Thursday, 26 August 2010

Corkscrew Seal Injuries - Part Two

Further to the post about seal injuries here, some thoughts have been put forward.  From the BBC News website :-

A researcher stationed on a small Canadian island said she may have solved the mystery deaths of about 50 seals washed up along the UK's coast.

Experts were left baffled by the cause of the carcasses left with a single, smooth-edged cut that spiralled around the body.  Zoe Lucas who works on Sable Island said she had conducted an eight-year study of "corkscrew" seal injuries.  She claimed the Greenland Shark was capable of inflicting such wounds.

However, scientists at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews have ruled out the possibility of the deaths being caused by sharks.  Scotland's Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead asked the seal unit to investigate the cause of the injuries, seen in the coastal areas around Norfolk and the Tay and Forth estuaries.  

“The reason you get the corkscrew is because it's quite likely that the tear itself just runs along the line of least resistance”

It has said the most likely cause was seals getting sucked into a ducted boat propeller - used on vessels that need to move slowly or remain stationary.  Canadian researcher Ms Lucas told the BBC Scotland news website that the same seal injuries were seen on Sable Island, which is a highly restricted area.  She said: "There are no ships operating close to the beach. Here on Sable Island we can actually pin it down to a marine predator."

But SMRU director Prof Ian Boyd insisted the pattern of the cuts was not characteristic of a shark injury.

However, Ms Lucas said the Greenland Shark, which is a member of the dog-fish family, used a very different mechanism for killing than other sharks.  She explained: "Its teeth aren't the big cutting teeth of White Sharks, Tiger Sharks and Mako.  "The lower jaw is a band of interlocking teeth and the upper teeth are very small and pointy like little thorns and they're for grasping, not cutting.  The shark likely gets a grasp on the seal tissue and just with a lot of violent head shaking it manages to get a grip on this tissue and then tear it and just rip it off.  The reason you get the corkscrew is because it's quite likely that the tear itself just runs along the line of least resistance, which could be along the collagen fibres which wind around the body of marine mammals in a diagonal pattern."

Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews is investigating the deaths Prof Boyd said it was strange that the injuries seen on Sable Island seals were similar to those in the UK.  However, he said the more likely common factor was that there were gas rigs near Sable Island.  He said: "It's not quite true that they don't have vessels at Sable Island similar to the ones we have here.  "The most likely cause of this is the animals being caught in ducted propellers.  In fact some of the marks on the animals themselves have tell-tale signs of these particular propellers.  Each of these propellers has what's called a rope cutter and you can actually see signs of a rope cutter having actually hit the animal in various places."

Ms Lucas argued: "I don't think they understand the mechanism in which these wounds could have been caused.  "The shark isn't cutting that tissue. It's tearing the tissue of the seal.  So that clean-edged wound isn't caused by teeth, it's caused by the tissue tearing and you can duplicate that." 

A paper on Ms Lucas's study, which included analysis of about 4,000 seal corpses, has been submitted to the journal, Proceedings of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Wind, Waves, and Nudists

After much contemplation, the original plan of North Berwick to Isle of May and back was dropped in favour of a coastal trip.  Perhaps the forecast of F4/F5, gusting F7 had something to do with it !   At any rate, four of us met at North Berwick to do 'something'. After a coffee and bacon roll, a plan was hatched - head west with the tide and into the wind, paddle until lunchtime, then return with the tide and the wind.

We headed out of Milsey Bay and headed west.  The cafe at the Seabird Centre was passed :-(

I would have stopped, but, no ...

It wasn't long before we hit the F4/F5.  It was good to play in the waves for a while.  After half an hour or so, the novelty wore off a bit and it turned to a bit of a slog to carry on until lunch time, and Hummel Rocks.  Although having visited the beach earlier in the year, I was unaware of it's other claim to fame - that of being a nudist beach.  And, directly on cue, a bare skinned individual was seen.  Given the weather at the time, all I can say is that they were keen. 

But it was a luch spot with a view ...

The beach was  covered in gently rounded rocks and shells ..

All to soon we had to head back, this time with some assistance.  Some waves were surfed, although by this time, sea conditions had subsided slightly ...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Training ...

Last night was an MR training night with RAF Boulmer.  This was primarily a safety brief for the newer members, and a chance for some to fly again.  Held in the school playing fields, half the kids in Selkirk appeared out of nowhere in thirty seconds flat.  But everyone enjoyed the evening.  The crew were from RAF Boulmer 202 Squadron.  Great bunch of guys.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Corkscrew Seal Injuries

The injuries have occurred on both common and grey seals. The mysterious deaths of more than 30 seals washed up along the east coast of Scotland and England in the past two years are being investigated. Each of the carcasses had a single, smooth-edged cut which started at the head and spiralled around the body. Experts said it was not known what had caused the "corkscrew" injuries, which were not consistent with fishing nets or boat propellers. Members of the public who spot a seal carcass have been urged to report it.

Seven seals have been found with the corkscrew wounds - which affect both common and grey seals - in St Andrew Bay and the Firth of Forth in the past two years.

