Monthly Archives: January 2016

Navigational Buoy

Today we spotted a Navigational Buoy washed up on one of our beaches, a cardinal direction buoy that tells ships which side to pass as they approach a large port.

What do you do with a 6 tonne navigational buoy? I phoned Trinity House, who are responsible for all the lighthouses and navigational aids in British Waters, and informed them it was there.
“Yes that one is reported thanks” and hung up.

Are you going to come and get it then? I wrote an email, politely informing Trinity House that the buoy lay within the nature reserve, and more importantly, well within a SSSI.

Unsurprisingly this got me a callback straight away from a very polite man who insisted the gps reading the buoy was reporting was not within the SSSI, but we soon cleared that up (it is within the SSSI).

Buoys are removed by either digging a channel and towing them back out to sea, or by heavy lifting machinery landward (nautical term, it means “on the land”), both of which will damage the ground and therefore need special permission from Natural England to take place in a SSSI.

I’m quite excited to see what sort of kit they use to drag it back out to sea!

Shed Hibernator

Here on the reserve we have several old World War II buildings, in various states of decay, some so perilously close to collapse we are absolutely not to go into them under any circumstances.

So I was having a nose through that one, a concrete shell we used to use as a fencing post storage but during the war was a massive searchlight post. Moving aside some mouldy cardboard I spotted several spiders and insects hibernating, including some lepidoptera! hooray!

This Herald moth is absolutely stunning! I don’t think I’ve seen one before.

Nearby were these two small tortoishell (cheers Sean for IDing, go #teammoth):

I look forward to seeing them in the Spring!

I was in the vicinity as I searched for a badger sett in the dunes. I had heard rumour there was one, and seen tracks here, so I spent a good twenty minutes following reasonably fresh badger tracks – always a fun thing to do! Badger prints are broad, with the toes in a row, and with clear claw marks:

There’s plenty of rabbit holes and digging in the dunes, but the entrance to a badger sett is a more sideways “D” shaped – rabbit burrows are taller than they are wide. And badgers tend to keep their sett entrances clean and tidy, while rabbits like a big mess.

Another nice sign of an active badger sett, rather than a big rabbit hole, is nice clear badger footprints leading straight out of it! (on the right of the picture)


Incredible pictures in the Daily Mail of gannets on Grassholm (off South West Wales) tangled in the fishing and plastic discard that’s become a carpet as birds use it to build their nests. The photos are by Sam Hobson.

Gannets are stunning, large sea birds, perfectly streamlined, they fish by diving at 60mph into the sea. They nest in just a handful of packed colonies (gannetries), most of which are around the British Isles, the largest being on Saint Kilda (59,622 birds), Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth (49,098) and Grassholm, off the coast of Wales (32,094). (These are the most recent survey numbers, which I got from the JNCC’s website. Very interesting to see that there are some birds known to nest on Rockall.)

The RSPB, who manage Grassholm, send a team out every year at the end of the breeding season to free birds that have become entangled. The sight of the plastic really brings home the scale of plastic pollution in the oceans.

I visited Grassholm in 2006, the first time I’d visited a gannetry. The spectacle of thousands of these stunning birds was unforgettable, as was the sight of so much brightly-coloured plastic in amongst the nests that covered the rock.

Grassholm in 2006

The next Gannetry I visited was that on Saint Kilda, this summer. And we had another run in with gannets and plastics – while we were conducting an offshore count of cliff-nesting birds, our expert crew, Angus and young David, spotted something in the water.

They began calling to each other in Gaelic as Angus carefully maneuvered the boat and young David got a grappling hook. After a few attempts, he managed to pull in two gannets who were tangled up together, their bills completely wrapped up in nylon filament from fishing discard.

Beautiful eyes!
Beautiful gannet

My colleagues carefully cut the birds free, and after a pose for photos, they went on their way.

While on boat survey, the boatmen, Angus and David of <a href="http://">Kilda Cruises</a>, spotted 2 gannets struggling in the water. Hauling them on board, their bills were tangled up together in nylon filament. Using filleting knives and nail scissors, my colleagues and the boatmen managed to free them. So wonderful to save them, and a treat to see gannets at close hand like this!

Angus told David that's the only bird he was picking up this weekend.
“that’ll be the only bird you pick up this weekend, David”

Undoubtedly, without quick eye and action of our boatmen, they would have drowned or starved miserably.

My Favourite Recipe

You need:
An onion
A tin of tomatoes
A pan
A cooker
An implement
Whatever else is in your fridge/cupboard

Chop up an onion into little pieces. In a big pan that you put a glug of olive oil into, place one small piece of onion and turn the heat up to.. like, one stop before the highest. When it starts crackling, turn the heat down to one stop below middle, and shove in the rest of the onion.

This is also when you put in crushed garlic – you can crush it with the flat of a knife, you know – and chopped up chorizo/bacon, if you are using it. You can also put in a chopped up stick of celery, and or a carrot, chopped up also.

Put the lid on, turn it down another notch, let it be for 5 – 10 mins. Shoogle it about every so often.

Meat goes in now, for browning. (If you’re doing chicken, a trick is at the very beginning, to fry it on a high heat to seal it first, that is, just until it’s brown on all sides but not through the middle. Then take it out of the pan, put it to one side, and then start at the onion stuff at the beginning. Then add it back again when you stick the tomatoes in)

Now: stick in a can of tomatos, crushed, or plum (but you need to crush them yourself with an implement) plus any veg (like brocolli or aubergine, all cut up small) and/or canned beans. (Not baked: I mean canneloni, or chickpeas, or borlotti or whatever you fancy/was on offer.) Put lid on, leave for 15 minutes. Stir about halfway through. (we’re still on low-medium heat)

Then take lid off, stir. stick in a bay leaf if you are cooking with beef, put any other stuff in, like a teaspoon of marmite or a shake of worcestererstershire sauce. Leave lid off for 20 minutes or until it’s reduced to a consistency you like. If you have spinach, stick that in when you look at it and think “oh it just needs another bit longer.” when it’s ready, dollop out into bowls. Serve with pasta, rice or crusty bread or whatever.