Monthly Meetings

February 11th, 2011

The first two meetings of 2011 were very well attended. They both had quite different themes and each provided all present with a most enjoyable evening.

The January meeting started off with a quick AGM followed by the annual photo. competition. the competition had three categories , Underwater, Above water and Humorous images. Entrants were allowed to submit a total of  four images across the three categories. We had 32 images from 8 entrants, and the winners were:-

Above water, Lewis Bambury. –    Underwater, Mark Piotrowski. – Humorous, Christine Fletcher.

Congratulations to all the winners. (Images can be seen on a previous post).

Janet Preece from Blackpool & Fylde Coll. was the speaker at the February  meeting, the subject of her presentation was marine mammals.  Janet briefly covered the whole range of marine mammals from the small sea otters to the giant blue whales.  Many interesting facts emerged, we heard about the extremely dense fur sea otters have in place of a fatty layer which protects them from the cold and the oily footprint  left on the surface by a sperm whale when it submerges.  Much of the presentation focused on the  sea lions, walrus and seals with the emphasis on the two species of seal, the common or harbour seal and the much more common grey or Atlantic seal  that inhabit our UK coastal waters.  Features to look out for when attempting to identify the different species of the various groups and the many threats to the survival of these animals were explained in some detail.  The whole presentation was both educational and entertaining and fully enjoyed by the whole audience.  Thank you Janet.

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Photo competition winners

February 9th, 2011

Here are the winners from the 2011 Lancashire MCS photo competition. Winners are divided into three sections – above water, below water, and humour. Winning photos were by popular acclaim at the January AGM:

Click any picture for a larger version, images are copyright as indicated.

Above water winner: Shanny by Lewis Bambury
Shanny by Lewis Bambury

Underwater winner: Ribbon fish by Mark Piotrowski
Ribbon fish by Mark Piotrowski
Humour winner: Christmas on Crosby Beach by Christine Ryan.
Christmas on Crosby Beach by Christine Ryan.

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Seaweed guide

January 11th, 2011
Cover of the 'Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland'
The Seasearch 'Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland'

Seasearch has recently released a guide to the seaweeds of Britain and Ireland. This excellent ID guide fills a space in the market. It has full colour photographs, size and location guides for over 200 seaweeds found around our coasts. Armed with this you will never need to attend a basic seaweed ID course again – so I’ll have to think of other ways of getting algae into our annual lecture series!

Best of all, there are copies available at a cut down price of (I think) £14.50 (c.f. the normal retail price of £16.95). Numbers are limited, please contact Mandy at one of our meetings to reserve yours!

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Sea Mice

November 24th, 2010

I was in Cleveleys this Sunday (21/11) and a on short diversion down to the beach I counted 20 dead sea mice Aphrodita aculeata on a 2 or 3 metre stretch of the hight tide strand.  The tide was in so there wasn’t much beach to look at and I couldn’t tell if this was a localised collection or if it was typical of the whole shore. Got to admit that there was a bit too much dog muck on the beach for me to want to look much further!

Dead sea mice on Cleveleys beach 21/11/10
Sea mice washed up on Cleveleys beach

miceThis was striking to me as a diver because sea mice are creatures that we rarely see.  I would guess that I’ve done something of the order of 300 dives in British seas and in that time I’ve seen 3 sea mice.  That’s a 1 in 100 dive ratio of sightings.  So 20 – admittedly dead – in one smal area is unusual.  It also has some interesting similarites to a sighting of a large number of sea mice made by Lancashire MCS members on a dive in Loch Fyne in November.  Follow up dives were arranged in subsequent years to see if this was a regular occurence (I saw 2 of my total count on one of these dives) but nothing conclusive was found again.  Maybe we should have been looking a bit closer to home?  

What else was there on the beach?  You can see a mermaid’s purse – probably a dogfish’s – in the debris behind the sea mice.  I was also quite surprised to find jellyfish stranded. It’s not a time of year that I would have thought of for strandings. Didn’t see any leatherbacks though. 

Stranded jelly fish, Cleveleys 21/11/10
Stranded jelly fish, Cleveleys 21/11/10

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Gulf Oil Spill

November 18th, 2010

On November 10th at our monthly meeting Barry Kaye gave an excellent illustrated talk on the Gulf Oil Spill. He explained in the most clear and concise way the complexity not only of the problem, but also of the solutions.

It quickly became clear that the human thirst for petrol and diesel driven mobility drives the demand for oil, and that if the economics are right, it will be extracted from the most inaccessible or environmentally sensitive places. The great depth of the Gulf of Mexico site produced it’s own problems, but BP was using ‘state of the art’ technology at the time. There are clearly questions about the quality of some of the technology, but we also learned that this was far from a unique case, instead it is just the latest of a series of accidents in the gulf, involving more than just the BP company.

It would seem that any idea of the Gulf spill having been ‘cleaned up’ is just a cosmetic illusion. The shores and wetlands are a very visible indication of what has been achieved there, and dispersants have removed the oil from the surface waters, but this is just a fraction of the larger impact of the spill. The less obvious but greater impact is out of sight in the mid-depth waters of the Gulf, and on the deeper sea bed. Only time will tell what the longer term impacts are on the ecology of these waters, which in turn will have an impact on surface and inshore marine life.
Gordon Fletcher.

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New diary of events

November 15th, 2010

We’ve just added our events diary for January to May 2011 – some good talks to look forward to plus lots of things to get involved with: beach cleans, our annual photo comp., coastal walks and dive/walking/survey trips up to the West Coast of Scotland.

