Sad strandline bird at Oxwich

Dead bird of prey washed up on the beach - the foot and talons.

What this bird is, and how this bird died, I do not know. It was lying high up on the shore on the strandline among the usual debris, both natural and man-made. But it was magnificent despite being sad! Such lovely feathers. Such incredible talons. What a glorious bird of prey it must have been – soaring high above the cliffs. Perhaps someone reading this will help me out with its identification? I have lots of other photographs of it that might be useful.

Dead bird of prey washed up on the beach

Dead bird of prey washed up on the beach - the underside of the wing.

Dead bird of prey washed up on the beach - the head.

Dead bird of prey washed up on the beach

Dead bird of prey washed up on the beach

Dead bird of prey washed up on the beach 

Revised version of a post from 21 March 2009
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Up-date on the multi-coloured rock pool at Rhossili

Rock pool recovering from plastic pollution in October 2009. The water is fairly clear. (1) 

Previously I have talked about a small rock pool at Rhossili that had filled up  with  multi-coloured pieces of plastic probably arriving at this one small area of the beach from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away. Bright coloured fragments and pellets of plastic were also observable in the regurgitated remains spewed up by seabirds on the beach. That was back in the summer 2009. I have been keeping an eye on the pool to see what its fate might be.

Rock pool recovering from plastic pollution in October 2009 (2) 

By October 2009, high tides seemed to have mostly cleaned out the pool and it looked on the road to recovery.

The rock pool filled again with plant remains and plastic by winter seas. January 2010 (3) 

By January 2010 the pool was contaminated again. However, a large proportion of the rubbish in the pool this time was organic. Vegetable remains included straw-like terrestrial plant stems, broken fronds of brown seaweeds, and the large air bladders of Egg Wrack.

For earlier postings related to the plastic pollution in this pool, click here Multi-coloured Rock Pool at Rhossili and More about the multi-coloured rock pool at Rhossili.

Plant remains and plastic rubbish trapped again in the pool over winter. 1 January 2010 (4) 

Plant and plastic rubbish trapped again in a high rock pool over winter. 1 January 2010 (5) 

Revision of a post first published 19 January 2010

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Multi-coloured rock pool at Rhossili

Thousands of small multi-coloured pieces of flotsam plastic floating in a rock pool at Spaniard Rocks, Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK (1) 

Thousands of small multi-coloured pieces of plastic flotsam floating in a rock pool at Spaniard Rocks, Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales. Even in the most beautiful of places, flotsam – particularly plastics – can be a problem. At Rhossili Bay, it is said that most of the plastic rubbish comes from as far away as South America as there is nothing but open water between these two places. Very little plastic rubbish is thought to have been generated by local visitors.

By some quirk of fate, small pieces of plastic seem to end up en masse at the extreme north end of the beach.  The way that  they have accumulated in small rock pools on Spaniard Rocks can be seen in these photographs.  However, even though this rubbish shouldn’t be here and it may affect the environment in a detrimental way, potentially damaging habitats for the native seashore animals and plants, there is still a beauty to be found in the juxtaposition of these brightly coloured pieces of floating flotsam against the pale neutral of the Carboniferous limestone; in much the same way that the bright splashes of orange-coloured lichen and yellow-flowered rock plants enliven the stone.

There is a related post to this article. See also Gulls’ gobbets on Rhossili seashore.

 Rock pool at Spaniard Rocks, Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, showing multi-coloured plastic flotsam on the water surface (2) 

Revision of a post first published 13 July 2009

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A net full of Dogfish at Rhossili

Scyliorhinus caniculus (L.): Dead Dogfish in a blue fishing net on the sandy Rhossili strandline, Gower, South Wales, UK (1)

Flotsam fishing nets on the beach are common. Usually they are empty. However, earlier this year I spotted a bright blue fishing net half-buried in the sand on the strandline at Rhossili in Gower and I was astonished to discover that loads of Dogfish were tangled in its mesh.

Fish in blue net:: Dead Dogfish in a blue fishing net on the sandy Rhossili strandline, Gower, South Wales, UK (2)

It is not possible to say at what stage the fish had been caught in the net – before or after the net was lost from the fishing boat. Fishing for Dogfish in UK waters is banned. Maybe the net was cut adrift when the nature of its catch was identified. We will never know. Sad to think of these fish first being either deliberately or accidentally caught, then cast away or lost, to end up dying on the seashore. What a waste.

