Thursday, 25 September 2014

Polzeath and the Pool of dreams

Well first we had the 'Cave of Dreams' (at Fistral), then we had the 'Rock of Dreams' (Looe), and now we have the 'Pool of Dreams' found on our Cornwall Wildlife Trust Shoresearch survey at Polzeath on one of the lowest tides I have ever witnessed on this amazing shore.
As you can see from this photo our transect went down onto rocky kelp covered reefs that would normally be well covered by the w

ater and dangerously close to the surf. However on the day of our survey, 9th September 2014, we were lucky to have bright sunshine, high air pressure holding the water down and absolutely zero surf!! In this seaweed smothered shallow but pebbly pool we found an incredible diversity of marine life! Once again highlighting how fascinating rockpools can be in Cornwall!

As our quadrat landed on the pool we began to move the seaweeds and straight away spotted small tadpole like fish swimming away. This is a species that is only rarely recorded and one that I got extra specially excited about!!  Montagu's sea snail - this was named after Victorian naturalist George Montagu. You can see how it got its name as it can look more like a snail than a fish. When its not swimming it often curls up and using its pelvic fins as a sucker is able to hold tight. After a lot of frustrating fishing I finally caught one specimen from the pool! and here it is..

Also found in the pool of dreams -
One graceful sea spider
one Hairy crab
one large isopod Ideotea baltica
Lots of blue rayed limpets
Squat lobster x1
Hermit crabs x4
Saddle oysters
five bearded rockling x1
Velvet swimming crab x1
Shanny x1
Montagus sea snail x5
Sea scorpion x 1
Sea spider

It was great to see Rosie Ellis again back from her travels and volunteering again with the National Trust. Rosie's eagle eyes allowed her to find a very well camouflaged crustacean. A very rare Gibbs spider crab Pisa armata. This has only been recorded a handful of times in Cornwall with a few recent records found by fishermen off Newquay. You can tell by the knobbly surface of the carapace that it is this and not the similar Eurynome aspersa.
Gibb's spider crab Pisa armata photo by Matt Slater

This guy was covered in colonial seaquirts and bryozoans ! 

 closeup of the Gibb's Spider crab Pisa armata. Photo by Matt Slater

Sadly no stalked jellyfish this time in the usual spot! 

Laura was well chuffed with her find! 

A beautiful decorator crab - Macropodia rostrata

Laura's dog lends a hand with the transect

In Polzeath the star ascidians are all this amazing orange/yellow colour!

Clionia cellata - booring sponge

Monday, 22 September 2014

Looe Shoresearch - the ultimate rock

On this years survey of Hannafore point, Looe. Shoresearch volunteers were amazed, on lifting a large flat rock, to find nearly all of the lower shore animals you would expect to find on the shore under one rock!
the total number of animal species found was 21.
here is the list;

Shore rockling x4
Velvet crabs x 4
Shanny x1 (large)
Broad clawed porcelain crabs x8
Athanas nitescence (boy racer shrimps) x 8
Bootlace worm (Britains longest animal species) x1m (juvenile)
Scale worm x1
Worm pipefish x 4
Montagu's crab x 4
Longhorned porcelain crab x4
Squat lobster (Galathea squamifera)x 3
Star ascidian 1x colony
Strawberry ascidian (Aplidium proliferum)
Sea lemon x2
Hermit crab x1
pale beige breadcrumb sponge Halichondria panicea x1
Keel worms *30
Cthalamus and Semibalanus barnacles x 400 (ish)
Volcano barnacles x 30 (ish)
Spirorbis worms x 300 (ish)
Risso's Crab x 1

Grand total  21 species
Rob lifts the rock of Dreams
Individual animals 797!!

Squat Lobster Galathea squamifera

Shore Rockling (note 3 barbels around mouth)
Shanny - photo Matt Slater

Broad Clawed porcelain Crab Porcellana platycheles

Long horned porcelain crab Pisidia longicornis

Breadcrumb sponge Halichondria panicea

Montagu's Crab

The rest of the survey went very well too! We decided to carry out a transect survey along a long gully  so that it can easily be repeated in future.  Heather (  did a walkover survey in the lagoon and found stalked jellies among the eel grass! On the extreme lower shore we also found a really cool chameleon prawn. Thanks to Amelia, Micky, Cheryl, Rob, Heather and Louis, John and Jasmina who all turned out to help! It was a great day.  

Chameleon prawn Hippolyte varians - by Matt Slater

Stalked Jellyfish Lecernariopsis campanlata -Heather Buttinvant

The tide flooded in incredibly rapidly! 

Shorecrabs Carcinus maenas - its a crab eats crab world out there! 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Stars of the shore

Star Ascidians - Botryllus shlosseri 
These amazing creatures are relatively common on Cornish shores but they come in an incredible variety of beautiful colours and forms. Close up photography on our shoresearch surveys this September and over the years have produced some incredible images of these beautiful communal animals whose colours rival any tropical corals.
Gold arrows - found at Hannafore Looe Sept 2014 - Photo Matt Slater
Golden Star ascidian found growing on the stipe of a bushy Cystoceira seaweed, Prisk Cove, Helford September 2014 - photo by Matt Slater

Purple and white -  Marazion night rockpooling 2014 - Photo by Matt Slater

Yellow Star ascidians found at Poleath 2012 Shoresearch - Photo Matt Slater

Sometimes star ascidians carpet overhangs and continue to grow - in this slow motion dripping effect! Photographed at Polzeath during September Shoresearch 2014- Photo Matt Slater

 Star ascidians are colonial sea squirts that live by filtering sea water and removing plankton
Unlike most sea squirts which are solitary creatures star ascidians grow in large colonies in which many individuals (zooids) are joined together in a soft rubbery layer (test) attached rock or seaweed. Look closely at the colony and you will see that 3 - 12 individual squirts are arranged in a circle. Sea squirts are a sack like creature with an inhalent opening through which they draw plankton rich water and an exhalent opening through which filtered water and faeces pass. In the case of a star ascidian each squirt has its own inhalent opening but all of its neighbors share the same communal exhalent opening. Taking communal living to an extreme!

