks are

briefly sleep.

relatively long legs and bill make it well adapted to probe soft estuarine mud.

Waders choose their activities

disturbing waders when they are

Below A

by the tides, rather than the

waking, their ringing, bugling calls betraying their presence

day-night cycle. They are very

across the darkness of the estuary, and as the sunrise begins

happy to feed through the

to touch the edge of the sky they start to lift off, flying inland

A flock of Knots

darkest night hours if feeding is

in long strings and straggly V-formations to begin their day of

takes flight. By

possible. At low tide they spread

foraging in the rich farmland fields of the East Anglian fens.

moving as one, the

Overleaf

out across the expanse of

birds may confuse

exposed muddy shore. The

and disorientate a

incoming tide pushes them in

potential predator.

Estuary and bunches them up. Some


Estuary

WILD COAST 72

parts of the estuary soon get

available. The waders have a

manoeuvres, so they become a

zeroing in on any bird which

covered by water, obliging the

defence mechanism though.

twisting ball or ribbon of

doesn’t quite keep up with the

birds to move to other areas. If

When they see a raptor

fast-flickering movement, and

flock’s moves. Peregrine Falcon

the entire estuary fills up, which

approaching, the whole flock

tracking any one individual

is the raptor that you are most

may only happen on the biggest

takes to the air, and performs

becomes incredibly difficult. The

likely to see trying its luck on a

spring tides, the birds find a safe

spectacular synchronous

raptor’s best chance then is

wader flock, but the much

place above the high water mark,

smaller Merlin will also attack

and sleep for the few hours that

small waders like Dunlins.

they cannot feed. Several nature

Above Although it is a

highest because the flocks hold not just the adult birds that have

For resting and feeding

reserves near estuaries have

waders, energy is at a premium,

created artificial lagoons with

especially as they are likely to be

islands, which waders use as

forced into the air by birds of

safe high-tide roosting places.

prey from time to time. It is

To a hungry bird of prey, the

therefore very important that you

great concentrations of waders

take care not to disturb them –

represent an abundant food

don’t approach too closely, and

supply, and it would seem that

keep dogs under close control

even the most inexperienced

when walking near flocks of

raptor couldn’t fail to catch one

waders. There are several

bird from the huge numbers

superb nature reserves where

Washed out

73

Top It is important to avoid

small wader,

finished breeding, but a whole

the Curlew

new generation of youngsters.

Sandpiper’s

In spring, numbers have been

One of Britain’s most important estuary complexes is the

roosting or

reduced, the journey is almost

Wash in east England, and as well as attracting hundreds

feeding, especially

complete, and the birds are also

of thousands of feeding waders, in winter it also serves

in winter.

eager to reach the breeding

as vital habitat for nearly 100,000 Pink-footed Geese. The

grounds and claim a territory, so

geese disperse across Norfolk and neighbouring counties in

tend not to dawdle on the way.

the daytime, but the Wash is effectively their holiday hotel,

Sanderling

Some species that stop off at our

offering not feeding grounds but a safe place for them to roost

interrupts its

shores in good numbers in

through the long winter nights. Whatever the tide is doing they

shoreline feeding

autumn are hardly seen at all

can take shelter in this huge bay of mud and shallow water,

and moves up to

in spring.

safe in the knowledge that no Fox or other land predator is

dry ground to

likely to try to reach them. Well before first light, the flocks are

briefly sleep.

relatively long legs and bill make it well adapted to probe soft estuarine mud.

Waders choose their activities

disturbing waders when they are

Below A

by the tides, rather than the

waking, their ringing, bugling calls betraying their presence

day-night cycle. They are very

across the darkness of the estuary, and as the sunrise begins

happy to feed through the

to touch the edge of the sky they start to lift off, flying inland

A flock of Knots

darkest night hours if feeding is

in long strings and straggly V-formations to begin their day of

takes flight. By

possible. At low tide they spread

foraging in the rich farmland fields of the East Anglian fens.

moving as one, the

Overleaf

out across the expanse of

birds may confuse

exposed muddy shore. The

and disorientate a

incoming tide pushes them in

potential predator.

