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Getting Wet for Wildlife

July 31, 2011

By Marc Smith, Marine Warden

The K-Team has been getting wet and wild about wildlife!  Young volunteers aged between 13 and 25 have been recruited to regularly survey Kimmeridge Bay for new and known marine species, helping the Dorset Wildlife Trust gain vital information about our changing seas.  Before they could do the surveys they had to obtain an official PADI Snorkeling/Skin Diver qualification which improves skill and confidence in the water.  They all passed the course with flying colours thanks to the excellent training by Kevin Craddock and his team from Flippas-n-Fins Scuba Diving.  Training over, it was now time to hit the sea!  We arranged our first snorkel survey for Wednesday evening along the famous Kimmeridge Snorkel Trail.

 

Kev Craddock doing a great job training up our wildlife recruits

 

The day of the survey – 9 am.  The sun was shining, there wasn’t a ripple on the water and the visibility looked to be pushing over 6 metres – PERFECT!  My excitement grew as I knew what a treat we would all be in for later on.  Kimmeridge Bay is one of the best places in the UK to snorkel and the amount of life that you can see there is breathtaking.  I have snorkeled Ningaloo reef, the largest fringing reef in the world, and I was blown away the first time I went snorkeling at Kimmeridge.  The floor is scattered with iridescent blue magic seaweed.  There are HUGE spider crabs, brightly coloured wrasse, almost luminous green snakelocks anemones tinged with bright purple tips.  I could go on.  It really is quite AMAZING!  But I digress.

 

Sam, Heather and Aiyisha give the ‘A- O.K. sign’ as they pass their PADI course

 

The K-Team snorkel volunteers were ringing me at the centre all day to check if the survey was going ahead.  I was gleefully telling them about how incredible the visibility was and what a fantastic snorkel we were going to have.  Then 5 pm came!  There was a sudden shift in the wind, it suddenly began to howl and sweep in from the south.  Uh-oh!  “This is not good” I thought.  Over the next two hours the wind continued to blow, the waves started to build and the skies began to darken.  By the time everyone arrived the water was dark, murky and choppy.  I couldn’t believe it!

 

The K-Team – All kitted up and ready to go

 

Undeterred and unfazed our valiant volunteers decided to get in the water and have a play anyway.  We thought it would be a good opportunity to practice our newly acquired dolphin-esque snorkel skills.   The visibility was very poor and the waves were quite large but we still managed to find a lovely spider crab, some Japanese seaweed and we saw a few fleeting glimpses of some unidentified fishes.  Not the most productive snorkel in regards to collecting data – but we had great fun trying!

Our second excursion was a bit more successful.  The water was flat calm but the visibility still wasn’t fantastic because the wind had been blowing quite strongly for a few days before.  Everyone entered the water a bit tentatively at first.  Trying to postpone the inevitable cold shock which always greets you when you first enter the water.  Tom and Nathan then decide to go for it and take the plunge.

 

You go first. No you go first!

 

Spurred on by their bravery everyone else dived in.  We swam out to an intertidal rock in our buddy pairs, under the watchful eye of Nicola who was our kayak support.  As we were swimming along Matthew kept getting attacked by Japanese seaweed.   I’m still not totally convinced it was a conscious effort on the part of the seaweed.  I think it may have been more of an entanglement issue.

 

Matthew getting attacked by Japanese seaweed

 

When we got to our starting point we began our timed survey.  Sam found some lovely large blennies hiding in the nooks and crannies of a large rock.  Claire found some green sea fingers (a type of seaweed; not on somebodies hands, thankfully) and Tom found some magic seaweed.  We also saw lots of limpets and barnacles and a corkwing wrasse.  Then as we were heading back to shore Nathan made the spot of the day – a magnificent lobster scampering around on our snorkel trail.  What a great find!  We all had a look and then we let him go on his merry way.

 

Nicola looking after us

 

Shortly after seeing the lobster we all started feeling the cold so we headed back to the shore.  It was time to get dry and get a well-deserved cup of tea.  On the way back Tom said “ Exploring our underwater world is fascinating.  I never knew that our British marine life is so colourful, rich and diverse”.

 

Looking very wet and cold; our brave team after their first survey

 

On our third dive the visibility was better again and we saw a tompot blenny, a hermit crab, corkwing wrasse, ballan wrasse, velvet swimming crabs, an edible crab, pollack and some shannies. We all can’t wait for the next session.

If you would like to find out more about our K Team visit: http://www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/surfnturf.html

If you want to have a go at snorkeling yourself. Why not give the Kimmeridge Snorkel Trail ago. For more information on this visit: http://www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/snorkeling_trail.html .  If you spot anything interesting be sure to pop into the Fine Foundation Marine Centre to tell me all about it.

Cheers,

Marc

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 10, 2011 7:21 pm

    Hey Marc, thanks for organising this. Ayisha loved the snorkelling course! See you soon.

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