Porcupine field meetings – why would I want to go on one?
One of the characteristics of Porcupine is that many of its members are experienced field ecologists – typically marine biologists with ID expertise in one or more taxonomic groups who also have a large store of tips on methods and field lore. Thus, they can show you useful bits of equipment, often adapted to do the job better, where to look for interesting species, techniques for getting good photos, protocols for improving consistency of recording, how to collect and preserve specimens of particular types, the pros and cons of particular identification guides, etc.
Porcupine field meetings are an opportunity to join these ecologists as they do what they do best, and our aim is to structure the meetings to make them a learning experience for everyone. Known experts are encouraged to offer their skills and carry out informal master classes. Everyone is encouraged to show and discuss tips that they have picked up.
A list of people attending, including a summary of their expertise and their ambitions for the day, will be prepared and disseminated a few days in advance. The meeting will start at an agreed time and location, approx. 2 hours before low tide, where introductions will be made, a brief summary of the area will be explained and a rough plan of who is going where will be described. Depending on the weather, people tend to drift away from the shore after 2 to 3 hours and make their way to the arranged field lab, where the meeting will continue and more master-classes and tips will be exchanged. A compilation of species recorded from the site will be coordinated and a write-up of the meeting will be prepared for the Bulletin. The species list will go to Julia Nunn (Porcupine’s Records Convenor) for entry into Marine Recorder and export to the NBN Atlas.
The next Field Meeting is:
PMNHS Summer Field Meeting 2024
Alderney 12th-19th September 2024
Dates: 12th September- 19th September
Porcupine Natural History Society along with Alderney Wildlife Trust are organising an Autumn Field Meeting to Alderney in September 2024.
Alderney is a beautiful island that is remote and right at the geographical range of many species, it is an important migration stop-over for birds and has many diverse ecosystems. Niche marine habitats exist due to the increased sea surface temperature (compared to UK!) and fast flowing tidal conditions (two extreme tidal stream bodies adjacent to the island). Marine species are therefore difficult to record in this current swept island…and so we are wanting to help get some interesting and useful records! The North West part of Alderney and the island of Burhou are a Ramsar site managed by The Alderney Wildlife Trust on behalf of the local government, the States of Alderney. Alderney is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which comprises of Sark, Herm and Guernsey.
- Full intertidal Rocky Shore Surveys on at least 3 sites across the island
- Seagrass surveys (snorkel, dive)
- Dive surveys focussing on key sites, habitats and species (e.g. Ramsar Site, kelp forests, Pink Seafan species)
- Long term monitoring sites (dive)
- Dive surveys on sites not visited very often (e.g. offshore islets)
- Trip to Burhou, both diving and shore
In addition, the AWT are happy to take any interested Porcupiners out and about with resident volunteers to carry out Green Ormer, crab and Shoresearch surveys.
Figure 1a. General features of Alderney, including extent of Ramsar site
Figure 1b. General features of Alderney (with aerial photograph).
Figure 2. General locations for potential surveys (exact locations to be confirmed).
Figure 3. Benthic habitat map of Alderney 3nm territorial waters.
Figure 4. Map of Alderney with key sites on land.
The hotel and lab space are all in St Annes, the harbour is next to Braye Beach, the camp site is on the North West corner of the island
We will have access to the Catholic church Hall town where we will set up a mini-lab, here we will be able to look at samples in more detail, set up microscopes and delve through our ID books!
There is a lock-up area at the Harbour where we can store dive kit and get air fills. The wildlife trust have their own open boat Sula of Braye (open decked work boat, coded for 10 passengers + 2 crew members) and a privately owned catamaran (both with an accompanying 4m aluminium inflated decked tender), which we will be using for diving. The Trust are installing a removable dive ladder on both vessels for ease of getting in and out of the boats. Estimated costs for a trip on Sula: based on 4 hours, with a coded skipper (needed for certain offshore sites): £380.00. Trip without a coded skipper: £180.00 (for sheltered sites). Some sites the yacht, Aquatora (25ft catamaran) will also be available, free of charge. Sites requiring a coded skipper will need to be confirmed by the local Harbour Authority.
Transport whilst on Alderney:
Transport whilst on Alderney- on foot. The harbour is a ten minute walk from the Church Hall and accommodation in St Annes. Most of the shore sites are 25-35min walk from town. One or two vehicles will also be available to transport kit as well. Or we might want to hire out an e-bike whilst we are on the island!
