Happy Earth Day to our Friends, Funders and Supporters,
The guillemots fly over my head in two directions, reminiscent of a busy avian airport. Some fly so low over my head, as they come across the waves, that their wing-beats drum in my ears and I imagine the wind from their wings tickling my cheeks. I keep my paddle in the water to stop myself being washed closer to the rocks in my small kayak, as the wind and tide push me forwards in their cycle of ebb and flow.
These birds are nesting on the vertical cliffs below the coastal path. Pairs on ledges working nature’s magic together – in breeding, feeding and surviving. Doing their very best regardless of what the world around visits upon them. That is what they do, plain and simple. They are beautiful in colour and form, smudgy grey and white. Clever in their adaptations for survival with laying eggs that can spin around rather than roll to ensure they do not fall out of their ledge nests. On the amber list for survival…not safe as a species, but not on the edge (so to speak). What a tragedy to be even that close.
I paddle on filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the crashing of waves, roar and throb of the sea in gulleys, the haunting calls of gull and oyster catchers mixed in with the other seabirds. I appreciate how this sea and the oceans painted in turquoise blues and greens, clear depths, and great beauty are the largest covering of this earth. About 71 percent of the whole earth is water covered and the oceans hold almost 97 percent of all of the water on Earth. This is more home than the ground that we stand on.
My thoughts are tossed with the waves – connected to the wind and swell – connected to the earth and nature around me. I am humble in my weakness and vulnerability, present and alive. I feel part of a vast wilderness.
The guillemots and the sea birds are vulnerable in their amber status here in the UK. They are dependent on ocean food sources such a sand eels and shoals of fish such as sprats. They are at risk as according to an article in The International Journal of Avian Science, climate change is affecting water temperatures and this in turn affects sand eels, and other fish, such as the sprats, are in competition with commercial fishing as a catch. ‘Hydro-biological conditions in coastal waters, particularly sea temperature in the North Sea, are changing rapidly and are predicted to become less favourable for Lesser Sandeels, which have traditionally been regarded as the key forage fish for many top predators. Moreover, many of the forage fish taken by seabirds are also the target of important human fisheries.‘ (1)
There we are…beauty and wonder ..but with a skull and crossbones flag flapping in the virtual air.
Whilst the watery clear depths I stare down into, and feel part of, are clear and vibrant in colour – this is not the case on the bottom of the sea outside of conservation areas, or the quality of the water, or what rubbish the waves carry onto the shores, dumped by ships and careless waste removal.
Once again, through looking at one wonder of nature, such as the guillemots, another whole narrative emerges as the survival chain is dependent on a protected ocean, not polluted, not over fished, stable climate, and healthy sea beds that can produce the myriad of ocean life that is interdependent.
With international pressure and the impact of great loved public celebrities and environmentalists, and controversial but thought provoking documentaries such as SeaSpiracy, much now is in our awareness of plastic pollution, over fishing, bottom trawling, oil pollution, and general habitat destruction.
For the first time in my life this is starting to seem to resonate with many, not just the few. Now that the wheel is creaking into life, we cannot stop our campaigning and sharing and being happy with ‘awareness’. It has to include dedicated action and unrelenting pressure by government, and most importantly by ourselves.It requires funding marine charities, collecting litter each time we go for a beach walk, not using single use plastic, educating our children, and treating the earth as a much loved family member who our lives depend on.
If we as a species were placed on amber alert – all hell would break loose. We are however, most likely on an amber list, as without our commitment to change our attack on the planet we survive on, we go down too. It might just take a bit longer than the sea birds I am humbled by. What emptiness would there be without them..it would be as if we turned the world from colour to black and white.
I continue my paddle through the azure water, and stay in the moment with joy in my heart at the immense beauty that surrounds me, the richness of colours, a deep love of the offerings of this Cornish coast, watching the bobbing heads above me of walkers on the coastal path who are enjoying this visual bounty. I am filled with a renewed determination to keep doing something to help and heal. We need to stay in love with nature, but balance that with steps to protect and care. We have only one precious life, let’s use it for the good of this wonderful Earth.
Happy Earth Day – Earthlings.
Jo, CEO Wilderness Foundation UK
IBIS International Journal of Avian Science Ibis (2013), doi: 10.1111/ibi.12099
The diet of Common Guillemot (Uria aalge) chicks at colonies in the UK, 2006–2011: evidence for changing prey communities in the North Sea HELEN B. ANDERSON,1 PETER G. H. EVANS,2 JACQUELINE M. POTTS,3 MICHAEL P. HARRIS4 & SARAH WANLESS4 * 1 Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, 23 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, UK 2 School of Ocean Sciences, University of Bangor, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK 3 Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK 4 Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0QB, UK