Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Dead Sea Turtle on Worthing Beach

I have just received a message form Graham at the Seafront Office at Worthing in West Sussex with a report of a dead marine turtle at splash point.
When they arrived on the scene they were able to tell that the turtle was dead and measured 1 and a half meters in length. The turtle was located the turtle due south of Coast CafĂ©.

Looking at the number of scales on the shell I was say this is a loggerhead turtle, Graham also suggested this species.

Tropical Sea turtles do turn up around our shore from time to time and because of the colder water (and reptiles being cold blooded) they become sluggish and don't feed and then if not rescued they usually die.
The cause of death is not know at present, the underside looked concave so it may have starved or it could have ingested plastic, but we will have to wait for the post mortem. I will update if more information is available.


Monday, 30 September 2013

Sussel Seal Sightings update September 2013

Lots of fascinating seal activity in Sussex continues through September. Highlights reported below.

2nd September                                                                                                                          The grey seal is still being reported in the Arun, lower reaches of the river today.

A common seal pup was seen in Shoreham harbour for the first time today. The report came from Shoreham Port Authority and concerned a young seal on a fisherman raft in the lady Bee Basin. I received the report 30 minutes before I was due to leave for a marine educator’s conference being held at Plymouth University (more about the conference later). So I passed the information to British Divers marine Life Rescue and was attended by Elaine who I have worked with from time to time on local seals. The seal was within the lock dates – unusual however there are a lot of fish so potential prey to fatten the seal up as it is a little thin.

3rd Sept                                                                                                                              More on the seal pup at Shoreham. A berth holder tried to approach the seal and frightened it into the water.  It then seemed to spend a couple of hours fishing and then disappeared. 
5th Sept
The Shoreham seal may now have gone back through the lock gates and spotted near the harbour mouth. Reports from Shoreham Port suggest there may be three seals present near the West Breakwater.
7th Sept    
                                                                                                                                                  A report from Matt. I came back in on my boat from a day's fishing and was hanging around waiting for the lock gate to open when up popped this seal only about 100 yards from the locks. Didn't get any pictures as the gate opened then and I had to go in.
9th Sept                                                                                                                                 Another update form BDMLR. Finally got a chance to see the Shoreham pup on Saturday and take some photos. He's looking good and apparently, according to people I spoke to, he's catching his own fish and eating them, which is great. He should soon start putting on weight with all the fish and eels in the port. I watched him from 4:30 to 5 PM, and then he went in the water when someone accidentally frightened him. According to Sibella, he'd been there all day.
8th September
Another report of the grey seal in the Arun, from Nige. Today I was kayaking in the river Arun by Arundel and spotted the seal, he continued to swim alongside us for about 45minutes.
Another report on the Shoreham Seal reporting it to be seen regularly at the eastern arm. It’s possible that you've already been made aware it, but we just wanted to relay that

9th September 
More on the Arun Grey Seal. A member of the public was walking along the Arun, this afternoon, near to the Wetland Centre at Arundel. They spotted, what they first thought was a dog in trouble in the water about 100 yards from them. They reported “I called out and whistled to it and was pleased to see it responded by changing its course to head for us. I carried on calling to it, as it appeared very low in the water.
As it neared us and the bank I was completely amazed to see a rather large Grey Seal lift its head and shoulders out of the water, take a good look at us and then, after a few moments, submerge and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared!
The time was approx. 14.20”.

11th September    
                                                                                                                                              Grey Seal report from Ian. Just to let you know we saw the seal again this morning at 08-30 swimming up river, he was close to the bank opposite our offices and was looking around as he swam past. We watched him for a couple of minutes then he went under water and under the bridge towards Ford. It was an amazing spectacle.

14th September  
                                                                                                                                                Arun Seal report. The family and I were at the pier in Littlehampton today (14/09/13) and saw a grey seal at about half past 4 this afternoon. We watched it for about 10 mins and it seemed quite happy jumping around then it disappeared as soon as we got our cameras out!
The seal pup is still being seen in Shoreham Harbour. More on the seal pup Shoreham Harbour by Chris a member of Friends of Shoreham Beach and a local diver.

15th September   
Chris returned to take some more pictures to help with the identification between 0900 and 1000hrs, from the western arm of Shoreham Harbour. The seal was in the space between the main arm and the little pier.


