BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 June 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Hands on Nature

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


Activities | Coast

Whales, fossils and rock pooling


Our coastlines offer great opportunities for wildlife watching. Why not take a few tips from the 'Hands on Nature' team as we get closer to wildlife with three activities that you can participate in near your home.
Or why not travel and find new wildlife locations!

Whale watching

These are three different activities that you can try out for yourselves throughout the year in island locations:

Whale watching on Mull

WhaleMinke Whales are commonly sighted in Mull's waters - they are affectionately known as 'stinky minke' because of their fishy breath!

A whale watching boat trip can be an unforgettable experience so here's a few tips on how to make the most of it.

Also look out for dolphins and porpoises on your trip.

Top tips

* Hang around headlands and harbours with your binoculars - many porpoises like to lurk close to the coast.

* Be patient - don't expect instant results. You may need to whale watch for several hours so take a good whale watching book with you.

* Look for overcast and calm days. It's hard to see a fin breaking the surface on very sunny days whilst rough weather also makes it hard to detect dolphins and whales.

* Watch for a small fin breaking the surface. Frantic seabirds can be a sign that a whale or dolphin is about.

* The harbour porpoise is the smallest whale and the one you're most likely to see from the shore, although they mostly stay below the surface of the water. Look out for them flashing their white bellies as they roll.

* Listen for the blowing sound made by porpoises - this puffing sound is rather like a sneeze.

* When taking photographs from a boat, try to keep as steady as possible.

* Why not pass your photographs on to a group called europhlukes who are collecting images of whales so that they can monitor their migrations.

Boat trips - survival guide

* Stock up on food and drinks for trips lasting five or six hours.

* Make sure you've got your camera, binoculars and warm weather gear.

* Sea sickness tablets may be useful in rough weather!

* Don't forget to bring sun cream in Summer.

* Allow plenty of time to get to the harbour for your boat trip - many roads on Mull are narrow and winding.

Rock pooling on Holy Island

Holy IslandRock pooling is great fun and it's easy to do for the whole family.

Holy Island and Bamburgh beach on the North East of England coast are especially good for this type of nature activity.

Top tips

* Why not get a fish eye view? Make yourself an underwater viewer using a plastic drinks bottle. Cut it in half, put cling film over the bottom and immerse so you can see everything crystal clear.

* Holy Island is cut off from the mainland at high tide so plan your visit to allow plenty of time.

* Get a copy of the tide times from the tourist office, the BBC or Admiralty websites or local newspaper.

* The best time to go rock pooling is during ultra low tides or spring tides, which occur twice every month.

* Don't forget your Wellington boots, a plastic container, a net and a good guidebook.

* Use the net if you're worried about putting your hands in the rock pools.

* Be patient - sit and watch so your moving shadow does not disturb the fish.

* Take sensible precautions - don't do this activity on your own.

* More adventurous adults should get kitted out in wet suits and snorkelling kit.

Fossil detectives in Dorset

FossilDorset's Jurassic coast is a nature lovers' paradise with rich pickings for fossil hunters. If lucky, you could be the first person to touch your unearthed fossil for millions of years!

Top tips

* Do your homework. Find out about different fossils in a guide book or on the web before heading off to the beach.

* Falling tide is a good time to look for fossils.

* If you go fossil hunting, remember that you can take home anything you find on the beach. But if you find something unusual, it's worth taking it to your local museum to get it identified.

* Be careful searching for fossils below cliffs due to falling rocks.

* Don't take anything from the cliffs - this accelerates the problem of coastal erosion! In exceptional cases permission can be obtained to extract large fossils from the cliffs.

* There's no need for expensive equipment - your eyes are the best tool. Look amongst pebbles and gravel.

* Be careful to check tide times - don't be caught out.

* Follow the fossil collectors Code of Conduct. Don't over collect - leave some for others.



Watch and Listen

Audio and Video links from this page require Realplayer

Today's video clip:

Manx Shearwater

Hands on Nature


On the rest of the web

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites



access to Mull
How to get there, opening times and visitor info.

Whale and dolphin watching on Mull.


Lulworth Cove

access to Dorset coast
How to get there, opening times and visitor info.

Fossil hunting on Dorset's Heritage Coast.

back to top ˆ    

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy