Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Somerset Coast ­ Beach Survey

Sanderling and one Dunlin at Dunster Beach by Nigel PhillipsWe need to know more about Somerset’s beaches. SWT are already carrying out intertidal surveys looking for marine creatures and seaweeds but there are many other ways that information can be gathered including the beach questionnaire outlined below.

SWT are now working with the Devon & Severn Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (Devon & Severn IFCA) to find out more about beach wildlife and beach activities. Devon and Severn IFCA are the statutory body set up to lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine  environment and inshore fisheries. Data collected by volunteers will help the IFCA fill vital data gaps in Somerset and the Severn region.

This questionnaire, which you can download here, can be used on a visit to one particular beach or on a beach walk from one location to another. The information about where you carried out the survey is as important as the information on wildlife etc. If you can give us Grid References that would be good, but don’t worry if you can’t.

The questionnaire is broken into four parts;

1. Birds on the shore. In particular we want to know more about which species of wintering wildfowl and waders use which beaches.

2. Life on the shore.  We want to know where the active populations of Lugworms are, which are an important source of food for both birds and fish.

What kind of sea shells you can you find, the strandline is a good place to look for empty shells on sandy beaches. 

Mermaids purses, these are the egg cases of dogfish, nursehound or skates and rays. If you find these washed up on the beach it is an indication they are breeding in waters nearby. If you could send us a photo that would also be good. Photos can be sent to:

3. Fishing. This part includes questions on numbers of people fishing and bait digging but, we don’t expect or want you to question fisherman! Both sea angling and bait digging are legitimate activities, Devon and Severn IFCA are simply interested in the distribution of different activities along the coastline.

4. Beach debris and litter.  Piles of seaweed on the shore are good!  Lots of beach invertebrates like sand hoppers live in tideline seaweed piles where wintering waders such as Turnstones will then come and feed on them.

Unfortunately there is also a lot of plastic, and other litter found on our beaches. With your help we could better target our beach litter cleanups and possibly even start to work out where it comes from.

Once completed you can either send it in to the address below, or drop it off at one of a number of local drop-off points ­ watch this space for details.

Somerset and Severn Beach Survey
Devon and Severn IFCA
Old Foundry Court
60A Fore Street

For more information and things to do on the Somerset Coast, have a look here.

Photograph of Sanderling (and a Dunlin) © Nigel Phillips