Roa Island Shore Walk July 2021

July 29th, 2021
Discarded fishing line.
Discarded fishing line – sadly our first find…

Our first Roa Island shore walk this year took place on Saturday 24th July.  Understandably, given the late decision to hold this, turnout was lower than normal but 5 of us had an interesting time scouring the shore for life. Sadly the first find of any interest was 30-40m of discarded fishing line tangled in the wrack under the walkway to lifeboat station. This took about 20 minutes of patient work to disentangle it so that it could be taken away for disposal. Thankfully the rest of the beach was relatively clear of litter!

Pacific oysters (Crassostrea Gigas). Photo Lewis Bambury.
Pacific oysters (Crassostrea Gigas)

We saw quite a large number of Pacific oysters Crassostrea Gigas (sometimes known as Portuguese Oyster).  These are a non-native commercial species; it’s possible that they have originated from oyster farms in the Menai Straits, although there is an oyster hatchery on Walney Island that puts some immature stock in the Bay to grow on before selling them on to other farms to mature and this may be the source too.

Dislodged sponge, photo Lewis Bambury.
Dislodged sponge

It was noticeable that there were quite a few large pieces of dislodged sponge and sea squirts, probably from deeper water, at the low water line.  It wasn’t clear how these had been dislodged, whether it was manmade disturbance – we didn’t see a dredger while we were there for instance – or a natural process, but it did bring some species to view that we may not have seen otherwise.  For instance these Oaten Pipe hydroids (Tubularia indivisa) living on one of the detached sponges.

Mysid shrimp. Photo Lewis Bambury.
Mysid shrimp captured in a shallow water trawl. Photo Lewis Bambury.

Barry tried some plankton trawls in the shallows where large numbers of mysid shrimp and small (juvenile) fish were swimming against the incomming tide, hoping for it to bring them supper! Microscopic examination revealed a phytoplankton community dominated by pennate diatoms (Proboscia alatum and Rhizosolenia sp.), though we did see one centric diatom Odontella mobiliensis. The trawl also contained some lanceolate Naviculacea (Pleurosigma sp. – probably angulatum), and one example of Bacillaria paxillifera; these are typically benthic/surface dwelling diatoms, but very commony found in shallow water trawls. There were also a number of periwinkle (Littorina littorea) eggs and newly hatched ‘velligers’. Juvenile periwinkles (the ‘velligers’) are planktonic, and use cillia covered extensions of their ‘foot’ (called a ‘vellum’) to swim. This mode of propulsion is very effective in the smaller juveniles, allowing them to make respectable swimming speeds (Olympic qualifiers – for ther size!) as they actively hunt for food, which is usually smaller zooplankton.

Periwinkle egg about to hatch. Micrograph by Barry Kaye.
Periwinkle egg containing two velliger embryos – very close to hatching! Micrograph by Barry Kaye.

Lockdown has meant that the best tides for this have passed us by this year, but this was the first of two dates that we picked as having the chances of interesting finds.  The timing of Spring tides around Morecambe Bay means that the very lowest tides – when we have the best chance of finding some of the creatures that are normally hidden – happen around 6 or 7 am, of 6 or 7 pm, so daylight times are a factor in choosing dates too. 

Our next walk is on the calendar for Wednesday 8th September at 19:00 (Low water 0.95m at 19:42, just before sunset).

Report by Lewis Bambury with additions on microscopy by Barry Kaye.

Posted in Events, Science, Shore walks

Morecambe Beach Clean

July 22nd, 2021

The local group has been running regular beach cleans and litter surveys at Half Moon Bay for over ten years, but recently we have decided to take a wider view, and run some ‘guerilla’ beach cleans, to compare beaches more widely around the area, and see if there are areas that might benefit more from a regular clean.

Morecambe Bay from the Venus and Child statue
Above: Morecambe Bay from the Venus and Child statue, with Spartina in the foreground, sea defence boulders and the Bay, and Lake District hills in the background.

Last night (July 21st) many of us took advantage of the good weather to cycle to the Venus and Child statue on Morecambe prom (clost to the golf course), to take a look at the beach there. The shore is composed of a steep bank of cobbles and shingle, the lower reaches of which provides a footing for common seaweeds like Ulva (sea lettuce) and Fucus, going to flat sand and mud further from the shore, with patches of Spartina or cord grass.