From the photos I have been able to isolate markings that will help to identify the seal again, and hopefully track if it turns up elsewhere.
Seals have distinctive and unique spot patterns and occasionally when these are clear enough they can be used to identify individual seals

21st September   
Common seal was seen in the river Ouse at Lewes, near the tunnel.

23rd Sept  
A seal was observed swimming towards Brighton earlier on the 17th at Salt Dean swimming west towards Brighton. A motor boat followed it until it was no longer visible, possibly the same one seen in the river Ouse on 21st Sept. 

24th Sept                                                                                                                                         A seal was reported at Peacehaven but was not seen when BDMLR turned up to investigate. 
26th September                                                                                                                    The grey seal was seen swimming in the River Arun by a member of the pubic as they walked over the bridge going into Arundel town centre. 
A fascinating collection of seal sightings I am sure you will agree.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Grey Seal still on the River Arun, West Sussex

The grey seal is still living in the River Arun and surrounding waters. Here are some more sightings

7th August
Hi Steve.

It may be of interest to you; so I thought I would let you know that I spotted a grey seal in the River Arun at lunchtime today. It was heading North with the tide just short of the old bridge.  It dived and though I searched for it, I did not see it resurface.

I was standing in a sandwich shop, looking out of the window overlooking the river. South of the Queen St. Road bridge. Kind regards, Darran

8 August

Hi Steve.  Just to let you know that we spotted a seal in the River Arun just after 2pm today. It was north of the Black Rabbit, Arundel about 5 miles along the River from Littlehampton

Kind regards Mick

10th August 2013.

Just to let you know that a large Seal was seen at Pulborough Brooks late afternoon on Saturday 10th August 2013 Regards Stephen.   
10th August 2013.
I hope these photographs might be of interest. He was above Pulborough on Saturday evening having a good time

11 August

I was canoeing about 2 miles downriver today from Pulborough today when I encountered a playful seal. He repeatedly swam up to and surfaced near my boat and even showed me a rather large fish he had caught.

I have some video that I shot and once I've downloaded it I will send you a link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgGyPpGBb-k&feature=youtu.be

Regards Jack

22 August

Hi Steve,

I've just returned from a paddle boarding session off Littlehampton Beach (opposite the leisure centre) and I had an encounter with a seal! I ride an inflatable paddle board and I heard a "pishh, pishh" behind me, I thought I'd sprung a leak! I turned around and saw a seal swimming along behind me.
It came alongside and was very inquisitive. I hadn't heard of seal on our coast, so I Googled sightings when I got back home and came across a story in the Littlehampton Gazzette dated 26 June. I saw that you requested information of any sightings at the foot of the article.

I'll be sure to take a camera with me when I go out next! Kind regards Roger

23 August

Hi Steve

My husband and daughter saw the seal in the River Arun this afternoon.  It was in the shallows on the right where the tee pee tents are on the left.  I don’t know exactly where that is though.  If you need more information, then please email me back.  


23 August

Hi Steve,

Saw through Google that you were requesting info on seal sightings.

A very relaxed, friendly seal was basking on the lower east bank of the Arun at High water approx 1mile north of the Arundel to Littlehampton railway bridge yesterday afternoon the 23/8/2013.

He was not at all disturbed nor bothered by our close vicinity in our kayaks to say hello, He looked extremely healthy and well fed and my wife and I stayed some time to admire him, Regards, Sean & Davina

24 August


We’ve been to Littlehampton today and was amazed to see a seal in the river opposite the fairground. Vince

26 August

Hi Steve

I don't know if you still interested but we have just spotted, at 20:00hrs, a seal in the river Arun.  He did not look distressed, he was just resting on the river bank.  I don't know if it is the same one as before, he certainly looked very healthy.
Kind regards tasha & Sue

26 August

Hi, I got your email address just now as I google searched 'seal in Littlehampton' and wanted to find out more by what we saw today! We were in Littlehampton today and were crabbing by the river. A huge seal swam right up to us and caught what looked like an eel in its mouth!

We were in awe! About an hour later walking back along the beach we saw a seal in the water quite close to the beach as the tide was in. It was swimming extremely close to two people im the water. Amazing!! Thought we would let you know :)
Kind regards, The Ward Family.

28 August

Hi, just to let you know I spotted a seal at Arundel town bridge this evening at 18.30. Couldn't get a photo as it I missed my opportunity, the seal headed further up the river passed the bridge. A few other people spotted it along with a family following it in a boat.