MCS Diary

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Lune Deeps Dive October 2010

November 8th, 2010

The Lune Deeps are not known for crystal clear visibility. To dive here you have to have the right weather, the right tides, and these have to coincide with time that you can spare to go diving. I have to admit that it would be a first for me. So I was very lucky to get a phone call from Ian at Darwen SAC inviting me on a survey dive in the Deeps. This did mean getting up at 4:00 am a couple of days later on an October Sunday morning, in order to get to Knott End in time to launch for the high tide slack water, but these opportunities don’t come up very often and I grabbed it while I could.  

Setting up gear in the car park, it had the feeling of a night dive in the dark. Boats launched, we set off for the chosen site with the sun rising above Blackpool, turning the sky over the bay shades of pink. Fantastic – as a diver what more can you ask for?  

hornwrack, starfish, and edible crab 


Well there’s the dive. The plan was to drop to the sea bed at about 10m just out of the deeps, and to swim over the edge and down the slope; each buddy pair to have a surface marker buoy visible. Things went pretty much to plan for us, we found the sea bed and managed to work down the slope to 30m. We could have gone deeper but my – borrowed – computer had run out of no-stop time and I was wary of running it into decompression. 

Greater Pipefish
A Greater Pipefish Syngnathus acus


So, what was it like? Where we started the sea bed had quite a few fist sized pebbles and was silty enough that any misplaced fin kick would reduce visibility to zero; this wasn’t too much of a problem as the tide was running fast enough to move us smartly along and clear the silt away. At the end of the dive we got a glimpse of a clearer, more gravelly sea bed. Throughout one of the most striking things was that the dominant species was bryzoan Hornwrack Flustra foliacea, which is quite an unusual habitat to find yourself diving. The silt covering meant that much of the benthic fauna was difficult to discern, but there was still plenty to see, with numerous Coryphella nudibranchs and even a large Triton Sea Slug Tritonia hombergi. As well as some butterfish and a greater pipefish we did find an area with quite a few goldsinny wrasse, which was a bit of a surprise; several people reported seeing large dogfish.  

Sponge and hydroids
A sponge (Dysidea fragilis I think) and Oaten pipe hydroids Tubularia indivisia.


An interesting dive, but considering the size of the area that we covered there is still plenty of the deeps undived and waiting to be explored. Would I do it again – certainly.


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Beachwatch, Heysham, 2010

September 20th, 2010

Members of the Group joined forces with members of the Morecambe & Heysham Soroptomists organisation on Saturday 18th. September to conduct a beach clean and litter survey at Half Moon Bay, Heysham. The survey was part of  a National survey of beach litter organised by the Marine Conservation Society over the weekend 18/19th.  Sept. This annual event attracts thousands of volunteers to clean and record the litter on hundreds of beaches all around the UK coast.  Litter on Britain’s  beaches has more than doubled since the surveys began in the early 1990’s. Most items of  litter recorded , in excess of 60%  are made from plastic and in the region of 40%  of the litter is left by visitors who come to enjoy the beach. We hold quarterly litter surveys at Half Moon Bay, Heysham,  the next one will be on Sunday 19th. December 2010 at11.30am. Why not come along and help?

Group with collected litter.


Photo. images by kind permission of Christine Fletcher.

The weigh in

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Wildlife in the Albert dock, Liverpool

September 18th, 2010

The centre of a modern city is not usually where you’d expect to find wildlife, but when the city is a port, like Liverpool, the dock areas provide a suitable habitat for a wide range of life!

The footage (linked below) was posted by BBC North West Tonight, and originaly broadcast on Tuesday 14th September 2010. Well worth a look, especially if you thought that old shopping trolleys were the only things you’d be likely to find! The video shows a colourful range of local and imported wildlife:

Underwater video in the Albert dock

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Shore Walk 11 August 2010

August 18th, 2010
broad clawed porcelain crab
a broad clawed porcelain crab in the palm of a hand

Thanks to everyone who turned up to brave a rather windy Roa Island.  Unfortunately the wind made it difficult to see into pools and the sea at the shore line, and the sky was overcast meaning little light for photography.  However it didn’t rain (much) and I think everyone had an interesting time looking for critters with the tide out so far.   I was really happy to see the two species of porcelain crab – broad clawed Porcellana platycheles and long clawed Pisidia longicornis – as these have been recorded here before and I have been looking for them at Roa without success.  Unfortunately I left my survey sheets in the car at the car share point, but I think it was probably more enjoyable as an informal event anyway; if anyone has any lists/records of what they saw it would be really useful to have a copy to compare with past data. 

hermit crab
A hermit crab sizes up a potential new home. It has a firm grip on this new shell, but does it already have an occupant?

The oldest data we have for Roa Island is a survey by Clare & Jones from 1968 and exercises like this walk highlight the rapidly changing landscape of scientific knowledge and naming of species.  For instance, one find I have made preparing for the shore walk was the strawberry anenome Actinia fragacea; this species does not appear on the Clare & Jones survey, so is it a new species for this area?  The  answer is that we can’t tell – in 1968 the strawberry anenome was widely regarded as a colour form of the beadlet anenome Actinia equina, which does appear on the Clare & Jones list and so it could easily have been present.  Despite having some excellent baseline data we have to be very careful how we compare our findings today back to it.

A sponge is stranded on the shore at low tide

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