Page last updated at 05:37 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 06:37 UK

RSPB unveils cliff bird reserve

Puffin
The cliffs are inhabited by birds including puffin and shags

Cliffs at the British mainland's most northerly point have become RSPB Scotland's latest nature reserve.

Dunnet Head in Caithness is home to seabirds including kittiwakes, guillemots and puffins.

Management of the 27-hectare site has been handed over to the RSPB by landowner Ben Colson.

The RSPB said it hoped to improve tourism facilities at Dunnet Head to encourage more people to visit the area.

Dunnet Head, which lies further north than John O' Groats, is a nationally important home for a large variety of seabirds.

It really is a lovely site for wildlife, and the geographical significance makes it even more special
Pete Mayhew
RSPB Scotland

Mr Colson said: "Dunnet Head is an amazing place with which my family - and many others - feel a real bond.

"We're delighted to be able to pass the reins of managing such a special area over to an organisation which will ensure both wildlife and people are catered for.

"Dunnet is rich in wildlife and in history and we're happy to be able to work with an organisation whose ambitions for the site match our own."

Pete Mayhew, RSPB North Scotland senior conservation manager, said: "The seabird city at Dunnet Head is a few miles further north than John O' Groats, and we're delighted to take over the management of the site.

Dunnet Head
The area is said to be an important settlement for many seabirds

"As well as the seabirds, we also hope to manage the land on top of the cliffs to provide habitat for corncrake, great yellow bumblebee and twite.

"There aren't really any facilities for visitors at the moment but we're looking at how we might be able to provide these in the future, in which case we'd hope that Dunnet Head might become an important stop off for visitors to the far north.

"It really is a lovely site for wildlife, and the geographical significance makes it even more special."

The cliff-top grassland has in the past been grazed by sheep, with other areas providing a kitchen garden for those who lived and worked at Dunnet Head during World War II.

The red sandstone cliffs exceed 90m in height in places but are mostly between 30m and 60m high.


SEE ALSO
RSPB unveils its latest reserve
13 Feb 08 |  Highlands and Islands

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