Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Epple Bay part two

Following on from the previous posting, I returned back to Epple Bay at 15:00 hrs. The strong winds and heavy rain and the strong tide had completely changed the landscape of the bay. The banked sea weed on the strandline had gone and the entire bay was littered with dead or dying Oysters. There were large amounts of Razor shells and Slipper Limpet shells at various levels of the beach that had also came in on the tide.
Comparing the photograph in the top left hand corner to my photograph from the previous posting, really does highlight the strength of the tide as the re landscaped beach does confirm.
The sea gulls were noisily hovering above and a large number of small sea birds could be seen feeding on the receding shoreline , I tried to count them but I could only estimate around 150, this number included turnstones who were also taking advantage of the free offerings the tide had brought in.
I made every effort not to disturb the sea birds as I continued to pick up Oyster shells and other sea shells for my collection, which I have photographed above.

Epple Bay part one

During the early hours of this morning (28/02/10) the wind had picked up off the North Thanet coastline from a steady South South East breeze to a Northerly force 7. At present the tides are heading for the spring tides and backed with a stiff Northerly breeze todays incoming tide was directing waves straight in off the sea into the local bays with some force.
Today, Epple Bay , Birchington was my target as I was hoping to find samples of rock Oysters fused together. I choose Epple Bay because in the latest Thanet Coast Project survey, this area has the highest density of the invasive rock Oyster. Also after a few weeks of fine weather Epple Bay had built up dense piles of seaweed on the strandline which was about to be decimated by a Northerly backed strong tide. Therefore, a before and after survey was on the cards.
So around 09:30 this morning I took some photographs of the bay before the event. As you can see from the photograph the sea state is rough and the incoming waves had started pushing stranded Oysters up onto the shore. Also in the photographs the seaweed was well banked up on the strandine.
After taking the photographs I had a quick look on the strandline and to make a quick mental note of what had came in on the previous tides, then went home to dry off.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Coastal round up.

The weather forecast for beachcombing looks very promising especially on top the predicted big midday tides this week. With the wind predictions ranging from SS East, North, S West and East and some good low waters. I am expecting a week of some good finds for my collection of the coast with my primary target being oyster shell formations from Margate, Westgate and Birchington.
This month has been good and the cold weather has not been a barrier. The finds of Lesser Spotted Dogfish egg cases and Thornback Ray egg cases (mermaid purses) on the strandline have been good as I have had the patience in this cold weather to count every single one. With this year has being the first year I have recorded such finds being part of the Thanet Coast Project which is Thanet District Council sponsored.
March in the past has always been good for Amber , with my two main hot spots being the Western Undercliff when the wind is in the South and Walpole Bay when the wind is in the North. With the few encouraging finds in February I am expecting to do well.
February was also good for the tiny European Cowries amongst the sea coal. They are no bigger that 10mm and are white in appearance and are nowhere as exotic as there tropical cousins but they are just as interesting.
However, my aim will be to build up on my collection of oyster shell formations from the stretch of rock from Margate to Birchington being the ideal place. and throughout the week I will post my more relevant finds.

The "Roc Doc"

In recent years coastal awareness has taken a great leap forward and one of the pioneers in my eyes has to be Dr Alisdair Bruce, known as the "Roc Doc". Famous for his guided tours tours of the coastline and his geological expertise of the Thanet Coastline, he is planning another one of his successful guided tours. The details are in this week's Thanet Extra and I have posted the article for those who missed it.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Today's survey at the Western Undercliff

