Sunday, 8 May 2016
We were surrounded by thousands of seabirds of various species (the cliffs from Bempton to Flamborough are home to 250,000 birds during the breeding season), but people were queuing up to get a look at this little puffin.
Getting nowhere near as much attention but almost as photogenic, a pair of razorbills was nesting close to our lookout point.
Monday, 25 April 2016
Saturday, 15 August 2015
Whilst waiting for a couple of people who were stuck in traffic, we made a quick sortie to visit the resident grey seals who were bobbing around like huge corks in the waves. These animals are always curious about boats and came to investigate us.
Having collected the latecomers, we headed back out to sea. White-beaked dolphins are a pelagic or open-ocean species, so you have to work hard to see them and we expected to travel some 20 miles offshore. However even 25 miles out the dolphins were proving elusive and we eventually had to turn back.
Thankfully, even though we couldn't find the dolphins, they found us. We were joined by a pod of maybe 10 or 12 (judging by the numbers we could see above the surface at any one time) and the animals spent time with us, just zipping underneath and around the boat, until we had to head back to shore before it got dark. It just goes to show that you don't need to leave the UK to have great cetacean encounters (but you do have to be persistent and willing to spend several hours crashing around at sea!).
Thursday, 23 July 2015
We flew into Cancún and because some of the people in our group weren't arriving until well into the evening we had a night in a huge, all-inclusive hotel outside the city and close to the terminal for the Isla Mujeres ferry. Although the hotel was busy, it wasn't devoid of wildlife and on my way back from breakfast the next morning I spotted an iguana (which later turned out to be a common black or spiny-tailed iguana). After carefully stalking the creature for a few minutes to get a photo, I realised that it lived right next to the children's swimming pool and therefore wasn't the slightest bit bothered about people.
Later that day, we travelled across to Isla Mujeres on the ferry, arriving on the last day of the annual whale shark festival - the people of the island are clearly proud of 'their' whale sharks.
We settled into our hotel, the gardens of which were home to a couple of dozen more iguanas, and we were treated to a lovely sunset before dinner.
Over the next few days, I went out on four boat trips with researchers from the Marine Megafauna Foundation and Mexican NGO Ch’ooj Ajauil AC and had amazing encounters with the whale sharks. The animals grow to 12 metres in length (although there are several anecdotal reports of individuals as large as 18 metres) but they attain that enormous size purely through filter-feeding, cruising steadily with their massive mouths open wide through clouds of fish eggs, tiny crustaceans such as krill and copepods, and other plankton.
Despite being such enormous creatures, whale sharks are elusive and much of their life cycle is still a mystery – for example the largest individuals, especially the mature females, are rarely encountered. The largest animals we saw in Mexico were ‘only’ about 9 metres long, but even the smaller individuals (which looked rather tubby and cute) were still 5 metres long – 3 times my height!
I did attempt to take some underwater photos of the whale sharks with my compact camera in a waterproof bag, but the results were not great so I decided to just enjoy the swims and took surface shots of the sharks from the boat instead. Here's my best underwater effort.
Ch’ooj Ajauil AC conducted the whale shark watching in a responsible manner and I had many prolonged swims alongside these beautiful ocean giants - often having the shark all to myself - without ever feeling that we were disturbing their vital feeding behaviour.
However the same sadly couldn’t be said for the activities of many of the other boat operators, and I hope that the research supported by our trip will enable Ch’ooj Ajauil AC to secure more effective regulation of the whale shark boat trips around Cancún.
As well as the whale sharks, we had some close encounters with giant manta rays, spotted a few bottlenose dolphins, and took a night time walk to a beach where green turtles were laboriously hauling themselves overland to dig a nest. Unfortunately we didn’t see any actual egg-laying, but we did get stopped and questioned by some police officers who were evidently either bored or didn't have the imagination to understand why someone would want to watch turtles.
Back at the hotel on our last day I took some final pictures of the resident iguanas and said farewell to Isla Mujeres and its amazing wildlife. I’m already thinking about where else I can go to see whale sharks again!
Thursday, 25 June 2015
Monday, 22 June 2015
Today he was obviously feeling quite relaxed in the summer warmth and decided to sunbathe on the patio table whilst he was waiting for his human to appear.
Saturday, 13 June 2015
Friday, 5 June 2015
Today I visited Spurn Point National Nature Reserve at the mouth of the Humber, with the other volunteers from Pearson Park Wildlife Garden in Hull.
We used the Unimog off-roader to drive down to the tip of the Point, and en route spotted some of the reserve's roe deer.
Saturday, 18 October 2014
Today I helped out with a small mammal survey at Filey Dams Nature Reserve in North Yorkshire. This field vole looked rather disgruntled at being caught in a live-trap, but it still sat calmly to have its photo taken (as field voles usually do).
Thursday, 15 May 2014
Tuesday, 8 April 2014
My delight turned to sadness later today when I learned that this ditch will be disturbed by the construction of part of a huge flood alleviation scheme - undoubtedly necessary, but I'm off to investigate what mitigation measures will be put in place for my little Ratty friend (and his/her descendants)!
Saturday, 14 July 2012
Saturday, 12 May 2012
Sunday, 6 November 2011
We then went back to Xi'an and visited the Wild Goose Pagoda which is a focal point for Buddhists and was very atmospheric but quite crowded. This lovely elephant statue graced one of the many courtyards.
The drizzly rain cleared and we walked around part of the old city wall, then meandered back to the hotel via narrow streets full of small shops. We bought gifts and I did my best to turn a blind eye to a trussed-up sheep being wheelbarrowed of to some no doubt grisly end.
Our trip ended this evening with a dumpling banquet.
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Friday, 4 November 2011
Thursday, 3 November 2011
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Monday, 31 October 2011
Sunday, 30 October 2011
Saturday, 29 October 2011
At breakfast we got fresh home-made flatbreads which were scrummy. At mealtimes we are always joined by a variety of dogs including our favourite who we have named 'Stumpy'. She was evidently at the back of the queue when they were giving out legs, and there were only half-size ones left. We walked 5km into the forest and then got word from the trackers that they had found a mother panda and her youngster. We climbed up an impossibly steep mountainside (or I would have said it was if there wasn't a panda somewhere at the top of it), with the aim of getting ahead of where the trackers anticipated the pandas would emerge. It was extremely warm climbing, and the local guide offered to carry my camera-containing rucksack. Our group had got strung out negotiating the steep slope when the mother panda (who evidently was not familiar with the trackers' tactics for delighting tourists) suddenly appeared not far below me and cut across the path of our group - a clear view for me if only for about 10 seconds, but the local guide had disappeared with my camera - no photos even if I had been quick enough! We all regrouped and waited quietly, and eventually the cub (about 12 months old) came bumbling along looking for its mother. It was slightly obscured by the vegetation but close enough to see how cute it was.