Estuary and bunches them up. Some


WILD COAST

Estuary 75

74

Right Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Estuary


WILD COAST

Estuary 75

74

Right Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Estuary


WILD COAST 116

Estuary

Loch Gruinart, on Islay.

117

Right Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Estuary


WILD COAST 116

Estuary

Loch Gruinart, on Islay.

117

Right Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Estuary


Cliffs & headlands So far we have looked at coasts where the land slopes gradually towards the sea. Cliff coasts are a dramatic contrast, the land looking as though its edges have been abruptly snapped off, leaving a near-vertical face of bare rock. This is not an easy environment for animals to live on, as there is little vegetation, and soft rock is highly likely to crumble and fall away. Yet cliff-faces can hold wildlife at mind-boggling densities – the great ‘seabird cities’ of cliff-nesting auks, Kittiwakes and other species are among the most impressive natural wildlife spectacles you’ll find in Britain, and are of great ecological importance on a world scale. The tops of cliffs are also interesting environments in their own right, particularly in terms of the flowers and invertebrates they support. Coastal headlands, which may or may not have cliff-faces, are of interest to those wanting to see scarce migrant birds, because they project out into the sea and offer first landfall to lost travellers.


Cliffs & headlands So far we have looked at coasts where the land slopes gradually towards the sea. Cliff coasts are a dramatic contrast, the land looking as though its edges have been abruptly snapped off, leaving a near-vertical face of bare rock. This is not an easy environment for animals to live on, as there is little vegetation, and soft rock is highly likely to crumble and fall away. Yet cliff-faces can hold wildlife at mind-boggling densities – the great ‘seabird cities’ of cliff-nesting auks, Kittiwakes and other species are among the most impressive natural wildlife spectacles you’ll find in Britain, and are of great ecological importance on a world scale. The tops of cliffs are also interesting environments in their own right, particularly in terms of the flowers and invertebrates they support. Coastal headlands, which may or may not have cliff-faces, are of interest to those wanting to see scarce migrant birds, because they project out into the sea and offer first landfall to lost travellers.


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 144

Right

BREAKING WAVES Cliff coasts are found in places

steep as those made of harder

rock types are mixed together

found on the taller, steeper cliffs

rock. Wearing of the higher parts

some interesting cliff features

as these offer the best

where the sea erodes, rather

of the cliff-face by weather action

can result, as the softer rock

protection. On mammal-free

than deposits material. The

also contributes to shaping the

wears away more quickly than

islands, lower and more gently

action of the sea on the lowest

cliff-face. At low tide, a flat

the hard. Headlands tend to be of

sloped cliffs will also be

part of the land creates a

terrace of rock near the

hard rock, the softer rock around

colonised by seabirds.

wave-cut notch – a hollowed-out

waterline may be revealed – this

them having worn away. Smaller

band, over which a shelf of

is a wave-cut platform.

features include caves, arches, and isolated columns or stacks.

COMMUNITY LIVING Many of our familiar garden birds

the coastline changes, some

These sea stacks are particularly

have the same basic way of

coasts backed by cliffs will

valuable nesting habitat for

managing their living space in

the cliff-face retreats, while the

become sites of deposition rather

seabirds, as their separation

the breeding season. Each pair

sea moves away the fallen rubble

than erosion, and a beach will

from the mainland makes them

claims and defends a territory,

and continues to work away at

build and grow at the base of the

even safer than mainland cliffs

and this patch of land meets all

Guillemots are

the cliff base. This process

cliff. This will eventually lead to

from marauding mammalian

their needs – it includes food

highly gregarious

happens more quickly where the

the cliff being well separated

predators. Seabirds are highly

supplies, a choice of nest sites,

when nesting, as

rock is soft – these cliffs have

from the sea. A good example of

vulnerable to opportunistic

drinking and bathing water, and

each pair only

relatively frequent rockfalls, and

this can be seen in the town of

mammals like rats, and on the

places to sleep, sunbathe and

needs a small area

their slopes are usually not as

Hastings in East Sussex, where

mainland are most likely to be

shelter from danger or bad

of cliff-ledge.