Lesser Spotted Dogfish: Dead Dogfish in a blue fishing net on the sandy Rhossili strandline, Gower, South Wales, UK (3) 

Lesser Spotted Dogfish: : Dead Dogfish in a blue fishing net on the sandy Rhossili strandline, Gower, South Wales, UK (4)

Dead catch of fish in net on the beach: Dead Dogfish in a blue fishing net on the sandy Rhossili strandline, Gower, South Wales, UK (5)

Blue net with dead fish on the beach: Dead Dogfish in a blue fishing net on the sandy Rhossili strandline, Gower, South Wales, UK (6)

Revision of a post first published 5 September 2009

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Decorated driftwood at Rhossili

Driftwood tree decorated with flotsam on Rhossili beach, Gower, South Wales, UK, June 2009 (1) 

Driftwood tree decorated with flotsam on Rhossili beach, Gower, South Wales, UK, June 2009 (3)There are lots of creative people around Gower. Yet again, I have come across an inventive way with flotsam on Rhossili beach. In June I was surprised to find a decorated tree where none should have been. Almost like a poor man’s Christmas tree. A dead driftwood tree had been hoisted up and secured upright in the sand with all sorts of brightly coloured flotsam festooning its branches. It looked so incongruous in the setting, yet provided a wonderful temporary counterpoint against the splendid backdrop of Worms Head and the seascape of Rhossili Bay.

Driftwood tree decorated with flotsam on Rhossili beach against a backdrop of Worms Head, Gower, South Wales, UK, June 2009 (2) 

Revision of a post first published 21 July 2009

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Sailing by Rhossili Bay

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (1)

The sun shining on flotillas of miniscule boat-like objects wrecked on the glistening sands of Rhossili beach one cold January morning was one of the most amazing sights. These were the internal  transparent chitinous floats of By-the-wind-sailors, Velella velella (Linnaeus). Each one only 4 or 5 cms long, they lay stranded in small groups or on their own. The low early morning winter sun shone through them with their upright curving fin-like sails casting shadows on the sand and the floats glistening with reflected light.

Class Hydrozoa, Order Hydroidea, Suborder Athecata (Anthomedusae), Family Velellidae, Velella velella (Linnaeus) – a single North Atlantic pelagic species having a flat chambered oval translucent float with a triangular fin or ‘sail’ with a deep blue body. May occur stranded in large numbers on south-westerly coasts at any time of the year after strong long-lasting winds from the south or south-west.

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (2) 

In life these creatures live free-floating in the ocean. They float in vast swarms in the North Atlantic. They can be beached alive but mostly it is the dried floats that are found on the strandline. They are a type of  Hydroid and are distantly related to jellyfish. They are deep blue when alive and have series of tentacles encircling the underside of the float.

You can see in the picture below a group of these small floats alongside my own shoeprint in the sand which gives an idea of relative size. They can, however, grow upto 100 mm long.

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (3)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (4)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (5)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (6)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (7)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (8)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (9) 

Revision of a post first published 5 May 2009

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Strandline dogfish at Whiteford Sands, Gower

Lesser Spotted Dogfish or Rough Hound, Scyliorhinus caniculus (Linnaeus), on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (1)

The Lesser Spotted Dogfish or Rough Hound, Scyliorhinus caniculus (Linnaeus), found on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower. The photograph above illustrates the most important feature for distinguishing this species from the Large Spotted Dogfish or Nurse Hound, Scyliorhinus stellaris (Linnaeus).

In the Lesser Spotted Dogfish as shown above, the nasal flaps, the skin that extends from the nostrils down to the upper lip, describe a smooth continuous curved groove down to and along the lip line. In the larger Nurse Hound, the nasal flaps and nostril grooves turn away from the mouth and the outline is approximately W-shaped.

Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Scyliorhinus caniculus (Linnaeus), on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (2)

The Lesser Spotted Dogfish is cartilaginous rather than bony and very shark-like because it is related to that group of fish. You can see the small sharp teeth on the lower jaw; in fact, these are denticles in the skin rather than ‘proper’ teeth embedded in the jaw bone. The rough skin covering the whole animal contains thousands of similar but microscopically small versions of the teeth in the mouth.

Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Scyliorhinus caniculus (Linnaeus), on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (3)

The Lesser Spotted Dogfish grows upto 75  cm long compared with1.5 m long in the Nurse Hound. It is common and lives on sand or mud in shallow water. (The Nurse Hound likes rocky ground in shallow water). It is considered to be quite tasty (when fresh) and is the fish that used to be called  ‘rock salmon’ and sold in fish and chip shops.

