Thursday, 30 December 2010

Grey Seal in the River Ouse

I recieved a sighting of a seal (the observer said it looked like a grey seal) in the river Ouse near Southease, East Sussex ! The observer, Kirsty, was walking her dogs and the seal suddenly appeared in the water and watched them with interest before slowly floating away backwards (whilst still looking at us) downstream, then disappeared underwater.

Grey seals are not often observed in Sussex waters, so this is an interesting observation.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Seal sighting, Hove Beach

A common seal was hanging around just off the beach at Hove this morning, just opposite the Hove lagoon boating lake. The seal was slowly making its way eastwards towards Brighton.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Seal update

Update on the tagged common seal reported in my previous blog. The seal has been identified by its unique number tag on its flipper. It is a male yearling, which has been named Twinkle.
The seal was taken to the RSPCA on the 13/6/10 from Lowestoft where it was rescued, weighing 21 kg. It was successfully released into the Wash on 18/8/10 weighing 35 kg.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Common seal sighting River Cuckmere, East Sussex

I received a very interesting report of a common seal (from David Harris and Stewart Page) on the gravel/mud bank of the Cuckmere River, on the east side about half mile in from the sea. The time was about 4.20pm.
The seal was laying in a patch of sunlight, but the wind was cold, about 5 metres from the waters edge. It was clear from the photographs (taken by Stewart Page)  that this seal was not the common seal we see from time to time in the River Ouse. The seal appeared to be fit and healthy. It was holding a steady position with tail flippers together and slightly raised with those on its side flat. This is the usual resting position called the banana position because of its shape.
Of particular interest was the fact that the seal had a flipper tag and Stuart was able to get a clear photograph of the number.
I am currently in the process of tracking down the originators of the tag and hope to find out more about its history.

The seal moved its head around but it did not appear to be too anxious and made no attempt to make for the water, which is a seals first instinct if it feels threatened. Stuart and David observed the seal for about 15 minutes before moving on when their border terrier noticed the seal was there. Seals appear not to be disturbed by dogs at a safe distance, but David was worried that the dog would rush down towards the seal.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Roosting starlings at the Brighton Marina

I have seen the starlings roost underneath the Brighton Pier but I have not seen so many on the Brighton Marina before. It was a windy evening and a small flock of starlings turned in to a noisy swirling flock.

 They spiraled down and disappeared beneath the restaurants standing on piles above the water.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Seals at Beachy Head

Yesterday evening I received another seal sighting, this time at falling sands just to the east of Beachy head lighthouse. Two seals were observed by Jack Harris (and his Father) on Sunday 17th October in the morning. On his return  late afternoon one of the seals was still there
Jack took this picture using his mobile phone which clearly shows a dog-shaped head which would indicate a common seal.

A seal, probably the same animal, was also there on Monday 18th October morning and Monday evening.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Seal call out

I was called to a possible injured seal this evening at Saltdean beach (opposite the Lido). Unfortunately the traffic was bad and it was getting dark by the time we got there. It was light enough to see that the seal was not on the pebble beach, or in the water as there was good illumination from moon light. It was difficult to tell
for sure if it was on the rock breakwater or not.

Hopefully this was a healthy seal, which the observer thought was in trouble because seals are not common locally and people are often not used to seeing a seal hauled out. I also encouraged the observer to call British Divers Marine Life Rescue but they arrived just before me and could not find the seal either

We will keep an eye out tomorrow to see if it is still around. It may be the seal that we occasionally see up the nearby River Ouse.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Bottlenose dolphin sighting

I have recently received a dolphin sighting from the Sussex Sea Fisheries. A school of 8-10 large bottlenose dolphins were seen during a routine patrol on the 3rd September at 9.00am. The vessels position 50.44.30N 000.37.02W is approximately 3 miles offshore between Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. The dolphins stayed with the boat for about 2 minutes riding the bow wave.

Compared to sightings when I first started monitoring local sea mammals as regional coordinator for the Sea Watch Foundation, in recent years the number of sightings have been much less. We have had very few bottlenose dolphin sightings off Sussex the last couple of years. Sea Watch Foundation have voiced concern that this species is declining around the UK so the lack of Sussex sightings is worrying. However, me may just be unlucky and not have anyone watching when they pass.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Northen Bottlenose Whale off Sussex

I am following up a probably bottlenose whale sighting, came in 16th August while I was away on holiday. The whale was spotted off shore at Middleton on Sea (near Chichester).