31 August

Hi Steve

While kayaking today along the river Arun we spotted what the Arun grey seal. Looked up grey seals in the area when we got home and found the gazette arrival with your email address. It was about 645 am when we saw him or her and we had just past the Littlehampton marina and were about 5 minutes from going under the road bridge heading towards Arundel.

The seal dived when we first spotted it but resurfaced quickly and came up close to the kayaks and swam along a little behind for a while. Hope this helps with you sea watch the seal was beautiful and really curious. Will be using this route a few more time in the next few weeks will email again if lucky enough to see him/her again.

Thanks Ian, Sally and Amie

31 Aug

Seal seen this evening numerous times in harbour and then returning out to open sea. Seemed very relaxed. Photo from West Beach car park whilst we were eating fish and chips. Belinda Wilkins




Friday, 2 August 2013

Update of seal sightings in July

I received many sightings of seals in July, especially the grey seal that has been interacting with people and visiting both the river Adur and the River Arun (both in West Sussex). A few grey seals have been reported early in this weblog for early July.

"I regularly swim in the sea at the end of my road...Ham Road, east Worthing by the boulders.

An hour ago I though I had encountered a floating dead person...it made me jump obviously...but after swimming a way and looking back I realised I was being followed by a seal.

His head is a dark slate grey/black colour. really cute face...was clearly following me. I have no experience of them and didn't know whether they're safe to swim with so I ran onto the shore...the coastguard happened to me be paroling on his buggy and saw him swim away...so he can verify it.

I feel so blessed and excited. I will look out for him but would like to know if it's okay to swim with them. I'm a strong swimmer but wouldn't like to be hit by a fin....

Nadia"   5.7.2013


I have just read a Shoreham Herald article on the River Adur seal after having spotted him about half an hour ago swimming between Cuckoo's Corner and the Shoreham flyover.

Corinne" 6.7.2013

 "Hi there

A seal came swimming along at Shoreham Beach around midday yesterday – dark, pretty big, I’d say 1.2m or so in length, lean, very tame, swam within 20m of swimmers, quite close inshore, magical!

Hope this is helpful in the seal watch scheme of things. Didn’t capture on camera as I was swimming!

Jules" 7.7.2013



On July 7th whilst visiting the beach opposite end of Mardyke we were surprised to see a seal---2 photos attached of that sighting. The seal came up quite close (about 2 yards) from swimmers in the water.

Then yesterday I went down for a swim at high tide and whilst swimming, turned and saw the (same I presume) seal only a couple of yards from me. It gave me quite a sudden shock, but having already seen the seal 2 weeks before realised what it was. The seal just swam away un-concerned".  7.7.2013

 "Hi Steve

I found your email request to let you know as I was looking up a few things on harbour seals today as I had the amazing great good fortune today to find myself and my son swimming with a seal just off Littlehampton west beach! in total shock and excitement! it swam round us a couple of times and had a good look both from underneath and my face & then swam off! truly incredible! anything you can tell me about them in this area I would love to know, ….would one expect there to be more around or is it thought the seal that has been seen around here is a lone one? is this normal?
Great to know you are taking an interest, thanks, willow" 10.7.2013

"Hi there, we were down the greens ward part of Rustington beach by the sea estate yesterday. I was swimming with my dog and a seal swam by us about 5m away. Bobbed up a few times then swam away. My wife caught it on camera but it looks more like another dog from the poor quality from my camera phone. But it was definitely a seal. Me and my wife can both confirm that. Read article in Littlehampton gazette and u guys asked to be notified. Hope it helps. Gavin. 15.7.2013

"Hello there I saw in the gazette you want to know if anyone sees the seal yesterday around two pm the seal was in Littlehampton beach by the swimming centre for over a hour and it was swimming. around peoples feet I Managed to get really close to it and it let me stroke it on a few occasions
Tamara" 17.7.2013

"Hi Steve, caught sight of the seal just off Littlehampton beach opposite the skate ramps, low tide about 4.15.

My boys say they saw it earlier under Red bridge but no photo" Cliff 22.7.2013 

It has been fantastic to receive so many sightings, often of the same seal and great to hear from so many people who have enjoyed seeing the seals. (Report added to weblog after seal has moved on as we are keen not cause stress for the seals when they remain in once location).

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

School Visit - Dolphin Rescue with a Difference

On many occasions I have taken my life sized inflatable dolphin to schools and events to raise awareness about local dolphins and teach about these amazing sea mammals. As you will have seen from an earlier post, this usually takes place on the school playing field or inside the school hall.


However, this time I was able to run the session on the beach at the West Beach Local Nature Reserve near Littlehampton.

The session started with some photographs of local dolphin and seal sightings and some background information. These are real sightings taken from my voluntary work as Sussex Regional Coordinator for Sea Watch Foundation and Sussex County Recorder for Sea Mammals.

The children then learned some basic sea mammal biology and the special adaptations that allow sea mammals to live in the sea.

We then discussed the problems that a stranded dolphin might encounter and what we would need to do to counter these affects. The two major problems being the affects of gravity as the dolphin is no longer supported by the ocean and the danger of heat exhaustion. We also discussed other problems such as stress from the pubic, dogs, sea gulls and other sources.

The children were divided into two group and given some props which included some buckets, a towel and other beach items which they could use to plan their rescue.
The scenario the children were presented with was that this bottlenose dolphin had become stranded on the beach. How can we keep it alive, provide first aid and return the dolphin to the sea.

Here are a few pics from the rescue
First job, check the dolphin is breathing and continue monitoring breathing as it is a good indication of the state of the dolphin. Some children kept the public (teachers) at a safe distance. One of the teachers ad-libbed a very persistent but well meaning member of the public.

Digging sand away to alleviate the crushing affects of gravity on its internal organs and flippers

Next, a steady supply of  water to keep the dolphin cool (but be careful of the blowhole).
The children also dug holes around the flippers which they could fill with water - dolphins loose heat more easily in these locations.
Unlike the children in the classroom activity, doing it for real adds a whole new dimension. For example, these children discovered how tipping water on the dolphin washed the sand back around the dolphin, so digging was a constant need.
One child took on the roll of comforting the dolphin. Having taken part in a few rescues, I have witnessed first hand the affects that a single person talking softly and caressing the dolphin can have on its wellbeing - it can bring a stressed rapid breathing rate to a more calm breathing rate.
Lastly, getting the dolphin from the beach to the sea. The tide was on its way out and the children decided it was too long to wait for the tide to return,.
So they carried the dolphin to the sea where they walked it around until it was okay to swim on its own.
We then undertook a debrief (as if it were a real rescue) and each group discussed how well they thought their rescue went, how well they worked as a team, things they did well, things that did not go to plan etc. Both groups did fantastically well and com completely embraced the spirit of the activity.
After lunch we explored the tide pools and found various fish, shrimps, crabs, sea anemones and this sea slater ( a relative of the woodlouse)

We finished the day with a measuring activity to appreciate the size of a blue whale - by measuring out the length on the sand. The children had various activity cards with other animals and their sizes (including common seal, basking shark, humpback whale) to find their place on the line to compare their size to a blue whale. Again, an activity that I usually run on the school playing field.
We discussed the size of a blue whale (30m) and how the ocean allows animals to grow so big and why they would not be able to live on land. We also discussed the problems of rescuing a blue whale, an animal who heart is a big as a small car and whose largest blood vessels are big enough for them to swim through. 
The children then stood back to appreciate the size of the blue whale - with teachers marking each end of the 30m.

It was a great day and the children learned lots of new stuff about marine mammals and the local coastline. They learned about the sea mammals that live of this beach and the scientific monitoring programme to study these mammals.

The children learned how dolphins are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean but how these adaptations work against them if they become beached. The children also learned about some of the conservation threats to sea mammals as well as experiencing the beach ecology and more.

The sea mammal project does work well in schools and of course they benefit from other multi-media presentation and activities - such as food webs. But running the session on the beach is a whole new experience that I will be hoping to duplicate.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Seals and basking shark

There appears to be a lot of seal activity of Sussex at the moment.

A common seal has been visiting Shoreham again the last couple of weeks, in particular between the 6th and 9th July when it was seen everyday some times more than once.

Most of these sightings were in the river Adur the seal travelling over a wide area and has been seen near the Norfolk Bridge but also as far up river as the old cement works. Cuckoo corner has also been a favourite site.

 Some anecdotal sightings off Shoreham Beach but on the 7th July it was seen close to the beach (Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve) where it swam within 20 metres of swimmers.
Also a grey seal has been seen off Lancing, Worthing and Littlehampton and on 5th July it approached a swimmer off Worthing, as seals are very inquisitive animals.

