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Wildlife Watch Boat Trip

Posted: Thursday 20th August 2015 by HIWWT-LivingSeas

Wildlife Watch boat trip by Steve Bowles, marine, education, HampshireWildlife Watch boat trip by Steve Bowles

On Tuesday we took a few local Wildlife Watch groups out on the solar boat in Chichester Harbour to discover more about the marine life that lives here. We conducted lots of experiments, saw some marine life up close and even caught a glimpse of the Spitfire and Hurricanes as they flew over.

By Abbi Scott, Assistant Marine Officer

Wildlife Watch is the junior branch of the Wildlife Trusts and allows children to get closer to local wildlife, Watch groups meet regularly to take part in environmental activities. On Tuesday, three Watch groups joined us to explore the beautiful Chichester Harbour on the Solar Heritage boat. This boat belongs to the Chichester Harbour Conservancy and it’s a bit different to most other boats as it is powered by the sun. Solar panels on the roof can use the energy of the sun (even when it’s cloudy!) to power the engines. This means the boat is very environmentally friendly, but also really quiet – which makes it perfect for watching wildlife.

As we left the harbour we passed round the binoculars so that everyone could try to spot some of the birds or seals that live in the harbour. As the tide was high it wasn’t ideal seal spotting conditions but we did see a few different birds including gulls and common terns. While we were bird watching we saw the Spitfires and Hurricanes which were flown over the south of England to mark 75 years since the Battle of Britain’s ‘Hardest Day’.

Next we carried out some experiments to investigate the physical and biological characteristics of the marine environment here. Firstly we used a Secchi disc to measure how far down light from the sun can reach. We lowered the Secchi disc over the side of the boat until it was no longer visible and measured the depth using the rope which the disc was attached to. This simple method to measure how deep light reaches in the sea has been used since the 1800s and is still used by scientists all over the world.

We investigated the speed and direction of the current in the harbour using sticks, we threw sticks into the water from the boat, watching the direction they floated in and timing how long it took them to reach the back of the boat. Tennis balls tied to the side of the boat also floated with the current. We also measured the wind speed using a machine called an anemometer, luckily it wasn’t very windy at all – perfect conditions for being on a boat!

The large animals in the harbour such as the birds and seals are relatively easy to spot, but there are hundreds of species of plants and animals living in the water which you can’t see without the help of some special equipment. These plants and animals which drift with ocean currents and form the base of the food chain are called plankton, you can find out more about plankton here. To catch plankton you need a special net with very small holes. We dropped the net over the side of the boat for a couple of minutes and had a close look at the water collected. To start with it looked a bit like muddy water, but after we let all the sediment sink down to the bottom we could see that some of what looked like mud was actually tiny plankton which could be seen swimming. We had a look in some magnifying pots and using microscopes to have a closer look at the tiny plankton up close.

To find out more about Wildlife Watch see our website or the Wildlife Watch website.

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