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Friday, 8 January 2016

Stranding 7400

After a couple of false alarms, this week I had my first real Marine Stranding.

In September last year, about 30 volunteers attended a Marine Strandings Network workshop in the Parkhouse Centre in Bude.

Abby Crosby lead the day and described how the MSN operates then showed and described to us the typical species that are washed up on the Cornish beaches.

We then went through the recording process for the two most common strandings; Seals and Cetaceans. This was followed by a gruesome film showing what the volunteer veterinary surgeon has to deal with when a stranding is sufficiently fresh to be worthy of a post mortem examination. Thankfully this was after we had eaten lunch, not before!

The rest of the day was taken up with simulated recording exercises outside in the sun. First we practised on a blow-up dolphin then a seal.

.."placed under the waterfall"
After three long months the call came on Thursday afternoon that a dolphin had been washed up on nearby Sandymouth beach. The coordinator told me where it could be found and that it had been moved above the High Water mark as the tide was within an hour of High Tide. I also had to describe what I would be wearing in case of accidents so that the Coast Guard would know what to look for and agreed to phone in to confirm that I had found the stranding and successfully left the beach.

As agreed with my local colleagues on the training day, I phone Duncan who wanted to help. My kit had been packed for three months, but I still needed to go through my check list before driving the mile or so to Sandymouth.

The carcase was immediately visible when I arrived at the beach. Unfortunately the considerate people that had reported it have moved it almost directly under a waterfall. The strong onshore wind was blowing the stream of water regularly over the corpse drenching it and anyone who approached it.

Duncan and I moved it to where we could photograph and record and tag it as Number 7400. A concentrated 45 minutes followed while we went through the procedure we had been taught. Duncan had already recorded a couple of seals so his expertise was most useful. We were battered by the wind and covered copiously in the blowing spume.

Common Dolphin - Stranding 7400
My first stranding was a beautiful Common Dolphin. It had lost one eye and suffered a broken jaw, but on the post mortem can explain why it died. It was a privilege to see one of these magnificent animals at such close quarters, to touch its skin and gaze into its eye. It is such a pity it had to die so that I could have that experience.t