Sunday, 14 August 2016

Annual Rock Pool Event at Shoreham

Another very successful annual rock pooling day at Shoreham. Visitors were very enthusiastic and full of questions. Due to the fact that many people were still queuing up after the start time I divided the briefing session into two groups.  

I asked at the beginning of the briefing and about ¼ to ⅓ had taken part before the rest were new to the event. At least half of the people were local, (difficult to be exact as they were in two separate groups). However one family had come from Surrey and another from London (and had travelled down that day. Some local visitors had brought along family who were staying with them at the time.

 During the event lots of people called me over to see what they had caught or to identify something that was attached to a rock or in a pool – which was quite constant.

I also spoke to people around the aquarium tanks at the top of the beach where we had housed a few of the animals collected by visitors.  
I also encouraged people to go up and look at the tanks (e.g. if they showed me an anemone in a pool that was closed I would talk to them about anemones and then encouraged them to see the open anemones in the tanks, etc).

This seemed to be a good balance because people are particularly interested in knowing about the things they have found themselves.

During the event a large net was discovered and was slowly being uncovered by the tide. There were many crabs tangled in the net which visitors and event staff helped to rescue.

There were also fish and other animals trapped in the net which probably attracted the crabs in the first place.  T
The live animals were rescued and the net cut into pieces and removed from the beach.

While nothing very unusual was found this time, except a large flounder, we did find many shore crabs, beadlet anemones, shrimps, prawns, common blenny, a juvenile solonette, sea slater, chiton and much more. We also observed many sea birds including tern and cormorant and we also got a quick glimpse of the kingfish as it flashed past the beach.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

National Whale and Dolphin Watch

I ran a sea mammal watch at Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve on 30th July to encourage local people to participate in National Whale and Dolphin Watch and to raise awareness of the seals and dolphins seen locally.

National Whale and Dolphin Watch is an annual event run by the Sea Watch Foundation a scientific charity dedicated to protecting UK whales and dolphins (cetaceans) since 1993. National Whale and Dolphin Watch is a citizen science based event which is now in its 15th year.

The local event was run as a joint Sea Watch Foundation and Friends of Shoreham Beach (I have been Sussex Regional Coordinator for the Sea Watch Foundation since 1993). This joint local event was funded by the Awards for All Heritage Lottery Funding

National Whale and Dolphin Watch provides a valuable annual snapshot of sea mammal activity across the 35 UK regional groups and is part of the foundations ongoing observation programme to survey and protect UK dolphins and whales which number a surprising 29 species.

The Shoreham watch started unofficially at 9.30am when I arrived to set up the display stand and took the first scan of the sea with binoculars. This first record of the day recorded the sea conditions at sea state 2, with a wind force of 2-3 from the SW. Cloud cover was 7/8 and the visibility was good.

The display stand provided information about the Sea Watch Foundation and also depicted some of the local dolphin and seal sightings including examples from this year.
There was also information about threats to sea mammals and the ocean including micro plastics and over nutrification of coastal waters caused by nitrates such as from detergents and water run-off from agricultural land.

The first person arrived just before the official start time of 10.00am and soon we had a small group of dedicated watchers. At 10.30am newly enlisted Sea Watch Volunteers Hannah and Neil arrived to help with the survey.

At about 10.50am a heavy downpour forced everyone to retreat from the beach.

Afterwards, some had gone home but 10 people returned to continue the watch. Interestingly, after the storm, the visibility increased to excellent and the wind dropped to force 2 and the sea condition to sea state 1 after the storm had passed through.

During the day more people arrived to take part with the watch, some by car, some on bicycle and some on foot.

The planned children’s activities run by Steve took place later than planned because of the weather. These included measuring out the length of blue whale (30m)
We then including some of the smaller species including bottlenose dolphin (3.5m), killer whale – orca (9m), humpback whale (15m) and sperm whale which at 20 metres is the largest toothed whale.

Objects for handling included a whale vertebrate,


sperm whale tooth

and baleen (from filter feeding minke whale). 

An activity also focused on threats to whales and dolphins.
We also investigated some of the strandline objects washed ashore and identified what we found - including these ray egg cases

The watch continued to 12.50pm (10 minutes short of the planned time when another heavy shower rolled in.