A wave-cut

uneroded land hangs. Eventually

platform or

this unsupported higher rock collapses down into the sea, and

terrace at the foot of a cliff.

Below Sea stacks and arches form as the sea erodes rock of mixed composition at different rates.

145

Eventually, as the profile of

the old sandstone cliffs that form the ‘West Hill’ are now separated from the sea by a broad swathe of shingle beach which is still growing because of longshore drift, plus a main road and a strip of beachfront attractions. Further east the gap between beach and cliff becomes much narrower, and beyond the eastern edge of the town the cliffs are still in contact with the sea. Cliffs that are no longer actively being eroded by sea action are called ‘dead cliffs’, while those that are still in contact with the waves are ‘living cliffs’ – but these terms don’t have any bearing on whether or not the cliff supports wildlife. ‘Dead cliffs’ are still subject to weathering and may experience rockfalls.

Cliffs & headlands

The rock that forms cliffs is not necessarily of a uniform type, and where softer and harder

Below


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 144

Right

BREAKING WAVES Cliff coasts are found in places

steep as those made of harder

rock types are mixed together

found on the taller, steeper cliffs

rock. Wearing of the higher parts

some interesting cliff features

as these offer the best

where the sea erodes, rather

of the cliff-face by weather action

can result, as the softer rock

protection. On mammal-free

than deposits material. The

also contributes to shaping the

wears away more quickly than

islands, lower and more gently

action of the sea on the lowest

cliff-face. At low tide, a flat

the hard. Headlands tend to be of

sloped cliffs will also be

part of the land creates a

terrace of rock near the

hard rock, the softer rock around

colonised by seabirds.

wave-cut notch – a hollowed-out

waterline may be revealed – this

them having worn away. Smaller

band, over which a shelf of

is a wave-cut platform.

features include caves, arches, and isolated columns or stacks.

COMMUNITY LIVING Many of our familiar garden birds

the coastline changes, some

These sea stacks are particularly

have the same basic way of

coasts backed by cliffs will

valuable nesting habitat for

managing their living space in

the cliff-face retreats, while the

become sites of deposition rather

seabirds, as their separation

the breeding season. Each pair

sea moves away the fallen rubble

than erosion, and a beach will

from the mainland makes them

claims and defends a territory,

and continues to work away at

build and grow at the base of the

even safer than mainland cliffs

and this patch of land meets all

Guillemots are

the cliff base. This process

cliff. This will eventually lead to

from marauding mammalian

their needs – it includes food

highly gregarious

happens more quickly where the

the cliff being well separated

predators. Seabirds are highly

supplies, a choice of nest sites,

when nesting, as

rock is soft – these cliffs have

from the sea. A good example of

vulnerable to opportunistic

drinking and bathing water, and

each pair only

relatively frequent rockfalls, and

this can be seen in the town of

mammals like rats, and on the

places to sleep, sunbathe and

needs a small area

their slopes are usually not as

Hastings in East Sussex, where

mainland are most likely to be

shelter from danger or bad

of cliff-ledge.

A wave-cut

uneroded land hangs. Eventually

platform or

this unsupported higher rock collapses down into the sea, and

terrace at the foot of a cliff.

Below Sea stacks and arches form as the sea erodes rock of mixed composition at different rates.

145

Eventually, as the profile of

the old sandstone cliffs that form the ‘West Hill’ are now separated from the sea by a broad swathe of shingle beach which is still growing because of longshore drift, plus a main road and a strip of beachfront attractions. Further east the gap between beach and cliff becomes much narrower, and beyond the eastern edge of the town the cliffs are still in contact with the sea. Cliffs that are no longer actively being eroded by sea action are called ‘dead cliffs’, while those that are still in contact with the waves are ‘living cliffs’ – but these terms don’t have any bearing on whether or not the cliff supports wildlife. ‘Dead cliffs’ are still subject to weathering and may experience rockfalls.

