Week 7 Festival of the sea and Sea watch!

The Manx whale and dolphin hosts summer sea watches so members of the public can join us in looking for cetaceans. We supply binoculars and help in spotting whales sharks dolphins and porpoise. The watches are always well attended and we always get people joining us who just happen to be there curious to see who we are and what we do. It’s a great opportunity to promote the watch and our work.  People always have lots of great stories about what they have seen and sadly often also tell us how sea life used to be much more prevalent in the isle of man especially basking sharks.  We have also hosted watches with everyone from rainbows ( 5-7 year old girl guides) to the women’s institute.

We cleaned the Manx whale and dolphin’s watch boat the named the Galps in honor of our founder John Galpin. I personally find it scary walking down harbor stairs backwards. Since I cant see where I am going and am convinced I am about to fall to a watery death. However unlikely. It took 6 of us over an hour to give the whole boat a good scrub down. Though it did look gleaming afterwards. a

Tynwald Day takes place every year on the isle of man in St.John’s not far from Peel. Also known as Manx national day. Tynwald is a celebration of Manx culture and history but it’s main function is political. The Island’s legislature, Tynwald meets All bills that have received Royal assent are promulgated on Tynwald Day; any act of Tynwald which is not so promulgated within 18 months of passage ceases to have effect. Other proceedings include the presentation of petitions and the swearing in of certain public officials.  I watched the three hour procession and ceremony from the stands. I also went to the viking village a recreation of what viking life was like during the very first Tynwald day. MWDW had a stall out as part of the festivities.

The watch does a lot of work with children to educate them about cetaceans and conservation. We go to schools nurseries and children’s activity groups. The children no matter how young always seem interested engaged and enthusiastic. They have always have lots of questions and insights about sea life. Not to mention being knowledgeable about threats to nature through pollution and climate change.

Every year the Manx wildlife trust hosts the festival of the sea. An educational festival celebrating Manx sea life. The MWDW hosts its own stall made up of our trusty gazebo and tables full of information, merchandise and children’s activities. The first day of the festival the wind had a personal vendetta against our gazebo so we had to set up without it to avoid it been blown into the sea along with our blow up life size mascot Perkin the porpoise. Who had to go live in the van for the duration of the first day of the festival to avoid an unwelcome return to the seas.

The Manx wildlife trust for the festival borrowed some sea creatures from rock pools and shallow waters to put on display for the public to look at. They were short on volunteers so we also assisted at the tanks as well as at our stall. The tanks included starfish of various sizes, crabs of various sizes as well as everything from sea slugs to sea urchins. It was an incredibly popular event with larges queues throughout the day. After the festival was over the creatures were returned to their homes.

 

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WEEKS 4-6: Sun Sand and Surveying

I can now say I am truly settled in after passing the standard 6 weeks it takes me to “feel at home” in a new place. As British person I have a natural inclination to obsess over the weather it disdains me to report that this has reached new heights. Thanks to the weather dependent nature of surveying. We constantly I managed to get out on my grandfathers cousins boat. How’s that for a distant relative? Despite being out for 6 hours far into the sea. Not a single cetacean decided to grace us with their presence. The sheer rudeness of these creatures cannot be overstated. Not presenting themselves to us on demand!

Thankfully I have managed to avoid any further adventures in spreadsheets. Instead I have focused my attentions on redoing our sign by Peel castle. Removing everything redesigning it and lamenting it. Sandpapering and repainting. All for a grand reopening attended by myself. My main adversary in this has been the wind. When trying to change the recent sightings of cetaceans.

We land survey all around the Isle of Man. My favorites are the sound and Niarbyl. The sound is at the very southern tip of the Isle of man. It has a popular restaurant with incredible views and decent coffee. Risso’s dolphins, basking sharks, Minke whales and short beaked common dolphins can frequently be seen. Seals can nearly always be spotted frolicking in the sea. There are many memorial monuments to lost ships whose crew died in ship wrecks. It’s always interesting to learn about Manx history. From the sound the calf of man can be seen a beautiful island which is home to amazing bird life. It’s used as a resting spot for many species during their migration routes.

Niarbyl is on the islands west coast. It has some of the best views on the isle of man. Ireland. There is  small cafe and star gazing bench so you can lay down to properly enjoy the star filled sky on a clear night. There is an information board about Manx sea life and bird life. Plus binoculars so anyone can try to spot cetaceans themselves. From Nirabyl harbor porpoise, Risso’s dolphins, Minke whales and short beaked dolphins can be seen.

Another surveying spot with spectacular views and a great location is by the Peel castle were basking sharks and short beaked common dolphins can be seen from. As well as members of the ever popular local seal population. The castle itself can be toured inside along with an audio tour about the history of the viking castle.

 

Week 3: Marine mammals the mystery deepens and the saga continues

592ADC92-F41F-4506-B9CA-E4180FAAA2F0The good news is I can finally say Cetaceans without accidentally saying citations. The bad news is the Cetaceans themselves remain hiding themselves away from our sight.  Why are they refusing to show themselves? Are they doing this on purpose simply to offend and mock us? I have come to believe so.