The map shows some of the sites which we might try to target, obviously this will depend on weather, slack times etc. Plans are still in development but here are some of the possibilities and sites of interest. Details of the itinerary fieldwork surveys are still being developed but a flavour of sites can be seen below:
The difficult bit about this fieldtrip is getting there! Alderney is beautiful and remote…but Porcupines are a determined lot and I am sure we can make it!
We will be chartering a catamaran that will leave from Poole harbour at 7:00-8:00 on the 12th to take advantage of the tide, returning from Alderney to Poole with the tide at 8:00 on the 19th. The catamaran will have plenty of space to take all of the gear, and can accommodate 14 people. If there are more than 14 people coming, they can put their gear on the boat and then fly from Southampton.
The limited spaces on the boat mean that this will need to be carefully planned once we know who is coming and what kit everyone is bringing. We can then also look at sharing the combined costs of boat and flights equitably across everyone coming. The boat operator will also be advertising the ‘empty leg’ spaces. If these are taken, then he has agreed to reduce the cost for our charter by that amount. Again, we will know more closer to the time. In short- £314 is the maximum cost to get across, and it may possibly be less than that in reality.
There are various options on the island, but Porcupines have been given priority booking at the Victoria Hotel in town and we have a 10% discount.
Spaces are on hold for us, and many of the rooms are available with twin beds for people to share. A full list of rooms and prices is attached to the end of this briefing document. If you decide to share a room with a friend, then this rapidly becomes a very reasonable option. Details below:
There is the possibility of camping as well- but folk deciding to camp will need to bring along all camping gear. The weather at the end of September can be ‘changeable’ so the campsite owners are not prepared to let us use their tents. The campsite is at Saye Beach on the East end of the island, and is a 45 minute walk from St Anne’s. The cost is £8 per night per adult. Details are in the link on the header.
There is some self-catering accommodation available on the island, and the link in the header takes you to a full list. Not all of it will be available at this time of year, and some is a long way away from St Annes, so If you are planning to find your own accommodation, please contact Vivien (who knows the island well) before you book so that you end up near where everyone else is!
Food and Catering:
The Victoria offers a delicious breakfast, there are shops in St Anne’s and by the harbour where we can get groceries etc to make lunches to take with us to field sites. The Catholic Church Hall has a kitchen in it that we will be able to use to make communal meals, and we will look to organise some meals for us all to eat together. The Wildlife Trust have a beautiful farm site overlooking Longis Bay, so we may well have a barbeque up there on the day that we survey Longis.
To register your interest and book onto this fieldtrip contact:
Winter or Vivien at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is really important we know who is coming and what kit you are planning on bringing. Travel will need to be arranged carefully. We are suggesting that we have an Alderney Virtual Meeting late November to discuss details of the trip and organise ourselves. So please register your interest no later than the 8th November 2023.
An example of a previous summer Field Meeting is:
PMNHS Summer Field Meeting 2022
Lundy Island – Thursday 14th to Tuesday 19th July
Join us for an opportunity of a lifetime as for the first time ever we sail the seven seas (Celtic Sea) from the North Devon mainland to the first marine reserve established in the UK, Lundy Island!
Not only is this a great chance to explore the island, intertidally and subtidally, but we will also be participating in the Lundy Marine Festival 2022. The trip will start with a three-day BioBlitz of the rocky shores, helping to identify as many species as possible. We will be able to work alongside a team from the Natural History Museum’s Darwin Tree of Life project as well as other local coastal organisations, surveying and learning together. The spring tide rock-pooling and rummaging (low water times will be between 1-3 pm) will be followed by afternoons and evenings spent in the ‘pop-up’ field lab. and in the only pub on the island, the Marisco Tavern. During the second half of the trip there’s the opportunity to keep exploring the shores or the 3 mile long island, or go diving from the shore and two days of organised boat diving.
Read more about what the island has to offer here: https://www.visitdevon.co.uk/northdevon/explore/villages-and-towns/lundy-island
Porcupine’s participation in the Lundy Marine Festival (www.lundymarinefestival.org.uk) is firming up and we now need members to book their places on the field trip. We have had a few bookings already, but we are hoping for more. The following provides updated information on Porcupine’s participation and revised prices and procedures for booking.
The Festival itself will run for 2 months, but Porcupine’s main involvement is the Bioblitz, July 14th to 19th, which we are running in similar format to our normal field trips, including both intertidal and subtidal (diving) recording. Some accommodation on Lundy and dive boats have been reserved for us, but the reserved spaces are limited and only reserved for a limited period, so interested Porcupines should plan to book soon to ensure getting places.
