Check with your beach clean coordinator about potentially sensitive wildlife areas including:
- Resting birds: shingle beaches, spits and islands, as well as manmade structures like jetties are used by resting birds. They may be very well camouflaged.
- Feeding birds: mudflats and saltmarsh habitats are essential feeding grounds. Birds will mostly be found near the water line.
- Nesting birds (April to September): you might find areas of beach are roped off or marked with signs where birds are nesting on the ground. Avoid cleaning in their vicinity.
- Seals: look our for seals that are ‘hauled out’ or resting on land, especially during breeding season: June to August for common seals and November to January for grey seals.
- Vulnerable marine or coastal plants: take care of marine plants on beaches and in more sheltered locations which support highly specialised plants. Take care where you place your feet to avoid damaging vegetation
- Larger bits of rubbish and debris may have become wildlife habitats: check very carefully before removing or moving, keeping in mind that tiny animals may be hidden in crevices.
- Leave natural items on site: items such as shells, feathers, cuttlefish bones and plants enrich a habitat.
- Check with your coordinator if unsure: for example check with before removing material that has anything growing on it.
- Avoid turning things over and digging for litter: only remove visible litter.
- Strandlines (high water marks) are important habitats for many small creatures: walk beside rather than on strandline material – it’s a vital feeding area for birds.
Looking out for wildlife
Always remember the Bird Aware Coastal Code:
– Look out for birds
– Move further away if they become alert
– Keep dogs alongside you
– Follow instructions on signs.
If birds fly away from an area, avoid cleaning that patch of ground as they might return.
If you are lucky enough to see seals during your beach clean-up, remember to:
– Remain vigilant to seals becoming alert to your presence
– Look out for signs such as: seals lifting their heads; seals becoming restless or shifting around; seals moving into the water: flushing or stampeding into the water.
– Move slowly away if there is any change in the seals’ behaviour.
Tip: If you find an animal that may be injured or in distress and you’re unsure what to do, call a local rescue organisation.
Share your findings
Some things you find on the coast may be of interest to researchers.
Consider contributing your valuable data to the following projects:
- Mermaids purses: Great Eggcase Hunt and The Shark Trust
- Dead birds: Report to the Defra helpline: 03459 33 55 77
- Nurdles (pellets of plastic): Great Nurdle Hunt
- 2 Minute Beach Clean app: Search for BeachClean in the app store
- Species of note: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Sussex Biodiversity Record Office
- Use the Marine Conservation Society Beachwatchapp to report all litter. Here’s why.