Author: Dawn Thomas

Hmmmm, what to do today……………….?

Shorewalk with a purpose North Wales Wildlife Trust

The weather’s changing, but wrapped up and ready for anything, your shore walk could be enhanced with a challenge that can be vital for monitoring our seas. Most Citizen Science surveys won’t take too long to complete, are informative, engaging and provide those taking part with that feeling many volunteers appreciate – a sense of achievement; that they’ve done something to help.


You’ve got a choice too:

Serrated wrack/gwymon rhychog (Pelvetia canaliculata) North Wales Wildlife Trust)

Serrated wrack/gwymon rhychog (Pelvetia canaliculata) North Wales Wildlife Trust

* Fancy helping the Natural History Museum fill a few gaps in their map of seaweeds around the UK coast? In their most recent newsletter they called for more records from North Wales, amongst other sparse spots.

The survey asks those taking part to record only a few types of seaweeds (there’s an ID guide) along a 5 metre-wide stretch of shore, from the sea up the shore. Take pictures of those species you find, as well as the a wider shot of the shore you’re surveying. Once home, upload the information and pictures and a bit of information about the shore and you’re done.

What we like about this – can be completed all year round; plenty of ID help; clear reasons why they’re interested in each set of seaweeds – highlighting some of the issues facing our marine environment

What you will need – rocky shore area; survey guide and recording form; pencil and camera/phone.

Toothed topshell/Top môr (Phorcus lineatus) North Wales Wildlife Trust

Toothed topshell/Top môr (Phorcus lineatus) North Wales Wildlife Trust

* What about answering the call from Aberystwyth University’s Ecostructure team. They’re hoping to find out whether some of our marine molluscs are using our man-made sea defences to leap frog up our coasts, as the sea temperatures are changing?

With a video guide to help, they ask those taking part to look for only three species of mollusc on rocky shores or sea defences. Photograph, count and once home, upload the information, pictures etc.

What we like about this – can be completed all year round; plenty of ID help; clear research question to address an aspect of one of the issues facing our marine environment

What you will need – rocky shore area/sea defence; survey guide; pencil and camera/phone; timepiece.

Netted dog whelk eggs (Tritia reticulata) North Wales Wildlife Trust

Netted dog whelk eggs (Tritia reticulata) North Wales Wildlife Trust

* Beach babies is one of the surveys continuing from Capturing our Coast, a UK-wide project, now finished, but hoping to resurface with further funding. Many species reproduce in the shallower area of our seas, which means they can be seen on a shorewalk and bit of a mooch around rocks, seaweed etc.

The timing of breeding may be changing due to changes in climate, so documenting what you find will be informative for you and researchers. Take the ID sheets and recording form with you to the shore to help you ID. The survey is as long as you want to spend looking, until you’ve found 30 or more for each species and is best completed from Feb-June. You can find some ID help in another news items from earlier this year too.

What we like about this – It’s a reason to spend time noticing what you might overlook; it documents potential phenological changes due to Climate Change; plenty of ID help.

What you will need – time on any shore, recording sheet and ID guide, pencil, camera/phone.

Eggcase hunt/helfa plisg wyau North Wales Wildlife Trust

Eggcase hunt/helfa plisg wyau North Wales Wildlife Trust

* The old faithful Great Eggcase Hunt has to be mentioned here too, of course. It can be as simple as just photographing as you head for a walk. However, you can beef up the science part and carry out one of two surveys – timed search (20minutes) of the strandline, collecting as you go or search the whole beach (or if it’s too long, between two clear landmarks) searching the upper, then lower strandlines.

Afterwards the eggcases you’ve collected can be soaked in tap water. While you’re waiting for them to rehydrate (about an hour) you can warm up, put the kettle on, settle in front of your computer to get set to identify them, using their most helpful resource the ID Key. Upload your newly ID-d eggcases, their number etc and it goes on a map. Lack of photo = red dot on the map, though, so make sure you upload a photo of your cases.

What we like about this – it’s a major tick for engagement, especially showing how this simple task can be important information for researchers; can be completed all year round; plenty of ID help also an App.

What you will need – a shore walk; bucket/bag to collect; camera to photograph if only on a walk.

