Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Worm Pipefish - Shrimping at Frinton

Terrific days shrimping at Frinton. Exploring the breakwaters and seabed at low tide with the nets, more interested in the by-catch than the shrimps. Only found one worm pipe-fish in amongst the weeds at the tideline and no hermit crabs this year when on other years there have ben hundreds. Not sure why each year can differ so much from another as we are here on the Essex coast for the same week every year, the weather, sea temperature and other factors must effect the type and number of species. A chap talked to me about how fishermen used to get a boat out to the distant sandbanks to shrimp professionally in the low tide shallows. Having the fishtanks on the beach soon draws a crowd and it's great to see the children lifting out the shrimps and running off to show their parents crabs and prawns.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mating red tail bumblebees

Watching the bees on the lavender plants on the greensward at Frinton-on-sea and the painted lady and torsoise-shell butterflies. Walking back to the beach hut I bent over to pick up what I thought was a dead bumblebee on the grass only to notice that it was actually a mating pair. I ran back to the hut and returned with my camera and found the bees again to get some photos. I was able to lift the bees onto a sketchbook page for a clearer shot and they seemed distracted enough not to care although they briefly flew off and settled again on the grass. I assume the female was the much larger and darker bee and she was sporting a large sting barb and when flying the male hung beneath.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Moths drawn to the light: 27th July 2013

Adam and I spent an excellent half hour looking at moths attracted to the conservatory lights in claxton. Excellent in that there were many moths but also that with identification sheets in hand we could actually identify a number of them with reasonable certainty. (To attach a list of moths). A beautiful large white moth settled in a bush and then, confused by the light and attention, it settled on my face which gave us time to identify it as a 'swallowtail moth'. On a second night by the BBQ we again saw a swallowtail moth and managed to have a look at it in a magnifying pot with it's distinctive wing markings. Adam now thinking about writing a song about moths and I'm again deciding I must draw from life more consistently, however fleeting the subject.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Hatching Dragonflies in Norfolk.

I was helping to build a stage over a pond in Claxton, don't ask, when I noticed the case of a hatched dragonfly larvae attached to one of the reeds. Once I started looking I found more and soon had a collection of 20 or so. All perfect, incredibly light to hold and split in the same fashion beneath the wing casings. We did find one dragonfly in the act of hatching and watched as it dried out it's wings in the sunlight.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Diving the Manacles - Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall UK

A wonderful 3 days diving on the Manacles. We dived the major reef drop offs on the Vase, Penwin and Raglan reefs, a drift and 2 wrecks. Great visibility underwater, a pod of bottle-nose dolphins and wonderful sunshine. The underwater scenery on the Manacles is fantastic with the nooks and crannies hiding all manner of life from squat lobsters, prawns, blennies and shore crabs to the large spider crabs and conger eels. The kelp beds above 12 meters always provide lots to look at as you decompress with the fronds hiding nudibranchs and small crustaceans and the forest of stalks a thoroughfare for the wrasse that dominate with the Cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus) posing and challenging in their bright colours and the ever inquisitive Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) seeing if you've stirred up anything to eat. The wrecks are alive with shoals of bib, congers peek out from the metal plates and rusting boilers and the sea floor wriggles with tube worms, scallops, urchins, brittle stars and other starfish. All of the exposed surfaces in the tidal areas are covered in filter feeders with the walls coated in jewel, plumose and other anemones, dead man's fingers, soft corals and sponges waiting for slack to pass and the race of nutrients to pick up as we end our dives. Toby, vigilant as ever, spotted an impressive angler fish (Lophius piscatorius) on the seabed beyond the boilers on the 23m deep wreck of the Epsilon. He was positioning himself to photograph the carpets of brittle stars and nearly put his hand on the angler fish, the camouflage is astonishing with the seaweed shaped flanges and mottled skin reminiscent of the wobbegong sharks of warmer seas. It's only having seen and recognised it that you can see it at all, lost against the surrounding seabed all but invisible except for the sharply defined and all seeing golden eye above the innocent looking lure and the wide subtle grin lined with pin sharp teeth.

Wreck of Epsilon:
274 nhp; triple expansion engines. The Dutch steamship Epsilon was on her way from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam, when she struck a mine and sank in the English Channel on January 31st, 1917. The mine was from the german minelaying submarine UC-17. The Epsilon was one of the three ships of the ”Vrachtvaart Maatschappij Bothnia” that were lost during WWI.