The beach clean focussed on the shingle slope, around the high water mark, where litter is most likely to be left as the tide goes out. Over a one hundred meter section we collected 1kg of litter – which is really pretty good, and indicates that this stretch of the coast (from Half Moon Bay to the Golf Course) is in good shape – at least as far as litter is concerned!

Morecambe beach cleaners 2
After the clean …

Barry Kaye, 22nd July 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

Our Unique Sea Lochs

May 6th, 2021

Talk by Gordon Fletcher, Lancashire MCS

Wednesday, 19th May at 19:30 via Zoom

Photo of Loch Creran by Gordon Fletcher 2016
Above: Photo of Loch Creran, on the West Coast of Scotland, by Gordon Fletcher, Summer 2016.

Sea Lochs contain a great diversity of habitats that can be exploited by marine wildlife – from fast flowing tidal narrows to sheltered muddy head waters; and pretty much everything in between! Many sea lochs are also readily accessible to divers, providing insights into these uniquely rich marine environments…

Invitations have been sent out in our May Newsletter – if you are not signed up (or have not received your newsletter) but would like to attend, please contact us.

Posted in MCS talks

AGM and Zooplankton

April 10th, 2021

Our annual AGM will be on Wednesday the 21st April 2021, at the start of our regular Zoom meeting entitled ‘There’s something swimming in my soup…’. The meeting will look at Zooplankton from around the West Coast of the UK. These tiny animals form a vital part of the marine ecosystem, eating the even tinier phytoplankton, and in turn being eaten by a whole range of larger marine predators.

A 'zoea' larva of the velvet swimming crab Necora puber. Photo BK, Lochaline March 2008.
Many animals start life in the zooplankton – this is a juvenile velvet swimming crab (photo BK, 2008)

A note for the AGM – we welcome input from everyone; but you must be a member of National MCS to vote on financial matters!

Zoom connection details have been sent out in this month’s newsletter, please contact me if you have not received your invitation, and would like to be included in our mailing list!

Posted in MCS talks

Honeycomb worm reef

March 11th, 2021
Honeycomb worm reef on Bispham beech, by Toni Roethling

The honeycomb worm (Sabellaria alveolata) is a small filter feeding worm that, in common with many similar species, binds a layer of sand or shell fragments about itself for protection. Living close together the worm tubes take on a hexagonal shape, and a large group of worms form a reef that looks a lot like a honeycomb. The ‘reef’ can be upstanding, or grow over a boulder, but is equally often seen as low tussocky structure which may be partially hidden under seaweed, as found off the promontory below St Patrick’c Chapel, Lower Heysham.

Thanks to Toni Roethling for the photograph above, taken on Bispham beach. Toni reports that the reef was a great attraction for starfish and gulls.

You can read more about the honeycomb worm on Wikkipedia.

Posted in Shore walks

CLAWS! Identifying UK Crustaceans.

March 4th, 2021

A talk by Lewis Bambury, Lancashire MCS

19:30, Wednesday 10th March 2021 via Zoom

Spider crab by Lewis Bambury
Above: Spider crab (Inachus spp.) by Lewis Bambury, 31st October 2015 Loch Linhe, West Coast of Scotland

Animals looking like Crustaceans have been around for at least 500 million years, and in that time have evolved into many forms. We will try to help you identify some of the 2000 species of crustaceans that you may find in the UK, concentrating on those that may be encountered either on the shore or at recreational diving depths. Both the common and some more unusual species, and some that you may not have even thought of as being crustaceans before.

If you would like to join us for one of our meetings – please subscribe to our Newsletter.

Posted in MCS talks

Phytoplankton ID

January 14th, 2021
Photomicrograph of Melosira BK 2020

Our online ID course on Wednesday 20th January 2021 will look at some of the most common phytoplankton sampled from the Morecambe Bay area and the West Coast of Scotland. This is a basic introduction to sampling and identification.

Posted in Uncategorized

Online Marine Life ID courses

November 24th, 2020

As we are not able to hold our usual winter meetings, we have been looking into moving these online. These meetings are by invitation through our newsletter (you can subscribe here).

