Over the past week the wind direction has more or less been North East which I find ideal beachcombing weather on the North Thanet Coastline. It can be a wind of mixed blessings often cleaning a beach or just dumping everything in one particular area somewhere along the coast. The art of beachcombing is to predict the best pssible place to find something and sometimes even experienced beachcombers like myself can be wide off the mark. However, there is one spot that seems to attract everything the sea has to offer when the wind is in the North and that is Epple Bay , Birchington . Like Pegwell Bay in southerly winds, Epple Bay is the same in northerly trapping everything and giving every appearance of a marine rubbish dump. If you take a look at the photograph the promenade is angled and is flanked by cliffs, so it is not difficult to see why so much can be trapped in such a small area.
This morning (31/01/11) just before high water I gave Epple Bay a look even though it is not my survey area I thought I will take some notes.
The weed was banked up and some of it had started to decompose and this was evident by digging into the weed and feeling how warm it was. The small birds were out in force including my little friends the Turnstones picking amongst the weed and taking advantage of the winter kill which consisted of Oysters, Slipper Limpets, Mussels, Small Clams and Razor Fish. Surprisingly there was no evidence of crab deaths. I did take a photograph of the winter kill to compare with the photographs I took in February 2010 and it does look as if the Oysters have got off light this time. However, most of the dead oysters were large ones suggesting that due to their size the tide had detatched them from their bedding. The small sea birds were very active including the Turnstones picking amongst the weed and there was over 120 of all species, all small.
The highest point up against the sea wall was where the flotsam had congregated and there was a faint smell of diesel. There was no evidence of a spillage but smelling the pieces of driftwood it was evident the wood was infact permeated by diesal, probably because at sometime the driftwood may have been floating in a marina or harbour and soaked up fuel spillage.
Also present were cuttle fish bones all small around 20cm or less and these had all been pecked by sea birds. Amongst the flotsam was sea coal, various natural wood resin and small pieces of hardened oil. The hardened oil was smelly and had a rubber feel about it making it a bit pliable from its time in the sea. The smell does linger in the hands when picked up and it smells a bit like used car oil. The only time I have ever come across oil in this form is normally the odd small piece, however this time there was a fair bit worth noticing. Then on the otherhand not enough to get worried about or report. So I took some samples giving me something else to look into at a later date.
I should also add that when I was small I remember the oil from the Torry Canyon coming ashore. In the years after the disaster hardened lumps could still be found on the shore which just makes me curious if anyone else can remember any of this.