No. 6 Turnstone

Turnstone, photo by Ben Andrew. Courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group

Close to Brighton Marina or in Shoreham you may see the little aptly named Turnstone, running along the water’s edge and turning over pebbles, seaweed and shells, looking for small insects, snails and worms. They look a rather like pebbles themselves so look carefully!

No. 5 Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher, photo by Brian Ludwig, courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group

Another colourful bird with a bright red beak and red legs is the Oystercatcher. You may see little groups of them. Look for them near Brighton Marina, along the Undercliff walk, and at Shoreham. You may hear them before you see them. They make a “p-teep p-teep” sound as they fly away. Oystercatchers do not catch oysters! A better name for the Oystercatcher would be “Mussel cracker” as they eat mussels, shellfish and lugworms.

No. 4 Black Headed Gull

Black headed gull by Andy Hay, courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District local group

Black headed gulls are handsome birds with – not black heads in fact but a dark brown hood. Take a careful look next time you see one. They have lovely red beaks and dark red legs. Their cheerful call is “kreear”. You can see them near the beach but also inland looking for worms and insects in some ploughed fields.

Tackling Plastic

Some Final Brighton Clichés – Litter by Barney Livingston.

Taking action on plastic

The plastic problem seems like a huge challenge to overcome, and it is, but you can try and do your bit by finding out how to reduce, reuse & recycle plastic locally.

Taking part in a litter pick or beach clean can also help because litter is one of the main sources of plastic in our seas.

Clean up Brighton & Hove 

Locally, there are several organisations and initiatives you can get involved with to help clean up and reduce your plastic waste in Brighton & Hove. Here are just some of them listed below.

#StreetsAhead – find out more about the campaign to clean up Brighton & Hove’s neighbourhoods, streets and beaches

Read Brighton & Hove food partnerships top tips for reducing plastic waste

Volunteer with the Tidy Up Scheme – tackle litter and graffiti with council support

Support Surfers Against Sewage – SAS organise beach cleans and fund raisers to help fight plastic pollution

Support Marine Conservation Society – the MSC organise initiatives like the  Great British Beach Clean which runs annually in September and the Plastic Free July challenge

Reduce, reuse & recycle plastics – advice from Brighton & Hove City Council on how to minimise your plastic use and dispose of plastics safely

Brighton & Hove Beach clean – join or organise a beach clean

Pier2Pier Disco Beach clean – silent disco beach clean (suspended during COVID)

Sussex Beach cleans – with Sussex Wildlife Trust

This list will be updated and added to over the coming months, if you have an initiative you would like to flag or recommend please add your comments below.

Grace Brindle, Collections Assistant, Booth Museum of Natural History 

A century of change

Marine and coastal life has changed dramatically over the past century. But how do we know this? And why is this useful to us now? Pieces of this puzzle can be put together through delving into our natural history collections from the past 100 years.

Mr. Booth’s (Sea)birds

Mr. Booth's (Sea)birds
The Accidental Ecologist Edward Thomas Booth was a wealthy Victorian man who was fascinated with British birds. He travelled across ...
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Why keep 100 year old seaweed? 

Why keep 100 year old seaweed? 
Plants form part of the immense natural history collections at the Booth Museum of Natural History, included in these are ...
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No. 3 Cormorant

Photo of Cormorant, copyright Andy Hay. Courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group.

Want to see a prehistoric looking bird? I think you should look no further than the cormorant! Cormorants have an ancient dinosaur like look about them, as they sit on boats or rocky cliffs and stretch their wings. Look out for the young birds which have a cream coloured chest.

No. 1 Herring Gull

Herring Gull, photo by Lee Ismail

In the Number One spot it has to be – the Herring Gull! I always think they have a mean glint in their eye! But that is just my fancy.  Love them or loathe them they are a familiar sight around Brighton and Hove as they eye up the sandwiches you take to the beach. Herring gulls are the coastal birds most likely to come into conflict with humans. So let’s take a look at why that is the case and what it tells us about human behaviour too.

Herring gulls are big, bold and have a yellow beak with a red dot on it. The young birds are brown. They are seen all year round. The behaviour of Herring gulls has changed very radically since the 1920s. At this time the herring gulls nested on the chalk cliffs and fed out at sea or foraging on the beach. Gradually Herring Gulls learned that seaside towns like Brighton offered safe places to nest up on the rooftops and an easy source of food, as people dropped litter with some waste food and eat picnics out on the beach. The numbers of cliff nests dropped dramatically. Why bother foraging and using lots of energy flying out to fish at sea when there is a handy take away snack in a human’s hand or on a rubbish tip?

No. 2 Kittiwake

Kittiwakes at Seaford Head copyright Andy Hay, courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group

If Herring gulls have a mean glint in their eye, I think that the little kittiwake looks sweet and gentle. Why is it called a Kittiwake? That is the sound it makes. It has a black beady eye and is smaller than the herring gull. Unlike the herring gull, the kittiwake will not steal your chips or sandwiches. It catches fish out at sea for food instead. You will only see them locally between about March and August, when they nest at Seaford Head.

Grey seal

Grey seal, Illustration by A. Francis, courtesy of Brighton Dolphin Project

The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae, which are commonly referred to as “true seals” or “earless seals”. In the UK average weights are 233 kg (514 lb) for males and 154.6 kg (341 lb) for females with Bulls reaching 1.95–2.3 m (6 ft 5 in–7 ft 7 in) and cows typically 1.6–1.95 m (5 ft 3 in–6 ft 5 in) long.

Did you know?

Grey seals can stay underwater for up to 16 minutes, diving as deep as 300 meters, but usually diving to around 70 meters


Harbour seal

Harbour seal illustration by A. Francis, courtesy of Brighton Dolphin Project.
The harbour seal, also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widely distributed species of Pinniped (walruses, eared seals, and true seals), they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic, Pacific, Baltic and North Seas.

An adult can attain a length of 1.85 m (6.1 ft) and weight up to 168 kg (370 lb). 

Did you know?

Harbour seals can dive deeper than their Grey cousins, diving to 427 meters and staying underwater for almost 30 minutes. However, the average dive is usually a few minutes, going down to 90 meters. They also like to observe humans walking on beaches from the safety of the water, but are wary of humans on land and will rush to the sea if disturbed.