Our first meeting (on Wednesday the 2nd December) will be:

Echinus esculentus by Mark Woombs
The sea urchin Echinus esculentus, photo by Mark Woombs

Prickly customers – your online guide to echinoderms! by Mark Woombs. (Please note that invitations to this meeting went out in our December newsletter).

Planned future meetings include:

  • The lives of Jellyfish by Gordon Fletcher
  • Identification of phytoplankton by Barry Kaye
  • Crustacea by Lewis Bambury

Barry Kaye

Posted in Events, MCS talks

Maura Mitchell

September 27th, 2020
Maura Mitchell

It is with great sadness that we’ve learned of the death of Maura Mitchell earlier this week. Maura was an MCS member since its inception, and a great friend and supporter of Lancashire MCS. She became known nationally for her friendship with Donald the wild dolphin which had adopted the waters of the Isle of Man filmed by Yorkshire Television and subject of the book ‘Follow a Wild Dolphin’. She co-wrote the guide book ‘Dive Isle of Man’ and had exceptional knowledge and experience of its dive sites and marine life. She will always be remembered for this, and her kindness and support.

Gordon Fletcher

Posted in Uncategorized

Beach survey 2020

August 7th, 2020

The opportunities for communal beach surveys this year are a bit limited, but you can still enjoy a visit to the beach for a (socially distanced) walk or rock-pool hunt, and we have plenty of good beaches to visit around the Bay (so there is no need to crowd!) As we cannot be with you to help you identify what you have found this year; I include a few resources below that might help – so take a photo of what you find, so you can look it up later!

Online photographic guide

Beach finds around Morecambe Bay.
Walking the beaches around Morecambe bay you will find lots of shells – many from cockles – shown live underwater top right above. You can also find evidence of more interesting dwellers in the deeps though: The cuttlebone was one of a pair we found at Half Moon Bay in August 2015 – a live cuttlefish is shown bottom right. Occasionally you will find a dead dogfish on the beach – trapped in the rocks at Heysham point, perhaps, but at the right time of the year you will find lots of mermaid’s purses, which are their egg cases!

National MCS has a nice photographic guide to UK coastal wildlife, which you can access through the link below. The photographs are mostly taken underwater, in the plant or animal’s natural habitat, so you may need to look carefully at a specimen you find in the strand line.

Jellyfish survey 2020

Photo showing two common jellyfish underwater.
The most common jellyfish in the Bay are the Lion’s mane (above left) which can give you a nasty sting (you can see masses of stinging tentacles hanging below the animal in the photo), and the Moon jelly (above right), which is harmless. Lion’s manes can grow to over one hundred meters in length – including their tentacles – making them one of the largest animals on the planet!

Jellyfish are voracious predators on plankton and smaller animals at sea. They live seasonal lives, most die over winter, with a new crop appearing in late spring, and multiplying rapidly to form vast swarms. Fish competed with jellyfish for food, but in some parts of the world, over-fishing has removed this competition, and Jellyfish swarms can become very large indeed.

Unlike fish, jellyfish are not powerful swimmers, and in late summer large numbers from these swarms can be washed up on beaches – where you will often find them beached from the strand line to the water line.

Take care approaching stranded jellyfish – they all rely on stinging cells to paralyse their prey so their tentacles can bring it to their mouths to feed. Jellyfish that live on plankton are safe to handle, but jellyfish that take larger prey items – like small fish – are heavily armed, they will cause painful stings. If you are not sure what you are looking at, don’t touch it, and be aware that fine tentacles may spread out for some distance around the main body or bell, and can stick to shoes, buckets, spades or clothing, and give you a nasty surprise after you have left the beach!

National MCS has a helpful guide to common UK Jellyfish online at the address below. Most of the Jellyfish around Morecambe Bay will be wither Moon Jellyfish (safe), or Lions Manes (look like burst tea bags – can give you a very nasty sting), but we occasionally get rarer individuals or swarms.

You can use the online guide above to identify what you have found, and report more unusual findings to the National MCS below

Local help

We will be happy to try an help you identify plants and animals you find on the beaches around the Bay – if you can take a photo and email it to us at: (replace _AT_ with @). Please tell us where you found it, and whether or not you are happy for us use the photograph on this website.

Barry Kaye

Posted in Science, Shore walks