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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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:
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.
Thank you to Jane and Kathy (above), who represented the MCS at the Wyre Estuary country park show on the 31st July 2016, where the mobile beach and quiz were great attractions. £50 was raised, £31 from pin badge sales (going to national MCS) and £20 from sales towards to local group.
Good weather encouraged a lot of people out onto the Morecambe prom to enjoy this year’s festival, with kites and music to stun or serenade! We spoke to about 150 people over the two days at our booth by the Platform, with quizes and ID practice for young and old at our dedicated mini-beach.
Exhibits included egg cases (‘mermaid’s purses’) from common members of the shark family to be found in Morecambe Bay. The star being the egg case of a ‘common skate’ – sadly now approaching extinction (there are fewer skate left than giant pandas). A reminder that while the Bay is no longer an open sewer, only though continuing efforts to conserve, protect and preserve our marine heritage will our children see evidence of these sea giants that our grandparents considered commonplace…
A big thank-you to everyone who dropped by, and all those who helped out with activities and on the stall!
Morecambe Bay Kite Festival, 16-17 July 2016