Thursday, 24 July 2014

Lightning doesn't strike twice but Kasey does!

Blog post also published here -

I finished off the last blog post by talking about the special experience and fascinating research of been on first name terms with a wild whale. On the 24th June during a Whalewatch Explorer this was exemplified monumentally in a memorable natural spectacle. 

Going Back to the year 2000 a minke whale with a distinctly notched dorsal fin was first sighted and positively identified using photo ID work, and was named Kasey. The whale has been one of the more regular animals encountered on marine excursions with Sea Life Surveys and has had strong site fidelity to certain areas of sea. Kasey was recorded with a calf in both the 2007 and 2008 season which confirms that the animal is a female.  

A positive ID record of the right side of Kasey the minke whale

Before this season (2014) our most recent encounter with Kasey was in 20th July 2012 on a two hour Ecocruz just out of Tobermory bay. I was just starting my introductory talk on the top deck of Sula Beag when someone spotted a whale surface just off of Rubha Nan Gall lighthouse so we informed Popz the skipper and he cut the engines as the animal came right into us. Viewing with the naked eye I recognized the unique dorsal fin straight away...Kasey! He/she did a complete circuit of the boat and I while I was lonesome on the bow he/she turned side on and made eye contact with me!

Photo ID from the 24th June showing comparison with Kasey's record in the minke ID folder

June 24th (2014) and during the morning we had witnessed a spectacular feeding frenzy consisting of over a hundred gannets striking the surface along with feeding shearwaters which were joined by up to four minke whales taking advantage of the abundant food source. That experience would be hard to beat but on our way back to the east in the afternoon we managed to trump it with an association that we will never forget. 

Popz and Kasey
Kasey association...

We were under-way going through an area of sea nicknamed 'the middle grounds' when one of the passengers shouted "whale five o'clock!" Everyone persevered off the starboard stern until suddenly a whale surface rolled next to our wake coming directly in towards our stern. Popz cut the engines as we sat stationary on a flat calm sea state and another close surface showed that recognizable cut back dorsal fin...Kasey! (I was 95% sure it was her during the encounter which was confirmed later that day when studying the fin and back in more detail). Kasey swam right underneath Sula Beag and appeared just off the bow before turning back and having another look, working her all the way down the port side turning on her side and looking up at everyone on board! After another circuit of the boat Kasey then left us alone and then travelled in a northerly direction as everyone on board seemed to be in a state of shock.

Kasey having a look at all aboard Sula Beag

Incredible Kasey association...

A memorable moment in nature, a wild whale known in these waters for fourteen years performing a strong association in the same way a domestic dog would. True minke magic and another wonderful connection with the natural world.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Hay Meadow Story - Cain Scrimgeour

A short video filmed in the Northumberland National Park focusing one of its hay meadows throughout the seasons. A huge amount of hours in the field by Cain Scrimgeour to produce this sequence in his home county. 

Another masterstroke by the young naturalist... 

Hay Meadow Story from Cain Scrimgeour on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Connections with nature...

Natural connections are priceless to human well-being in terms of health, happiness and spirit. An invisible therapy that trumps everything.
I have had some magical connections with nature in recent weeks including the wonderful noise of a minke whale blow as it surfaces close by. The sound captures me as much as the majestic sight of the elegant animals.
A life changing moment on the 24th June with an associating whale known as Kasey which will be publicised in detail in my next blog post. view the video here -
Another connection which moved me, was travelling on a high speed twin engine RIB doing twenty knots as manx shearwater were effortlessly cruising past, banking on stiff wings doing thirty plus knots!!...nothing beats nature.
Wild wood connections are always special, as our primitive ancestors relied independently on this environment so instinctively we get priceless interconnections with them. Lying down with your eyes closed, taking in bird song, wind blown trees and the sound of the little engine in a dragonfly as it motors overhead is truly wonderful!

Four-spotted chaser 
I am trying to improve my commitment to the natural world all the time. Its important to have role models to inspire you, and my dads commitment and passion drives me on all the time. A lifetimes dedication to the natural world through conservation, education and inspiration. Nature is in his blood and he just does not know how to switch off. I want to be exactly like that and have a long way to go but working harder all the time.

Kasey the minke whale
Some fascinating direct observations this season, as working a concentrated area of sea provides the opportunity to see the changes and patterns which happen on a daily basis. The same way as you would have a local patch of course. The sea is such a variable environment and you don't see as much consistency as you would with land based ecosystems. You do see certain trends with concentrations of food source like the abundance or lack of sea birds feeding and also the natural cycles of plant and animal plankton throughout the season which is interconnected with the numbers of large marine species seen.
Minke whale behaviour is fascinating, although we only see about 5% of this I feel that my five years directly observing the animal has taught me a lot about them. Their site fidelity throughout the season and time periods of individuals staying in one area of sea along with what range of sea they cover, which is all theoretically connected to abundance of food source.
I have been lucky enough to observe breaching behaviour by minke whales this season and the conditions contemplated the theory of breaching in a rougher sea state. One encounter we had was a calm sea but it seemed the wake off a passenger ferry triggered the animals actions, it was fascinating as the animal breached around twenty five times consecutively.
Photo ID work on individual whales is always a wonderful story and important to learn more about our minke whales. Some regular whales have been encountered again along with some new records been captured this season.

Wood Warbler
A classroom with no walls...
The best way to learn about the natural world is quite simply been out with the natural world and direct observations. Books and classroom based learning is an added extra that you can connect to practical learning.
It is rewarding to know after that working with Sea Life Surveys for five seasons, I can provide a lot of the knowledge based and discovered from my own observations and not from literature or other peoples sources. The same with the natural world in general, any information I provide, I try to make sure as much as possible is from my own fieldwork discoveries and not other sources.
Manx Shearwater
Curiosity is a key aspect in learning about the natural world, wanting to know what, how, when and why? I feel my curiosity for the natural world is expanding and growing all the time as I move onto other areas to learn about. As long as the curiosity stays, that is vital.

Share nature...
Sharing the love of nature can always be improved on and I have been pushing myself to do more all the time. Along with trying to enthuse others in general out and in the field and with SLS I have done a school visit and a beaver scouts visit to do a talk and activities on marine life with the children. I really enjoyed them and have more lined up in the Autumn. Some of my friends are doing some great things trying to enthuse the next generation about wildlife and it is something that anyone can get involved in.

School and Scout visits...
'Sea Our Future'
I have created a little activity sheet with Sea Life Surveys for children to do called 'Sea Our Future' which involves drawing their favourite marine animal and writing a message underneath, why we need to look after our seas...
I think when a child writes or says something positive for conservation reasons it can be very powerful and moving, and can mean a lot more than when a politician or media person quotes something similar.

'Sea Our Future'
The most important aspect of course is to enjoy nature and even when you hear all the doom and gloom involved like persecution, animal cruelty and habitat loss don't let that beat you and effect your enjoyment of been with nature :-)