Billy Heaney

Visitor Experience Assistant, Godrevy

Billy Heaney - Visitor Experience Assistant

Billy joined the team whilst studying for a Masters Degree and much of his research focuses on the grey seals in Cornwall. He tells us a bit about his job, his studies and the wildlife that you can see here.

A stonechat
Why were you interested in working here?
I frequently visit Godrevy for personal fieldwork, and I really enjoy being here.  I wanted to share my passion for the site and the wildlife with the visitors.  It’s also great to be a part of a team of like-minded people, who like to be outdoors, and believe in the conservation values of the Trust. Keeping Cornwall’s natural places wild is important, as is making them accessible and family friendly for people to come and spend the day, or pop down for a few hours after work or school. It's the best job I've ever had.
What do visitors like most about the place?
It's a bit of a surfing hotspot so it’s no surprise that surfers make up a large majority of our visitors. 
However, to me Godrevy is all about switching off and taking a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy some of the best views in Cornwall, right across St Ives Bay. I think this really draws in the numbers of visitors that we get in a daily basis.
Can you tell us a bit about the wildlife that you can see?
There are a variety of different habitats here, which in turn leads to a diversity of fauna and flora. From sand dunes to rock pools, cliff faces, flowery meadows and heathland, Godrevy has it all. There are always stonechats, jackdaws and skylarks twittering about, most days you'll see a hovering kestral, and passing fulmar, shags and gannets.  We keep a list of the wildlife spotted daily, so let us know what you see.  Some of my recent wildlife highlights include grey seal pups, breaching bottlenose dolphins, peregrine falcons and sun bathing adders.
Why are you studying the seals?
I started this research over a year ago as part of my undergraduate degree.  I am interested in how technology can aid marine conservation strategies, with particular emphasis on monitoring marine vertebrate populations. My research is supported by Exeter Uni and Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust, and focuses on the ecology and conservation of grey seals, the UK's largest, and globally rarest (fewer in number than African elephants) pinniped, using remote sensing techniques such as time lapse photography.  
What can visitors do to avoid disturbing the seals?

If you do get to see the seals, you can help minimise disturbance by keeping as quiet as possible on the cliff top.  There is no access to the haul-out beach, and we do ask people using kayaks or boats to comlpetely avoid the area.  It is so important to keep dogs under close control.  Please have a look at this leaflet explaining How to watch seals responsibly without disturbing them (PDF / 1.3388671875MB) download  , which is also availalbe at the car park welcome point. 

What if you see them in the water?
Seals are clever and inquisitive and occasionally one will pop up amongst the surfers.  Just remain quiet and think yourself lucky to be visited, or slowly paddle away. Some surfers I know say hello to the seals they see, they believe that the seals can recognise individual humans, and become accustomed to the locals.  But please don't actively approach a seal, or cause it unessessary stress.
Have a look at Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust's Advice for encounters with seals at sea (PDF / 0.1005859375MB) download   
How can visitors do their bit to help protect the wildlife? 
It's a simple request.  All we ask is that people take their rubbish away with them at the end of the day.  Keeping the site clear of human litter and dog poo helps the wildlife thrive, and we can continue to enjoy the sheer diversity of wildlife that calls Godrevy home.  Money and donations paid for parking go toward maintaining the site, the access routes and preserving the habitats here.  If you would like to know more about the area and the wildlife feel free to pop in to the Welcome hut at the car park and have a chat, we're a friendly bunch.
Responsible Wildlife Watching (PDF / 3.6787109375MB) download