February 2024 talk

Elusive Marine Wildlife of the UK as seen from the shore... and the kayak!

At our February talk, the father and son combination of Rupert and Henry Kirkwood produced a most entertaining and interesting evening with lots of delightful tales backed with with superb video film and photographs. 

Rupert mentioned the problems of kayaking are the unpredictable British weather and the fact that the animals he is looking out for are often behind him. The plus side is the world class scenery around our coastlines. 

Retired vet Rupert is a most experienced kayaker with over 32,000 miles travelled. Among the many journeys Rupert has undertaken are 21 trips to the Eddystone Lighthouse. 

Among the many wonderful sightings Rupert photographed were Leatherback Turtle, Wilson Petrel seen in Devon and a Little Auk that Rupert named Nugger who rested on the kayak.

Rupert described the River Torridge as England’s premier otter river and it not surprisingly proved to be a great location to photograph these mesmerising mammals.
Lundy Island is not an easy place to get to on a kayak but Rupert highlighted that since rats have been eradicated the Puffin population on Lundy Island has prospered. Rupert was able to take advantage of the favourable conditions when they arose to capture this most iconic of birds at sea from his camera on his kayak. 
Mounts Bay is a good place to see cetaceans. However the Basking Shark once commonly seen around the sea off Cornwall are no longer seen as the Plankton have move northwards. Seemingly another sign of global warming. 

What followed were film clips that emphatically had the wow facture about them.

After seeing a wonderful photograph of a 30ft Minke whale fully airborne Rupert showed us a film of a Humpback Whale, all 40 tonne and 40 feet long, that breached the surface not too many feet away from Rupert’s kayak.  
From Rupert’s record of the patterns of black and white pigmentations and scale on the underneath of the tail he was informed that this was the first record of this particular Humpback Whale. This meant that Rupert could name it. Since this sighting ‘Cream Tea’ has been seen 19 times. 
The film of Cream Tea blowing then submerging was wonderful. Rupert still seems he cannot believe the good fortune that allowed him to be in the right place at the right time. An added bonus was the fact Cream Tea did not tip Rupert into the sea.

Rupert was followed by his son Henry. Henry prefers to be on land as he needs his equipment to be stable to make these excellent films.
Nine months ago Henry made a career change and is hoping to become a wildlife film maker. Since making this decision he has been putting together as many sequences as possible.
The family went to Canada where Henry filmed some North American river otters. In the film we saw a mother teaching her two youngsters how to hunt. One of the two was quicker to pick up the required skills. We saw how the otter caught an eel but let it slip from its grasp.
This was followed by some superb filming of Giant Bluefin Tuna trying to catch Garfish in the sea off south Devon. It was wonderful to see the Great Bluefin Tuna leaping spectacularly out of the sea.

For further photos and video visit Rupert's website: https://thelonekayaker.wordpress.com and Henry's Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCirFGIzqFzCYoy_YOYCro2w

Our thanks must go to Julia Shahin for organising such a delightful evening. 

All photos/video copyright of Henry and Rupert Kirkwood

Andrew Harrison

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Protecting wildlife for the future
Keynsham Group
Avon Wildlife Trust
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Email: keynshamawt@gmail.com