Marine litter/Sbriel fôr North Wales Wildlife Trust

Marine litter/Sbriel fôr North Wales Wildlife Trust

* A brand new survey by the National Museum of Wales is beginning to ask volunteers, community groups etc. to keep an eye out and help to document drifting bivalves. Much of our marine litter is well-travelled and as it journeys, it can be utilised by some regularly drifting organisms, as a raft. The more floating, mostly plastic, litter in our seas, the more we’ll be seeing these ocean drifters on our shores and some might just remain, perhaps adding to the numbers of invasive organisms making their troublesome home here.

It’s early days, but we’re hoping that soon we will be able to offer our volunteers some training by NMW staff to help and more information will be made available for all on their museum’s website. For now there’s an introduction to the project in a series of blogs the last of which was posted before staff were furloughed.

What we like about this – gets people out in the winter, training offered, keeping an eye out for an emergent issue.

What you will need – western facing shore, mostly; camera/phone; eyes peeled

Generally you can send your sightings of certain species to the MCS database. They are collecting sightings of jellies, turtles, crawfish and basking sharks. Your local records centre will be happy to receive your findings as well. For North Wales it’s Cofnod for South West Wales it’s WWBIC.

Don’t forget to always check the tide before heading out; tell someone you’re going and ideally don’t go alone. Very importantly, don’t forget to do that final bit – upload your information and pictures.




Snorkelling - Anna Williams (NWWT)

This time of the year we would be collecting bookings for our popular Snŵdling events with award-winning artist, Kim Atkinson. Snŵdling is sketching, whilst snorkelling. The process helps you to pay attention and take note of the colours, light, patterns, creatures; you get that “in the moment” experience.


The most important consideration when choosing where you want to snorkel is safety

This is the perfect time to go snorkelling and so long as you take care of yourselves and the wildlife you’re seeing, it’s one of those experiences that “leaves no trace”. The water at this time of year has had a few months of warming up, the air temperature is generally pleasant and there are plenty of things to be seen. For me, floating weightlessly watching sea creatures do their thing is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Snorkelling takes you on a journey to the underwater world without the need for expensive equipment and, with a basic understanding of your location and the ability to swim, it is an activity that can be safely enjoyed by the whole family.

Kim Atkinson snorkelling - North Wales Wildlife Trust

Kim Atkinson snorkelling – North Wales Wildlife Trust

There is all sorts of snorkel equipment that you can buy, but in reality all you truly need is a mask and snorkel until you decide that you want to take snorkelling to the next level. At that point you might buy some fins to help you swim and a wetsuit to prolong your time in the water. You can then move on to some of the more expensive and specialised equipment.


The most important consideration when choosing where you want to snorkel is safety. Think about the amount of boats in the area, the amount of litter and where you’ll be getting in and out of the water.  Think about how you are feeling in the water, don’t let yourself get too cold and watch out for sunburn. Make sure you avoid areas with tidal races, strong currents and undertow. If it isn’t safe to swim, it isn’t safe to snorkel and popular swimming beaches are just as good as anywhere to start.

Jellyfish - Rohan Holt

Jellyfish – Rohan Holt

So, what are you looking for? The answer to that is simple, anything and everything, and the things you’ll see will depend on where you are and the visibility in the water. At this time of year, look for jellyfish and sea gooseberries in the water (do not to touch!). Look carefully in the sand (many creatures are well camouflaged) for flatfish, sandeels and hermit crabs. Seaweeds and kelp forests are pretty in themselves, but look for creatures hiding within them. Spider crabs will have arrived earlier on in the summer to breed;  these big long- legged crabs are an incredible sight. Look for creatures such as spiral worms and the blue rayed limpets feeding on the fronds of the kelp. Lesser and greater spotted catsharks can be seen and watch out for other species of fish whizzing past. Head to barnacle covered rocks, look carefully and you may see their legs pulsing as they feed. It’s a great time to see what happens to rockpools when the tide is in!


Safety first – if you have any doubts ask your local dive club or shop for advice for the safety of particular sites and never snorkel on your own!


