Blue Sound Snorkel Safari

August 9th, 2011

We have had two lovely snorkel safaris at Kingsands on Friday and at Devils point beach yesterday. At Kingsands we had a good low tide and managed to find lots of red mullet, pollack and wrasse crusiing around the huge bed of kelp and then amongst the eel grass we found a spider crab, daisy anenomes, spiney cockle, sea potato and lots of small gobies! Devils point gave us the chance to practice duck diving and finning skills in the pool and then to search for wildlife in the eelgrass and seaweed off shore. I think everyone managed to see some sea lettuce and serrated wrack with lots of two spot gobies swimming around.

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Summer Mix – BSAC Snorkel Diver Training

August 4th, 2011

Eight young people signed up for two days of training and marine fun, with the aim of gaining snorkel skills and learning about our fantastic marine life.

Day one was about snorkel skills and an introduction to marine life. Martyn from the Zone gave a lively talk about water and air pressure and the importance of equalizing the pressure in the inner ear when diving down to avoid ear damage. When we had finished in the classroom, we went upstairs to chat around the aquarium tanks that overlook Plymouth Sound. We had a close look at different types of wrasse, examined a venomous weever fish and looked at the differences between species of crab including a spider crab and a harbour crab. Matt, the MBA’s seagoing technician then gave a fantastic tour of the creatures in the seawater hall, in particular the small spotted catsharks and cuttlefish; his knowledge of fish and enthusiasm seem to be endless.

In the afternoon, we crossed the road to Tinside Lido. Thanks to Sally the Lido manager, we were able to use part of the pool to practise our snorkelling skills. The warmth and clear water helped the training along greatly and despite never having snorkelled before, the young people were soon familiar with their kit. By the end of the afternoon they were all diving down and equalising the pressure in their inner ear like seasoned professionals.

Day two dawned still and sultry. Barely a breeze ruffled the clear blue waters of Stoke beach as the Zone’s battered but trusty minibus, driven by the battered but trusty John rolled into the car park. A few quiet words from the girls saw Frazer – the youngest member of the group struggling down to the beach with three weight belts.

Kitted up and ready, we entered the water. After a few murky metres close to the beach, the visibility improved and soon we were diving in beautiful clear blue water over clean sand and between mighty rock outcrops covered in swaying kelp. A pair of compass jellyfish (Chrysaora hysoscella ) pulsated over the sand, long stinging tentacles streaming out behind. We watched and dived around them for some minutes, fascinated by their grace and beauty. Soon after, a spider crab strolling across the sand was brought to the surface for inspection. Some large ballan wrasse were spotted sculling around the rocks, and amongst the kelp we saw some huge snakelocks anemones, grey/greenish tentacles streaming in the current.

The training the day before really paid off with everyone comfortable and competent using their kit. The group dived in buddy pairs sticking to the ‘one-up, one-down’ rule. We were in deeper water now, the seabed 5 or 6 metres away and a little hazy. A long, gunmetal grey shape half covered in weed was on the seabed; was it a nurse hound? (a small shark). I dived down but as I got closer I saw the body was much thicker and smoother than a nurse hound. Then I saw the long tail with the dorsal fin running all the way to the tip and I knew I was looking at a good-sized conger eel.

By now some of the group were beginning to get cold. We moved inshore for a closer look at the kelp and to dive in gullies. Although Jay was clearly interested in marine life, this was partly because he wanted to eat it and he collected some seaweed (sugar kelp and dulse) for some kitchen experimentation later on.

A large spider crab and a nurse hound egg attached to some seaweed entertained us as we neared the beach and all too soon it was over. Several members of the group wanted to go in a second time, but time was not on our side.

We had a good discussion in the minibus on the way back, recalling what we had seen and sharing impressions of the dive. I recorded the marine life we saw and after checking it will be entered into databases and placed online alongside other volunteer records – a small but important addition to our knowledge of marine biodiversity.

All in all, two very enjoyable days were had by all. It was a real pleasure to introduce young people to their marine life at a great spot in perfect conditions. The feedback was excellent and we look forward to the next summer mix on 15th August.

See some pictures from the course, and of other marine-related fun at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluesound/

If you would like to learn to snorkel or learn more about the UK’s marine life, contact the Blue Sound Project via www.bluesound.org

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Sea Shore Safari at Devils Point Beach

June 20th, 2011

We had a great time rock pooling at Devil’s Point Beach this weekend and even managed to stay dry! Blue Sound was joined by Plymouth’s Actionnaires club (Action for blind people) to learn about the marine life of our European Marine Site. After searching hard under all the rocks and in all the crevices we managed to find huge ediable crab, lots of green shore crabs, a goby, barnacles, limpets, star ascidians, beadlet anenomes and two huge strawberry anenomes. Everyone that come along did really well following the Sea Shore Code by putting all the rocks back the right way, keeping only one animal in a bucket at a time, putting everything back where it came from and leaving limpets and anenomes on the rocks.

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Under the Big Blue Sky

June 13th, 2011

A lovely day playing in the rock pools with the sun shining down on us at Devil’s Point Beach. Families joined us Vanni, Stepping Stones to Nature and Blue Sound to explore along the shore where we found some big strawberry anemones, beadlet anemones and a 5 bearded rockling as well as lots and lots of crabs. Savannah, Eva and Herbie were all very brave and felt the slimy seaweed and stroked the edible crabs! We all also sang to the anemones and made some beautiful Neptune Crowns.

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Blue Sound Action Group Boat Snorkel Survey

June 9th, 2011

Another amazing snorkel last night after last weeks at Stoke, Batten Bay and Devils Point. We took a dive boat out to between Penlee point and Cawsands with The Zone team. All 20 of us had a great time rolling in off the boat into the kelp forests and chasing some big old Pollack over the sand. Alot of people managed to dive down to explore and were rewarded with the sight of breadcrumb sponge and corkwing wrasse hidden in the thongweed. The barnacle and beadlet anenome covered rock also provided a useful resting place when we got exhausted.

