Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Where has all the bloody sand gone?

Where has all the bloody sand gone?

After a great evening (watching Django unchained) and a late finish, it was hard to drag myself from the pit on a rare flexi-day. Of course, that's what flexi days are for - snuggling up under a warm duvet but traditionally I always organise something that means these pleasures will have to wait until I have reached pension age (86 at current estimates).

So the early morning sun greets me a Cresswell, togged up in foul weather gear for the Big Sea Survey Bioblitz at Cresswell.  A beautiful and warm morning, we gather (all three of us, Anne, myself and ably led by Dr. H) - prospects look intriguing.

However, we arrive at the shore and ....OMG..... where has Cresswell beach gone?

The steps are fully revealed, and a long section of WWII tank traps sit proudly on the high tide line, still uttering defiance at those Jerry schemers. There is virtually no sand and the bed rock shows through, so much so that we thought the outfall pipe had been renewed, so fresh was the concrete on the usually encrusted structure. (Sorry Northumbrian Water, by the way, you haven't done this covertly as we feared).

Add to this that the tide is slow to fall because of a "fresh" northerly wind and this is turning into a morning of surprises.

Our first quadrat is thrown down on the limpet and wrack covered rocks, beyond the end of the outfall and into the middle of the outgoing (?) tide. Amid the calls of curlew, turnstone and redshanks, groups of knot huddle behind any potential cover, look at us wearily, too cold to feed. Once out there we know exactly why - its is bitterly cold, blowing a hoolie and, as a result, damn scary.

So, one quadrat is enough - we wend our way back across, the first abandonment of a survey. Not because of the cold but because the wind looks like it may maroon us out there and the lack of sand means this area is deep and unknown. 

A waste of a day? No so in my opinion - I have learnt a great deal about the dynamics of the coast and the total unpredictability of the North Sea. I remain in absolute awe of this wonderful, ever-changing  landscape and of the creatures that find a home there.

Rommel treats the lads to a cornet from Cresswell Ices

Sunday, 27 January 2013

After the event

After the event

A warm glow having completed the RSPB's Garden Birdwatch this morning. An overnight thaw and a bit of rain means the garden is revealed in its full glory after a few days of snow (UK ground to a halt - wildlife carried on).

I submitted my records and glanced out of the window.

To my complete and utter surprise, there were birds there! Goldfinches, woodies, spuggies, dunnock and doves, squabbling with starlings - all going mental over the my fat balls and seed (!)

Yet during the survey, a lonely dunnock was wandering about, with the occasional fly through from the odd bird, too remote to really count. So the results of my garden will be immensely "valuable" to RSPB.

Mind you last week I heard an RSPB radio spokeman who stimulated me to participate (not) with his helpful descriptions of birds including -

"what does a wood pigeon look like"
"well, its a pigeon sized bird........"

"what is the difference between a crow and a raven"
"A crow is smaller"

Stunning ways of assisting the great unwashed with their ID and thence improving the veracity of the work as well as the enjoyment. Good to know our fields have been taken over by ravens - will help with the next episodes of Game of Thrones!