East Caithness Cliffs SPA

Status: Designated

Description

Site overview

This site is on the east coast of Caithness in northern Scotland and is made up of the sea-cliffs between Wick and Helmsdale. These are formed of Old Red Sandstone and are generally between 30-60 m high, rising to 150 m in places. These are good nesting sites for important populations of seabirds, such as gulls and auks.  There is also another Marine Protected Area here which should protect the sea where these birds feed. 

MPA Type

Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites designated uner European legislation. They are established to protect rare and vulnerable birds and for regularly occurring migratory species.

Designation date

1 March 1996

Surface Area

117.04 km2 (45.19 mi.2)

Perimeter

143.42 km (89.12 mi.)

  • Razorbill (Alca torda)

    A migratory bird that breeds on coastal cliffs and spends the rest of the year at sea feeding on small fish like sandeel, sprat and herring.

  • Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)

    Puffins are unmistakable and much loved birds. Sometimes referred to as the clown among seabirds they are one of the world’s favourite birds. With half of the UK population at only a few sites it is a Red List species.

  • Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

    Almost gull-like, this grey and white seabird is related to the albatrosses. It flies low over the sea on stiff wings.

  • Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus)

    A very large, stocky, black-backed gull.

  • Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

    A small cliff nesting seabird named for it its nasal “ki-ti-waak”” callnotes. The population is declining in some areas

  • Seabird assemblage (Seabird assemblage)

    Important areas where a number of seabird species occur in significant numbers.

  • Common guillemot (Uria aalge)

    One of the most common birds breeding on sheer, crowded cliffs known as ‘seabird cities’. This seabird only comes to land to breed and spends the rest of its life at sea.

  • European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

    An inshore seabird that is only found in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean. It is seldom seen out of sight of land and nests on particular islands and cliffs in colonies of up to several thousand pairs.

  • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)

    A large and powerful bird of prey which is a swift and agile hunter. Peregrines were at a low point in the 1960s due to human persecution and the impact of pesticides in the food chain but are showing signs of recovery.

  • Herring gull (Larus argentatus)

    Herring gulls are large, noisy gulls found throughout the year around our coasts and inland around rubbish tips, fields, large reservoirs and lakes, especially during winter. Though they seem to be everywhere, populations continue to decline.

  • Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

    A large, dark waterbird. Often seen standing with its wings spread out to dry. The UK provides internationally important wintering grounds for these birds.

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets

Did you know?…

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’