Spider crab - Rohan Holt

Spider crab – Rohan Holt

Our Leatherbacks/Crwbanod môr cefn-lledr ni

Leatherback eggs in nest Matura Pic: D.Thomas

Every summer our seas are just about warm enough for turtles to come in after their favourite food – jellyfish. We’ve had all, but one of the 7 marine turtle species appear in UK waters. Most turtles visiting the UK are out of their comfort zone temperature-wise, as they’re reptiles, most of which take on the temperature of their surroundings rather than using energy to generate their own body heat. The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), however, as well as being the world’s largest turtle (average 2.5m long; 250-700kg) is capable of maintaining a body temperature higher than that of its surroundings. They use a counter-current exchange system to do this as well as having a large amount of oils in their body. This opens up more areas of sea with plenty more jellies and jelly-type organisms to hunt and means they’re the most widely distributed of the marine turtles. Another major difference they exhibit to other marine turtles can be seen in their name – Leatherbacks. Well named – they are covered in a leathery skin, instead of a hardened shell.

Leatherbacks are also capable of heading down into the depths to hunt deep sea jellies too and can dive well over 1km. For this they have developed adaptations to help the dive, but the dive itself might also be an adaptation to help cope with very warm temperatures in tropical waters. They use the downwards-facing spines, which line their throat to keep hold of their prey once encountered. Like many turtles, they do a good job of keeping down jelly numbers, so they’re a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and turtles and their ancestors have been doing this for over 100 million yrs.

Tragically, leatherback populations have undergone major historic and ongoing declines. Their biology doesn’t help them recover quickly from loss; females only reaching maturity at 25-30yrs of age. Avoiding multiple threats, they can live on average to 45-50 years, but are capable of living a lot longer. A breeding female will return to land (every 2-3 yrs) to lay her own eggs, repeatedly dragging her enormous weight up steep sandy beaches, night after night.

Female Leatherback Matura Pic:D.Thomas

Female Leatherback Matura Pic:D.Thomas


It was during the breeding season on Trinidad in 2007 that one of our team spent one of her most memorable nights ever, surrounded by huge reptiles digging and laying precious eggs. She had been lucky enough to be able to join the local university’s Biological Society efforts to help boost the numbers of volunteers, monitoring and warding off disturbance during the months when most breeding took place. Breeding time is a particular focus for conservation, as, of course, eggs are the next generation, but they’re also packed with nutrition for a growing foetus and so a prize for thieves. The local villagers realised this was a problem, as well as disturbance, scaring off the mothers and even poaching the adults for meat, so they began to go out every night for months at a time to protect these seasonal visitors. This, became part of a more established effort across Trinidad and Tobago turtle beaches, to become the Turtle Village Trust, attracting more help, funding via the partners and through tourism permits and have been host to a BBC film crew with David Attenborough in tow for Blue Planet II!! Despite this enormous (ongoing) and largely successful undertaking, the babies we also saw hatching that night might never see their 1st birthday. In fact, the percentage survival rate of those babies which reach that yearling point is thought to be as little as 1 in every 1,000.

hatchling heading to the sea - Matura. pic: Dawn Thomas

hatchling heading to the sea – Matura. pic: Dawn Thomas




Many turtle records from around the UK come from strandings. Seeing a living turtle in UK waters is difficult, as often it’s only a head that can be seen when at the surface. This is something we hope those using the waters around the Welsh coast are keeping an eye out on, as well as rafting birds, seals and cetaceans and know to act accordingly via our Marine Code.

Strandings have been reported of various turtle species over the years, but by far the most famous and compelling is that of the male leatherback turtle found at Harlech in 1988. Famous due to its record-breaking size (900kg/2000lbs and nearly 3metres in length) and age (estimated at >100yrs), compelling due to its human-helped death (entanglement and anecdotal reports of marine litter ingestion). The turtle is exhibited in the National Museum of Wales (don’t forget we’re collecting memories like these and others for conservation purposes – so please talk to those you think might have marine wildlife stories and pictures and ask them to get in touch).

The Harlech male would have spent his entire life at sea, not needing to return to land to lay eggs, like the females. Turtles are mainly solitary ocean roamers and protection is difficult for mobile species, let alone ones which cross oceans and only aggregate to breed. Hazards are numerous for both the young and adults (by catch, marine litter, light pollution, predation, boat strikes, disturbance, etc). Globally, they are listed on the IUCN Red list as vulnerable (this is a relatively recent increase from being Critically Endangered and that’s due to Conservation efforts), but this doesn’t show the various pockets around the world where their status is much worse and they are struggling (they are critically endangered in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic). In fact, due to egg collection, they have become locally extinct in Malasia.