It has been eleven days since I last surveyed the Western Undercliff, Ramsgate and since then one set of neap tides have past, the weather has become milder and the wind has changed from North East to South East then Southerly. Today the wind was a gentle Southerly probably about force three which was ideal for a survey as a new strandline would had been formed over the past few days. Today the mix of the strandline was very much different than previous, there was more weed and there was a mix of sea coal in the weed. Overall there was about a 100 metre of strandline to survey, many people who know the area well will confirm there is not much of a beach. I counted 15 whelk egg cases, 13 mermaid purses and 114 dog fish egg cases. The dog fish egg cases looked remarkably fresh which was pleasing as I knew they could not have been double counted from my previous survey. I did however take 67 home to give give them a more thorough examination and I can confirm all had hatched and they had recently come ashore.
Once completing surveying the strandline I collected a few shells and some sea coal for my collection of the coast and then started walking the low water mark from the ferry terminal towards the groyne. By the steps by the ferry terminal I came across some netting and rope that had come ashore and wrapped around the railings near the steps. This I removed and put in the black sack I always carry with me.

On the low water mark between the groynes the turnstones were feeding well in the shallow water picking amongst the small pieces of weed but today there wasn't as many as I counted only 16. Once past the groynes the rest of the western undercliff is rock covered in mussels which runs adjacent to the promenade. On the low water mark the rock then meets the sand and mud of the Pegwell Bay. Along this band of rock on the low water mark I counted 68 oyster catchers which is the most I have ever seen, I even counted them again in case I was making a mistake as I was counting their unmissable beaks from a distance, but I was right first time there was 68.
Returning back I walked below the promenade along the western undercliff rocks picking up anything that is a hazard to the marine enviroment now I had a bin bag on the go. As I always have a bin bag in my pocket , in future I will always make sure that when I do a survey I will at least pick litter up and not bring it back empty.
I did take a picture of the overflow drain that was discharging filthy black water onto the beach ten days ago in my previous survey , but this time it was dormant.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A bitterly cold day on the beach.

Following on from yesterday's survey of the Western Undercliff, today at 13:40 hrs I surveyed the Ramsgate main sands. This was certainly a different kettle of fish as the bitterly cold North East force five wind was blowing hard off the sea and hitting the beach at an angle causing a great deal of surf which was sweeping the beach in a irregular wave pattern. There were no small sea birds like turnstones to be seen as they prefer the sheltered waters around the groynes of the Western Undercliff. However, the Herring gulls were hovering high above following the strandline keeping a careful eye on the activity below.

The landscape of the beach had changed from last week due to the wind and tide direction and everything seemed to be flat with brown flint littering the beach.The strandline was very patchy with very little weed, so I started from the East Pier end and walked the full length recording everything as I went along. The count was very low recording 6 mermaid purses and 9 (hatched) dog fish egg cases and 19 whelk egg cases. There were no sea shells or dead crabs to be seen.

I did find a dead sea bird which I am unable to identify which I have photographed. Like most fisherman from the past I only know the names of the sea birds by the names we give them and not their proper names. One thing for sure it was not a squeaker or should I say a Tern as I understand Tern's very well from the days we we used to spin for Bass off the offshore Margate Sandbanks. The technique was simply, we would anchor the boat in the bight off the Margate Sands and I would spot for Terns. The Terns would fly high up and would squeak to each other as they could see shoals of Bass chasing small shoals of fish ready to force them up to the surface. From the squeaking and the changing flight pattern it enabled us to work out what the Bass were doing. Eventually it became possible to work out were the shoal would break the surface . The Terns would then catch the small fish as the shoal broke the surface and we would catch the Bass on spinners.

Now I am a coast warden the chart of sea birds given to me by the Thanet Coast Project has made identification far more accurate.Following on from the survey once again I found small ball of lost netting and I am beginning to think that lost netting has a habit of following me around the coast. Being prepared as usual I had a dustbin bag in my pocket to put it in so it can be disposed of without causing anymore danger to the marine environment.

I came across one good find amongst the flints, and that was a piece of fossilized clam about 160mm long and about 50 mm across attached to a piece of flint. It is curved with the ridges 0f the clam visible and this will make a great edition to my new year 2010 collection of the coast.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Western Undercliff first survey

Today I carried out my first proper survey of the Western Undercliff , Ramsgate for the Thanet Coast Project. The snowfall did hamper things a bit as the strandline was completely covered, so I concentrated on just walking the low water mark and had to do a shortened survey. The first thing I couldn't help noticing was that the drain overflow pipes from the road and ferry terminal were discharging onto the beach, one of the pipes discharging from the road was particularly bad discharging black filth onto the sand which in the summer time would be a designated tourist beach. I have posted a photograph to prove it.

