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Paddleworms and Trowels

Teresa Darbyshire, 26 January 2015

24.01.15

Today was packed full. Brendan managed to get a dive in before we had to head down to Walker Creek for an afternoon tide. The shore dive went from near Gypsy Cove, not far out of Stanley and involved a short off-road drive to the shore before the divers had to pick their way down across the rocks to get into the water (photo 1). Apparently visibility was reasonable at around 6m and Brendan’s present to me this time consisted of a bag of sand and a couple of bags of ‘stuff’ scraped off the rocks. Unfortunately, Brendan found his way into my bad books by admitting to have lost my ‘dive trowel’. This tool has been great for sediment sampling while diving, as well as shore sampling when not possible to take a spade. Admittedly, the trowel was a cheap plastic one, however the not so cheap brass clip attached to it was another matter!

After the dive, we headed straight off to Walker Creek, which was a 2.5 hour drive south, almost to the opposite end of the island. The shore turned out to be another hard-ish one (photo 2), which was a little disappointing at first, but the collecting turned out to be quite productive. We found some very large orbiniid worms (20-30 cm in length) and an area where there were abundant scaleworms, under more than two thirds of the stones turned over. With the drive back a long and bumpy one, we stopped after an hour so that I could sort through and ‘fix’ (with formaldehyde) the worms and label pots. I have learnt in the past that worms do not enjoy long, bumpy car journeys and break up (particularly more fragile specimens) by the journey end if this is not done.

25.01.15

No shore sampling was planned for today, however, Brendan has managed to get out on 2 different shore dives while I sorted through previous samples, changed formaldehyde to alcohol (a better, less toxic, long term preservative but not as good for the initial fixation) and generally caught up on fieldwork and specimen notes. At lunchtime, the divers returned bearing gifts (even without a trowel). The dive had been on a local Phragmatopoma reef. This is a type of marine bristle worm called a sabellariid (photo 3) that builds hard tubes of sand and can create a reef-like environment around itself. In the UK, other worms of the same family create reefs both on and offshore and are known as ‘honeycomb worms’ due to the appearance of the reef they create. Many other species often inhabit these reefs as well. I was presented with some examples of the reef, some scrapings from rocks and a very large, green paddleworm (photo 4: Eulalia magalhaensis) over 20 cm in length. Another two species of paddleworm, not yet identified, were also found within the samples. These often-colourful worms are very photogenic and I managed to get some good photos of these as well (photos 5 & 6). All in all, a successful day, even without any shore sampling. Loss of the trowel was forgiven!

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Photo 1: Divers entering the water

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Photo 2: Walker Creek

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Photo 3: Sabellariid marine bristleworm (Phragmatopoma)

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Photo 4:  Green paddleworm (Eulalia magalhaensis)

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Photo 5: Paddleworm

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Photo 6: Paddleworm

Sea Lions, Penguins and Algae

Teresa Darbyshire, 23 January 2015

22.01.15

Bleaker Island has proven to be very interesting and we’ve certainly had the weather to appreciate it, summer has suddenly landed. It’s sunny enough for sun cream but not quite warm enough to tempt us into short sleeves, still that’s a definite improvement!

Bleaker Island is 10-12 miles in length. We’ve been able to use a car whilst here, so have been able to cover most of the island to check out the coastline. We didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon but were just in time yesterday to catch enough of the tide to still be able to do sampling in the mid-shore of the bay just below the settlement (photo 1). This was a soft muddy coarse sand, fairly black in appearance but with several tubes apparent that could contain worms as well as a few other free-living specimens to collect. There were also a few rocks to turn over and inspect. However, the tide was chasing us back up the beach so we did not stay long. Further round from here, the shore was covered in both large and small flat rocks under which we found a few more species to add to the collection.