This all sounds like our turtles are well and truly up against it, but there will be something you can do to help:

Leatherbacks love their jellies and guess what looks like a jelly in our seas, but can, instead cause real damage and death to an animal which has ingested it – a plastic bag and balloons. What can you do? Question whether you need that bag or balloon for a start. Can you take your own containers to fill/bags to use, can you celebrate/mark a day without balloons at all, can you urge companies, councils etc to ban balloon releases. Why not go a step further (plastics can also be ingested as microparticles or turtles can be entangled by ghost gear or can rings) and join in with the Marine Conservation Society’s plastic-free July, or go for Friends of the Earth’s Plastic-free Friday. Take a bag with you the next and every time you head to the beach or just around and abouts to do a #2MinuteBeachClean pick up #5ThingsClear.

Leatherbacks have lost numbers due to by-catch. Across the world they’re caught in nets, on lines etc. as the fishing industries catch our food. What can you do? – As with dolphin-friendly tuna, choosing sustainably caught seafood (seafood which has been caught in a manner which reduces the chances of turtles being caught) is a must. Always keep an eye out in the supermarkets, ask at restaurants and fishmongers and have a nosy here to keep up-to-date.

Increased storms and rising sea levels means nesting beaches can be ravaged, changing ocean currents can alter availability of food and increased temperatures on nesting beaches can affect the sex ratio of the young (higher nest temperatures produce female hatchlings) or even kill before hatching. What can you do? – As with everything, reducing your carbon footprint in as many ways as possible, will help our seas and planet, altogether. You can check the carbon footprint of your seafood intake by using the WWF Finprint checker.

Boat strikes are a common threat to turtles, causing damage which can seriously affect their survival or even death. What can you do? Get to know your local Marine Code (scroll to map at bottom and click on your local code) and, please, spread the word. The more people who know about it, the more people likely to keep to it and the more people looking out for our wildlife. UK-wide there’s also the Turtle code.

What else can you do? You can use your voice: join campaigns, sign petitions for increased protected areas and also use your voice to spread the word. Choose reef-friendly sunscreen; on holiday NEVER buy turtle products, DO source environmentally-friendly hotels, trips and food; Learn how to help if you ever come across a live stranded turtle or know who to tell if you find a dead one ashore; report any sightings of Turtles in UK waters.

Ending on some better news, with all the conservation efforts and protections (Protected in the UK by Wildlife and Countryside Act, Habitats Directive in Europe and CITES) now in place, the Atlantic population of leatherbacks, which connects our turtles with those witnessed on Trinidad, is increasing. Let’s all help to keep it that way.

Leatherback female monitoring at Matura Pic: D.Thomas

Leatherback female monitoring at Matura Pic: D.Thomas

Leatherback female monitoring at Matura Pic: D.Thomas

Leatherback female monitoring at Matura Pic: D.Thomas

Leatherback eggs in nest Matura Pic: D.Thomas

Leatherback eggs in nest Matura Pic: D.Thomas



From World Oceans Day petition to a lifetime of action?

World Oceans Day Aberystwyth 2019

On the 8th June we celebrate our oceans (and seas) for “World Oceans Day”. The day became an official UN global Awareness day in 2008 and has been growing since; last year there were officially 2000+ events in 140 countries. The Living Seas Wales team was close to our border between North Wales Wildlife Trust and The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales celebrating the day with Chester Zoo volunteers in Aberystwyth. It was a huge day of awareness-raising in many forms and incorporated a march organised by “Extinction Rebellion” to protest against the Seismic testing for oil in Cardigan bay, a threat which galvanised many groups to act for several environmental reasons, including Living Seas.

Seismic testing in Cardigan Bay protest - organised by "Extinction rebellion"

Seismic testing in Cardigan Bay protest – organised by “Extinction rebellion”

We all know a day is not enough, but how can we raise awareness of the need for people to help our marine world in their EVERYDAY lives, without them becoming immediately overwhelmed?