Cliffs & headlands

The rock that forms cliffs is not necessarily of a uniform type, and where softer and harder

Below


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 150

looks cigar-shaped with its

single chick is a naked, lizard-

seabirds, and often also on more

tapering head and tail, and is

like thing on hatching, but quickly

sloping shelves of rock near the

white apart from black wingtips

grows a coat of thick white fluff.

sea. These are large, snaky-

and a lovely ochre flush across

This is gradually shed as the

necked birds which build large

the crown and nape. Gannets

chick grows, to eventually reveal

manage to straddle the two

the chocolate-brown juvenile

distinct seabird ‘professions’ of

plumage. It takes several years

aerial mastery and deep-diving

for this to be replaced with adult

prowess, by means of their

white plumage, and so you will

spectacular plunge-diving

see many youngish Gannets with

whereby they drop from several

mottled brown and white

metres up and hit the water

feathers. These younger birds

head-on at a steep angle with

will not be breeding, but visit

wings folded back. Their bodies

colonies to assess the lie of the

possess various adaptations to

land and check out possible

cope with this high-impact

future nest sites and mates,

feeding style, including having a

before making their first

layer of air-pockets under the

breeding attempt at about five or

skin of their necks which

six years old. Gannets have only

effectively works as biological

a few large colonies around

bubblewrap, cushioning the blow

Britain, but when not breeding

when they hit the water. Even so,

can usually be seen offshore

Gannets can die in diving

from any coastline.

151

accidents – when many birds are

Above Fulmars

the wave crests to give them

gulls. Very widespread in Britain,

sometimes die after being

diving into the same patch of sea,

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis

they may even suffer fatal

You will find odd pairs of Shags

collisions with each other. The

among clusters of other

‘free’ lift, a flight technique

Fulmars nest on all kinds of

‘Fulmared’ as the oil renders

land, but can take

called dynamic soaring, and

cliffs and (where mammalian

them unable to fly well or stay

off by allowing the

mainly feed by picking morsels

predators are absent) clifftops,

waterproof when swimming.

in colonies may

from the surface. The Fulmar is

and occasionally on coastal

Fulmars rear one chick a year,

argue with their

one of four tubenoses that nest

buildings. They like a wide ledge

but make up for their low

neighbours, but

on our coast and is much easier

or gentle slope, often with some

productivity by being very

form lasting and

to see than the other three,

vegetation nearby, and pairs tend

long-lived – some individuals

affectionate bonds

which only come to land at night.

to be quite well-spaced. Any

reach their forties or fifties.

with partners.

With its white body and grey

predator approaching the nest

wings, the Fulmar looks rather

will be repelled by a highly

Gannet Morus bassanus

gull-like, but has a quite different

effective defensive strategy – the

A very large, stately and

to tail-tip, the

face with its tubular nostrils and

parent (or the chick, if it is well

impressive seabird, the Gannet

Gannet is perfectly

frowning dark eye. It also flies

grown) vomits the stinking, oily

nests on the grassy tops of

streamlined

quite differently, alternating a

contents of its crop at its

mammal-free cliffs, islands and

– essential to

stiff-winged glide with a burst of

would-be assailant. If the vomit

sea stacks, in large colonies with

allow it to safely

fast flapping, quite unlike the

is really on target, its effect can

the nests close together but very

plunge-dive

leisurely, ‘loose-wristed’ flight of

be devastating – gulls and skuas

evenly spaced. In flight this bird

deeply for fish.

are clumsy on

wind to catch under their large, long wings.

