Roa Island Beach Walk and Dive

August 10th, 2015

The evening of Saturday 1st August was overcast, with a cold wind, but dry. A small band of us worked down the beach by the new ferry jetty at Roa, following the tide out. The access way used in the construction of the new pier is still comparatively free of marine life, as are the scour pits around the jetty supports, it will be interesting to see how quickly this area gets re-colonised!

Male edible crab (Cancer pagarus) with parasitic barnacle.
Above: One of the interesting finds form the shore walk was this edible crab (Cancer pagurus) carrying a parasitic barnacle.

Peering in rock-pools and under stones we found a range of plants and animals, including the small male edible crab shown above. Despite being male (indicated by the narrow abdomen tucked up under the carapace) he appears to bearing eggs, but the abdomen is actually tucked around the reproductive organs of a parasitic barnacle (Sacculina triangularis). She will have infected the crab by burrowing into his shell shortly after he moulted. Over a period of time she invades the host’s tissues, and re-programs him, castrating him, dictating future moults (despite his small size, this crab may be quite old!) and re-directing much of his energy to the developing barnacle young.

The young barnacles will be released in the nauplius stage of development, when the females will go on to infect future generations of crabs, whilst the males will develop only as far as cyprids, in which stage they will impregnate established females. Parasitic barnacles are common on crabs, and some crab species have infection rates of up to 50% of the adult population. As a consequence parasites are an important factor in limiting crab populations.

Spider crab camoflaged in sponges.
Above: Spider crab (Macropodia sp.) wearing sponge camouflage.

On Saturday 8th August we made the most of a narrow weather window to get a dive at Roa, effectively taking the shore walk out into the permanently submerged part of the channel. Diving conditions were very good for the area, with underwater visibility between 0.5 and 1m. I was paying a bit more attention to seaweeds on this occasion, to try and make up for years of neglect in our usual species hunt, and they were a good range of species between sea level (ca. 2m tide) and about 5m depth. The water in the Bay is generally quite murky, largely as a consequence of the amounts of phytoplankton in the water. These phytoplankton blooms make the Bay one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, but paradoxically they make life difficult for permanently attached seaweeds, which tend to be stunted, and restricted to comparatively shallow water. Otherwise we saw lots of anemones, crabs, sponges and butterfish. The numbers of peacock worms may be down on previous years, but the general impression is one of a thriving ecosystem.

The butterfish, Pholis gunnellus, a common sighting at Roa.
Above: The butterfish Pholis gunnellus is a common sight at Roa. It gets its name from its slippery, slime-covered body. In previous years we have seen young butterfish taking refuge within the tentacles of the larger anemones (Urticina spp.), where their slime may protect them from being stung and eaten by the anemone, whilst the anemone protects them from other predators.

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Posted in dive trips, Science, Shore walks

Beach clean (8th July)

August 9th, 2015

Cuttlebone - provides lift for the Cuttlefish, allowing it to hover in the water without expending energy swimming.
Cuttlebone – provides lift for the Cuttlefish, allowing it to hover in the water without expending energy swimming.

A few interesting natural history finds amidst the litter on the the July Beach Clean at Half Moon Bay, Heysham. These included a dead porpoise, two adult cuttlebones and some wireweed (Sargassum muticum).

Cuttlebones are the internalised shells of cuttlefish, formed of delicate lemellae and filled with gas, the organ holds the live cuttlefish at a fixed height in the water column, without them having to expend energy swimming. They also limit the maximum depth this animal can attain, as below 50m or so the cuttlebone would implode. A mating pair of cuttlefish were seen by group members at Roa Island some years ago.

The porpoise was a rather sad sight, there are not many reports of these animals in Morecambe Bay, with its shallow waters and treacherous tides. The state of decomposition suggested that the corpse may have drifted in from elsewhere…

Wireweed is not native to British waters, having been introduced accidentally with Pacific Oysters, which are bred around the coastline.

Posted in Beach Clean, Science, Shore walks

Morecambe Bay Kite Festival

July 5th, 2015

Kathy manning the stand at the Kite Festival.

The MCS had a stall at the Catch The Wind Kite Festival in Morecambe for the first time this year. The event had good weather, and there were a lot of people passing through, listening to music, or admiring the kites. We had quite a few people drop in on the stall, and I was pleased to see that many of the kites were marine themed, including an octopus and a pair of blue whales!

