Counting Seabirds at Cowbar Nab

Cowbar Nab juts out protectively to the North of Staithes Harbour on the Yorkshire Coast. If any of you have been there at this time of year you’ll know it’s teeming with seabirds making their nests on the steep cliffs and not being very quiet about it either!

A birdseye view of Staithes from Cowbar Nab.

Each year we monitor the numbers of breeding birds here. Most numerous are Herring Gull, which prefer the upper slopes of the cliff, and Kittiwake, which make precarious nests on the vertical cliff faces. We also counted Fulmar, House Martins, Rock Doves, Jackdaws and a pair of Razorbills. It’s a useful indicator of the health of populations, and how factors such as climate and food availability can affect them. Colonies like these are also susceptible to illegal egg collection, another good reason to monitor numbers.

Herring gull (Larus argentatus)

Herring gull (Larus argentatus)


Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) whose non breeding life is spent entirely at sea.

The vast numbers make it an impressive sight, and because the birds are nesting and relatively still, it’s an ideal opportunity to get the binoculars out and watch their behaviour.

Gulls overhead.

Gulls overhead.

The Herring gulls laid their eggs later than usual this year (probably due to the unusually low temperatures throughout April), but now that they have the numbers are better than last year.

A trio of Herring gull eggs

We look forward to monitoring their success in the coming weeks. Watch this space…


Kate | National Trust

Kate | National Trust


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