In addition, four incidents were reported in Norfolk in July, part of 20 such occurrences in that area over the past year. Similar unsolved seal mortalities have also been reported off the Atlantic coast of Canada over the past decade. Scotland's Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has asked scientists at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews to investigate the potential cause of the seals' deaths. He said: "Seals form an important part of Scotland's rich marine environment and it is critical that we establish the cause of these strange seal deaths and do all we can to protect our seal populations, particularly as numbers have reduced in recent years. “

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Minch Moor Wind Farm

Wind farms are popping up all over the Borders.  Part of it is due to the Government drive, part also due to landowners finding some lucrative income.  Some places they deserve to be, some they don't.  One place they didn't deserve to be put was Minch Moor.  I daresay this may be considered a bit of a NIMBY attitude, but they really would have have a detrimental effect.  For once, local planning officials saw sense and rejected the proposal.  The Border Telegraph comments :-

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a wind farm at one of the Borders' best known beauty spots have been thrown out this week - despite a last-gasp bid by developers to have the decision delayed.

Swedish firm Vattenfall Wind Power - one of Europe's leading energy companies - applied to Scottish Borders Council for permission to build 12 turbines at Minch Moor near Innerleithen. It included plans to fell more than 300 hectares of forest.
However, after a local planning officer recommended the plans for refusal due to visual impact, the developers appealed for more time to address concerns.
That plea was ignored by councillors on the local authority's planning committee, who had earlier visited the site, which straddles the Southern Upland Way - the country's only coast to coast footpath. And, on Monday, they unanimously rejected the plans.
Welcoming the announcement this week, local Councillor Gavin Logan said: "We all support wind farms in the right place. This clearly is the wrong place and wind farm developers should think more carefully before they scatter planning applications around our Borders like confetti."
The meeting heard the turbines, which could produce up to 28MW of electricity, would be seen from as far apart as Selkirk, Cardrona, Innerleithen and Traquair, if the plans were approved.
And concerns were raised over the cumulative impact of building the development so close to the wind farm at nearby Broadmeadows.
"It is clear from the correspondence over the years that there has been significant concerns about the environmental impact of this proposed wind farm development and I share these concerns," Councillor Logan continued.
"There is a growing body of literature that suggests that we consistently underestimate the effects of wind farms on birds and other forms of wildlife. The popular osprey watches at Kailzie and Glentress are testament to an important tourist attraction.
"However, I agree with the officer's main reason for rejecting this application has to be the cumulative visual impact and importantly the impact on this particular landscape.
"The Southern Upland Way passes very close to the proposed wind farm site and is a major tourist attraction in this part of the Borders. The construction period will take over a year and will have hugely detrimental effect on tourist based businesses in Walkerburn and Innerleithen. Local hotels, B&Bs, self catering establishments and other tourist based businesses are holding their own at this difficult time. Any recovery to this disruption to their trade will take years. Some may not survive
"Most visitors to this part of the Borders come to enjoy our hills and scenery. The report has described very well the cumulative and sequential impact this proposal will have. The last thing hill walkers, bikers and pony trekkers want to see when they come to enjoy the remoteness and beauty of this part of Tweeddale and the Yarrow Valley is 12 industrial structures planted in around 700 acres of clear felled forestry."


Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Bass Rock

Slight better pictures of the Bass ...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Bass Revisited

For the third time in a week, I found myself staring at Bass Rock.  This time is was from the South, at Dunbar.  Dunbar has the advantage of not suffering from the parking problems that face North Berwick, you can park right next to the put in, and there's a nice sheltered concrete slip to use.  None of this soft sand shuffle hauling boats up and down a beach.

The forecast was for a variable F2/3, and for intermittent showers. The wind was all but non-existant, the sea was smooth, and there was the odd shower.

The paddle from Dunbar was a bit uninteresting until we reached the top end of Peffer sands.  Rather than stop, we elected to push on to Seacliff.  We were pulling a good 3.5 knots against the tide. 

Arriving at Seacliff, a number of artists were in residence.  Perhaps we got our picture drawn ( I hope they got my better side ! ).

After a short lunch, out to the Bass ...

Then round it ...

And further round ...

Gannets aside, the locals weren't showing much interest ..

And back to Dunbar ...

For those interested in boats

LH - Leith
HL - Hartlepool
LI - Littlehampton

Seen two other paddlers ( at a distance ) all day. They were making their way back to North Berwick.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


Unlike the previous post, my own garden doesn't house anything as exotic as gannet chicks.  A browse at lunchtime uncovered the following - just one of many that are plaguing the cottages this summer. 

Quality isn't very good, first attempts ...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Absentee Parents ...

No, not the local Social Services ...

Bass Rock is home to around 50,000 pairs of breeding gannets each year.  Apparently, if a young gannet chick falls out of the nest, it is abondoned by it's parents.  I think I also read somewhere that a pair of gannets only raise one chick per year, but may be mistaken about this. 
Anyway, the local boat operator ( of Sula II ) rescues any such chicks that he finds, and raises them in his back garden, with a view to releasing them back into the wild.

Meanwhile, mum and dad are somewhere below :-

Sunday, 1 August 2010

What goes up ...

One of the trips in the early summer was a dander up Skiddaw.  Now Skiddaw is a fairly boring hill. The day in question, whilst bright, was windy.  Not enough to be a concern from a walking perspective, but the guys below certainly made the most of it.  The just seemed to hang around for ages, enjoying the lift from the wind.   Rather them than me ....  But each to their own ...

Absence ...

Haven't put any entries in for a while, mainly because I've been out and enjoying the weather, plus a pretty dire internet connection from BT hasn't helped.  Anyway, one thing that has taken up my time is below :-