Booking & payment procedures. These are slightly complicated by the accommodation options, so please read carefully and do in this order:
- Accommodation – see options below, then email Jon Moore (email@example.com) and copy to firstname.lastname@example.org to book the reserved places. We will then reply to confirm that you have those places or to offer you the next best option if the places you have asked for are no longer available. Some members have already booked reserved places and it will be first come first served for the remaining. When they have gone then members will still be able to book spaces in the camp site (with the Lundy Shore Office). We will tell you how to make payment for the reserved places once they are booked.
- Boat transits on the Oldenburg – see info below and on the Festival website, then call the Lundy Shore Office (01271 863636) to book and pay.
- Dive boats – see info below and on the Festival website, then book and pay with the Lundy Shore Office. This can be done at the same time as 2).
- Email a summary of what you have booked to Jon Moore (email@example.com) and copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boat transits on Oldenburg (adult return) – £35 day trip, £85 period stay (to cover the baggage handling). Rates for children (<16) also available. Possibility that there might be an extra charge for carrying diving equipment, but Robert is hoping that will be waived. Booking and payments through the Lundy shore office. Boat times are given in the table below and you can mix and match outward & return journeys to suit your own itinerary. Transfers between Bideford and Barnstaple are available if you leave from one and return to the other. Transit time is approx. 2 hours each way.
- The Barn (hostel) – only available for the Thurs & Fri nights – 2 rooms, total of 14 beds, but 5 already allocated, so 9 reserved for Porcupine @ £10/person. [https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/the-barn-4891/#Overview]. Book & pay through Porcupine.
- Festival tents – 6 x two-person tents, each with 2 camp beds – free (for Festival participants). Total of 12 beds but 3 already taken, so 9 beds reserved for Porcupine, for a limited period. Facilities: toilets and showers. As they are two-person tents then we will need to match any single people with another single, appropriately. Book through Porcupine, but also tell the Lundy Shore Office when you book the Oldenburg.
- Camping in own tents – ~30 pitches available. Reserved and free (for Festival participants) for the first two nights of the Bioblitz (Thurs & Fri), but then £15/person/night for the last three nights (Sat, Sun, Mon). Not reserved for Porcupine. Facilities: toilets and showers. https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/camping-5274/#Overview. Book & pay through Lundy Shore Office.
- Examples – 2 nights in Barn (£10), then 3 nights in festival tent (free) = £10
5 nights in festival tent (3 nights free, 2 nights @ £15) = £0
If Barn and festival tents already booked – 5 nights camping in own tent (2 nights free, 3 nights @ £15) = £45
Food: 2 options (3 if you bring some with you) – meals in the Marisco Tavern (breakfast, lunch & dinner are available) or buying food from the shop. The Barn has a kitchen, for people staying there on the Thurs & Fri nights.
Intertidal Bioblitz: The trip will start with a three-day BioBlitz of the rocky shores, helping to identify as many species as possible. We will be working alongside a team from the Darwin Tree of Life project (Natural History Museum and Marine Biological Association), surveying and learning together. Several shore sites will be targeted. While the focus is on those 3 days, participants are welcome to continue their recording on other days and continue to use the field lab (see below). Low tide times are given in the table below. More information will be sent to people who have booked.
Boat diving: Dive boat Obsession II has been reserved for Porcupine for two days (Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th). It has 11 spaces each day for Porcupine divers, plus 1 for Keith Hiscock who will be our guide. Cost is £82/diver/day, for 2 dives. Porcupine divers can board in Ilfracombe, if coming just for the day), or from the landing jetty on Lundy (there is no difference in price). Transit time from Ilfracombe is approx. 1 hour 40 mins. Robert is developing several possible marine biological projects that we can contribute to. Timings will depend on tides, weather and projects. More information will be sent to divers who have booked.
Shore diving – not many accessible sites and the more interesting ones would require some organising and good conditions but is possible on any day. Quite likely that a shore dive will be organised on Sunday 17th for those who are keen and have their equipment on the island. Cylinder filling is available on the island and free to Festival participants.
Field laboratory – will be set up in a section of St Helen’s Church, where we will be able to process samples. This space will be available for the duration of our stay. Some microscopes and basic field guides will be available for us to use; however, if you wish to bring your own, then please do so. [Note: you might also need to bring an extension lead]. Special permission will be in place from Natural England to allow samples to be removed from the shore and from under water to be preserved for identification purposes.
Records – Jon Moore (hopefully with help from others) will be collating records from the intertidal and subtidal sites. Bespoke recording forms and guidance are being designed for the intertidal and will be provided to recorders. Seasearch forms will be used for the subtidal sites.