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
August 14th, 2012
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!
July 18th, 2012
Almost perfect conditions for our latest visit to Roa Island to dive in the Piel Channel. Underwater visibility was about two metres max. but the bright sunlight passing through the water made for a vibrant and very colourful dive. Under these conditions the quantity and diversity of marine life which makes this location so special is plain to see. The depth range of the dive was about three to six metres below low water neaps, the substrate mainly boulders and cobbles with muddy patches between. Many species of seaweeds covered the boulders, blue mussels and periwinkles were everywhere. Butterfish, shanny and corkwing wrasse were also spotted. In just a small area of about half a square metre on the sponge bed four species of sponge, five species of crab, anemones, worms, nudibranchs, hydroids and common starfish were recorded. After recording common brittle stars on the lower shore on a shore walk a couple of weeks before it was hoped the we might find some on the dive, but unfortunately this was’nt to be. We look forward to our next visit on saturday 11th. August.
July 10th, 2012
A warm sunny evening and a low spring tide, the perfect conditions for exploring the shore. The venue, Roa Island with it’s boulder and muddy beach and a couple of man made structures providing addtional habitat types. The top of the beach is composed mainly of large boulders with barnacles, wracks and large patches of blue mussels. On the middle of the shore, shore crabs, edible periwinkles, and dog whelks with thousands of eggs were all very common and here three or four European oysters were recorded. The underside of the jetty provides homes for clumps of mussels, sea squirts, hermit crabs and at the seaward end of the jetty a couple of European cowries were spotted. Moving further down the shore and searching beneath the boulders revealed both broad and long clawed porcelain crabs, chitons and we were suprised to find common brittle stars, an animal no where near as common in the channel as it was some years ago. Other inhabitants of this lower part of the shore were grey top shells, butterfish, common stars and colourful patches of both green and orange sponge. In the shallow pools left by the tide the tubes of peacock worms stood upwards from the mud and tiny anemones were to be seen amongst the stones. As the tide reached it’s lowest point we were able to see peacock worms with extended tentacles collecting food passing by in the water. We had spent a couple of very enjoyable hours recording and photographing in excess of thirty different species of plant and animal on this very small area of shore. Many thanks to Lewis for organising the event.
June 14th, 2012
Mermaids purses, jellyfish, whelks and crustacea - all part of the strandline (click for a larger version)
An interesting series of presentations looking at some common items washed up on the British strandline. Talks covered the differences between amphipods and isopods (shown above!), some superb images of jellyfish in the sea (my sketches really don’t do these justice!) – and some less attractive photos of them after they have washed up. The activities of baby whelks (you would not invite them to dinner). How to identify a mermaid’s purse – and why you might want to!
Mermaid’s purses are the egg-cases of skates and some sharks, many of the species that produce them are endangered, so recording what you found and where helps build up a picture of the distribution of these species. UK species can be identified and reported online at: www.eggcase.org
Thanks to Ron, Lewis, Gordon and Jo for their contributions to the MCS monthly meeting, 13th June at Capernwray Dive Centre
May 17th, 2012
On the morning of Friday 11th. May about thirty people came along to Sandylands at Morecambe to help clear and record items of litter from a long stretch of the beach. The event was organised by the Marine Conservation Society and sponsored by Marks and Spencer as part of the Big Beach Watch weekend with similar events taking place all around the UK. After collecting the obvious items, bottles, drinks cans and all manner of items made from plastic attention turned to the large sea defence boulders at the top of the beach. It was from here that the bulk of the litter came, mostly in the form of rope, fishing net and plastic strapping band which filled a large number of plastic sacks. Marine litter is a massive problem, not only around the UK, but world wide. It is estimated that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile in the world’s oceans. Marine litter is an eyesore, it costs everyone money to remove it and also the cost to the local economy, its a health hazard to both wildlife and human beings alike. Discarded plastic can be regarded as the major pollution problem of the 21st century both at sea and on the land. After a snack lunch provided by M&S a small group enjoyed a walk along the shore at Half Moon Bay, Heysham organised by Lancs. Local MCS Group where we spent an hour or so looking at the many different plants and animals to be found there. The next beach clean/litter survey will take place at Half Moon Bay, Heysham on Saturday 16th. June at 12.00hrs. If possible please come along and help to combat this massive marine litter problem, it will be an hour well spent.
