Seeing what’s at the sea-shore

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ISLAND children have been ‘Exploring the Shore’ with the help of Katherine Ross, Zoe Brown and Nina Hakanpaa this summer in a project supported by Scottish Natural Heritage.

And the kids from Lewis and Harris discovered that there’s a great deal of beachy fun going on outside their doors – finding out that dog whelks drill through mussel shells and dissolve their prey before sucking it up as a delicious seafood smoothie and that starfish can turn their tummies inside out!

The children met cool creatures such as velvet and spider crabs (with hates made of seaweed), lobsters with super strong claws, slippery butterfish and Gordic the octopus; all of which were kindly donated by local fishermen and Islander Shellfish.

And as well as learning about the creatures to be found on the sea-shore, the youngsters were also taught how to look after them.

Birds, fish, seals, whales and even turtles mistake plastic bags and cigarette lighters for fish and squid and, heart wrenchingly, they even feed litter to their young.

One study found that North Sea fulmars have an average of 44 pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

Yet, it was not just the children who gained for the experience, as Katherine, Zoe and Nina commented: “We learned lots from the children who did not complain about the cold and whose keen eyes spotted things we would never have noticed.

“We would like to thank their hardy teachers, parents and grandparents,” they added.

‘Explore the Shore’ activity packs from Scottish Natural Heritage were used for the trips and electronic copies can be obtained free of charge from www.snh.gov.uk, visiting ‘SNH in your area’, ‘Argyll and Outer Hebrides’, and ‘News’; or by emailing frinross@gmail.com

During the project, the children also took part in ‘The Great Eggcase Hunt’, organised by the Shark Trust; and they looked out for stranded jellyfish.

You can find egg cases, or mermaid’s purses, amongst seaweed on our strandlines. The egg cases once contained baby skates, rays and even sharks! Find out more at www.sharktrust.irg or download a jellyfish identification guide from the Marine Conservation Society at www.mcsuk.org