Monday, 30 June 2014

One of the many playful Lundy seals.

Lundy Island

A great weekend's diving on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. The old rocket shed in the village (* where they used to house the horse-drawn shipwreck rescue rocket apparatus) is now a simple little museum about the island with a collection of natural history items on the window sills, discovered by children. Great to explore a section of the island and climb the lighthouse. The fields full of sheep, Soay sheep, highland cattle, silka deer and birds everywhere. Saw fulmar, petrel, razorbill, puffin, gannet, wheatear, skylark, yellowhammer, kittiwake, cormorant, herring gull and many other species. Many of the island birds were ringed, including all of the confident sparrows hopping about outside the pub and nesting in the barns.
Underwater the visibility was good all weekend with the famously confident Lundy seals approaching the divers and trying to bite fins and enjoying sneaking up from behind or playfully tearing off strips of kelp to show off with. The wreck of the 'Robert', a 70's coal ship that foundered half a mile offshore, was covered in life; anemones, dead man's fingers, pink sea fans, urchins, fish and fry, flatworms, nudibranch's, squat lobsters and crabs. The ropes now garlands of soft corals and anemones and the hull a landscape of 40 years of marine life now reclaiming the ship as a reef. Too much to list here but I summarised some in the islands logbook - see beneath. I plan to return next year, such a wonderful Island and so close.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Where are all the Bumblebees?

Undertook my monthly 'Beewalk' on behalf of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust today. It's a lovely thing to do each month, walking the same route and counting the numbers of different species of Bumblebee. Repeating the same route at monthly intervals gives a very clear sense of the development of the year, seeing how the hedgerows and fields change their hue and heft.

It was windy and alternating between cloud cover and sun. It's high summer and should be bumblebee nirvana, but where I have been seeing increasing numbers over recent months, today I saw negligible numbers. Other pollinators were abundant - ringlet butterflies by the score, beautiful hoverflies, dragonflies and day-flying moths everywhere I looked. But until about half-way round, no Bumblebees. I think today's weather mostly to blame, but the recent prolonged wet weather that we have had locally may have played a part; with foraging opportunities scant, nests will have been under huge stress. However, I did see the first new daughter queen (i.e born this year rather than last year'sover-wintered), a fat and fresh Bombus terrestris, seemingly scouring for hibernation sites, presumably having mated with whatever males may be around. And so the circle is unbroken.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Damsel in distress.

Common Blue Damselfly
Enallagma cyathigerum

Found squashed on the road near to the Greenbank pool in Street and picked up carefully and stored in my wallet on the cycle home.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Strode Sustainability Garden

The sustainabilty garden at Strode College is going really well and we hope to develop our bog garden area before the summer. It is so satisfying working on the project after work, and at lunch with colleagues, a little bit here and there, small steps forward - and then over months be able to look back and see how much has been achieved. We are planning to conduct a biodiversity survey of the campus in the autumn and as the garden develops and as we add to the habitat diversity it is hoped that we can have a positive impact on the variety of species we see on the site.

Vobster Shoals

I was collecting my air-fills from Vobster Quay diving centre last night and sat watching the goggled triathletes swimming their miles around the surface of the flooded quarry. Divers were climbing in and out for the last dives of the evening, light enough to see in the depths until 9 at night although it must be pretty gloomy under the steep walls of the old stone workings. I've dived here many times over the last decade but without a buddy I sat watching others and looking forward to my weekend on Lundy Island at the end of the month. Clear water is beautiful and enticing on a summer evening and I peered down at the submerged rock tumbles looking for the elusive white claw crayfish but have yet to see one here in their inland refuge from the invasive American signal crayfish. 

The water under the moored boats, and in the shadow of the various platforms, was teaming with shoals of roach and rudd hiding from imagined predators above whilst also no doubt keeping half an eye on the slow moving but muscled perch gliding quietly beneath with their tiger stripes.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Reduced Magpie

There are are lots of optimistic magpies in and around the Sainsbury's carpark in Street and everytime I go there in the evening, to the cashpoint or to get milk, I see this young magpie in the carpark. It appears to have no tail and I wonder if perhaps as a youngster it escaped in some dramatic way from something, perhaps a fox or cat. It hops around the cars and pedestrians with the confident gait and intelligent manner displayed by so many of the crow family. It doesn't have the balance and drama of the adult magpies cavorting in cocky gangs around the petrol station with their long tails but it's still able to catch your eye with it's iridescent wing markings. I can only suppose that deprived of other options it is reduced to feasting on the off-cast chips thrown from the 'cool kids' (not) car windows.