Thursday, 11 April 2013

Nature Notes 2005

March 2005

By-the-wind sailors
by Wilson 44691
My first experience of by-the-wind sailors was last summer in Cornwall, when a friend pointed out thousands of tiny ones blown onto the shore. (For those who don't know, these are nature's sailors, little jellyfish shaped like oval surfboards with a cunningly slanted erect sail on top, who hang out in the middle of the ocean until they get blown ashore) However on a trip to Maloes, west Pembrokeshire, last September (when for the first time I saw choughs displaying in their full glory) I was down on Maloes Sands and saw scores of by-the-wind-sailors; however these were 2 to 3 inches long, and the most incredible deep Atlantic blue-green in colour. I took one back to the campsite and it kept its integrity for days - the jelly didn't shrivel or deteriorate.

Ice report, Severn Estuary
I went for a midday walk along the top of Aust cliffs, from the motorway service station and down the
estuary edge. It was foggy/misty/icy with the sun breaking through every now and them, but no view of the bridge or the Severn. The hedgerows and grass clumps were frosted in a way I've never seen before: down the length of every twig and leaf projected a continuous line of ice crystals up to 20mm long, facing a north-easterly direction. In the woodland, these crystals had built up across the face of the leaves like exquisite fur. On barbed wire fences, each set of barbs looked as though sheep had left wool clumps there; and there were what looked like pretty lengths of 12mm wide white ribbon draped and looped on the wire: these were where this frost had extended itself continuously along lengths of fine horse hair caught in the fencing! I was surprised because it was warm enough for the ground to be muddy, yet the vegetation kept its 'winter wonderland' frosting; only as a breeze blew did swathes of the rhomboidal crystals chink to the ground and form drifts a couple of inches deep.
On top of the cliff there was a fox moseying along about 50 feet ahead of me on the path, taking no notice of me whatsoever and stopping to sniff and explore. I moseyed along behind it, not particularly quietly and even going 'Wow' at a particularly fine bit of ice, yet it was still a good few minutes before it looked round, did a sort of shocked double-take like a cartoon character, and loped off.
Shallow depressions in the mud at the estuary edge had delicate patterns of fine deep radiating star-shaped cracks, presumably where there had been ice puddles.