Star ascidian growing on seaweed Hannafore Lagoon 2013 september Shoresearch - Photo Matt Slater
Star ascidians are rubbery and beautiful but they do have their predators! Cowries feed on them by squirting digestive juices into them and then sucking out the juice! Look for cowries in the same habitat as star ascidians - over hanging rocks and boulders on the extreme low shore (only exposed on a spring tide!)
Cowrie, Trivia Monacha, photographed on the shore at Battery Rocks Penzance by Matt Slater

5 days, 62 volunteers and the largest spring tides of the Year- Shoresearch Week Goes OFF!

Thanks to all who came and joined me in my marathon 5 days of frantic shoresearching which included, Timed species searches, walkovers, Biotope Transect surveys and Quadrat surveys at all five of Cornwall's Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas. It has been an epic week- each day I have shared my favorite photos on Facebook but I plan to use the Blog to tell some of the stories of the week. Over the next few days I plan to upload my highlights of the week - a week I will certainly remember for a long time, not just for the incredible creatures we found, but for the incredible weather, the low tides, the lack of swell and for the incredible team of volunteers who shared in the experience, really helped me out and made it a really fun week!

me in action!
Nick and John 
Rob and the rock of dreams - more to follow..

This is the calmest and lowest I have ever seen the sea at Polzeath in three years of September surveys 

knees and backs were aching at the end of this week but we were all buzzing from having been privileged to have seen the sights we saw!

Rosie and the find of the day - can you spot him... more details to follow in the next posts! 

Rare seahorse found off Newquay

 a seahorse in its natural habitat photographed by Paul Naylor 
Thursday 18th September 2014

Rare seahorse found off Newquay

Marine staff at leading local wildlife charity Cornwall Wildlife Trust were thrilled to hear that a Newquay fisherman has finally proven that seahorses are found on Cornwall’s north coast.
Daniel Gilbert skipper of Newquay crabber ‘Tizardleeon’ found the beautiful yellow seahorse clinging to a crab pot while working four miles north west of Newquay’s Towan Headland last Friday 2nd of September. 

Matt Slater, Marine Awareness Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust (formerly curator of Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay) said,

“In my eleven years working at the aquarium we had several anecdotal reports of seahorses being spotted by divers and fishermen in the Newquay area, and washed up dead on beaches but this is the first time that we have definite proof that seahorses live here. Sea horses are protected rare species that are globally threatened and it is very exciting to hear that they can be found in our local waters!”

Newquay is famous for its beaches and night life but many don’t appreciate its wonderful marine wildlife. Local people with a passion for the sea have come together to create Newquay Marine Group which champions this cause and promotes our wonderful marine life, and our small scale sustainable fishing fleet! Please visit the Newquay Marine Group facebook page for information on upcoming events and the latest news.
Photo by Danny Gilbert of the seahorse he found

Seahorses are bizarre looking fish related to pipefish and tropical sea dragons. They are poor swimmers and tend to stay in the same habitat for the whole of their life. Seahorses can live for up to eleven years and are slow growing. They are famous in that the males are the ones that get pregnant, incubating eggs, and carrying young in their fleshy brood pouch.

With their prehensile tails sea horses hold tight to seaweeds and sea fans while waiting for their prey to come past, believe it or not seahorses are deadly predators that feed on small shrimps using their long tube-like mouth and a powerful suction mechanism to pluck their prey out of the water so fast they are instantly turned to soup!

In Europe we have two species of seahorses, the spiny or long snouted sea horse Hippocampus guttulatus and the smaller short snouted seahorse Hippocampus hippocampus, which is the species that was found by skipper Daniel Gilbert. Both species are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act and are Biodiversity Action Plan species, meaning it is illegal to interfere with or harm one.

Matt Slater continues,

“The fisherman Daniel Gilbert did exactly the right thing. On discovering the seahorse he called Cornwall Wildlife Trust straight away to report it and on our advice he took some photographs of it before returning it carefully in the place it was caught.”

“Our seas are mysterious and although we are learning more about them through our research there is still so much out there that we don’t know about. Fishermen spend more time on the water than any other group including most marine scientists so we really want to encourage them to send in more information on marine wildlife. We are really pleased that Mr Gilbert contacted us with the record and we urge all fishermen, divers and water users to do the same and to report any unusual sightings of marine life to Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Our new website ‘Online Recording Kernow and Scilly’ makes it really easy to send in information and allows you to review what you have found and see what others are spotting!”


Matt Slater, Marine Awareness Officer, Cornwall Wildlife Tel (01872) 273939 ext 214

  • Short snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) found by fisherman Daniel Gilbert, photo by Daniel Gilbert
  • Short snouted seahorse in fisherman Danile Gilbert’s hand, photo by Daniel Gilbert
  • Short snouted seahorse, photo by Paul Naylor provided by RSWT

photo by Danny Gilbert