Just beyond the Bay (12th June 2013)

June 14th, 2013

Presented by Lewis Bambury and Gordon Fletcher of the local area group, these talks on the 12 June 2013 at Capernwray Dive Centre looked at some typical dive sites in the North West of England.

Gordon introduced the topic with reference to the local geology, which was completely re-modelled by the last ice age. Offshore this leaves three dominant ecosystems – extended, shallow, muddy plains dotted with the remains of drumlins which provide a scatter of ill-sorted boulders and pebbles, plus the Lune Deeps – a U-shaped glacial valley that reaches depths in excess of 60m. The fine sediments make for difficult diving conditions, as witnessed by Lewis’ introductory slide, and a diver interested in marine life needs to acclimatise to an environment that is nearly monochrome, covered in a fine silt that lifts into an impenetrable veil with the slightest fin kick.

Above: approximate location of the Hebe at the entrance of the channel to Preston Docks.

The ecosystems, while shallow, are dominated by animal life due to the fine suspended silt that cuts off the sunlight needed by seaweed. The mud is inhabited by secretive, burrowing worms, molluscs and crustacea – species we don’t see on most popular dive sites. Where a solid substrate is provided either by a wreck, or by a boulder scatter, the species mix is dominated by hornwrack (a common find on the strand-line around the Bay), with sponges, anemones and hydroids also being abundant. Lewis’ photos showed the dramatic difference between the mud plains and the site of the Hebe, a steamship stranded on Horse Bank 11th December 1911, with the plains apparently featureless with the odd worm-cast, starfish or antenna hinting at the presence of life beneath the surface, whilst the old iron plates of the Hebe bloomed with a profusion of plumose anemones, with mussels and hydroids filling any available gap.

Lewis thanked Darwen Sub Aqua Cub (based near Blackburn) for inviting him to join them on visits to the Hebe and the Lune Deeps.

The talk was prefaced by a short introduction to our beach-clean program by Jo Kaye. The next beach cleans at Half Moon Bay are scheduled for Sunday 16th June and Saturday 21st September 2013.

See our diary for full details.

Oban dive trip May 2013

May 22nd, 2013

Our latest visit to Oban on the 10th May was wet in every sense of the word – with almost continuous rain, but also some exceptionally good diving. Dives centred on Loch Creran, with the wormery and the inner basin being popular with all of the group.

Following from the talk about surveys in the area on the 8th, we can confirm that there are quite a lot of orange coloured worms (Serpula vermicularis) – these being seen by several divers, and possibly accounting for several percent of the individuals seen. While none were as clearly yellow as the single specimen photo’d back in 2007, this is a pretty strong indication that yellow is at least possible for this species (see gallery).

Less good news on the sea-pen front, however. A dive at Loch Feochan turned out a large number of common sea-pens (Virgularia mirabilis) in very shallow water (3-5m). Amongst these were a large number of juveniles that looked a lot like the specimen photographed at Gallanach over Easter (see gallery). After a discussion with Ron I am forced to concede that there is no current evidence for Funiculina quadrangularis at Gallanach, though Ron has seen this species there on previous occasions… (We’ll have to look again!).

Otherwise a great spectacle was put on by sea-cucumbers, with very large numbers of Psolus to be seen below about 10m in the inner basin of Loch Creran – densities reaching several individuals per square metre. There were some sea cucumbers in the outer basin as well, but in slightly deeper water (ca 18m+). There appears to be at least one other species present – but I’m not sure of its identity (photo in the gallery). Other high spots of the weekend included a thornbacked ray and a couple of dogfish.

Non divers enjoyed the Falls of Lora, and an excellent trip to the Oban Sea Life Centre (where thornbacked rays and dogfish were demanding petting!), but it was a bit damp for cycling or kayaking…

Thanks to Tralee Bay for accommodation and Gordon for organising the trip.

(by Barry 22nd May 2013)

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

Barry

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.

CHANGE OF VENUE

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.