No sea mammals were seen during the watch, (but Steve reported to the watchers that a bottlenose dolphin was spotted at Seaford the previous day). Even so, negative data is also essential as part of the snap shot. Watchers were also encouraged to observe the sea birds which included herring and black-back gulls, terns (occasionally diving for fish), flock of turnstones feeding on the shore line and the occasional cormorant.

Shoreham Beach Nature Reserve leaflets were also handed out on the day, to participants and also to passing members of the public who came over to see what we were doing. A list of future events was included as part of the display stand and interested people were encouraged to visit the FoSB website and visit the events page. People taking part said they had enjoyed the event, despite the weather.

41 people took part in the actual watch and information was shared with passers-by.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Grey seal at Peacehaven

Interesting report from Phil of a grey seal observed from the lower esplanade at Peacehaven 9th July. Phil had three brief sightings of the seal at about 3.30 pm. The seal was swimming eastwards, 20-30 m from the shore at high tide. Phil described the longer muzzle and large body size of a grey seal.

Phil also reported a dead gannet he found washed up on the small beach beyond the western end of the Peacehaven esplanade on Wed 6th July

Sunday, 26 June 2016

National Insect Week Event Shoreham Beach

An Insect talk and walk led by myself took place on Sunday 26th June at the Harbour Club and on Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve as part of celebrations taking place nationwide for National Insect Week which runs from 20-26 June 2016.
This free event was part of the programme of educational events sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Grant Awards for All.
The PowerPoint presentation at the Harbour Club discussed the rare vegetated shingle habitat and its special adaptations before I spoke about some of the insects that can be found on the shingle plants and also the importance of pollinators to the shingle plants.
I explained how vegetated shingle is only a partial habitat for insects as the shingle plants die back and lay dormant for several months of the year.

I discussed how and why the gardens adjacent to the nature reserve are important to the invertebrates (especially outside the flowering period of the shingle plants and during bad weather) and also as nesting and hibernation sites for bees.
The gardens on Shoreham Beach are an important extension to the nature reserve habitats. The talk concluded with ways we can all help these valuable insects.
I also addressed invasive species and explained how invasive plants such as red valerian and silver ragwort can entice pollinators to this ‘easy’ nectar source causing them to ignore the smaller shingle plants that area much smaller source of nectar with a risk that they may die out on the beach.

Following the talk everyone meet by the Shoreham Fort for an exploration of the shingle plants for insects.
Several species of bee where on the wing including red tailed bumble bee, buff/white tailed bumble bee, common carder bee, honey bee and two solitary bee species.
Other insects included several garden tiger moth caterpillars, butterfly (small white) several small moths (we disturbed but did not settle in view) 7 spot lady birds, hoverflies,
iridescent thick knee flower beetles, juvenile grasshoppers, a small blue damselfly (probably from a garden pond) and a yellow field ant mound in the grass.
Not an insect, but another surprise find, was a tiny common frog (from this year’s hatching) and a small toad, probably last year’s hatching both of which also probably case from adjacent gardens.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Common seal Rustington

I received a seal sighting today from Jackie and her friend her were walking along beach front at Rustington on the 14th March.
They spotted the seal at 3.00pm and watched the seal for 30 minutes 'bobbing up and down' its head above water.
Jackie sent me a photograph from which it was possible to see it was a common seal. 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Common dolphin off the coast at Brighton

I received a sighting of a dolphin from Jess and her partner who spotted a dolphin swimming near Brighton's West Pier on Sunday 6th March.

I have since had a further report on 9th March and a photo from BDMLR  that shows it’s a common dolphin – this time breaching out of the water.

Common dolphins are seen occasionally near shore off Sussex but its not as common as its name suggests. BDMLR will be keeping an eye on the situation in case the dolphin needs assistance.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Grey Seal rescue

I received a report from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) about a small poorly seal at Selsey Bill.  BDMLR telephoned Trevor Weeks Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service (WRAS).

The seal turned out to be a young grey seal, which was transferred over to WRAS's ambulance and drive back to WRAS's Casualty Care Centre where WRAS's vet Mike met them and helped assess the seals condition.

The seal had a high temperature, and breathing difficulties and was treated by the vet with  antibiotics and fluids to help the seal rehydrate. The seal is stayed with WRAS over night was moved on to the RSPCA Malladams Centre where they have facilities for rescued seals.