Grey seals in Cornwall taste freedom again…..

Grey seal…..first reports back suggest it tasted salty.

During the winter months, British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) are busy answering calls from the public informing them of young Grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, injured and stranded, many from the increasing swell we are seeing during the last few years winter storms. In a carefully coordinated effort, volunteers from BDMLR and the Cornwall Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, Cornwall, UK work together to rescue these animals, often requiring scaling perilous cliff faces to reach them. The seals are treated and rehabilitated at Gweek until they are well enough to be released again, where they are flipper tagged to help monitor them in the future, and released back into the oceans from whence they came.

On a morning in late May, I was lucky enough to be invited down (as a member of the Cornwall seal group), to watch these young seals get their first taste of freedom since their rescue. Some charged full tilt to the ocean, whilst others were definitely more hesitant and needed a bit of persistent encouragement. One by one they finally all made it into the open water where hopefully that’ll be the last we see of them. The following video was taken during that release, Grey seal release video

Grey seals are one of the rarest seals in the world, and in the UK we are lucky enough to have 40% of that population right on our doorstep. We have both Common and Grey seals as residents on our coast  but in Cornwall we are most likely to see the larger Grey seal, with their sweet dog like faces, along our rocky shores.

If you come across any seals along the coast of Britain, that appear to be injured (some have clear ‘ringing’ injuries from fishing nets and marine litter), then please contact BDMLR on;

Working hours – weekdays.
If you wish to report an marine animal that you are concerned about or have a general enquiry about BDMLR, please call 01825 765546 during office hours 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.
Any messages left on the answerphone will not be checked until the morning of the next working day.

Outside office hours, weekends and bank holidays.
Outside normal office hours and over weekends and bank holidays, we operate a rescue line (no general enquiries please) on 07787 433412.
Please notice that this number diverts to one of our Out of Hours coordinators and therefore cannot accept texts, voice messages or photographs.

Honey Bee Swarm – Part 1

bees bearding“The bees are swarming, the bees are swarming!!” A small group of us had assembled at Nectans Meadow, Devon UK, for the biannual meet up of the Atlantic Coast Friends of the Bees, discussing all things bee related, drinking tea and eating cake. All good meetings should have tea and cake. And bees. Our hosts, Sue and Mick, who have been using natural beekeeping methods in their apiary since they set it up seven years ago, were discussing the finer points of the top bar hive used in natural beekeeping, and Micks new adaptations to it to help the bees, when one of the group rushed in and exclaimed “The bees are swarming, the bees are swarming!!”

We dropped everything and rushed outside to see the meadow sky filled with thousands of honey bees.  Swarming happens when the colony becomes too big for the hive and is a means of reproducing. The old queen lays new queen broods and then under the cohersion of the lady workers, is starved to make her light enough to fly and then is not so subtley booted out to make room for the new virgin queen to hatch and take over the old hive. The old queen, in something reminiscent of a Game of Thrones episode, is forced out and approximately half of the workers go with her and scout for a new place to set up a new colony. It is this ‘booting out’ that is effectively the swarm we were witnessing.

Three years ago I undertook some training in natural beekeeping at Nectans Meadow, with Sue and Micksbees bearding at hive entrance apiary, under the tutelage of the barefoot beekeeper Phil Chandler. During that teaching weekend, we were so very lucky to witness the ‘bearding’ of honey bees under the hive. Bearding is when you see a large clump of bees, in this case around the hive entrance, and is often a means of the bees cooling down. The conditions that lead to ‘bearding’ are high temperatures, over-crowding, lack of ventilation, high humidity or some combination of those factors and during the spring months they may also do this just before they swarm.

This spring, Sue and Mick had seen the bees from one of their hives, the ‘posties’, bearding for several days before we arrived for our meeting. They had a strong inclination that the bees would be swarming soon, but it is something that happens only once or twice a year. For the colony to choose the day that we had our meeting, that we had prearranged months earlier, was insanely lucky and it couldn’t have been planned any better. They even waited for us to finish our tea and cake first.

Part 2 – transferring the swarm to a hive coming soon. To see footage of the bees swarming at Nectans Meadow check out the footage we filmed on our Bee swarming video

We’re currently building our own top bar hives in anticipation for a homeless swarm. Keep in touch as we’ll be offering natural bee keeping and top bar hive making courses in 2017.



The Rainman of Castle Rock December 31 2014

I’m sat here surrounded by chaos as I pack up the house that I have lived in for the last ten years. 2015 sees the jump start of my trying to live a life with fewer needs; fewer possessions, less reliance on ‘the grid’, more time spent reconnecting to the earth. In less than a week I’ll be leaving this home behind and starting on a series of adventures that, I hope, will bring me closer to the life I want to live. Spending time with indigenous people learning and sharing skills, time in nature learning to appreciate it all the more, time spent with friends old and new building a strong community and time alone pushing me to my own limits in the extreme conditions that I thrive in.

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