On the side of accomplishments. We are all getting into the swing of the office work. Every morning we go through and update the public sightings our social media and set up the shop. Also we blow up ‘ Perkyn’ (the MWDW mascot an inflatable porpoise) as, like all of us, he deflates every night. We have a good few people come through out doors every week. They are usually enthusiastic especially the kids. Many often inquire about our non existent ‘boat trips’ I think the ‘watch’ part of our name may confuse people into thinking we are a tourist trip business rather than a charity.  People tell you all about their sightings both here and in other cetacean hot spots around the world. It’s good to see how interested people are. They seem to care about the animals and conservation. They want to learn more and understand more. Surely a good sign in what sometimes seems to be a world somewhat apathetic to conservation efforts.

Our shop now has a listening station which hosts the sounds of whales and dolphins for members of the public to listen to. We also have a children’s educational center and a exhibition of Cetacean bones. Which seems to be the kids favorite part naturally. We also have a small selection of marine biology books. Our educational boards take up most of the wall space explaining the basic features of the different species that can be found in Isle of Man waters. We also have a board of recent sightings as well as a similar electronic version that screens in the window of the shop. The screen tells the public where and when and what has been sighted.

Coffee.Coffee.Coffee. Drinking copious amounts of coffee is an essential part of any marine mammal project. It is dare I say the lifeblood of MWDW! Every land survey presents a new opportunity for drinking more coffee. A land survey usually lasts about three hours and we all take turns filling out the survey.  Which includes taking note of the sea state sea swell and wind direction every 15 minutes. As well as any boats and of course of any cetaceans. We record how many adults and juveniles are sighted and where they are sighted. As well as their behaviors.

 

 

WEEK 2: It’s TT on the Isle of Man!

This week we welcomed thousands of sports fans from around the world.  All here to watch the world’s most famous (and deadly) motorbike race. We sat inches from the track as the bikes whizzed past at unbelievable speeds. The weather was hit and miss for the crowds. We did had some sunshine to sit and watch some of the races. Though I felt for the people, many of which had travelled from the other side of the world, to witness the races only for some of them be cancelled due to the infamously unpredictable Manx weather. I can honestly say in the past week I have seen more motorbikes than I have the rest of my entire life. Although I am far from a sports person it was pretty awesome to see the race close up.

We went surveying as much as we possibly could. Sadly though the Cetaceans have continued to avoid us. Trying not to take it too personally. Though it’s always difficult to face rejection especially from sea creatures. Of course we all face rejection at some point. It might as well come from whales and dolphins. Still the scenery remains beautiful and the people remain friendly, so I shan’t complain too much. Though I personally rarely do complain. I just offer a running commentary that happens to be negative.

We were supposed to have a stand at Peel day though sadly the poor weather struck again. We couldn’t risk our poor gazebo being ruthlessly swept out to sea by the wind. So had to cancel. Still there are many events still to come in the next few months. We did make it out to watch a motorbike stunt show and have a drink at the pub. So not all was lost.

Lots of office work this week. Learnt a lot.Sadly my reunion with excel was a disaster and I couldn’t remember a damn thing about how to use it. I have a excel proficiency certificate at home that clearly needs shredding; as it’s a lie in ink. I had more luck with photo identification and graphic design . We have also learnt how to use GIS (geographic information systems) and worked with lots of data analysis of public sightings. As well as continuing with our social media efforts. Sorting through our photos for photo identification of Risso dolphins.

The emergence of TT also highlighted the issues when it comes to staging a world class sporting event on a small island. Road closures an increased population and motorbikes. Everywhere . All. The. Time. Though the Isle of Man coped with it all very well. Though for me as an individual I could do without hearing the vroooommmmm!!! ever again my entire life.

Gemma

Edit: Just realised I didn’t take a single photo of a single bike so here is an emoji 🏍

 

 

 

Our first week in the Isle of Man

118003F9-441A-4850-892D-B7F374857D0Ecetacean
/sɪˈteɪʃn/
noun
plural noun: cetaceans
  1. a marine mammal of the order Cetacea ; a whale, dolphin, or porpoise.

We arrived by ferry and plane having never set foot in the Isle of Man before. Trepidation and excitement in abundance. I arrived via ferry taking a mere 2hours and 45 minutes to get here. It was a very calm day at sea. Meaning the ferry managed to actually arrive early rather than with the lateness I’ve become acquired to on our trains! We have so far been blessed with miraculously good weather. The sun was shining and the sea was still. Perfect for land surveying. Which has lead us to be totally spoilt in terms of being able to survey with the stunning scenery of the Isle of Man being illuminated by the sun. We even managed to get slightly sunburnt which is pretty shocking for a British spring.

The first animals we saw were the admittedly adorable seals swimming playfully fairly close to us. Unfortunately these were the not the creatures we actually sought. We are here to survey the cetaceans and for that we needed a keen eye and patience. Scanning the horizon and ocean with our binoculars looking for any sign of the cetaceans that largely alluded us. Luckily Bryony a scientist who works for the whale and dolphin watch. (Who was teaching us how to survey). Appears to have developed some kind of cetacean spotting superpower over the years and managed to spot a basking shark in the far far distance. To much excitement from everyone. Hopefully over the next few months we shall all acquire such powers!