Cliffs & headlands

Above Gannets

Left From bill-tip


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 150

looks cigar-shaped with its

single chick is a naked, lizard-

seabirds, and often also on more

tapering head and tail, and is

like thing on hatching, but quickly

sloping shelves of rock near the

white apart from black wingtips

grows a coat of thick white fluff.

sea. These are large, snaky-

and a lovely ochre flush across

This is gradually shed as the

necked birds which build large

the crown and nape. Gannets

chick grows, to eventually reveal

manage to straddle the two

the chocolate-brown juvenile

distinct seabird ‘professions’ of

plumage. It takes several years

aerial mastery and deep-diving

for this to be replaced with adult

prowess, by means of their

white plumage, and so you will

spectacular plunge-diving

see many youngish Gannets with

whereby they drop from several

mottled brown and white

metres up and hit the water

feathers. These younger birds

head-on at a steep angle with

will not be breeding, but visit

wings folded back. Their bodies

colonies to assess the lie of the

possess various adaptations to

land and check out possible

cope with this high-impact

future nest sites and mates,

feeding style, including having a

before making their first

layer of air-pockets under the

breeding attempt at about five or

skin of their necks which

six years old. Gannets have only

effectively works as biological

a few large colonies around

bubblewrap, cushioning the blow

Britain, but when not breeding

when they hit the water. Even so,

can usually be seen offshore

Gannets can die in diving

from any coastline.

151

accidents – when many birds are

Above Fulmars

the wave crests to give them

gulls. Very widespread in Britain,

sometimes die after being

diving into the same patch of sea,

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis

they may even suffer fatal

You will find odd pairs of Shags

collisions with each other. The

among clusters of other

‘free’ lift, a flight technique

Fulmars nest on all kinds of

‘Fulmared’ as the oil renders

land, but can take

called dynamic soaring, and

cliffs and (where mammalian

them unable to fly well or stay

off by allowing the

mainly feed by picking morsels

predators are absent) clifftops,

waterproof when swimming.

in colonies may

from the surface. The Fulmar is

and occasionally on coastal

Fulmars rear one chick a year,

argue with their

one of four tubenoses that nest

buildings. They like a wide ledge

but make up for their low

neighbours, but

on our coast and is much easier

or gentle slope, often with some

productivity by being very

form lasting and

to see than the other three,

vegetation nearby, and pairs tend

long-lived – some individuals

affectionate bonds

which only come to land at night.

to be quite well-spaced. Any

reach their forties or fifties.

with partners.

With its white body and grey

predator approaching the nest

wings, the Fulmar looks rather

will be repelled by a highly

Gannet Morus bassanus

gull-like, but has a quite different

effective defensive strategy – the

A very large, stately and

to tail-tip, the

face with its tubular nostrils and

parent (or the chick, if it is well

impressive seabird, the Gannet

Gannet is perfectly

frowning dark eye. It also flies

grown) vomits the stinking, oily

nests on the grassy tops of

streamlined

quite differently, alternating a

contents of its crop at its

mammal-free cliffs, islands and

– essential to

stiff-winged glide with a burst of

would-be assailant. If the vomit

sea stacks, in large colonies with

allow it to safely

fast flapping, quite unlike the

is really on target, its effect can

the nests close together but very

plunge-dive

leisurely, ‘loose-wristed’ flight of

be devastating – gulls and skuas

evenly spaced. In flight this bird

deeply for fish.

are clumsy on

wind to catch under their large, long wings.

Cliffs & headlands

Above Gannets

Left From bill-tip


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 154

155

Right Probably the most widespread cliff-nesting seabird, the Fulmar is the only one to breed in good numbers along south-eastern English coasts.

