Flamborough and Filey Coast Seabird Monitoring Group

© Jamie Johnson
The Flamborough and Filey Coast Seabird Monitoring Group is a voluntary partnership between Natural England, RSPB, YMNP, local bird observatories and offshore wind developers. 

The aim of the Group is to provide a forum to discuss and progress collaborative monitoring of the Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area (SPA) seabird colony.  All of the Group’s members have a direct interest in the health and productivity of the seabirds.  By working together, members can share resources and expertise, coordinate monitoring projects, and progress innovative research techniques.

What does the Group do?

The Group brings cross-sector organisations together to progress our understanding of the internationally-important seabird colony nesting around the Flamborough and Filey coast.  A Steering Group, chaired by Natural England, has established a long-term Monitoring Plan (2017 – 2027) which is progressed through a number of working groups.  These sub-groups utilise member’s skills, expertise and local knowledge to progress the Monitoring Plan.  Each working group explores a specific topic such as seabird tracking and data-sharing, alongside filling gaps in our knowledge about seabird diet and behaviours outside of the breeding season.

What pressures are the seabirds facing?

The North Sea is an important area for small shoaling fish, such as sandeels and herring.  These fish are a vital part of a seabird’s diet, especially during the breeding season.  Unfortunately, climate change is having a negative impact on the availability of these fish, which tend to prefer cooler waters.  This means that some species are not able to find enough food to satisfy their growing chicks, which leads to fewer juveniles successfully fledging from the nests.  Kittiwakes, in particular, have experienced population declines in recent years at many North Sea colonies.  As specialist feeders they cannot easily switch to alternative prey species, which makes them more vulnerable to changes in the food chain.

Direct human activities are adding to this pressure, both at the colony and offshore.  In recent years, the number of renewable energy developments in the North Sea has significantly increased.  These developments are often located in the same areas we know to be important seabird foraging grounds.  Wind turbines, although vital for a carbon neutral future, can displace the birds from their feeding grounds and cause fatal collisions.  Experts within the Seabird Monitoring Group are working together to understand, manage and reduce these risks.

Why is it important to work together?

As the UK’s largest mainland breeding seabird colony, we all recognise how important the seabirds are, not just as an integral part of the marine ecosystem, but also to Yorkshire’s communities, visitors and identity.  Members of the Seabird Monitoring Group all bring specialist knowledge, skills and resources to the partnership, in an effort to understand the pressures faced by the seabird colony.  By working together, we identify where we can coordinate actions, where resources can be prioritised, and where further information or experience might be needed.  This means that we can all be confident in the data we collect and effectively apply this knowledge to support the long-term health of the seabird colony.

© Heather Davison-Smith