We are very grateful to the event organisers MoreMusic for providing us with space at this event, and to Kathy for enthusiastically manning our stand!

Red herring pennants flying at Kite Festival 2015

Above: Red (green and blue) herrings flying above the promenade at Morecambe during the kite festival, June 2015.

Posted in Events, Shore walks, Uncategorized

Events in June

May 28th, 2015

With the start of summer, we have a lot of practical events coming up for you! We begin with two events celebrating World Environment Day:

Friday 5th June 14:30-18:00: Gordon is leading the ‘Morecambe Bay Safari’ at the Royal Hotel, Heysham. This is followed by a guided beach walk. Meeting organised by MBP; £5 admission, booking essential: morecambebay.org.uk/events/marine-life-bay

Friday 5th June 18:00 to 18:00 6th June: Members of the MCS will be helping out at the Stanah BioBlitz (Wyre Estuary Country Park, River Road, Stanah, FY5 5LR). We will have a stand at this event on the Saturday, but local members will be available for much of the rest of the event, helping to ID marine life from two boat trawls of the estuary itself.

Following this we have our first meeting of the year at Capernwray Dive Centre:

Wednesday 10th June 19:30-20:30 Morecambe Bay Cycle Way by Louise Smail. This will look at the new cycle way which now runs along the whole length of the Bay. Admission £2, all welcome. Download our poster (PDF, 102kB), or view the location in Google Maps.

Saturday 20th June 11:00 to 11:00 21st June: The Formby BioBlitz will be attended by members of the National MCS

Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th June we hope to have a stand at the Morecambe Bay Kite Festival

hope you can join us!

Barry Kaye
(Chairman, Lancashire MCS)

Posted in MCS talks, Shore walks

Sefton Coastal Path Walk, March 2014

March 1st, 2014

Sefton Coastal Path Part 1: Linear walk from Waterloo (Crosby) to Formby
Saturday 22nd March 2014

Meeting at Ainsdale Station car park, Chesterfield Rd, Ainsdale at 09:50am (in time to buy a ticket and catch the 10:07am train to Waterloo). The car park is free for all rail users. Grid Ref SD 311122

The walk is a mixture of tarmac surfaces (minor roads, promenade and cycle tracks), rough tracks, footpaths , sand dunes and the beach. The distance is about 8 miles, with the option of an extension near Formby, The route includes Antony Gormley’s statues at Crosby and varied coastal and inland scenery (a lengthy inland detour is necessary to avoid the Altcar Army Range).

Return is by train from Formby Station to Ainsdale Station. Trains are at 07, 22, 37 and 52 minutes past the hour.

Bring food and drink for the day, waterproofs and sunglasses (depending on the weather)

Footwear – walking boots or sturdy shoes are recommended, some mud is possible.

Return train tickets are currently £4.15 (adult).

There is a toilet at Aisndale station which can be opened for rail users. Also toilets at Waterloo Interchange (30p as 5p 10p or 20p coins). There is also a toilet at Hall Road on the route of the walk (30p, 10p coins only) .

Maps Landranger no 108 (Liverpool) or Explorer Nos. 275 and 285.

Posted in Shore walks

Ribble Way Walk, Jan 2014

November 24th, 2013

Saturday 25th January 2014 at 10:00hrs, walk organised by Hilary Parkes

Meet: Outside the Visitor Centre at Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve at 10:00. Free car-parking is available inside the reserve. Grid Reference SD 479 251 Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve on Google maps

Walk: Along minor roads, across fields then along the Ribble Way to Liverpool Rd, Penwortham. Distance about 8 miles.

Return: Bus number 2 or 2A from Penwortham Library to entrance to the Brickcroft (near the junction of Hall Lane and Liverpool Rd.) There are two buses an hour.

Bring: A hot drink and some food. There is a bakery opposite the entrance of the Brickcroft.

Footwear: Walking books recommended – some parts of the route are likely to be muddy.

WCs: The visitor centre at the Brockcroft is usually only open in the afternoon (12:30 to 16:00). Booths oin Liverpool Rd, Longton, PR4 5NB has a customer WC and a cafe (on the RH side of your route if driving from Preston)

Maps: Landranger no 102 or Explorer 286

Posted in Shore walks

Images from the Roa Island shore walk (August 14th 2013)

August 15th, 2013

Presented by Lewis Bambury at Capernwray Dive Centre, this talk reviewed some of the photographs taken on the shore walk at Roa Island in July, and put this into the broader context of our previous surveys of this area.

