Loch Sunart, an underwater journey, by Mark Woombs

October 26th, 2021

At the George and Dragon, Wednesday November 10th at 19:30. Donations requested to Lancashire MCS.

Loch Sunart marine life montage by Mark Woombs

Photograph above: Designated a Marine Protected area to protect (bottom images from left to right) flame shells, Northern feather stars and serpulid worms; the protection of Loch Sunart has allowed the recovery of species such as the spur dog, a relative of the catshark (top). All photos by Mark Woombs

Join marine biologist Mark Woombs as he explores the underwater life of Loch Sunart; from the Sound of Mull to the sheltered waters at the head of the Loch by Strontian (the only town in the world to have a chemical element named after it!). Loch Sunart has been designated as a ‘Scottish Marine Protected Area’, and features a wide range of habitats that are home to some of the most interesting and colourful marine life in British waters.

Please help prevent the spread of COVID by taking a Lateral Flow Test on the morning before joining us!

Posted in Events, MCS talks, Science

GB Beach Clean 2021

September 30th, 2021
Beach cleaners at Half Moon Bay, Heysham

A big thanks to everyone who turned out on Sunday for the MCS Great British Beach Clean at Half Moon Bay, Heysham. Despite the downpour just before the event we had a good turn out – and the weather turned warm and sunny! Again the beach was pretty clean, allowing us to clean the entire length of the beach down to the high tide mark, collecting only 3.2kg of litter. This did, however, included some sanitary waste – wet-wipes, panty liners, ear cleaners and dog poo, so there is still room for improvement! National MCS will collect all of the data and publish it on their website.

Our next beach clean will be in early December, but we have a short set of winter talks planned starting before then, in November. If you would like to keep up to date with activities, please sign up for our Newsletter:

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We do not share subscription details with anyone else without your prior permission; you can unsubscribe at any time through the link at the foot of the Newsletter, or through the subscribe/unsubscribe page above (and linked from all pages on our website).

Report by Barry Kaye

Posted in Beach Clean, Events, litter

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

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

Invisible World: marine primary production

February 5th, 2019

Man and animals are in reality vehicles and conduits of food, tombs of animals, hostels of Death, coverings that consume, deriving life by the death of others. Leonardo da Vinci

Plants are rather different – quietly converting sunlight into the food we need to survive; the shepherd with his grazing flock is the subject of a painting, the meadow, a beaucolic backdrop. In the worlds oceans, however, the plants that form the meadow are microscopic – completely invisible to the naked eye. Indeed, for most of the 20th century, the main players remained elusive even to the best optical microscopes!

Over the last decade or so satellite imagery, coupled to unmanned submersibles, have begun to reveal the true extent of marine ‘plant life’. We find a complex, dynamic pattern of blooms, and rapid disappearances keyed to the seasons, currents and climate. Alongside this, genetics has begun to unravel the complexities of the interrelationships between the different groups of marine plants – and animals…

Join us on Wednesday 13th February between⋅19:30 and 21:00 at the Gregson Centre, 33 – 35 Moor Gate, Lancaster LA1 3PY for a personal look at some of the recent research in this area.
Admission £3.00, everybody welcome!

Posted in Events, Marine science update, MCS talks, Science

Marine Jellies

December 3rd, 2017

Photograph of the jellyfish Aequorea vitrina, by Gordon Fletcher

Contributing to the festive season, we have an illustrated talk on ‘Marine Jellies’ by Gordon Fletcher on the 13th December. Gordon is a good story teller, and an excellent marine life photographer. I cannot think of a more able person to bring some of the strangest and most beautiful creatures in our seas to life for us!

Wed. 13th December 1t 19:30 ‘Marine Jellies’ by Gordon Fletcher (Lancashire MCS)
Meeting in the cinema upstairs at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY. Admission £2 – all are welcome!

Posted in Events, MCS talks, Science

Morecambe kite festival 2017

July 1st, 2017

The MCS stand at the Morecambe kite festival 2017

The Saturday of the kite festival was particularly windy this year, and with a high tide at mid day there was not much beach to fly kites from, but still an excellent display. It was fun to see a diver (being chased by a very wide mouthed shark;-), and multi-coloured squid floating above the Bay, rather than swimming beneath its waters!

Diver and squid kites at Catch the wind 2017

Despite the wind our stand had a steady stream of visitors, and it was a pleasure, as every year, to chat to people about the diversity of life in the Bay. This year we had a collection of typical finds from the local beaches, including cuttlebones and a range of shark and ray egg cases, making a nice symmetry with the kites! Lewis also brought along a couple of Common Skate egg cases found on the Orkney Isles. Sadly, whilst these were common (it’s in the name!) they are now almost extinct, and it will take a major change in attitude towards marine resource management for us to find these on the shores of Morecambe Bay again.