Later we had our introduction to the Manx whale and dolphin centre which only opened in January (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-isle-of-man-47022911/manx-whale-and-dolphin-watch-visitor-centre-in-peel-opens) which is so well put together. Filled with information about the amazing sea life in Peel and around the Isle of Man. We were informed on how we would be running the centre to best inform the public about the whales and dolphins. Not to mention the environmental struggles they face. One of the centres most important tasks is sharing public sightings of the cetaceans send to us on our website (https://www.mwdw.net/report-a-sighting/) and recording them as part of our research efforts.

Education is a pillar of conservation. Our most important audience is the young who will shape future policy and attitudes . Already during the first we have been able to reach out a few times to children’s groups to educate them about cetaceans. They were all so enthusiastic and knowledgeable it was incredibly heartening to see children so informed. Despite our land surveying not always being entirely fruitful. The children always remained positive and enjoyed themselves. Which was great to see. It was also entertaining to witness their shock and despair on learning that we often survey for three hours or more. A no doubt Herculean task from the prospective of a young child.

Social media for the centre is getting a make over under our watch. We want to post more and engage more with the public on our various platforms. Instagram and Facebook primarily. Hopefully we shall also be making some videos for the centres  YouTube account about our adventures on the island. So look out for that! (https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCOZPUDX0kpicxsUf2EPZOvA). Hopefully we will be getting closer to the whales and dolphins. So will take lots of photos and videos to share with you guys across our platforms.

To be continued……………..

Gem

 

 

Dolphineers 2019: An introduction!

Hi, my name is Ambrosine (but call me Amber!) and I am half French half English (from Brighton). I recently graduated with a MSc in Ecological Zoology at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden, and have already worked with research projects in different countries before. I have always been passionate about marine wildlife and conservation, which is why I’m excited to volunteer with the MWDW and work with these amazing animals!

Hi, I’m Anna! One of the new Summer Interns of 2019. I recently graduated from Sweden and now have a MSc in Evolutionary Biology and a BSc in Animal Biology. Ive taken part in a few research projects around the globe, and am thrilled to be here for the Summer! I am passionate about wildlife and conservation and look forward to exploring the Isle of Man.

 

Hi, My Name is Gemma I am starting a masters in Zoo conservation biology next year. I have always had a love for animals and nature. I have worked in animal rehabilitation and rescue. I am an education officer for the blue cross. I taught English as a foreign language across Asia. I have previously studied History and contemporary Chinese studies at undergrad and East Asian economics at post grad. I’m excited to experience these amazing animals and Manx life.

Hi I’m Olivia, this is my first time visiting the Isle of Man. I am looking forward to gaining some invaluable experience in what it takes to conserve marine mammal species. I have very recently completed my bachelors at the University of Exeter studying conservation biology and ecology so have a fresh idea of the biology and ecology of cetacean species. I can’t wait to see what the summer holds.

Bye bye Dolphineers

Another summer on the Isle of Man has come to an end, which means it is time for us Dolphineers to write our final blog post. It’s been a crazy summer on the island, but boy did we have fun!

We’ve been so lucky to have experienced such amazing marine life – birds, basking sharks, seals, minke whales, Risso’s dolphins, harbour porpoise, and even chunks of harbour porpoise (see one of our previous posts for more exciting details on that!) There is such diversity in the marine life found around the island – you’ll easily get lost staring at the sea for hours (which we did during our surveys!) You honestly don’t need to go far or pay loads of money to see whales and dolphins, just go down to the beach!

IMG_0802

Stinky minke whale

Working with the MWDW we were taught valuable skills in cetacean science, photo identification, data handling and processing, and public outreach. Not only did we get to contribute to the scientific research the charity does, but we also got involved in loads of public outreach events. These public events allowed us to share our passion of marine mammals with others, as well as meet amazing people who share our passion.

One of the exciting projects we worked on this summer was the relocation of the MWDW into a new office/shop on high street in Peel. We’ve spent the past two months painting, moving furniture, and decorating what will soon be the island’s first whale and dolphin visitor centre. We’re sad we won’t be able to see the final product… but get pumped because it’s going to look amazing!

Apart from work, we went on some amazing trips exploring the island with Tom, Jen, and Bryony. Some of our highlights were Glen Maye, Ballaglass Glen (with all the bluebells), and Glen Dhoon for Eloise’s birthday picnic on the beach. We also had the opportunity to go on several boat trips and experience seeing minke whales up close and personal!

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One of our favourite periods this summer was during the TT. The island really came to life with people visiting from all over the world to experience the crazy motorcycle races. Bryony and Jen took us to one of the races, and we nearly had heart attacks watching the motorcycles zooming by less than 2m away from us!

Overall, it was an all-round fantastic summer (even if we didn’t get much of a tan) filled with plenty of amazing memories and new friends – shout out to the Creek for all the banter!

MWDW

Jen, Tom, Eloise, Eleanor, and Bryony

Thank you to Tom, Jen, and Bryony for having us! We’ll be back before you know it!

Peace out,

Eloïse and Eleanor

xxx