The answer could come from the Wildlife Trusts 30DaysWild campaign. The Wildlife Trusts are in a unique position in that they are a group of localised Conservation charities all working under a larger umbrella organisation. 46 in total they know their local patch and know just how important local/individual actions for wildlife can be. This unique position is translated into their popular yearly campaign encouraging people to connect with Nature every day in June – #30DaysWild.  The hope is that people will begin to understand their own need for nature on a daily basis and to see how their own individual actions can be part of a bigger picture of conservation across the UK. Time in Nature has been shown to benefit us

30DaysWild action

30DaysWild action

“In the current nature and climate emergency, we’re seeing more people affected by eco-anxiety – feeling overwhelmed by the damage to our environment and not knowing what to do to help. This, along with other stresses, aren’t good for us. But with 30 Days Wild from the Wildlife Trusts you can incorporate some simple nature-based activities into your daily life and feel the benefit. These activities can lower blood pressure, take our minds away from our day-to-day concerns and help us relax, as well as providing simple ways to help wildlife.” – Dr Amir Khan, GP and Ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts

But does doing small things actually help to make a difference? Small acts done by enough people, visibly, can be become the new norm and makes those small acts huge movements. Both World Oceans Day and 30daysWild highlight the Think Global:Act Local philosophy. This year the World Ocean day theme is 30 by 30. They’re calling us all to ask our leaders to help protect 30% of the marine environment by 2030. We can do that can’t we? The one small thing you could do today is to sign the petition to help protect our oceans. The one big thing you could do today is to share your act for nature with others. One of our team was once asked by a colleague how do you stay positive when working to combat the huge difficulties facing our natural world. Their answer was they were able to stay positive from the knowledge they were at least doing SOMETHING and knowing you’re not alone means that’s a lot of people doing something.

Last year’s World Ocean day and the events surrounding it shows what can happen when people who have developed a love of wildlife, Nature and the environment take action. Let’s not forget the huge Climate marches last year which brought together a variety of organisations who are still working to help. We’re going to keep on working to protect our oceans and we hope you’ll be ready to join us.

Dinas coast

Dinas coast

(we want your) Memories of wildlife in our sea

The family and boat at Amlwch - Peter Williams

Our knowledge of our seas comes in part from decades of research by many organisations, but this is only a limited view of our marine wildlife. So much more information can be gleaned from people who spent time in the marine environment, if only people realised the importance of their own or their family’s stories.

Historical marine ecology is a scientific field where photographs, archives, news etc. are used to better understand the historic changes our seas have faced over time and this can establish a baseline against which conservation efforts can be measured. The value of these seemingly frivolous accounts is highlighted in a project which documented the loss in the diversity and reduction in size of fish in the Florida region, by collating photographs from fishing competitions from 1950s to present days. The change is striking just in the visual sense, when you look through these pictures.

Much work to conserve our marine populations has been limited to reversing declines to life as it was in the lifetime of those helping to conserve and this has been subject to a phenomenon known as “Shifting baselines”. We tend only to perceive the loss that we’ve seen not the loss from the generations which have gone before. The idea is best described by the person who coined the term, Daniel Pauly himself.

As well as being valuable for marine conservation the information will also become a collection for everyone to view online.

Closer to home we know of many regular wildlife sightings and fisheries which have changed (some examples being whaling, basking sharks, oysters, salmon, etc), but we would like to know more from your personal/family accounts. So we’re asking for your help. As part of a project we’ve developed within the online resource Peoples’ Collection Wales we’d like to collect people’s memories of coastal wildlife and environments in Wales. We’re looking for memories of our living seas from your childhood, stories you heard from your parents or grandparents, family friends or even more recent experiences that stand out in your mind. These can take the form of written or voice recordings of stories, uploads of photographs, and/or pictures of memorabilia, or other coastal items. As well as being valuable for marine conservation the information will also become a collection for everyone to view online.


We’re hoping to collect information such as

Fishermen at Amlwch - Peter Williams

Fishermen at Amlwch – Peter Williams

Ben Stammers as Warden - Ben Stammers

Ben Stammers as Warden – Ben Stammers

family photos - Steve Palin

family photos – Steve Palin

Dive log entry - Kevin Hawke

Dive log entry – Kevin Hawke









  • Stories/photos relating to marine/coastal wildlife stemming from work, holidays, life at the coast
  • Fishing catch records
  • Records of wildlife sightings (one off or timings when see each year)
  • Regular coastal wildlife occurrences.
  • Pictures/memories of the coast before development
  • Memories/pics of what you used to find washed up on the shore or in living in rock pools
  • Memories of the numbers and types of breeding/roosting birds in an area
  • Memories of incidents relating to the sea (pollution/storms/spillages etc) and its effects on wildlife.