Although this is a deep water species, you may remember that a northern bottlenose whale was stranded at Bournemouth last year and another one was observed off Chichester and then Hampshire in 2008 before, sadly stranding at Hampshire.

Even more exciting, from the point of view of observation, two Northern bottlenose whale where recorded off The Wash area, Norfolk on 9th August during National Whale and Dolphin Watch. However, it is also disturbing to find such deep water species turning up in areas outside their normal range as they usually end up getting into trouble.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Ed the Bear helps out with National Whale and Dolphin Watch

The display table also included some pictures from Ed the Bears adventures, an education project - One World One Ocean. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of global ocean issues and celebrate the fascinating wildlife around the world and on our own doorstep.
The display focused  especially on sea mammal related pictures such as meeting a bottlenose dolphin at Florida Keys Dolphin Research Centre and humpback whale watching in Hawaii. There were also some pictures to do with conservation issues too, Ed helping at an oil spill and cleaning up beach litter. This allowed Ed to promote his message about One World One Ocean.
Ed also took part in the manned watch at Shoreham, newly arrived back from his tour of the USA. He was a little disappointed that he did not see any sea mammals during the watch –especially after his experiences in the US, but he was pleased to help out, as Shoreham is his local beach. Ed’s return to the UK has been delayed due to the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He had originally planned to visit some of the UK watch sites during National Whale and Dolphin Watch (NWDW). You can find out more about his USA adventures on

Ed’s sister Bella, who has helped Ed out in the past, has travelled up to New Quay to help out with NWDW in his place.

National Whale and Dolphin Watch

Its that time of the year again for National Whale and Dolphin Watch Week, running from the 7th-15th August 2010. Members of the public are once again invited to take part in National Whale and Dolphin Watch, either by helping our trained observers on manned watches, performing their own timed watches or by sending in sightings. 28 different species of whale and dolphin have been recorded around the UK and 13 spoecies are seen on a regular basis.
This is an opportunity for everyone to become involved in the research which goes into understanding these magnificent creatures. The event is the ninth consecutive annual watch. The results of the watch provide a snapshot of the distribution of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the British Isles and are helping inform scientific debate on any change in the range and distribution of species.

I ran the Sussex manned watch site at Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve today from until 3.00pm. No cetaceans sighted. While sea conditions were okay for watching we did have a strong SW wind of 3-4 and gusting to 5 on occasions. The sun came out mid watch.
Shoreham Beach also a site of rare vegetated shingle habitat

We had about 9 people who stayed to take part in the watch period.
Recording data

I also had a table set up with local dolphin sightings, and a species ID quiz. This provided the chance to talk to local people visiting the local nature reserve.

The number of people visiting the beach increased with the sun. The ID quiz was particularly aimed at children, but some adults also had a go – and not surprisingly the children often got more right.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Family Fun Day Rock Pooling Event, Friends of Shoreham Beach

The inter-tidal fun day event was as popular as ever, an event I run for the Friends of Shoreham Beach with the help of the countryside rangers. This year we counted over 70 people attending. Before we went down on to the beach we pointed out some of the sea and wading birds that visit the beach to feed on small fish and invertebrates.
This included a cormorant surveying the beach from its perch.
The little egret flying across the beach before landing and hunting in the pools.
The egret would use its foot to disturb the sand and snap up any fish or shrimps.

There were also a few terns, diving for fish
Then we made our way down onto the beach.
The main aim of the event is to introduce people to the fascinating life of the intertidal zone, provide them with some knowledge and skills to come back and explore the beach themselves.

A beach like this has a wealth of marine life waiting to be discovered.

Nestled in amongst the mussels and barnacles on a sea defense in a dog whelk. This predatory sea snail can drill through the shells of mussels and barnacles to fed on the living creature.
Crabs were as popular as ever and generated a lot of questions for the adults and children. There was a lot of questions about the colouration - juvenile crabs have shells that match the habitat they are living in and may be sandy coloured or covered in random blotches of black, white, brown and other colours.

One of the more unusual finds included this snake lock anemone...
...and this compass jellyfish (the latter was a dead stranding).

We provided some small tanks and containers to temporarily keep a few of the animals we discovered so we could talk about them at the top of the beach.