Thanks to everyone who visited our stand over the weekend, and special thanks to Jo, Lewis, Hilary and Gordon for helping out over the two days, and Kathy for organising!

Kites at Morecambe kite festival 2017

Posted in Events

The scar at Sandylands

June 6th, 2017

Walking out to the Sandylands fishtrap with reef or scar in the background.

I think we approached the evening of Saturday 27th May with some concern, the hot weather earlier in the week had turned to heavy thunder storms, and our walk accross to the scar at Sandylands looked rather questionable! In the event the weather abated, and the rain only appeared on our walk back, allowing us to enjoy a rather interesting and historic marine landscape.

Scars (or skears) are a common geological formation in the Bay, periodically adding a bit of texture in the form of glacial boulder-clay deposites to flat mud and sands. Off Sandylands this feature has clearly been of historic importance, given the number of posts indicating fish traps. Apparently these had been in use until the early 1960’s, and while they looked like conventional fish traps, (a ‘V’ shape narrowing to trap the fish in its point as the tide goes out), anecdotally they may have been associated more with mussel farming. Indeed the reef is in part covered by a large mound of mussel shells. Interspersed in the mussel shells were oyster shells – our local species of oyster was wiped out by disease a hundred years ago, and these worn shells my have been relicts of the time when they were still plentiful.

Gordon talking about some of the finds

Many of the boulders in the scar were completely covered in barnacles, or the swirling patterns of the honeycombe worm reefs. Other animals of interest included anemones, sandhoppers, a grey nudibranch, and tiny common and hermit crabs, that have recently settled to the bottom from their planktonic larval stages.

All in all, an excellent and educational experience. Many thanks to Gordon for organising this, and making an appearance despite having raced in the thunderstorms earlier in the day!

Atmospheric walk back to Morecambe

Posted in Events, Shore walks

Deposit and return for plastic bottles

February 23rd, 2017

We have debated deposit and return for plastic bottles a couple of times in our public meetings, and I hope that many of you feel that charging a refundable deposit on all plastic bottles would be a good idea.

To get an idea of the scale of the problem; in 2007 approximately 13 billion plastic bottles of water were sold in the UK(1). It only takes a tiny number of people to toss their empty bottles aside, rather than recycling or even putting it in a bin for landfill, to make for an enormous mountain of rubbish that is going to litter  streets, our parks and the countryside around us.

Some of the rubbish dropped on land will be collected, by council workers or volunteers, but most of the plastic that ends up in the sea is going to be there for the next couple of hundred years. Here it is slowly ground up until it is small enough to eat…

A deposit scheme would reward people for returning plastic bottles for collection and recycling, and should have a positive impact on the urban landscape, and reduce significantly the numbers of bottles we find on our beaches – in 2016 the Great British Beach Clean recovered an average of 12.5 plastic bottles from every 100m of beach cleaned(2).

Over the past few years there have been a number of campaigns to increase general awareness of plastic as a litter problem. Finally, plastic bottles at least look to be a problem that we can solve, as large companies like Coca-Cola have come around to supporting a deposit scheme(3). If these large corporations think it can be made to work, there is a chance that our government can be made to listen.

You can support the Surfers Against Sewage campaign by adding your name to their petition on 38 Degrees:

Bring back bottle deposits to stop plastic pollution in our oceans.

Bary Kaye (Chair, Lancashire MCS)

References:

(1) Should we be using bottled water? Published by the Environmental Technology Centre, University of Nottingham

(2) Great British Beach Clean results 2016, Published by the MCS

(3) Coca-Cola supports Deposit Return System published by Surfers Against Sewage.

Posted in Beach Clean, Events

The rough and the smooth

January 4th, 2017

Wednesday 11th January 2017 at 7:30PM Two talks looking at how life has adapted to conquer marine environments at opposite extremes of the energy spectrum. Still Waters (and muddy bottoms) by Barry Kaye and Exposed Shores by Gordon Fletcher.
Upstairs in the Cinema at the Gregson Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY.
£2.00 admission, all welcome!

Please note we have added a beach clean to our calendar for Sunday, 5th March. This will be at Half Moon Bay, meeting at the Cafe car park at 11AM. Please bring suitable clothing/footwear and tough gloves to protect your hands while picking.

Posted in Events, MCS talks