Beyond the Riverbank's full website:

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Blackfish, Dorset and a Film update...

Today is a good day for blog writing. Its a great grey day, and the rain beats down on the window. Last nights spectacular sunset over Whipsnade feels like a season away.

Sunset from Whipsnade
As usual, it has taken me an age to get around to another post. Mostly because I have been ridiculously busy, working every spare moment planning and researching, and now filming, for my summer's project.

In the National Marine Aquarium
I finally got around to seeing Blackfish, the 'mesmerizing psychological thriller' about captive orcas, or killer whales, and the difficulty of keeping them in captivity.

Film Poster for Blackfish

If you want to be continually shocked by the same repeated incidents five or six times in 88 minutes then definitely watch it. It is shocking, and I think it is important for everyone to understand the situation. The message is clear, and it is seemingly obvious that orcas most definitely should not be kept in captivity. Each story of an orca turning on a trainer or killing somebody were all as heart wrenching as the other. Despite this, I found that by the end of the film the individual stories had started to lose their impact. You know what's going to happen, and you are already feeling angry and frustrated and the story continues down the same road right until the end. They only briefly touch upon what can be done with the large numbers of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) currently in captivity; I only remember hearing one person mention one sentence on the matter, but I would have liked to see a bit more about the future and what can be done to help them. The entire film is aimed at Sea World, for good reason. But, boycott Sea World? Something needs to be done to evoke change. For me, this should be seen as another important learning curve in keeping animals in captivity. Compare zoo's of today with those of a fifty, even twenty, years ago and you will see a hell of a lot of differences in animal welfare. People pay good money to experience and see animals in captivity, and their funding is vital to enable a lot of the conservation work around the world. Should we demand change? Most definitely. Watch it and let me know what you think! I could talk about it for hours...


On a brighter note, here are some trip photos over the past few months!

A beautifully sunny trip to Dorset for two days with Tim to investigate a few sites and see whether we could find any reptiles went fairly successfully.

St. Oswalds Bay

Sand Lizard

We found two of the six native species of reptile to Britain. We came home having watched the sand and common lizards in the dunes of Studland, leaving the adder, grass snake, slow worm and smooth snake for a future visit. We also enjoyed a blustery walk along Durlston cliffs, where birds zipped and bombed their way along the cliff edges, while rafts of sea birds bobbed on the waters surface. A kestrel perched on a jagged rock. Its partner fed on a vole, tearing into it as waves crashed hundreds of feet below.

Kestrel at Durlston Cliffs

And the ultimate aerial predator, the peregrine falcon, effortlessly sped through the wind, cutting through the air like an arrow as it patrolled the cliffs for potential targets.

Whilst at work, we discovered a little owl nest underneath a bench in a shelter. Three chicks of slightly varying sizes and fluffiness, as the owls incubate from first laying, the chicks hatch at different times, which is thought to enable a greater success rate of fledged chicks.

One of the little owl chicks


Today is baking hot. My face warm and glowing from a day working in the sun. Over the past month I have dedicated my entire free time to planning, producing and filming of this years summer film. The subject of the film is one I am extremely passionate about. Sharks. And it's close to home. Great British Sharks.

Mako jaws in the NMA
The aim of the film is to hopefully show people that not only are there 30+ species of native sharks in British waters, but that it is possible to actually go out, hit the coast and see them in the wild. Without flying to South Africa or California.

My good friend Tim has been unbelievably great help once again. And in the meantime, he has given himself a reputation for regularly falling over when entering and exiting the sea.

Snorkeling at Mousehole with Timmy P !

Part of the film has been filmed in the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth. A beautiful aquarium that is definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself down in the South West. So far, we have carried out a couple of interviews, filmed sharks in the aquarium, and have found a nursery ground for catshark eggcases. Many thanks to David Gibson, Josh McCarty, John Hepburn and Cat Gordon for the help!

I have kept this post short to bring you up to date with Beyond the Riverbank goings on. My next post will be an extra special trip report from Canada, where I will be spending the next two weeks up in The Rockies. I have kept the film progress short, as I will do a mid-film progress report with behind-the-scenes photos of
Tim and I eating ice creams, and the film mascot, Ernie the Owl, meeting new people and seeing new places.

Ernie inspects a shield bug! 

As always, thank you for reading! And please comment and share, as the more people I have following, hopefully the more I can inspire!

Thanks ya'll !

Final Frame

Lightning over Cornwall. What a show! 


  1. Great photos, as always, Tom. Sounds like you've been really busy. Is that coastal photo of St. Oswalds Bay next to Durdle Door?

    1. Thanks Tim ! It is St. Oswalds Bay ! Daftly, I have mislabeled it as Lulworth Cove..

  2. Great to read what you've been up to! Incredible storms we've had, but I wasn't patient enough to get a photo! That sand lizard photo is beautiful :) Hope you are well! Look forward to hearing about Canada!

  3. Love all the images Tom especially the Sand Lizard. I've been a couple of times to the National Marine Aquarium and really enjoyed my visit. Looking forward to your Canada trip.

    1. Thank you Seagull! It is a good aquarium. I've got tonnes to write about Canada now!