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17 September 2014
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Sandy coast activities

Dolphin c/o Charlie Phillips Images

Sandy coasts offer brilliant opportunities for wildlife watching.

Why not take a few tips from the Nature's Calendar team? Try your hand at Dolphin watching, pond dipping and Red Squirrel spotting.

Outstanding coastal wildlife.
Photo: Charlie Phillips Images.

Here are three activities which you can take part in at sandy coast locations across the UK:

* Red Squirrel feeding on Merseyside.
* Dolphin spotting off the east coast of Scotland.
* Pond Dipping at Orford Ness.

Feeding the Formby squirrels

Red SquirrelWhile you wander around the squirrel reserve at Formby Pinewoods near Liverpool, why not see if you can feed a passing Squirrel?

Some are braver than others but Squirrels will sometimes come right up close and even take a nut out of your hand.

Squirrels are non-selective feeders, which means they eat whatever natural food source is available at different times of year.

You can purchase a small bag of Squirrel food at the entrance to the site or you can bring your own from home - the best types of nuts for feeding squirrels are monkey, beech and hazel nuts.

As with any wildlife-watching, stay still and quiet and be patient - these little creatures are quite used to humans but it can still take a while before they decide to come over, if they do at all.

Dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point

Dolphins c/o Charlie Phillips ImagesChanonry Point on the Moray Firth in Scotland is a great location to see Dolphins in their natural habitat but some days are better than others to see them.

Don't head down to the coast on a hot day as the bright sunlight bounces off the water, making it difficult to see any fins breaking the surface.

The best days for Dolphin spotting are calm and overcast with good cloud cover, but unfortunately it can be hard to judge as days like these often bring rain.

Choosing your spot is just as important as the weather - pick somewhere close to the headland or harbour as this is where Dolphins and Porpoises like to play.

Don't just watch the water - keep on eye on any sea birds present to see if their behaviour changes.

If they become startled and erratic this could be a sign that a Dolphin is just underneath the surface of the water.

Don't forget - take a good pair of binoculars and be patient!

If you're not lucky enough to see any dolphins on the day you choose, you could always visit the Dolphin and Seal Centre where you can listen to the dolphins on hydrophones and find out more about this sociable species.

Pond Dipping at Orford Ness

Marshland areas like Orford Ness can be great for activities such as pond dipping, which gives you a chance to see what kind of insects live in this soggy habitat.

Here are our top tips:

* Use a small, long-handled net, which can be purchased from any good outdoor shop, or make your own by stretching an old pair of tights over a tennis racket.

* Gently lower the net into the water, making as little movement as possible so you don't disturb the environment.

* Wait a few minutes and then lift out to see what you've found. Try not to handle any very small insects or flies as you could damage their legs and wings.

* Use a good identification book to find out which different types of bugs are present.

* When you're finished, gently lower your net back into the water, allowing plenty of time for anything in the net to swim free.

Safety tips

Marshland areas can be very slippery underfoot so make sure you follow these safety tips:

* Walking boots with sturdy grips on the soles or Wellington boots are very useful for keeping your feet dry and ensuring you don't slip if the ground is very wet underfoot.

* Don't lean too far over a pond in case you slip and fall in, which as well as getting you all wet could damage the wildlife. Take a friend with you to hold your arm if you start to slip.

Photo credits

Photographs of Dolphins and Minke Whales courtesy and copyright of Charlie Phillips Images.



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