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!
These are three different activities that you can
try out for yourselves throughout the year in island locations:
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
Also look out for dolphins and porpoises on your trip.
* 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
* 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
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
pooling is great fun and it's easy to do for the whole family.
and Bamburgh beach on the North East of England coast are especially good for
this type of nature activity.
* 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
* 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
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
* 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.
take anything from the cliffs - this accelerates the problem of coastal erosion!
In exceptional cases permission can be obtained to extract large fossils from
* 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.