Another marine animal not recorded for some time locally made an appearance at Brighton, a 3 metres basking shark on Tuesday 2nd July (but unfortunately I was at the Big Bang South East Schools Stem Science Event, so I missed it.  The basking shark was reported by the coxswain  of the Brighton and Hove Lifeguards Patrol Boat

The shark was heading east. In my childhood it was not that uncommon to see the occasional basking shark off the Sussex coast in the summer and occasionally one would turn up in Shoreham harbour where sadly many of the fishermen would cast their lines at it in an attempt to catch it. Of course they didn't manage to, but some lines did entangle the shark.

As always photographs are invaluable, not just to ascertain species but also to identify individual seals (that have unique markings). Such photographs made it possible to determine that the seal sightings in the Adur earlier in the year were actually three separate seals.

The grey seal was seen off Worthing today it is possible that this is the same seal that was moulting and turned up on beaches and harbours last month. There also appears to be another grey seal in the river Arun. Depicted below, the seal appears to be eating a flatfish.
Photo from John and Mary Lucioni

I am keen to hear from anyone who sees a seal and also if anyone hears anything else about the basking shark.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Small dead shark on Shoreham Beach

I received a call from the local paper to comment on the dried remains of a possible small shark found on Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve.
My best identification from the picture was a smooth hound a small bottom living shark. The claspers were visible determine it was  a male.

This also provide a great opportunity to include some much need positive PR for sharks.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Grey seal Seaford East Sussex

This is an update on the moulting grey seal reported in my previous blog entry.

Not long atfter is was seen in Eastbourne, the seal moved along the coast where it took up temporary residence on Seaford beach while it continued to moult.

Seals can take a long time to moult as they can only shed their hair a bit at a time to maintain their insulation. The seal also took the occasional trip to the Brighton Marina where it delighted onlookers

As Sussex County recorder for Sea Mammals my role also includes seals. Common seals are seen occasionally along the Sussex Coast, even venturing into Sussex rivers, but grey seals are only seen very rarely.

The seal has been attracting a lot of unwanted attention in Sussex. Due to the sheer number of onlookers the seal has attracted, British Divers Marine Life Rescue have continued to monitoring the situation and erected a barrier to stop people being able to get too close to the seal.
The seal has now left Seaford beach and has been spotted periodically along the coast’.All above photos © Elaine Brown, marine medic.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Grey Seal at Eastbourne

Marine medics from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) are monitoring a Grey Seal on Eastbourne Beach.
(c) Elaine Brown, marine medic

It had been on the beach since about 2:00 PM this afternoon and had been seen with another Grey seal which had then swam off. An onlooker told the team that he had seen the seal on the beach the day before, and a fisherman said he had seen it out in the harbour earlier and then it had hauled out on the beach.
(c) Elaine Brown marine medic

The Grey seal is thought to be 2-3 years old. Minor scrapes bit there is no signor serious injury or illness. Worryingly, the seal was allowing people to get fairly close, and everyone is hoping he is just tired from the recent stormy weather. BDMLR medics have been monitoring this evening and will return in the morning too where the seal will be reassessed.

This might be the same grey seal reported 27th April at Cuckmere

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

School Dolphin Rescue Workshop

On 30th April, I attended an event held by the EYE Project (E.Y.E. stands for Eco. Young. Engaged) which links together locality schools across three towns, Shoreham, Lancing and Worthing (West Sussex). I took a display stand about the various marine related sessions I run for schools.

During the day, I ran three dolphin rescue workshops. Each workshop started with a PowerPoint introducing Sea Watch Foundation, Sussex Sea Mammals and included some pictures of local dolphin and seal sightings. I then discussed the biology/anatomy/natural history of dolphins which the children would consider when planning their dolphin rescue.

We discussed strandings, (including couple I had taken part in) and I mentioned things they needed to be aware of and what not to do (don’t tip water over the blow hole, check the breathing regularly as a means of assessing the dolphins condition, be aware the tail is the most dangerous part of the dolphin etc).

In two groups, the children then used what they had learned about dolphin biology and strandings to plan their rescue of a dolphin. What they would do, who would do what and in what order etc. The scenario they were given was a dolphin tangled in a piece of fishing net.

After both groups had conducted their rescue we de-briefed (another essential part of a rescue) to see how well they thought their rescue had gone, what didn’t go so well, what they might do differently next time.

The workshops were a great chance to raise awareness of Sea Watch Foundation, that we have sea mammals of Sussex and some of the dangers to sea mammals

You can book a similar workshop for your school or youth group on seawatch17@yahoo.co.uk