Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Shore Thing

I recently completed the Shore Thing training course by the Marine Biological Association (MBA) at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. The project is aimed to generate marine records by facilitating intertidal surveys around the UK.  It also aims to raise awareness of marine conservation amongst participants and the wider community.

The day began with some classroom based work- learning more about the MBA, the Shore Thing Project; how to collect data and an overall summary of species likely to be found and species of interest. The afternoon was spent putting into practice the techniques we had learned in the morning- performing timed searches on specific species and quadrat surveys.

Quadrat surveys for the Shore Thing project at Culzean Castle (photo Jack Sewell, MBA)
The timed searches are designed to look for species which are either climate change indicators or non-native. These surveys produced some interesting results including Snakelock Anemones (Anemonia viridis) and Orange-tipped sea squirts (Corella eumyota)- new records for this area.
Snakelock Anemones- my first ever sighting of this species. At Culzean Castle (photo Laura Shearer)
The quadrat surveys on the mid-shore were of great interest. One quadrat revealed hundreds of marine snails such as topshells, whelks and limpets. We also found strings of nudibranch eggs and Sea Lemons (Archidoris pseudobargus)- a real treasure of the rocky shore.
Spiny Starfish Marthasterias glacialis (photo Laura Shearer)
Sea Lemon- note the rhinophores (left) and external gills on the hind (right) (photo Laura Shearer)

If you are interested in learning more about marine conservation in the UK please see the Shore Thing website: http://www.mba.ac.uk/shore_thing/ or Follow them on Twitter for regular updates: @ShoreThing_MBA 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

It’s been several weeks since my last blog as I have been keeping busy with work, birding, seawatching and rockpooling. It’s a tough life!

Over the last few weeks we have been experiencing some settled weather in Dumfries and Galloway and very calm sea conditions. This has allowed amazing views of Harbour PorpoisePhocoena phocoena, around the Mull of Galloway where I currently work for the RSPB. Several weeks ago, I decided to visit Corsewell point at the North of the Rhins for a session of seawatching. After only 20 minutes I couldn't believe my eyes as I spotted a triangular fin breaking among the waves- it was a Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)!! This was only the second time I have seen this species and I managed to watch this magnificent fish for several minutes before losing it in the waves. One of my wildlife highlights of the year!

Diagnostic two triangular fins of a Basking Shark (photo Brian Henderson)

On Tuesday 06.10.15, at around 3:30pm I was outside the RSPB visitor centre on the Mull of Galloway when I saw a break in the water. Grabbing my binoculars, a telescope and a camera- I started running to the edge of the cliff for some better views. Over the next hour, 30-40 Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) including 3 young calves, put on an amazing show- leaping out of the water and generally having a good time. What an amazing sight! 

Bottlenose Dolphins off Mull of Galloway 06.10.15 (photo Laura Shearer)
Bottlenose dolphin calf leaping out the water (photo Laura Shearer)