Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Scilly Isles 2012

Just got back from a week long expedition to the Scilly Isles, this was my first time down there and the trip had a clear aim in mind: Film Blue sharks at close quarters underwater. I've freedived and surfed most of my life and been in and out of the sea since I was a year old, but the closed I've ever come to Britain's sharks are a sighting of a lone basking shark from a cliff top and a  couple of cat sharks seen whilst diving. The only knowledge of sharks I have comes from the media and a few recent documentaries as conservations have turned there attention to the worldwide massacre of these top predators for the shark fin trade. Jaws has had the biggest impact: I remember falling out of a dingy in Plymouth sound when I was 12, The few minutes I floated about, waiting to be picked up where some of the most terrifying of my life, expecting at any minute to be swallowed from beneath. 
       So this year I set myself the challenge of confronting that fear head on, by free diving with large sharks of cornwall and making a documentary along the way. Most peoples reaction is "We get sharks of cornwall?!" well yes, we do: Porbeagle (3 metres- record animal caught of cornwall), Mako (4 metres), Blue shark (3.8 metres) and Thresher (9.7 metres-record shark caught of cornwall)  are all found in UK waters, Makos and Porbeagle are both close relatives to great whites. However there has never been a proper attack (I don't count fishermen getting bitten as they remove sharks from nets) and certainly no fatalities. In fact we should probably be more worried about are sharks than ourselves, approximately 70 million sharks where killed last year for there fins, often the rest of the shark (still alive) is thrown back overboard: some may survive for 4 weeks or more before they starve to death. But the words "shark fin soup" immediately make us think China, foreign, not our problem. Well, no. A third of all shark fins in the hong kong fish market come from Europe and Britain is currently the third largest supplier within the EU and among the top 20 suppliers worldwide. 
    But why should we save sharks? To a biologists this a stupid question. Sharks are the oceans top predators and have been for approximately 400 million years. The ocean ecosystems have evolved around sharks and removing them could have long reaching and 
disastrous consequences,  toppling food chains - food chains that we are currently at the top of: one fifth of humans rely on fish as their primary source of protein. Add to that the fact that without oxygen from marine phytoplankton we wouldn't even be able to breathe then I think we can agree that we should try not to alter anything to significant in the marine ecosystem.

    The disappointing end to this post is that the documentary never got made, After 5 days on the boat, heavy fog, no mackerel for bait and near wrecking on hidden rocks forced me to accept defeat. This year. 

The scillies weren't a complete loss, In the last day down there I managed a fantastic hour in the water with a friendly group of grey seals. Other sightings included 2 ocean sunfish- the worlds largest and probably most bizarre bony fish (definitely worth a look on google images), 2 harbour porpoise and a lone grey triggerfish, a tropical species that has recently been regularly sighted in the south west, perhaps due to global warming.

Seven armed starfish in sea grass bed.

Scilly is famous for it's clear blue water and white sand.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Green tiger beetle

The Green tiger beetle is our commonest and arguably most spectacular tiger beetle. However this is the first one I've found within 20 miles of my house, probably due to the fact that we are surrounded by fields, hedgerows and deciduous forest when their preferred habitat is open, sandy, heath. Fast, with big eyes and bigger mandibles an adult tiger beetle is the worst nightmare of pretty much every invertebrate it comes across. The larva are no less ferocious, maggot like creatures with a heavily armoured head and powerful jaws, they lie in wait at the bottom of pitfall traps (often dug on paths) waiting for any insect foolish enough to stumble over the rim.

 Adult Tiger beetles are active for most of the summer, They overwinter as larva.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Roe Deer (Caprelolus capreolus), our most numerous deer (around 500,000 in the UK) and one of only two species of native deer (Red and Roe). Often spotted along field margins they are easily identified by a white rump patch as they flee. Their Latin name means 'The little goat".

Friday, 17 August 2012

The first test of my new dive camera, a canon s100 with Ikelite case. I've had a few problems with autofocus blurring out but have now switched to manual. The only other problem was an irritating clicking sound when the video is replayed. However whenever I edit underwater video I replace the sound anyway so it's not a big deal. I went out of Port Quinn on Cornwall's north coast, It's not exactly a hotspot but the vis is generally good. The fish of the day was a medium sized flounder, I found a similarly sized flounder (photo posted in May) in almost exactly the same plaice (see what I did there?) only a month ago, could it be the same one?
      One creature in particular was conspicuous only by it's absence: the Spiny spider Crab. August is their breeding season, so perhaps the Port Quinn population has set of to the spawning grounds? I'll certainly be on the look out.
       I'm testing the camera for an exciting new project, that hopefully will be finished by mid September, but  It's top secret until then.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

A personal favourite-Timarcha tenebricosa-the Bloody nosed Beetle, spotted on the lane. When alarmed they eject blood red fluid from their mouths to scare off attackers. Their larvae are fantastic, bulbous, bottle-green creatures that feed on bedstraw (similar in appearance and closely related to Goose grass, the segmented and tangled plant children stick on each others backs.) Bedstraws other famous relative is the Coffee plant and it's seeds can apparently be used as a substitute. 

A pair of mating Six-spot burnet Moths, a common day flying moth that feed on knapweed and scabious. The Larvae are plump and yellow-green feeding on clover.

             Stunning lighting, looking up the hill towards the meadow. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

2011- another great year

I've focused mainly on photographs this year, with occasional short films. However there where points when I just couldn't resist taking some short clips. Hope you enjoy watching as much as I enjoyed filming.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Greater Pipefish

I've recently bought a Canon S100 camera + housing to replace my old Olympus 8010. I took it out for the first time last wednesday with the Truro school Snorkelling club. Vis was poor and there was a strong swell and surge so I wasn't to hopeful of seeing or photographing much. The highlight of the day was this magnificent Greater Pipefish that I found under a stone Whilst paddling around a sheltered gully in an effort to avoid the worst of the swell. 
   Pipefish are basically de-kinked Seahorses.  They move by rapidly whirring  their tiny, translucent fins, feeding on microscopic animals with their long snouts and are usually found hidden in beds of seaweed or eelgrass.
   As with Seahorses it is the males that carry the eggs, in a special brood pouch on the belly.
I'll be heading back to Falmouth as soon as the wind dies down and the sun comes back. Could be a while I know. There are 3 Submarine wrecks close to the Gullies that I'd like to explore closer. 
   And hopefully I'll get the hang of the new camera and be posting some great shots soon.