Once the tide had risen too far to make further collecting worthwhile, we went on our first reccy along the shoreline to see what it looked like. There seemed to be very little in the way of sand except for a very large white sandy bay covered in penguins (photo 2). Sadly, I know from previous experience that worms and penguins don’t mix, with the type of sand favoured by penguins being practically empty of worms. This used up the rest of the usable day but the next day we headed south along the rest of the island. The southern coastline is all exposed cliffs, with large areas of flat rock ledges made up of solid, scoured-clean rock that did not look promising. The northern coastline, more sheltered, had large swathes of different rock ledges that were covered in a filamentous algae that in turn covered large deposits of a pink calcareous, loose alga (photo 3). This was a type of habitat I had not seen around the islands before and was quite excited to find (okay, that may sound strange but we all find different things exciting!). There did not actually seem to be much diversity within the loose crisp algae but at the same time it was a new habitat in a new location and that kind of data is always important to have whether it is rich or poor in animals. After sampling here we still had time to get back to the settlement just at the low tide point. We went back down to the small bay sampled yesterday and added a sample point from low tide to the mid-tide point already surveyed. There was a small distraction in the shape of a mother sea lion and her pup (photo 4), very small being only a couple of weeks old. Distraction over, the sampling was done. Just to finish off the afternoon we drove slightly further up the coast to add another site to the list that also had some of the calcareous algae over rock ledges (photo 5). These were high enough on shore allowing us to sample until 2-3 hours after the tide had turned.

Tomorrow is back to Stanley and we hope summer will come back with us.

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Photo 1: Settlement Bay

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Photo 2: Penguin beach

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Photo 3: Calcareous alga

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Photo 4: Sea lion mother and pup

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Photo 5: Algal ledges

The Big Garden Birdwatch

Penny Tomkins, 23 January 2015

Hello Bulb Buddies,

There is an exciting scientific survey being conducted this weekend, and your help is needed! It’s called the Big Garden Birdwatch and is organised by the RSPB, a conservation charity that help to look after our wildlife. You can help by registering online here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ and downloading an information pack. You then spend one hour this weekend documenting the birds that visit your garden or a green space near your home. The information pack on the RSPB website has a guide to help you identify the birds! Then, upload your findings to the RSPB website so that they can feed into the nationwide survey of bird populations, aimed at providing an insight into how our feathery friends are doing in the wild!

The Big Garden Birdwatch has been running since 1979! You can find out about previous results here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/previous-results/ . An annual, nationwide survey is a fantastic way to spot changes in bird populations. This is important, because if we know that numbers of a certain bird are dwindling, we can start to look at why this is happening and make changes that will help those birds to survive. An example of this is the Starling. The Big Garden Birdwatch has shown an 80% decrease in the Starling population since 1979. The RSPB has been raising awareness of what we can do to help these birds, such as keeping the grass in parts of our gardens short so that Starlings can more easily reach the grubs and insects they feed on near the roots of the grass.

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Starling in the winter (picture courtesy of the RSPB website).

Here are some ideas on how to attract birds to your garden: http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/387868-top-10-bird-feeding-tips-this-winter . And some fun, bird-related activities: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/family-fun/ .

St Fagans National History Museum and National Museum Cardiff will be hosting Big Garden Birdwatch activities this weekend! If you want to be involved here are links to the What’s On guides for more details:

Cardiff         St Fagans

 

I’d like to send a big thank you to those of you who sent your weather data in last week. I’m looking forward to this weeks data and finding out whether it has been warmer or colder and how many of you have had snow or hail!! Remember, if you send all your data in and let me know online when your plants have flowered, then you will receive Super Scientist awards and be in for a chance to win a Nature Trip!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!

Professor Plant

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Starlings (picture from RSPB website)

Foul Bay

Teresa Darbyshire, 21 January 2015

20.01.15

Well, Foul Bay did live up to its name on what actually turned out to be the best weather we’ve had so far. All of my sampling sites are generally chosen for having easy access off the road, but I had taken a risk this time and picked a site where the road ended before the coast, leaving what I thought would be a reasonably distanced walk. However, as the road finished close to a settlement we stopped in for a quick chat and some advice about access to the shore. The advice was that our chosen route would be unsuitable but there was another track that would get us close a little way back down the road, it was a ‘little soft’ but our 4x4 ‘should’ be fine!

