Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust (TCCT) unveiled their new guillemot cliff camera this week at a breakfast reception held in the Visitor Centre at Berry Head National Nature Reserve.
The new cliff camera was in installed earlier this year and overlooks the Reserve’s guillemot colony. A screen in the Visitor Centre relays live feed from the cliff so the colony can be viewed by visitors to the reserve.
The guillemot colony at Berry Head National Nature Reserve is of national importance. During the breeding season up to 1400 guillemots can be seen on the cliffs between March to early July. During this period there is an Area of Special Protection Order (ASP) on the waters in front of the colony. This is to prevent any disturbance to the birds and their young during this important time.The Area of Special Protection Order is the only one of its kind in this country.
Guillemots lay a single pear shaped egg on the cliff and take turns in looking after it, without the need for a nest. When the chicks are old enough, before they can fly, they jump from the cliffs down to the water encouraged by their parents, this makes for a great spectacle at the beginning of July. They then paddle out to sea with the adult males where they learn how to forage and survive at sea. They will then spend about 6 weeks learning ‘how to be a guillemot’. Guillemots can dive to depths of 170 – 230m.
The guillemot is an indicator species and can tell alot about the unseen marine environment. The reason for this is they live a long time, only lay one egg per year and they spend a great amount of time at sea throughout the year. So if their populations are doing well it means the marine ecosystem is in good shape. This demonstrates why the Reserves’s guillemot colony, and the protection and monitoring of them, is so vitally important.
This camera will provide stunning high quality footage of the colony, presenting the birds in all their glory, especially during the breeding season when the colony is at its busiest. In addition, the new technology installed with the camera presents the opportunity for people who cannot visit Berry Head to see the life of the colony up close. Through this feature the Trust will be able to offer live streaming via their website.
The new camera, therefore, offers much greater opportunities for TCCT to team up with academia and so understand more about the colony and birds’ behaviour. It is hoped these studies will provide opportunities for better management and protection of these special birds.
Whilst the Trust has provided capital towards the project, a number of other organisations have raised capital or provided funds towards its annual maintenance. Premier Park, who manage the Trust car parks, the Trust’s insurance company, WPS, were both keen to be involved in the project and have both made significant contributions.
A very generous donation was awarded to the Trust by the Friends of Berry Head. Through their various fundraising activities they helped to purchase the new camera and a new projector for the Visitor Centre too.
Countryside Officer, Noel Hughes said:
“This project has been a fantastic example of stake holder engagement. It shows how the community working with partner organisations and led by the Trust can make these projects happen. Even in these difficult economic times, we can together, continue to lead the way in terms of conservation, technology and community engagement. A big thanks to all in helping this prospect become a reality”
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