Oban trip Easter 2013

April 6th, 2013

Sperm whale in Oban Bay, Easter 2013. Photo Chrissy Fletcher

This Easter was one of the coldest we’ve had in several decades, but the weather was clear and sunny on the West Coast of Scotland, indeed, it was the driest I’ve ever seen it there! The cold snap made for very cold diving conditions – coldest at 5°C in the Inner Basin of Loch Creran, with most dives being 6°C and only a couple of degrees warmer on the surface. This kept even the keenest of us down to one dive a day – the rest of the day being spent warming up again! The planned diving surveys were at least in part successful despite being frozen out, and I hope to talk about those at our meeting in May.

In addition to the diving there were kayak trips around the coast, and cycling and walking explorations of Kerrera and diverse places around Oban. Without doubt the best wildlife was to be seen from a hotel on the Oban water-front, however, as Chrissy’s photo above attests – a sperm whale… That was rather unexpected!

More information about the sperm whale sighting linked below:

BBC Scotland – sperm whale sighting in Oban Bay

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust – Whale and dolphin sightings


Circular walk around Warton Crag and Silverdale

March 16th, 2013

Walk planned for Saturday 13 July

Meet: Warton Crag car park on Crag Rd Warton at 10:00am. This large, free, car-park is situated in an former quarry.Grid Ref: SD 492723. Please share cars if possible. There are no public toilets at the car park, or in Warton Village.

Route: Leave M6 at J35. Take A601(M) to J35a. Take A6 North. After about 0.6 miles turn left on a minor road to Warton. Turn left along Main Street then right into Crag Rd. Warton Crag car park is on the right, approx 0.5 miles along the road.

Walk: A circular walk around Warton Crag and Silverdale taking in Crag Foot, Quaker’s Stang, Jenny Brown’s Point and Jack Scout. A mixture of footpaths, bridleways, embankments, shoreline and some minor roads. Varied landscape, superb views and attractive woodland.

Distance: About 9 miles depending upon the wishes of those coming and the weather. The highest point is Warton Crag (163m) and lowest is the seashore,. Quite a lot of ups and downs with a few short steep sections.

Bring: Food for lunch and a drink. At least 1L of liquid if the weather is hot. Walking boots are recommended – as the limestone quarry can be slippery when wet.

Maps: OS Landranger no 97 Kendal, or Explorer OL no 7, Lakes SE.


March 14th, 2013

Next MCS meeting will be at Carnforth Working Men’s club, NOT at Capernwray (which does not open late evenings until May).

Fish Evolution

March 14th, 2013

Fish Evolution sequence

In an excellent talk on the 13th March, Jean Wilson (Blackpool and Fylde College) spoke about fish evolution. The talk followed the development of key characteristics in modern fishes, from the development of the notochord (sea squirts), pharyngeal slits (lancelet), gills, the jaw, cartilaginous (sharks and rays) and bony skeletons. The talk was illustrated both with fossil evidence, and modern examples of more primitive fishes.

The talk was very well presented – with a number of props and completed with a dissection of a hagfish!

Walney Island Walk

February 24th, 2013

MCS walk at Walney island Feb 2012

An inch of snow greeted early risers in Lancaster on Saturday morning – but the weather held off with just a little wind-blown snow to add to the atmosphere on the walk. This was a repeat visit by the group to Walney – (last visited in summer 2009).

Many thanks to Gordon for organising a very pleasant day out!

North Walney Nature Reserve

Oban survey planning for 2013

February 24th, 2013

We have two planned trips to the Oban area later in 2013; on the 28th March and 10th May. At our meeting on Wednesday 13th February the trip organisers (Barry and Gordon) spoke about some possible survey activities that could be undertaken on these visits.

Barry focused on Gallanach, to confirm the presence of Funiculina quadrangularis, and the Wormery in Loch Creran, to confirm the identity of the blue worms photo’d in 2012 (MCS dive trip to Oban (Sept 2012))

Gordon looked to explore new areas around Loch Creran. He also noted that the tides during our trip in March might give us some very good drifts through the Creran Narrows.

Thanks to everyone to turned out for this meeting – in pretty horrid weather!

MCS dive trip to Oban (Sept 2012)

October 2nd, 2012

Curled octopus seen at Gallanach September 2012.

Gallanach, near Oban, is an old favourite of the group, with an interesting dive from the camping field on the shore. This year we carried out some preliminary survey work here, and at the inner basin in Loch Creran, with the option of extending it into a broader project next year for everyone to get their teeth into. We also had one dive on the wormery in Loch Creran – where we spotted a number of blue variants of the reef building worm Serpula vermicularis (previously we have reported a colour range between white and brick red).

One of the nice surprises at Gallanach was a cooperative curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa, shown above), who hung about for a few photographs.

We are currently working up the dive notes for a first stab at a survey for our survey pages.

MCS display at the Mull visitor centre, Tobermory

October 2nd, 2012

Marine life around Calve Island, Tobermory, by MCS Lancashire
Images and sea-life survey information from the Lancashire MCS group’s dives around Calve Island, Tobermory Bay have been converted into a display at the Mull Visitor Centre. We hope this will encourage people to take more interest in the (usually) unseen wildlife around our coasts, and recognise it as forming unique and precious ecosystems.

Visit Mull visitor centre, Tobermory for opening times and other information.

Surveying the Piel Channel

October 2nd, 2012

Last month’s meeting on Surveying the Piel Channel, by Ron Crosby, drew another big turn out. The Piel Channel is one of the very few satisfactory shore dives along the coasts of Lancashire and Cumbria. Our coastline has very gently sloping muddy bottoms.These make them very susceptible to disturbance from wind or tide, resulting in very poor visibility. It is not that there is no life here – quite the opposite, but it is often dug in and hard to see…

By contrast the tidal race of the Piel channel cuts the boulder-clay sediment to a depth of about 12m within a few metres of the shore. While visibility is still often very poor, the comparatively steep profile means tat all of the life in the bay is compacted into a small area, and a wide range of habitats is very easily accessible.

For more information on the range of organisms found in the Channel, see our surveys page:

Marine life survey of the Piel Channel, Barrow in Furness

Roa Island Dive; Aug 11th

August 14th, 2012

Tree like sponge photographed in the Piel Channel, possibly Rhapsailia (hispida)? After watching a dredger make its way up the channel towards Barrow we really didn’t expect much from this dive, but the weather was good, and we hoped that there would be some visibility… As it turned out the dive was very pleasant, with between 50cm and 1m visibility – in fact good enough for a few photographs!

Ron confirmed that there was kelp (Laminaria hyperborea) in the channel at a depth of between 3 and 5m (below LWM) – the individuals are very stunted (about 1m in length) perhaps due to the lack of light, though poor footings for their holdfasts may mean that larger individuals will get washed away! There is rather more red algae, but sessile animals dominate the ecosystem, with a diverse range of sponges and hydrozoa. On these are a range of grazing nudibranchs.

A full list of species found at this site can be found on our surveys page:

Piel Channel marine life survey

Above right: Tree like sponge approx 30cm tall, photographed in the Piel Channel, possibly Rhapsailia hispida?

Thanks to Ron for organising the dive!