Solway Coast Wildlife
The Harbour Porpoise
Cetaceans are a group of warm-blooded marine mammals totally independent of land, having become aquatic and adapted to life in the ocean. There are more than 80 known species, all must breathe air and their blowhole allows them to breathe when travelling through water. They range in size from the smallest dolphins and porpoises or a metre or so in length, to the enormous blue whale - the largest animal on earth, which can grow to more than 30 metres in length.
The Harbour Porpoise (phocoena phocoena) is the most commonly seen cetacean in the Irish Sea, including a number of areas where sightings are very regular, some even daily and Silloth is one of these areas. Harbour Porpoises, usually as singles or pairs but sometimes in relatively large aggregations can be seen at sites all around the Solway Coast AONB and wider Solway Firth, but none so close as along the Silloth Promenade.
Our extensive coastal dune system fronting the Solway shores are a unique habitat between the marine environment of the Solway Firth itself and the terrestrial land mass extending to the Caldbeck Fells. This fascinating area, influenced by aerosol sea mists throughout the year, is home to a wide diversity of snails. Whilst insignificant creatures they may be, and with so much to discover about our snails, a vast amateur field study nationwide has become the basis of scientific knowledge, which ensures that time, and dedication to a specialist interest is not wasted. On your walks through the sand dunes along the Cumbria Coastal Way, around Grune Point, the reserves of Campfield and Bowness or the old Silloth/Carlisle railway line track, look out for these silent, short sighted, slow moving amorous adventurers and take up the challenges that you will almost certainly get when on this 'snail trail'
Marine algae includes all the minute one celled or few celled plants of the plankton as well as the multicellular seaweeds of the shore and shallow water. There are about 800 of these micro algae on the British list of which 300 or so species may be found in our Solway waters.
Brown Seaweeds (Phaeophyceae)
At first sight these are the most common and the best way to become familiar with these inter-tidal wracks is to examine them on our sloping stony/rocky shores where the zones are distinct. Artificial constructions such as breakwaters, groynes and harbour walls make excellent homes for these botanic marvels for which x10 lens is essential.
Chanelled Wrack (Pelvetia Canaliculata)
Grows at the top of our shores, followed as you go seawards by a belt of Flat Wrack and then Bladder Wrack mixed with Knotted Wrack. The greater the shelter, the larger the percentage of Knotted Wrack, which may become dominant except in brackish conditions.