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17 September 2014
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Coast activities

Seal pup at Donna Nook

Our coastlines offer great opportunities for wildlife watching.

Why not take a few tips from the Nature's Calendar team? Try your hand at seal spotting, rock pooling and beach combing...

Donna Nook - a great place to watch seals in winter


Otter watching

The west coast of Scotland is one of the best places in the United Kingdom for Otter watching.

Early February is a great time to watch them on the Morven Peninsula when it's very quiet with few visitors and minimum disturbance to these shy creatures.

Top tips:

OtterLook out for tell-tale signs such as Otter foot prints, droppings, and bubbles coming up off water.

Prints are a sure-fire way of spotting Otters - take a field guide to animal prints with you and look out for the creature's webbed feet.

Otter droppings or spraints are often found deposited on prominent rocks or mounds. Fresh spraints have a very pungent smell.

Bubbles can also indicate Otter activity. Otters close their nostrils when underwater and air is forced out of their coat leaves a trail of bubbles rising to the surface.

When Otters swim, only their eyes and nose appear above water and leave a 'V' shaped wake.

From a distance Otters can be easily recognised by the way they dive - they arch their back and tail above the water as they dive smoothly and quietly underwater.

Otter characteristics

OtterOtters are characterised by their broad muzzles, small ears, and sleek, streamlined bodies.

* Look out for Otter couches where the animals rest during the day.

* Perhaps easier to spot are the Otters' more permanent homes called holts which are cavities in a bank or a hollow tree. Otters often take the same route so look out for their pathways.

* Otters are well camouflaged especially on land so look for signs of movement in the water as they roll over or catch a fish.

* Be patient and very quiet. Don't move along the shoreline in an attempt to find the Otters. The noise from your feet crunching on the pebbles and stepping on twigs will disturb the Otters and alert them to your presence.

Sit slightly further back from the pebbles on a quiet and well hidden grassy bank.

* Wear camouflage clothing and take binoculars.

Beach coming and rock pooling in Devon

Holding crabsThe Devon coast is great for beach combing and rock pooling - all sorts of treasures can be found from live creatures such as Sea Scorpions, Shore Crabs and Cushion-Stars.

One of the unusual finds to be made on Wembury's beaches is something called Mermaid's Purses - the remains of Ray and Shark egg cases.

If you want to start hunting for mermaid's purses, why not send off for information from the Shark Trust in Plymouth?

They produce a great guide on how to identify different egg cases.

Top rock pooling tips:

* Take a bucket, net and wellies if you're planning on going rock pooling.

* If you haven't got a bucket, you can make a simple device from a plastic container - cover it with cling film and put elastic bands around it.

* Once you've identified the marine life, put it back where you found it.

* Be careful of capturing too many creatures in one bucket - give crabs and other animals a little space. If you capture a Scorpion, don't let it mix with other creatures in your bucket or it will eat them!

* Check tide times before setting off and keep a close eye on changing tides whilst on the beach.

Become a beach comber

Limpets (Image c/o English Nature)The Shark Trust is keen to hear about your findings on Devon's beaches.

If you want to become more serious about rock pooling, why not become a volunteer recorder?

You can also report your finds to MarLIN - the Marine Life Information Network for Britain and Ireland, based in Plymouth.

Your findings will help to contribute to work identifying important areas of marine life requiring protection on our coastlines.

They are particularity keen to hear about Mermaid's Purses.

These are the little pouches which once contained baby Sharks or their near relation - the Ray.

Seal watching in Lincolnshire

Seal PupLincolnshire's north east coast is possibly the best place in Britain to watch Grey Seals at close quarters.

Donna Nook is the location to see these animals and their pups at close quarters.

But how do you spot the difference between Grey Seals and their Common counterparts?

* Grey Seals are bigger than a Common Seal - they are characterised by their Roman noses.

* Whilst cumbersome on land, Grey Seals are athletes when in the water. The seals can swim up to 100 kilometres a day.

* Grey Seals can hold their breath for an hour and a half underwater, and can dive to depths of almost 1,500 metres.

 

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