Many large envelopes drop through the office door at Sea Watch Foundation, most of these contain data recording sheets from our observers up and down the country. Just a couple of weeks back I received one of these data sets covering October and November watches in North Devon. Unusually, one of the sheets was bright orange in contrast to the other white ones. I pulled out the sheet and at the top, circled, it said “500!”. Beneath that it said “Our 500th watch, 9 years and 2 days since our first watch 18 Nov 2005”. Obviously, this kind of dedication is great for our research as we have consistent effort from a given watch point, but I was struck at how these observers have taken sea-watching to their hearts, noting the anniversary of when they started and celebrating their landmark 500th watch. Having only started working for Sea Watch last February, I’ve known Chris and Sharron Blackmore for less than one ninth of their sea-watching career, but receiving this special data made me incredibly proud to be part of this pioneering citizen science scheme which has become the largest of it’s kind in Europe.
All that remains for me to say is a huge THANK YOU to Chris and Sharron as well as all of our regular observers around the UK – your efforts are invaluable to us!
Kathy James – Sightings Officer
I asked Chris if he wouldn’t mind putting together a few words to mark the occasion:
“My wife Sharron and I saw an advert for volunteer cetacean watcher training in 2005. We went along to a training day run by Devon Wildlife Trust and the local Sea Watch Foundation coordinator, which included a field trip where we saw porpoises and we were hooked.
Our original watch location in Ilfracombe gave patchy results from our first watch on 18 Nov 2005 but for NWDW 2006 we decided to run some watches from Capstone Point, a short coastal walk on Ilfracombe seafront used by locals and visitors alike. As we arrived for the first watch there were gannets diving in close inshore and there they were, porpoises, just 50m off, 2 mothers with calves. That was just the beginning with further regular sightings, so we moved our watch location to Capstone and have been recording from there ever since, with an annual fortnight on Lundy Island www.lundyisland.co.uk and occasional forays to other North Devon headlands as well as St Ives in Cornwall.
So, after 500 watches, 725 effort related hours over 9 years and 2 days what have we seen? 1288 harbour porpoises, 279 common dolphins, 68 dolphin species, 64 bottlenose dolphins, 106 grey seals, 23 ocean sunfish, something very big and probably very dead with 100+ gulls circling it, but annoyingly too far away to identify even with binoculars; an intriguing sighting of a grey seal playing with what looked like, (from the tail), a tuna, though again, too far away to identify; a myriad of seabirds as well as the remains of a Red Shouldered Macaw, (dead stranding). We’ve also seen Nowhere Island, Tall Ships, a submarine on the horizon; pirates, Verity, famous people too: James May, (Top Gear), Craig Revell Horwood, (darling) and chums shared Lundy Island with us, Betty and Phil from Windsor, (technically we weren’t actually doing a watch when we bumped into the Queen and Prince Philip in St Ives, but we were there to look for BND)! We’ve been interviewed by radio and press and had articles published. Oh, and finally we had a report of a surfing bullock at world famous surfing beach, Croyde. Honest. Thanks to Matt Fryer Photography www.mattfryer.co.uk. for the photographic proof.
So Sharron and I would like to say a big Thank You to Sea Watch Foundation www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk Devon Wildlife Trust www.devonwildlifetrust.org.uk and Devon Biodiversity Records Centre www.dbrc.org.uk for introducing us to and supporting us in what has become almost a way of life and along the way we’ve learned so much about the amazing environment around us here in the Bristol Channel and further afield.”
Following this blog post, Chris and Sharron were interviewed by BBC Radio Devon and you can hear the clip here:
If you’ve been inspired by Chris and Sharron and would like to become an observer then please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org