Above Flowery

don’t hold large seabird colonies,

habitat, and many of the various

females are similar-looking, but

sward is short enough to allow

you can still see birds such as

chalk-loving plants that you’ll

the males are easily told apart.

the sun’s warmth to heat up

chalk cliff-tops are

Ravens and Peregrine Falcons

find here are important for

Chalkhill males are pale silvery

the ground.

home to the lovely

flying along the cliff edge, and

particular insect species.

blue on their uppersides, with

there will probably also be

Two species of blue butterfly

Other butterflies to look out

Chalkhill Blue

broad dusky greyish edges to the

for on high chalky grassland

butterfly, which is

Fulmars and Cormorants

both need Horseshoe Vetch

wings. Adonis males are a

include the Small Blue, which is

on the wing in July

around. If the tide is low there

plants on which to lay their eggs.

deeper, pure and brilliant blue

blackish and tiny, the Marbled

and August.

may a little exposed flat shore,

The vetch is an attractive plant,

with no dusky edges but a

White with its bold chessboard

with waders foraging there, and

producing a circle of bright

narrow black-and-white

pattern, and the Dark Green

your high vantage point is good

yellow flowers in spring. It grows

chequered margin to each wing.

Fritillary, a large butterfly with

Burnet moths fly

for looking for seabirds on and

only on chalky ground. The

Although the caterpillars of both

bright fiery orange wings,

by day and have a

over the open sea.

Chalkhill Blue is the commoner

feed on Horseshoe Vetch, they

marked intricate black

liking for chalky

of the two, and is on the wing in

also need the presence of ants,

patterning (the ‘dark green’ of its

and limestone

though, especially if you are

July and August. The rarer

which tend and guard the

name refers to the colour of its

grassland.

walking atop a stretch of chalk

Adonis Blue produces two

caterpillars, in exchange for the

hindwing undersides). In high

cliff in south-east England, there

generations of adults each year,

sweet secretions the caterpillars

summer you will also see

is as much if not more wildlife

the first flying in May to June and

produce. The ants, and therefore

masses of black-and-red

interest right by your feet than

the second in August to

the caterpillars, only appear to

Six-spot Burnet moths, feeding

there is over the sea. Chalk

September. These two butterflies

thrive in warm, sheltered

on nectar-rich flowers such as

grassland is an important

are closely related, and the

situations, where the grass

Wild Thyme and knapweeds.

With some clifftop walks,

Cliffs & headlands

Left Six-spot


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 154

155

Right Probably the most widespread cliff-nesting seabird, the Fulmar is the only one to breed in good numbers along south-eastern English coasts.

Above Flowery

don’t hold large seabird colonies,

habitat, and many of the various

females are similar-looking, but

sward is short enough to allow

you can still see birds such as

chalk-loving plants that you’ll

the males are easily told apart.

the sun’s warmth to heat up

chalk cliff-tops are

Ravens and Peregrine Falcons

find here are important for

Chalkhill males are pale silvery

the ground.

home to the lovely

flying along the cliff edge, and

particular insect species.

blue on their uppersides, with

there will probably also be

Two species of blue butterfly

Other butterflies to look out

Chalkhill Blue

broad dusky greyish edges to the

for on high chalky grassland

butterfly, which is

Fulmars and Cormorants

both need Horseshoe Vetch

wings. Adonis males are a

include the Small Blue, which is

on the wing in July

around. If the tide is low there

plants on which to lay their eggs.

deeper, pure and brilliant blue

blackish and tiny, the Marbled

and August.

may a little exposed flat shore,

The vetch is an attractive plant,

with no dusky edges but a

White with its bold chessboard

with waders foraging there, and

producing a circle of bright

narrow black-and-white

pattern, and the Dark Green

your high vantage point is good

yellow flowers in spring. It grows

chequered margin to each wing.

Fritillary, a large butterfly with

Burnet moths fly

for looking for seabirds on and

only on chalky ground. The

Although the caterpillars of both

bright fiery orange wings,

by day and have a

over the open sea.

Chalkhill Blue is the commoner

feed on Horseshoe Vetch, they

marked intricate black

liking for chalky

of the two, and is on the wing in

also need the presence of ants,

patterning (the ‘dark green’ of its

and limestone

though, especially if you are

July and August. The rarer

which tend and guard the

name refers to the colour of its

grassland.

walking atop a stretch of chalk

Adonis Blue produces two

caterpillars, in exchange for the

hindwing undersides). In high

cliff in south-east England, there

generations of adults each year,

sweet secretions the caterpillars

summer you will also see

is as much if not more wildlife

the first flying in May to June and

produce. The ants, and therefore

masses of black-and-red

interest right by your feet than

the second in August to

the caterpillars, only appear to

Six-spot Burnet moths, feeding

there is over the sea. Chalk

September. These two butterflies

thrive in warm, sheltered

on nectar-rich flowers such as

grassland is an important

are closely related, and the

situations, where the grass

Wild Thyme and knapweeds.