We found the track and made it to the first wire gate (a particular type of access gate here that involves removing part of the fence and then driving through and replacing it). Underneath the wire gate was a very soft, deep-looking area of water (see photo), which with the peaty ground here normally signifies something to be avoided! Looking onwards, the supposedly clear track almost instantly disappeared (to our inexperienced eyes) and therefore we debated the wisdom of continuing. The alternative was to walk to the shore, which appeared to be around 2-3 miles away! As we were on our own and the people from the settlement had driven away, we knew there was no help should problems arise (i.e. getting irretrievably ‘bogged’). We eventually made the difficult decision that this one would have to be cancelled. This left us with a rather disconsolate two hour drive back empty-handed, one to put down to experience unfortunately. A foul day indeed!

Tomorrow we are flying to Bleaker Island, to the southeast of the islands, which fills in a large gap in my coverage around the islands. Fingers crossed that we can find a variety of shores here to cover and improve our record!

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Wire gate

Digging for worms in the Falkland Islands

Teresa Darbyshire, 20 January 2015

18.01.2015

First of all, here is the photo of the reproductive stage of a worm (photo 1), which I found during night sampling two days ago, but forgot to send! Very nice to collect, just unfortunately not what I was after.

Mare Harbour was an interesting visit, having never been down to a shore almost completely surrounded by barbed wire before (photo 2)! This shore is within the military area here so I was lucky to get access at all, although the officer on duty seemed totally bemused as to why I would even want to. It turned out to be a very hard and rocky area with some areas of flat rocks over gravelly sand and other areas of vertically ridged rock. The flat rock areas had a reasonable diversity of species although collecting was hard work as there were only small numbers of animals to find. Still I did come away with some animals I definitely haven’t seen before including the ‘pretty’ catch of the day, which was a syllid (see photo 3) with its wonderfully intricate hair-do. There were also many flabelligerids (as difficult to say as spell: photo 4). This particular strange species covers itself with mucus, which silt adheres to. This gives it the appearance of jelly when you find it.

Brendan also managed to get out on a dive today which he was very pleased about although his description of it being ‘just like West Wales’ led me to believe it wasn’t the best that the Falkland Islands can offer. However, he brought me back a present of 4 bags of mud. Not the most romantic present I’ve ever been offered certainly, but still there were some nice worms in there including a bamboo worm (maldanid: photo 5). These worms are often very hard to collect whole making identification almost impossible, however, this one was completely intact.

19.01.15

Today saw us driving up to the north east of the island to the region of Rincon Grande. As usual I had no idea what to expect, but with the wind howling again I merely hoped the rain would hold off, so that the couple of hours on an exposed beach would not be too gruelling. I got my wish for most of the duration, to ask for more would just be greedy I suppose!

The shore was mostly rocky again but with one small inlet of softer muddy sand. I set Brendan to work with the fork (photo  6) and studiously watched what came up – lots of tubes and other worms dangling down! We spent some happy time here slowly teasing the long worms out of their sand beds and shoving other tubes into pots before moving on.

Further round the bay in the rockier sections we moved on to rock turning, gaining a small diversity of worms which again were small in number and difficult to find. Working independently with forceps and pot in hand (photo 7), Brendan managed a larger haul than me, which he was very proud of although apparently we were not competing!

On our last stop we returned to our starting point in the softer sediment but at the low tide mark this time to see if the type of worms had changed. There were certainly a couple of different types and we also found an unusual type of crustacean, a serolid isopod, which is flattened and ‘trilobite-like’ and often found in pairs (photo 8). These certainly were an intriguing distraction. Shortly afterwards the tide turned and we were out of time, which meant we had to head back.

Off to the northwest tomorrow to Foul Bay – hopefully not as bad as the name sounds!

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Photo 1: a reproductive stage of a marine bristleworm, called an epitoke

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Photo 2: Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands

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Photo 3: a type of marine bristleworm called a syllid

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Photo 4: type of marine bristleworm (polychaete) called a flabelligerid 

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Photo 5: a type of marine bristleworm called a bamboo worm (maldanid)

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Photo 6: Brendan digging

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Photo 7: turning rocks in search of marine bristleworms

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Photo 8: a pair of serolid isopods