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Snorkel Safari at Batten Bay

June 6th, 2011

The half term snorkel safari at Batten Bay was brilliant, we swam through loads of thongweed and then across a sandy seabed until we reached a rock ledge covered in massive kelp. The visibility was good and we took it in turns to duck dive (one up, one down!) to have a closer look at the seabed. Then we went further across towards Jennycliff and found another gulley and what looked like a pillar or piling sticking up to just below the water level covered in kelp and feathery hydroids. It turned out to be a buoy floating on the end of a rope. We followed the rope back and found … a shipwreck! (something big and metal anyway).
We didn’t see too many fish but Rishi found a jellyfish and Will saw something kick up the sand – probably a plaice or some other flatfish. Charlie also spotted at Spider Crab hiding in kelp.
For first time snorkelers, our group was brilliant, everyone had the basic skills really quickly and there was plenty of diving down.

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Under the Big Blue Sky

May 16th, 2011

We had a lovely trip to the beach at the Hoe with families from Stonehouse. As well as making and flying some herring gull kites we collected things to put on our fishy mobiles. We also found some shore crabs, brittle stars, limpets, sea lettuce, thong weed and a tiny little long clawed porceline crab! A great outing with the sun shining as we sang sea songs and played in the rockpools.

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The first Blue Sound Snorkel Safari of 2011!

April 14th, 2011

A group of 20 of us ventured into the sea to see what we could find living on the reef off Kingsand. Dressed in winter wetsuits, hoods, gloves and boots with only our lips and chins exposed in was warm enough to stay in for an hour. The Blue sound web page told us it was only 10.3 degrees so the sea still hasn’t warmed much from winter but the vis was great! We managed to find a beautiful spiny starfish clinging to a rock surrounded by thong weed waving in the swell and a giant spider crab clambering through the kelp. Those of us that managed to dive down saw some wrasse, pollack and whiting too. As we made our way back to the beach for a well earned hot choc we also noticed a few oysters, huge painted top shell and a volcanoe barnacle! It was only when we got out of the water that we realised how important having a warm jaw is for talking!

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Blue sound training day

April 11th, 2011

On Friday (8th April), childrens play rangers, youth staff, rangers at Anthony House, National Trust and Mount Edgcumbe and The Zone who work with Blue Sound came along to Mount Edgecumbe for a training day on how to run seashore sessions. After a brief intro by Bex on what Blue Sound is, we spent the morning inside learning about Shore Thing with Fiona Crouch and Seashore Safaris, Alien Invaders and Species Fun Facts with Jack Sewell.

Then after lunch in the sun, we all headed down to the rocky shore, where Jack taught everyone how to play Limpets, Crazy Camo Crabs, the True or False game and lots of other fun stuff to do on the shore. After that we all headed into the rockpools to see what we could find and learn as much as possible about the creatures to pass onto our groups! We managed to find lots of different seaweeds and exchange some tasty receipes! We also found an edible crab growing a new leg, a turret shell, lots of holes from piddock shells, huge strawberry anenomes, baked bean sea squirts as well as lots more!

It was a gorgeous sunny day and everyone had a good time and came away with lots of games and ideas for things to do with groups on the shore and even a bit of sunburn.  :)

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We at Blue Sound had a very busy and very fun week last week!

March 1st, 2011

On Tuesday 22nd February, we all met at the Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support Council, caught the ferry at the Mayflower steps and went to Batten Bay. We ate some yummy lunch (pasties, cake and fruit!), got our wellies on and then began our search for marine life. We ventured down to the shore and began looking under rocks to find whatever we can, and there was lots to find! There were lots of Velvet swimming crabs, shore crabs, a blenny fish, prawns, starfish and many others, including a montague crab (they’re my favourites, they look very strong!). We even found a crab that was so small it looked like a tiny pebble (“We’d better put him down extra carefully!”).
In the meantime, lots of people played on the beach, building sandcastles and collecting old shells, so there really was something for everyone! Many of the girls loved learning about the limpets and different snail shells they could find, and some were very surprised indeed to find a hermit crab living inside an old shell!
Then on Wednesday 23rd February, we were off out again! This time we went down to Devil’s Point Beach. We started by playing “True or False”, to see how much we really knew about life in the ocean. Did you know that Whales have belly buttons?? Well, they do!

Many of us splashed around the rocks and found lots of interesting species. We found a starfish, and not everyone believed you could get them in the Plymouth Sound before we did, it’s always a nice surprise what you can find! A little later on some rain arrived, but that didn’t stop us in our hunt! We did a Shore Life Survey as we went, and wrote down everything we found, and we found a lot! There were all sorts of crabs found, including narrow-clawed and broad-clawed porcelain crabs, velvet swimmers and shore crabs. We were looking out for invasive species, and found some Pacific Oysters. We also found an edible crab who had recently shed his shell and was waiting for
his new one to get hard, and a Yellow Plumed Seaslug.

Teaching us about the different sharks and rays in the area was Jon from the Sharks Trust, with whom we had a little look around for “mermaids purses”, which are actually shark and ray egg cases. We were also joined by Joy, who is a Plymouth Council Play Officer, who showed us how to get artistic at the seaside! Many of the kids helped to make a beautiful mermaid, using seaweed for hair and pebbles for her face. They also got busy making sandcastles and animal shapes.
We have some photos from Devil’s Point for you to see here
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluesound/sets/72157626165996358/ All future events can be seen at www.bluesound.org.
Izzy Dean

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