Parasite Lernaeenicus sprattae shown on a juvenile spratt, and after removal
The parasite Lernaeenicus sprattae shown on a juvenile spratt, and after removal

One of our mystery organisms (pictured) was a parasite on one of the juvenile spratts caught in the rock pools. Lewis had narrowed it down to probably being a copepod, and this was confirmed by David Fenwick and Mike Moon, who identified the species as Lernaeenicus sprattae. Commonly seen on Spratts in UK waters, it gets its name from its preferred feeding mode, attached to the eye of the unfortunate fish. Extensive parasitism is possible, and this can result in considerable deterioration in the health of individual fish. The two green appendages are egg sacks.

Some of the other organisms featured in the talk are shown int he gallery below, alongside some photos taken underwater on the same site:

Posted in Marine science update, MCS talks, Shore walks

Roa Island Shore Walk

July 25th, 2013

Group on the shore at Roa

We had a very enjoyable visit to the beach at Roa Island on 24th August July, the weather was super, the water (fairly) warm, and there was plenty to see; so a great success! We will be looking at some of the photos taken at our meeting in August (see our diary for up to date details), and putting these into context of our long-standing interest in the marine life at Roa, and the Bay area in general.

Thanks to everyone for coming along – we look forward to seeing you again in August!

Posted in Shore walks

Roa Island dive 19th June 2013

June 20th, 2013

Roa lifeboat station and Piel Island at sunset just after HW

Above: Photograph of the Roa Island lifeboat station at sunset, with Piel Castle in the background, taken Wednesday 19 June 2013

Our next monthly meeting will take place at Roa Island, a site which has been visited and surveyed by our group for at least twenty years! The meeting, from 18:30 on Wednesday 24 July, is an informal shore walk to coincide with an exceptionally low tide, so we hope to see a lot of sea life exposed on the beach and in small pools that we would normally have to dive so see.

Just so the divers aren’t left out, we have a small number of high water dives planned in the run up to the shore walk*. The first of these was on the 19th June in near perfect conditions. Diving close by the pier and lifeboat station we saw a number of the same creatures underwater, that we will get to see exposed in a few weeks time.

At our August meeting (back at Capernwray Dive Centre) we hope to bring together the shore walk and dives (and maybe earlier survey work) to get a ‘hands on’ picture of life above and below the tide at this very interesting local site.

Please note: The walk in July is suitable for (accompanied) children, but be aware that the beach is very muddy, and you should wear shoes or boots that you are happy to get wet and dirty. If you bring a camera – best to have an underwater housing for it in case… You are free to explore, but most people stay within site of the pier, so it is not important if you arrive late.

Journey time from Lancaster – about one and a half hours, all welcome!

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* Please note that dives at Roa Island are very dependent upon the weather, so there are a number of possible dates in the diary that we shall ‘cherry pick’ from…

Posted in dive trips, MCS talks, Shore walks

Circular walk around Warton Crag and Silverdale

March 16th, 2013

Walk planned for Saturday 13 July

Meet: Warton Crag car park on Crag Rd Warton at 10:00am. This large, free, car-park is situated in an former quarry.Grid Ref: SD 492723. Please share cars if possible. There are no public toilets at the car park, or in Warton Village.

Route: Leave M6 at J35. Take A601(M) to J35a. Take A6 North. After about 0.6 miles turn left on a minor road to Warton. Turn left along Main Street then right into Crag Rd. Warton Crag car park is on the right, approx 0.5 miles along the road.

Walk: A circular walk around Warton Crag and Silverdale taking in Crag Foot, Quaker’s Stang, Jenny Brown’s Point and Jack Scout. A mixture of footpaths, bridleways, embankments, shoreline and some minor roads. Varied landscape, superb views and attractive woodland.

Distance: About 9 miles depending upon the wishes of those coming and the weather. The highest point is Warton Crag (163m) and lowest is the seashore,. Quite a lot of ups and downs with a few short steep sections.

Bring: Food for lunch and a drink. At least 1L of liquid if the weather is hot. Walking boots are recommended – as the limestone quarry can be slippery when wet.

Maps: OS Landranger no 97 Kendal, or Explorer OL no 7, Lakes SE.

Posted in Shore walks