by Kathy James

Drip, drip, drop little July showers…

Accept for some fleeting respite, June passed by in a flurry of wind and rain. There were glimpses of a forgotten June long ago, but for the most part I was wet.

Spending a lot of my time outdoors with wet feet (I really need to invest in some new shoes), my day off this week was spent with my dear friend Sam taking in one of Anglesey’s finest indoor tourist attractions…the Sea Zoo. We were captivated by the first room with it’s remnants of the old Bangor Pier and comical flatfish and went from tank to tank in wonder. Part way round we bumped into Matt, an aquarist at there, who had also studied at Leeds University like myself. We knew each other from the Zoology circles and he very kindly offered to show us around. It was insightful to hear about the breeding programmes conducted there, something that I was unaware of and certainly could have missed whilst wandering around gawping into the glass. Notable projects exist for the Short-snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) and the Common European Lobster (Homarus Gammarus). I was pleased to see that not only was the Anglesey Sea Zoo somewhere fun to visit, but also that it took part in vital conservation work that directly affects the Welsh seas.

I was particularly captivated by the Conger Eels. My Dad won’t be surprised to hear that. The reason that I visited this part of the world so frequently as a child was because my Dad would come here to go sea fishing. We spent many a night out in the dark on the edge of the Menai Straits in the pursuit of these monsters of the deep. I have always been a sea-baby, with a mutual love and fear of the sea. My Dad and my brother Steven would find it hilarious to wait until I was submerged and then shout “Conger-Bonger!”. It worked every time and I’d run out straight away and be disappointed that I could now not enjoy that bit of sea for fear that my toes would be nibbled off by an imaginary Conger Eel.

I remembered the Sea Zoo display from my time spent there as a child and was fascinated to hear that Congers breed just the once and are effectively dying from the moment they are ready to breed. The impact of this on the Congers in the collection being that they have the same natural urge to reproduce as wild eels (after all they were collected from the surrounding waters). The staff at the Sea Zoo are trained to recognise when this is taking effect and make sure that the eel is able to continue with it’s natural migration to the Sargasso Sea to breed and then die. Phenomenal!

Next, Sam and I did something new to us both… we took a trip to Puffin Island (Ynys Seiriol). The rain was lashing down and the cloud covered the Carneddau range which you can normally see from the Beaumaris starting point. Nevertheless, we boarded the boat, The Island Princess, in our waterproof gear and had tissues at the ready to keep our binoculars useable. It was amusing to think of how one might have envisaged this trip a few months ago, a sunny July afternoon, sun tan lotion at the ready, shorts, a cocktail or two. Regardless of the weather we loved it! We had close-ups of Black Guillemot (Anglesey being their most Southerly breeding ground), Razorbill, Guillmot, Puffin, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Gulls galore. I even heard a Wren singing on the island which sounded pretty incongruous whilst sat on a boat.

Back on ‘dry’ land Sam admired the wet patch on my trousers where an unfortunate “water-proof'” trouser malfunction had left it’s mark.

A brilliantly fun rainy day with Sam.

Kathy x

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One response

  1. glyndavies

    Ace post, I too fascinated that ASZ release the eels to breed – oh and your wet patch was quite fetching 🙂

    July 6, 2012 at 6:22 am

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