If you have some memories or know someone who does, please spread the word and get in touch with us. If you’re part of a community group where a few people would like to offer items/stories then please get in touch too.


We’ll leave you with the chance to see and hear some of what we’ve had so far.

Peter Williams provides us with an excellent insight into life during WWII and his community’s part in the herring run in 1950s. He also describes his legacy – the dying art of willow lobsterpot-making.

Kevin Hawke shares his dive logs, documenting the wildlife he was seeing under the waves in the 1990’s off Pembrokeshire.

Gwyneth Thomas originates from Holyhead and remembers how her family managed to eat well from the sea during WWII

Steve Palin recounts a vivid memory from Porth Dafarch in the 1960s when as a child he holidayed with his family and swam in what sounds like an eel-soup there were so many.

Ben Stammers relates a snapshot of his conservation work at Cemlyn when the wardening encompassed looking after the last roseate terns to breed there in the 1990s and having to deal with egg-collectors amongst other tasks.

Spring on the shore

Shanny eggs - Allan Rowat

Cover picture: Shanny eggs – Allan Rowat


We’re well into spring on the land, but did you know our sea has its seasons? Our marine wildlife doesn’t have to deal with the larger changes of temperatures the land has, but there are very definitely events which occur in our sea which are triggered by increased light conditions and which have a knock on effect for our wildlife closer to home.

Some marine species release eggs and sperm and use the medium of the seawater to bring them together and then to disperse the developing eggs. The emerging young can then make the most of the plankton bloom to feed on and grow further. In the space between the tides, however, there are many creatures choosing the variety of places to attached or hide their eggs and are laying them locally. So, please take care; careless movements, seaweed moved and not replaced and stones left upturned can crush or dry out the eggs and any animals living there. It really is a very delicate time for these important parts of our marine ecosystem.


Doto coronata

Doto coronata – Allan Rowat

D. coronata laying eggs - Allan Rowat

D. coronata laying eggs – Allan Rowat

Sea lemon eggs - Allan Rowat

Sea lemon eggs – Allan Rowat



Seaslugs are mating and laying and can come into shallower areas to do this. Different shapes of ribbons can give you the key to identify which species laid which. Some of our other molluscs are also using weed and rocks to attached their eggs, keeping them shaded and moist until they hatch.






Crabs have to wait to moult before they mate and then, instead of laying, they use this intertidal shore area to hide whilst they keep hold of the eggs under their tails. A tricky time for these females, so any found must be returned immediately. Some rockpool specialist fish will be preparing to lay as well. They will lay their eggs on rocks, but they will hang around and protect them from predators, which makes it all the more important to make sure they stay where they’re found. A nursing blenny is a very diligent creature, if allowed to be.


Netted dog whelk eggs - Sophia and Ann Wake

Netted dog whelk eggs – Sophia and Ann Wake

dog whelk eggs - Allan Rowat

dog whelk eggs – Allan Rowat

berried shore crab - NWWT

berried shore crab – NWWT








Marine life turns its cycle, but it has to do so within very difficult times for our seas. As well as choosing sustainably-sourced seafood and adopting a lifestyle which helps to reduce your carbon footprint and waste, you can spread the word to take extra care on the shores, to ensure the life in this treacherous zone between the tides is allowed to continue without too much disturbance from us.


Want to learn some more?

Not all breeding takes place in spring, some animals will breed all year round, see our previous post about shark eggs

You can get ready for your next trip to the shore with the family. You can find plenty of spotter sheets to use when you’re next safely on the coast. Here’s our marine egg spotter to use or just introduce yourselves to, in preparation.

You can read more about one of our most enigmatic rockpool specialist fish by heading to the Blenny pages of Paul Naylor’s website, including this lovely clip of a blenny dad doing the housework, as i’m sure are the human male representatives in these strange times. He also used to help with the very entertaining, Benny the Blenny’s blog. He’s not blogged for a while, but you and the family can get a great insight into his life from his previous posts.