Saturday, 26 January 2013

My Harbour Porpoise

DSCN4158 (1) by Lamia textor
Harbour Porpoise Lower Jaw bones with Ivory teeth
One of my all time favourite spots on Earth is Benone Strand on the North Coast of Ireland. Miles of sandy beach backed by dunes (Ulster Wildlife Trust) and basalt cliffs.  At many times of the year including summer you can have the whole beach to yourself.  This October I shared it with my wife a dead sheep and a couple of huge Ravens getting stuck into what meat was left on the carcass, classic Raven feeding activity, they really are an impressive animal.  Insect fauna on Benone is also pretty good.  The rare bee Colletes floralis can easily be found in high summer as can Grayling and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies (see my flickr site for images).  However a couple of summers ago whilst looking for Bembidion pallidipenne, a beetle associated with bare sand and freshwater, I stumbled across the bleached remains of  an incomplete skeleton of a Harbour Porpoise.  I bagged all the bones I could find, brought them back to England and stuck them in the attic. I'm now in the process of trying to put them in some sort of order,  I've lightly glues the teeth back into the jaw using a water soluble glue, nothing permanent just in case I have made a mistake.  Their teeth are a strange shape ideally suite to cut through fish, the tips of the teeth being flattened into a sharp cutting edge. The difficult bit of the reconstruction is deciding the order of vertebrae and ribs and I will have to admit to putting it back in the attic once or twice well beat.  Sadly the skull is missing, however still gives me something to do in winter.  If you want to see Harbour Porpoise I strongly recommend Portrush Harbour in August.     

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