A beadlet anemone

A dog whelk, edible periwinkles and a shore crab
A common shrimp, sandy coloured and flat compared to the transparent prawn. Common shrimps are hunters and can spear small fish, worms and other prey.
Some fisherman had been digging rag worm to use as bait.

A green shore crab

Then after a picnic lunch, the children took part in a beach sculpture activity using pebbles, seaweed and other items they could find on the beach

I was one of the judges, along with Jacky and John from the Friends of Shoreham Beach. Choosing winners was not easy as the designs were very different and each had something special or unusual.
The day was a great success and we managed to avoid the rain which was forecast but did not reach the beach until about an hour after the event ended.

Bottlenose Dolphin Sighting, Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

3 bottlenose dolphins were sighted yesterday afternoon (3rd August). They were observed swimming 200 metres off the coast just east of Bognor Pier. Rough location 50'46'47.12 N 0 40'20.16 W
The dolphins appeared to be feeding, fisherman on the pier were catching mackerel. The dolphins also spent more time swimming on the surface, rather than the usual dive surface dive swimming pattern. The dolphins swam east along the coast and they were visible for about 30 minutes.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Exploring Shoream Beach Local Nature Reserve

Another course, this time as part of the adult education programme for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. To provide an overview of the geneal area, coastal geography, how Shoreham Beach was formed and the maritime history - we started at the Rope tackle Centre on the banks of the River Adur.
This provided the opportunity to introduce the participants to the various topics, including archives images. Part the way through, I handed out some pebbles from Shoreham Beach (similar to the previous school session - see yesterdays blog) for the participants to comment on the pebbles, what they were etc.

The second part of the course was a walk from the Rope Tackle Centre, across the Norfolk bridge, down by the estuary and across to the beach via the house boats. On the way I pointed out the coastal geography and maritime history we had seen in the earlier part of the session. This included the history of the Norfolk bridge(s), the estuary, the houseboats etc. On the estuary we saw various birds including several lapwings, a couple of egrets, and a red shank
Just before we reached the beach we stopped to look at the shingle garden by the Beach Green toilet block.

We then explored the vegetated shingle habitat looking at the plants and wildlife. I provided the participants with ID guides so we could move along as an informal ramble giving the chance for the participants to explore and identify some of the plants.

We eventually walked back down the beach and crossed the river Adur at the footbridge before returning to the Rope tackle for a brief roundup. Several of the participants said they would certainly come back and explore Shoreham and Shoreham Beach later in the year.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Exploring Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve

I worked with a group of students on Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve, one of my Pupil Enrichment Programme session, for West Sussex County Council. The course started in a local school near the nature reserve allowing some classroom preparation.
We started by looking at how varied the Sussex Coastline is in regard to habitat types which include pebble beaches, sandy beaches, sand dunes, chalk cliff and wave cut platform and various coastal developments.

We looked at how the sea can create beaches (such as shingle spits like Shoreham) or erode coastline such as chalk cliffs. The pupils were provided two different scenarios to complete and predict what happens next, a shingle coast and a chalk cliff coast. After this we discussed how Shoreham Beach was formed by longshore drift and the flow of the River Adur.
We looked at how Shoreham Beach has played a major part in local maritime history – such as the port and ship building.
The students were given a selection of pebbles from the beach to identify and comment on their origins.
These included a large flint pebble, piece of flint from the South Downs, chalk, sea coal, a brown flint, a long shaped flint and quartzite.

Much of the day was spent investigating the local nature reserve. The students were divided into two groups and took turns in various activities.

This included a beach transect survey from the top of the beach to the shingle crest identifying and recording the numbers of each species present.
Group 1
Group 2
This helps to build up a profile of the plant communities.

Another activity involved students looking for adaptation features that different shingle plants use to survive in this harsh habitat, from a list provided.
Once they had found a plant with the adaptation, they then used identification guides to identify the actual plant.

Two separate animal surveys took place, one to record generally the birds, lizards and invertebrates that visit the shingle plant habitat.
House sparrows
Wall lizard

The second focusing on recording three types of bee, to also discover which plant species they favour.
Two banded white-tailed bumble bee on silver ragwort.

We finished the day back at the school with a recap of what we had done, what they had discovered and a general round up and a chance for final questions.