Further down the beach near the low water mark near the ferry terminal the receding tide had left a few patches of weed and small patches of coal dust. Normally ideal territory for finding Amber it was not to be, so I surveyed the amount of Dogfish egg cases instead and counted 27 that had all hatched. Walking from the terminal towards Pegwell Bay and around the groynes I did pick up some sea coal and a few sea shells for my new collection of the coast. I also counted 15 turnstones feeding in one area for the survey. On the end of one of the wooden groynes I came across a small ball of tangled netting which I removed and disposed of when I got home. Overall there wasn't really much to see and find.

Even though it was snowing it didn't really feel cold probably because I was so focused on what I was doing, that was until I saw a coin in a rock pool and realised the rock pool had a thin layer of ice on the surface as I put my hand in the water, now that is what I call cold.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The rocks

This past set of low waters have certainly been an excellent opportunity to get amongst the rocks that form the artificial breakwater around the Port Ramsgate Terminal, something I have been meaning to do for a long while. As both arms of the terminal form part of my survey area as a volunteer coast warden it was a great opportunity to take some photographs and understand the rocks a bit better.
The rocks off the East Pier as you can see in the photograph on the left have this interesting clean rugged weathered look which was pleasing to the eye. There was very little marine life present except for patches of limpets achored on the rocks and the odd oyster here and there. Considering these rocks act as a barrier across the tide which I thought would act as a trap for flotsam and jetsom and I thought there could be something of interest wedged in amongst the rocks. However, there wasn't much to be found except for a couple of lost nets tangled around the rocks, I was not disappointed as I did savour the moment that I was so far out behind the East Pier something I won't be doing again for another six months.
On the other side the rocks on the Western Undercliff side were completely different, and as you can see from the photograph on the right they are weeded providing a substantial habitat for all forms of marine life. There was an abundance of oysters and limpets present. It was clear by the debris present that these rocks were acting as a trap for flotsam and jetsom and in almost every nook and cranny there was something to be found either natural or man made. In some cases it was lost netting which unfortunately is a hazard to marine life.
With the site of timber and other items higher up the rocks I started to get a bit adventurous as my curiosity got the better of me as I made my way up the rocks. That was the easy part as I was to find it was far more difficult getting back down again. I did manage to cover about 100 metres of rocks to get a fair idea what the rocks were about and gather enough info for future visits. My conclusion being that it is a great place to be after some extreme weather.
Like all beachcombing trips I always come away with my trophy , this time it was a lost mooring buoy.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Ramsgate Amber hunt

Today's low water was just before mid day and following on from the exceptional low tides we have been experiencing all week, this morning's low tide was no a bad one either for a mid day low. The mission for today was to look for Amber between the groynes at the Western Undercliff, Ramsgate, plus takes a few notes and photographs for future surveying.It did take too long to find a suitable patch to find Amber, it was just a case looking for a patch of fine sea coal mixed with small pieces of weed close to the rocks and that was not a problem.
The Western undercliff is not the sort of spot were big pieces of Amber can be found as most pieces found in that area tend to be a bead size or slightly larger, which to find amongst the sea coal and weed requires a great deal of concentration.
Anybody who has visited the Dover museum may recall the small pieces of Amber beads found in the Saxon graves in the area . Then this will give an idea of the size and the colour of the Amber as it is exactly the same in colour with the same Baltic origins as the Ramsgate pieces of Amber. Pictured are the five small pieces I found today and the ten pence piece gives an idea of the scale.
As the pieces were small I could not do the static test or the hot needle test. So I tested them by mixing two table spoons of salt in a mug with water. If the pieces are Amber they will float, this resulted in five pieces floating and two sinking which turned out to be plastic.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A Margate collection

One of my earliest influences of collecting historic items from the shore has to be reading the accounts of the Thames mudlarks and the discoveries of historic items found on the banks of the River Thames found in the 19th and 20th century.