With some clifftop walks,

Cliffs & headlands

Left Six-spot


WILD COAST 164

Cliffs & headlands 165

South Stack cliffs are stunningly scenic and home to some rare species, including Choughs.

Right Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Cliffs & headlands


WILD COAST 164

Cliffs & headlands 165

South Stack cliffs are stunningly scenic and home to some rare species, including Choughs.

Right Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Cliffs & headlands


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 168

Below With great good luck you could see an Orca from the cliffs of Sumburgh Head, Shetland.

Far right The

scarce species such as Long-

Puffins. You may also see

the bridge that remains, but

tailed Skua sometimes go by in

Choughs and Ravens, and the

there are many other spots to

impressive numbers. The various

cliffs command wonderful views

walk or just sit. In autumn,

other headlands prominent

along the coast. It is also well

birdwatchers come in droves to

headlands in Co. Clare and also

worth visiting the Burren itself

do the latter, training their

Co. Kerry and Co. Cork can also

– 250 square kilometres of ‘karst

telescopes on the expanse of the

offer spectacular seawatching.

landscape’, which holds a huge

deter you from walking across

variety of plantlife and is also

Atlantic in the hope that rare seabirds will fly past. Extreme

Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare

excellent for insects. Local

rarities that have been seen here

The 120-metre cliffs at the

specialities include the Burren

Cliffs of Moher, in

include Fea’s Petrel, a globally

south-western edge of the flat,

Green moth, and the beetle

County Clare, have

threatened species that breeds

rocky moonscape of the Burren

Ochthebius nilsonni, which is

nesting seabirds and

only on the Cape Verde Islands

are home to tens of thousands of

only found at four other sites in

and Madeira Islands, while

nesting seabirds, including

the world.

unusual invertebrates.

169

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Cliffs & headlands


Cliffs & headlands

WILD COAST 168

Below With great good luck you could see an Orca from the cliffs of Sumburgh Head, Shetland.

Far right The

scarce species such as Long-

Puffins. You may also see

the bridge that remains, but

tailed Skua sometimes go by in

Choughs and Ravens, and the

there are many other spots to

impressive numbers. The various

cliffs command wonderful views

walk or just sit. In autumn,

other headlands prominent

along the coast. It is also well

birdwatchers come in droves to

headlands in Co. Clare and also

worth visiting the Burren itself

do the latter, training their

Co. Kerry and Co. Cork can also

– 250 square kilometres of ‘karst

telescopes on the expanse of the

offer spectacular seawatching.

landscape’, which holds a huge

deter you from walking across

variety of plantlife and is also

Atlantic in the hope that rare seabirds will fly past. Extreme

Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare

excellent for insects. Local

rarities that have been seen here

The 120-metre cliffs at the

specialities include the Burren

Cliffs of Moher, in

include Fea’s Petrel, a globally

south-western edge of the flat,

Green moth, and the beetle

County Clare, have

threatened species that breeds

rocky moonscape of the Burren

Ochthebius nilsonni, which is

nesting seabirds and

only on the Cape Verde Islands

are home to tens of thousands of

only found at four other sites in

and Madeira Islands, while

nesting seabirds, including

the world.

unusual invertebrates.

169

Left Lorem ipsum dolor tbit sic adipiscing

Cliffs & headlands


Profile for Bloomsbury Publishing

Wild Coast sample  

A celebration in words and pictures of the wildlife and landscape of Britain’s coasts.

Wild Coast sample  

A celebration in words and pictures of the wildlife and landscape of Britain’s coasts.