Thursday, 28 November 2013

Common Dolphins 17/11/2013

This blog should have been out a week ago but I suppose it better late than ever.

Anyway last Sunday (17th) I was on a 1.5 hour trip around the Farne Islands when my friend Ron gave me a shout saying that he had seen 2 dolphins at the Blue Caps.

I was nearly at Staple Island and I was praying that they would wait for us to arrive. By the time I got there they had been around all the boats and even a diver of Toby's boat said that one of them swam straight past him.

As I got closer I could see about 6/7 Seals playing on the surface and then the 2 Dolphins came jumping out of the water.
I could not believe what I was witnessing and in my wildest dreams I never thought dolphins and seals would play together, but it looked like they were having so much fun until I turned up.

The pair left the seals and started to bow ride the boat. At first they were way ahead of the boat so I went a little faster and they seemed to enjoy it a bit more. They were really showing off so I went a little bit faster until I was doing 20 knots and they kept up with the boat. Now that is some speed and I don't know how fast they can go but whatever the speed is 20 knots is very impressive.

They stayed with us for a while and then disappeared, so we turned around and headed over towards the seals.

Once we arrived back at the harbour I was praying that they would still be there for our next guests and as we steamed out of the harbour I noticed my cousin pointing at the bow of his boat. As I looked to see what he was meaning the dolphins jumped out of the water. They had followed him all the way back to the harbour and as I stopped they just followed him into the harbour. I could not believe they were actually in the harbour.

Another boat turned up and then another and at one stage we had 4 boats viewing the 2 dolphins swimming around us all.

I have never in my life seen dolphins in the harbour and to make it even better it was Common Dolphins, which have never been seen in Northumberland since 1989 and a first for the Farne Islands.

As I finished my last trip of the day and they were still outside the harbour until dark. A great record for the Farne Islands and hopefully not the last.

Sorry as all my pictures were taken on a mobile as I left my camera at home.

A video taken from my mobile. Sorry the quality is not very good.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Above and Below


Sir David Attenborough was once questioned.....

"Where in the UK offers the best opportunity to capture magnificent nature?"

His answer was... "The Farne Islands during the breeding season in spring would be my favourite"

When a man like Sir David Attenborough say's something like this it puts a chill down my spine as I get to see it every year, so you can never take it for granted and I never will. 

The Farne Islands are renowned for it's magnificent wildlife with the thousands and thousands of seabirds that use the Farnes to bring their young into this world, but if it was not for what is BELOW the water things would be alot different ABOVE the water.

If it was not for all the sandeels that are around the Farne Islands the seabirds would either not survive or have to adapt some other way.

We hear in the news that global warming is destroying our planet and that the waters around the world are warming up, but I can assure you the waters around the Farnes have never risen one little bit. Yes you might get a day when it feels a little warmer a bit warmer but that does not happen very often. Why do you think all the divers that come to this area wear dry suits, because it's bloody freezing.

This is why the sandeels love our waters as they don't like warm waters and this is great news for our seabirds. They also love our seabed as it is perfect for them with the gravelly sand in which they can hide from predators until they come out and then our grab seabirds them so they can feed their young.

They are very important sauce of food for our seabirds and there is talk in Scotland where seabird numbers have declined to make Marine Protected Areas so that they can look after the sandeels.

At the bottom of our food chain is Seaweed or Kelp, which provides a food source for lots of species from tiny plankton to large fish and seals. 
The cracks and nooks around the base of the kelp are also perfect for small worms, crustaceans and sandeels to burrow into. Kelp is also grazed upon by fish, seals and other invertebrates such as blue-ray limpet. The seals tend to use it more of a playground, as the swim around it like it was the Krypton Factor. (Oh boy I'm showing my age now).

As you can see from the pictures above that the seals love the kelp but it also can provide shelter for other species to.

Again the kelp does not like warm water only cold and the threat of global warming could alter the distribution of kelp, or potentially become too warm for it to survive. The effect of loosing kelp in our waters would cause for a ripple up affect on other species dependent upon kelp.
In addition, our kelp forests play a hugely important role in the carbon cycle of our planet, capturing 75% of the net carbon fixed annually in the sea. Our seas and sea life are quite literally our life source, helping to regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, providing us with air to breathe.

We all know everything goes around in circles and everything is put on this earth for a reason, so lets hope our waters do not warm up around the Farne Islands as it will have a massive affect on us and our wildlife.   

I don't really want to think about that as this blog is supposed to show you all the good things and show you that the wildlife is just as beautiful underwater as it is above.

Yes that's a young me and a young bud looking at a diver coming to the surface many moons ago. The Jellyfish is called a Lions-main and boy they can sting, but you just have to put up with the pain for a while then it goes away. 

Anyway, when the sandeels come out of the gravelly sand they swarm in big balls and they can be spotted by the seabirds above and the the feeding frenzy begins. Again we are lucky as we tend to see loads of frenzies around the Farnes so here are a few pictures.

This was a shoal of sandeels going along and I noticed a Shag come from underneath it to grab an early lunch

Some bigger sandeels.

A Razorbill with a few tiny sandeels in it's bill

 The food source around the Farne Islands helps our seabirds but it also helps other birds like the Gannet which travels down from the Mighty Bass Rock and this year we have had a record amount of Minkie Whales in the area. Yes we have had a good year for mackerel but if they are not there they will take sandeels to.

The wide variety of underwater wildlife is fantastic around the Farne Islands. You can see everything thing from Sea-urchins to Nudibranchs.

We have lots of shipwrecks around the Farnes and they can make the perfect place for them to start making their own reefs and starting new life. Lots of wrecks support creatures such as seamats, starfish, a rainbow of multicoloured sea slugs, mysid and edible pink shrimps and a multitude of crabs. Nudibranchs, commonly known as sea slugs are often seen by divers exploring the marine environment. The name "nudibranch" comes from the Latin, nudus, naked, and Greek brankhia, gills. Almost all sea slugs have gills on their bodies, which provide a 'fluffy' looking appearance. Sea slugs are incredibly diverse and can live anywhere from the shore to depths of 80metres. They are a wide range of colours, often resembling the colouration of the habitat they live on or are brightly coloured, in an attempt to warn off predators.

I could go on and on but I think I have gone on a bit to much now so here is a few pictures of what can be seen underwater around the Farne Islands.

A close up of an Anemone

 Brittle Starfish

 Common Starfish

 Sun Starfish

 Hermit Crab


 Deadmans Fingers


 Deadmans Fingers, Sunstar, and Sea-urchin


 Cone Jellyfish

 Diamond Brittlestars


 Moon Jellyfish

 A Wall of Anemone

 Pipe Fish

As you can see by the pictures above the wildlife BELOW the water is just beautiful as ABOVE and this is one of the reasons divers come from far and wide to dive the Farne Islands, but not only that they also come to see the inquisitive Grey Seals.

I just hope and pray that the waters around the Farne Islands do not warm up for the wildlife's sake, ours and many generations to come.

I'm going to sign out of this blog with a really stunning video, which was given to me from one of my brother's (Toby) divers this summer and I do hope you enjoy it.
I would advise you to adjust it to your full screen as it's much better.