May 15th, 2012
Seven members of the group were joined by four members of Preston SAC on a long weekend trip based at Tralee bay about ten miles north of Oban. Weather and conditions were good giving us the opportunity to explore the surrounding coast and hills and enabling us to dive a number of sites in Loch Creran including Creagan Inn Bay, the narrows between the inner and outer basins, a rocky reef on the south side of the inner basin and the serpulid worm reefs. A long drift dive on the flood tide through the narrows was described as at the very least exhilarating. Lewis spotted a cling fish on one dive but was unable to stop in the current to photograph it and Ron found a flame shell in the narrows just after using the last frame on the film. The final dive of the weekend was from the old railway pier at Kentallon on Loch Linnhe. A swim of about 200 metres from the pier out into the loch brings you to a quite spectacular vertical wall with an abundance of marine life, a great dive to end a well organised weekend, thanks to Gordon.
May 15th, 2012
Burrbo Bank & Walney offshore wind farms on Wednesday 9th May was an excellent talk to the group by Peter Sills of DONG Energy. His account of the engineering and political challenges to building offshore wind-farms was fascinating, and resulted in a friendly debate that engaged everyone in the audience.
Wind energy is likely to become a vital part of the energy mix in the UK over the next 20 years, and offshore exploitation does generate less public opposition than land based turbines. For marine life, the hard substrates used to protect cables and turbines from scour provides additional habitat, and the ban on trawling within the farm may be a valuable protection for life that makes use of the softer sea bottom common in the area.
The development of this new mixed ecosystem is likely to be quite interesting…
Thanks again to Peter for his long journey up to visit us!
May 15th, 2012
The Chagos Conservation Trust reports that in the year to April 2012 “…there was significant progress in developing and prioritising the necessary scientific research to support the conservation and long-term management of the world’s largest no-take marine reserve. Crucially, too, there has been a dramatic increase in the interest and involvement of the international scientific community in research relating to the Chagos archipelago.”
The full report is available from their website through the link below:
Chagos Anniversary Progress Report (PDF 172kB)
May 3rd, 2012
Lochaline has become firm favourite and a regular Easter venue for members of the group over the last few years. This year six members and a friend spent four very pleasant days in this wonderful location. Beautiful coastal scenery, excellent walking, places to visit, and the diving is also very good as well. A walk along the Western shore of the loch passes a large silica sand mine, the white sand spilling out onto the shore creating what could easily be mistaken for tropical coral sand beaches. Sand from the mine was used to produce high quality optical lenses for gun sights etc. during WW2. Continuing along the loch there are a number of quite interesting geological features and on the loch itself many different species of water bird can be seen, Grey herons around every corner. One member of our party out kayaking on the loch was fortunate enough to have a very close encounter with otters, the rest of us were green with envy. Follow the track around the head of the loch and along the eastern shore to where a small stream tumbles down a small steep valley. Search amongst the boulders and stones in the stream bed and you will be sure to find fossil oysters called Gryphaea that lived on the muddy shoreline of a tropical sea 200 million years ago. Most of the diving was from the easy access Hotel beach which leads gently down over the white sand with lots of tube anemones, Cerianthus lloydii to the top of the Lochaline wall, an almost vertical rock face plunging down to great depths, well beyond the reach of most sport divers. Spectacular diving with a tremendous diversity of life, we have recorded more than 120 different species on the wall to date with a new sighting this visit of a cuttle fish, Sepia officinalis to be added. There is still much more to be be recorded on future visits. There was also a dive on the shallow sea grass beds at Rubha-nan-Sornagon, Loch Linnhe, plenty of interesting marine life, notably lots of sea potatoes, Echinocardium pennatifidum. Overall an excellent few days, with thanks to organisers, Barry & Jo, and the good weather was an added bonus.