Margate in comparison to the history of the Thames is probably just a pin prick in the story of time. However, that little pin prick is a complete time capsule of layers of maritime history and unique Victorian and Edwardian sea side history in anaerobic layers of clay and sand. There is nowhere else on the south coast where such a concentration of history is buried under the sand and this is due entirely to the vast expanse of sand which Margate possesses which no other resort on the south coast has . This is largely due to the fact that since the construction of the Stone Pier (1815) and then the construction of the groyne by the Nayland Rock, then followed by the construction of the tidal swimming pool (1920's) the bay and main sands has silted up. During this silting process any items lost have remained buried more or less where they lay.
Even in living memory local people can remember the tide reaching the slipway by the clocktower, the pleasure boats at the Kings Steps and the boating pool nearby. All to be silted with sand.
However, there have been times when there has been a natural phenomenon when for some reason sand will erode in one one area of the bay or on the outside of the Stone Pier uncovering items. Many of the items are not exactly top class exhibits but they do tell the history of the area and most of all they authentic in their weather damage state. In recent years this has been helped by the loss of the Margate Jetty in the storm of January 1978 and the the final demolition twenty years later. The Jetty was constructed in 1853 and in a way acted as a breakwater for some areas of the bay breaking waves in northerly winds. Once the Jetty extension was removed in 1998, sand eroded from the bay particularly around the Nayland Rock area and in the centre of the bay. There was also the added bonus of debris that had remained under the Jetty extension was coming ashore. Even today during the winter the area to the east of the Nayland will expose bare white chalk where sand once covered . Unfortunately this has not halted the silted process on the main sands and harbour area which only had a brief respite in 1998.
In the picture are the remains of a collection I built up from the 1990's when we had a series of consecutive winter storms. I do find the shards of pottery and china interesting as the pieces I have collected bear the names of the paddle steamer companies that arrived at the Stone Pier bringing in visitors from London. Over the years there have also been many items like bottles and stoppers found around the harbour area mostly all from London, all I believe derived from the paddle steamer trade. The metal items pictured were all found with a metal detector and I must admit my finds over the years have run into thousands which have been mainly late 19th and early 20th century from the upper layers in the area. There have been times when excavation has taken place in and around the harbour breaking into the deeper layers of coal , clay and silt. The sort of consistency you would find on the banks of the Thames. This has been very productive for George III coins and earlier shards of pottery. However, nothing older than the 17th century has ever been found except for the odd Nuremberg token, but then this is not surprising as nobody has ever dug that deep down in the Harbour area to find out.

Clean Seas

This photograph is of just a few items I have picked up from the strand line recently. Like every beachcomber I have got my trophy, and this time it is the piece of driftwood on the left. As you can see it has been attacked by the Terado worm giving the wood this fascinating appearance. Once dried out in controlled conditions it will be fine and dandy and form part of my new collection of the coast. The fire extinguisher, well I knocked the head off with a hammer and put it in the metal recycling skip down a Richborough. The lead weights I just put in a bucket and when it is full take them down the scrap yard, The float I will give to a fisherman friend and most important of all the tangled ball of fishing line which is a hazard to a forms of marine life will be put out of harms way and in the bin.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Low water at Ramsgate this morning.