Finally, a view of the Lesser Spotted Dogfish showing the darker colouring of the upper and side surfaces with the characteristic spot markings.

For more information on the Nurse Hound see the information page on this blog. 

Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Scyliorhinus caniculus (Linnaeus), on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (4)

Revision of a post first published 12 May 2009

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Birch bark patterns on beach driftwood

Birch bark abstract pattern on driftwood from the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, West Glamorgan, UK, (1) 

Interesting abstract and repeating patterns, smooth and rough textures, light and dark colours: aspects of the contrasting and naturally occurring designs on the bark of a piece of birch tree driftwood, found on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower.

Coarse, dark, reticulated Birch bark pattern on driftwood from the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, West Glamorgan, UK, (2) 

Contrasting light and dark colours, smooth and rough textures, and abstract versus reticulated pattern on a piece of Birch tree bark on driftwood at Whateford Sands, Gower, West Glamorgan, UK (3)

Natural rough dark pattern around a knot in Birch tree bark on driftwood at Whiteford Sands, Gower, West Glamorgan, UK (4) 

Natural rough dark reticulated bark pattern of Birch driftwood against wet sand at Whiteford , Gower, West Glamorgan, UK (5) 

Rough reticulated pattern in Birch bark on driftwood found atWhiteford beach, Gower, West Glamorgan, UK (6) 

Silver Birch driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, West Glamorgan, UK (7)

Silver Birch bark pattern and texture on driftwood from the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, West Glamorgan, UK (8) 

Revision of a post first published 5 May 2010

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Turban Top seashells from Weymouth

An assortment of Turban Top Shells washed out by winter waves from rotted seaweed lying buried under sand at Weymouth, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (1)

I love the colours, patterns and sculpted look of Turban Top Shells – Gibbula magus (Linnaeus). I found loads of them on Weymouth Beach recently. I was surprised to find them there because usually I find only Slipper Limpets. The Turban Tops were all sorts of sizes and conditions. Some were intact with beautiful red zig zag stripey patterns. Others were worn, broken and faded. Many were covered in a strange organic-looking textured reddish-brown coating. 

At the top of the sandy shore there were low-lying mounds concealing an old strandline of accumulated detritus that included large quantities of well-rotted seaweed. Winter waves had been eroding these deposits away and releasing the buried Turban Tops. The whole process was being speeded up by numerous pairs of large black crows that were systematically searching the beach for food. The bird pairs had divided up the territory and were leaving no piece of debris unturned in their patch.

There are earlier posts about these shells and the animals that occupy them. Click here for more information about Turban Top Shells in Jessica’s Nature Blog.

Side view of a Turban Top Shell with red pattern from an old buried strandline at Weymouth, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (2) 

The underside and aperture of a red patterned Turban Top Shell from a buried strandline on Weymouth Beach, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (3) 

An assortment of Turban Top Shells, mostly showing the underside, from a buried strandline beneath the sand at Weymouth, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (4) 

An assortment of Turban Top Shells, mostly showing the apices and spiral whorls, from a buried strandline beneath the sand at Weymouth, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (5) 

Paired black birds picking over the organic debris on the strandline on a particularly dismal winter day at Weymouth , Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (6) 

Revision of a post first published 6 February 2010

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Cable drum on Rhossili Beach

Cable drum on the beach at Rhossili Bay, Gower, West Glamorgan, decorated with driftwood and flotsam, 9th April 2009.

There’s a tendancy for flotsam beached on high tides to return to the sea on the next high tide. But sometimes it never returns. It might get dragged or blown further inland beyond the reach of the waves. It could disintegrate on the spot. Or it might embed in the beach sediments. From a palaeontological and archaeological perspective, it is interesting to track the process of incorporation or disintegration to see how natural and man-made objects change with time.

I first saw the old collapsed cable drum, pictured above, on Rhossili beach in January this year. It hadn’t shifted position much by February. By April 9th it had been made into a piece of beach art (as above), with adornments of driftwood and fishing net flotsam. Sadly, the decorations didn’t last long because heavy seas and high tides stripped them off and flipped the drum over by the 11th April.

I am wondering how long the cable drum will remain intact. The paint is mostly peeled off. The iron bolts are rusty and loose. The timber is riddled with woodworm. How long before the drum falls apart and is dispersed or buried?

Have a look at the slideshow to see what has happened so far. I will look out for the drum to track its fate next time I’m in Gower.

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Revision of a post first published 18 May 2009

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