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Showing posts from March, 2015

Spurn Beach Clean with the SAS

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I had an early start this morning, made earlier by the start of British Summer Time, for a beach clean at Spurn Point. Approaching Kilnsea, I saw an egret in the field very close to the road. I stopped the car hoping to get a good photo, but it flew off and joined its mate on the other side of the field. Not long ago, they would have attracted a crowd of twitchers, but now they’re commonplace.

Egrets, I’ve had a few…
I met the Surfers Against Sewage beach cleaning group at the Warren and we had a briefing from Andy Mason of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The first area to be cleaned was the beach next to the Warren. As always with these beach cleans, it didn’t look too bad at first, but we soon filled lots of bags with small items of litter and retrieved a few broken lobster pots and old tyres.

Whelk egg cases are easily mistaken for bubble wrap
This buried lobster pot is going nowhere
We then boarded the Unimog for a trip down the peninsula to Chalk Bank and continued from there. Once again, t…

A Mammal Walk in Allerthorpe Woods

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Yesterday I went on a Mammal Walk with the Yorkshire Mammal Group around Allerthorpe Woods, which is very much my ‘local patch’. Going round a familiar area with a group of experts is rewarding. They showed me things I’d have missed otherwise and with my local knowledge I was able to show them a few things too.

Mammals were distinctly thin on the ground, but we look for tracks and signs rather than the animals themselves. The woods are full of little piles of chewed pine cones, produced by the grey squirrels. Most of the animal tracks are of domestic dogs, of many varieties, but here and there we could pick out the slots of roe deer. The deer come into the woods overnight and disappear to quieter corners as soon as the dog walkers arrive in the morning. We found frog spawn in a muddy puddle and saw my first adder of the year, basking in the weak sunshine on the side of a ditch.

I took the group into the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve, to the tree with the barn owl box, as I knew one m…

Conservation volunteering in the Maldives – part 4

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The final part of my story of an amazing two weeks on a beautiful island in the Maldives, where I volunteered as a research assistant for the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme.

Tue 24th February: I got up early to see the sun rise and watch herons on the lagoon. The sea was slightly rougher again when we set off. Once again we saw a hawksbill turtle not far from Dhigurah. There were lots of vessels around Maamigilli all looking for whale sharks again, but there were none around. We took the ‘environmental variables’ again, at three regular sites, using the Secchi disk to measure the visibility and an apple to measure the strength and direction of the current. Grey heron taking off We recorded 26 vessels and two turtles (the one I spotted was actually a piece of cardboard, I was told). We returned to the island just past Maamigilli, to drag snorkel along the reef. I saw a white-tip reef shark, a large moray eel, two parrotfishes having a fight and lots of large shoals of other fish. …

Conservation volunteering in the Maldives – part 3

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Continuing the story of an amazing two weeks on a beautiful island in the Maldives, where I volunteered as a research assistant for the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme.

Monday 23rd February:
Today was bright and clear with more wind, so better sea conditions for whale shark spotting, but very hot on the roof of the boat. We saw an HBT (Hawksbill Turtle) within minutes of leaving the harbour and another five during the day. We recorded 15 vessels, though I’m still having difficulty knowing my RDD’s from my LVBDD’s (Resort Dive Dhoni and Liveaboard Dive Dhoni). We passed Maamigilli and were about to set up a data logger when the captain received a message that a whale shark had been sighted off the next island. We set off at full speed (rather slowly in our traditional dhoni).

When we arrived there was another boat with snorkelers in the water and others were approaching. We went into the water quickly and for a minute I could see nothing. Just when I thought I’d missed it, there i…

Conservation volunteering in the Maldives – part 2

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Continuing the story of an amazing two weeks on a beautiful island in the Maldives, where I volunteered as a research assistant for the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme.

Thursday 19th February:
Katie was back with us today, having been away for a few days. We headed north-westerly, across the atoll, on mirror calm sea again. There was little cloud this morning, so it got very hot. Flying fish took off every so often, alarmed by the boat. They fly an amazing distance. After about two hours cruising, we reached the island on the other side. We saw eight spinner dolphins, spy-hopping as we passed them. We reached the reef, where there were dive boats with their divers in the water, and we had a snorkel. Although the visibility was good, the water was too deep to see very much apart from divers’ air bubbles coming up.

We then kept watch on the roof of the boat until lunch time. I stayed down after that, as it was ridiculously hot up there. Katie and Shameel took ‘environmental variabl…

Conservation volunteering in the Maldives – part 1

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For the last two weeks I’ve been on a beautiful island in the Maldives, volunteering as a research assistant for the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme.

Dhigurah - an island of white sand beaches and palm trees
Sunday 15th February: After three flights and a very bumpy speed-boat ride, I arrived on the island of Dhigurah, in South Ari Atoll. I met the project staff, Katie and Shameel, checked in at the TME guest house and had some time to recuperate before heading to the beach for a trial swim. The water was warm and clear and where there was some coral it was teeming with fish. Shameel swam for the Maldives at the Beijing Olympics, so he easily kept up with me even without fins. This was a test to see how confident I was in the water. I’ve been snorkelling since I was 10, so I had no problem.
Our traditional Maldivian dhoni Mon 16th: After breakfast I met up with Shameel and Russell, an American working for USAID. We took a car to the harbour and boarded the project’s dhoni for a crui…