The tidal prediction for this mornings low water was very promising enabling complete access behind the East Pier at Ramsgate. However, this was also made easier by the amount of sand that had built up around the 2nd,3rd,4th cant of the East Pier. So for once I was able to walk over to the East Pier ferry terminal breakwater without getter wet as part of my first survey of Ramsgate main sands as a Coast Warden. It was one of those days were everything appeared clean and fresh, the sand was spotless and there was no weed in sight. The rocks were just the same, the only thing that appeared to be missing was the same abundance of oysters which have covered the rocks on the other arm of the Western undercliff ferry terminal rocks.
After a complete survey of the rocks the only matter of concern were two lost gills nets that had become fast amongst the rocks. Being synthetic these nets when lost do not decompose and therefore become a hazard to all forms of marine life which is a matter of concern for the Thanet Coast Project. Unfortunately I did not have a knife but I will try and remove the netting at a later date.
The main sands was also very clean except for the strand line, but then that is something expected. Fortunately most of the flotsam was natural and there were very few items from our throw away consumer society to be found. I noticed there were a number of clusters of dog fish egg sacs, mermaid purses and whelk egg sacs so I did a quick count on the full length of the strand line, resulting in 15 clusters of dog fish egg sacs, 90 mermaid purses and I gave up counting whelk egg sacs when I reached 150. Overall such data is very encouraging.
Further down the beach the legs and shells of the dead Velvet swimmer crabs from the recent cold snap were scattered here as part of the natural decomposition process.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Margate fun fair

I recently came across this original pen drawing dated October 2nd 1936. The artist is seventeen year old Norman K Hardie and as you can see the title is "Margate fun fair". There are references to "Empire" and "Rearmanent" a topical theme at the time and there is a lady lying on the floor with a scarf titled agriculture and a bag lying alongside labelled policy which is obviously a political theme of the time as seen through Norman's seventeen year old eyes , which I admit is hard to understand. However, I find the drawing an excellent piece of social commentary from a teenager living in a era when the views and expressions of teenagers were largely ignored.


This morning I had a quick look just below the strand line at Margate, for those familiar with Margate I looked at the small black patches that consist mainly of small pieces of sea coal that form when the wind blows in off the sea. Not really much to look at but it is the hot spot for amber and small sticks of brown cordite in that area.
Without fail I managed to find a few small sticks of cordite. The origins of the cordite are from second world war munitions that have ended in the sea , even after all those years it is still highly flammable when lit with a match. It burns with a bright yellow flame and is incredibly smelly, however it is great to have fun with. I can recall many years ago we used to put a small piece in some of the other fisherman's cigarettes in Ship Inn at Margate as they left the packet on the bar to go to the toilet. The loaded cigarette was placed back in the packet and it was like a game of Russian roulette waiting for them to light the cigarette which would flare up.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Coastal round up

On tuesday and wednesday the early morning low tides are going to be exceptional which will be an idea time to map out my new terrritory by taking low water photographs and notes etc.,. This will be entirely for my own records and not the actions of some old tom cat arriving on the scene, as my objective will be to start a new collection from Ramsgate main sands as from this month. Hopefully the weather will be bitter cold with a touch of north in the wind which always garuntees a find worth keeping. Previous finds from the area have been a piece of a crashed spitfire from the war and a piece of human vertabrae that come ashore from the tide.
This winter so far has really had an huge impact on the Velvet swimmer crab and Tony sykes informs me that in the recent cold spell 30,000 may have perished. I often think of other incidents when weather conditions have had a impact on our marine environment. The first event that comes to mind was the aftermath of a storm in November 1973 when hundreds of thousands of cockles were washed up on the shingle at Minnis Bay. A thin white line was visable from Birchington to Reculver resulting in most of the cockles being stranded and dying. The smell was unbelievable and like all natural disasters the seagulls were the main beneficary. Today I suppose that if such as incident was to happen I am sure there will be enough volunteers avaible to at least save some of the cockles by returning them to the water. At the time I did bring back a bucket of cockles on my bicycle from Minnis Bay and put them in the tidal pool on the main sands at Margate where a colony has remained ever since.
Tomorrow I will be seeing someone from the Marine Studios who are after some exhibits for a Marine exhibition. Hopefully they will display some of my finds from the layers of history from the Margate main sands bays which I have picked up over the years.