Monday, 2 November 2015

Revisiting my childhood shore... Swanpool

For the last Cornwall Wildlife Trust Shoresearch survey of the year we headed to a shore which I spent many happy hours as a child exploring. I was very lucky to have grown up a short walk from Swanpool beach, Falmouth and the rockpools were my playground!  It was great to see that the shore is still just as rich with life.

Alongside the survey we were also running a family public event which was really well attended - the beauty of this shore is that it is easily accessed and despite being seriously rummaged about in on a daily basis by local kids and holiday makers the area seems to cope with it incredibly well and is probably so productive thanks to seaweeds being cast up from further off shore and nutrients coming from Swanpool lake. Every boulder was home to several small edible crabs, broad clawed porcelain crabs and huge numbers of worm pipefish! The children and adults really enjoyed it! Good to see old Falmouth friends Nick and Sophie and their kids and Vicky and her daughter!

One thing that has changed is that there are now (Xantho sp) pebble crabs to be found - not as many as on some shores (perhaps this is because the freshwater input favors shore crabs) but both species Montagus and Rissos were found. We also found a really cool Sea Lemon - in a nice bright orange colour.

After a good rummage under the rocks we headed a little further North along the coast and eagle eyed shoresearcher Liz Barker called me over to look at something she described as looking like a cow pat stuck to the rock. It was a large patch of jelly like dark green velvety seaweed - Something I have only seen before in books called Codium adhaerans. It is a relatively rare find it turns out. According to Dr Paul Gainey (my old biology teacher and legendary local biological recorder) it has been recored at Nare head and Prisk cove but never before at Swanpool. It is a species at the northern end of its distribution and one that seems to come and go! It was very exciting!
Liz and her cowpat

Codium adhaerans - similar to velvet fingers seaweed but covering the rocks

Patrick D'Arcy Evans is now on a roll with his stalked jelly spotting and he found a fine example of Lecnariopsis campanulata - a delicate tiny stalked jellyfish which is a Biodiversity action plan species.

A couple of young biologists, Christophe and Natalie, studying at University of Exeter, Tremough campus who joined us for the first time found some really cool stuff - firstly some tiny mites which are so small I definitely would not have spotted them - in the photo you can see how small they are!

According to David Fenwick of you would need a scanning electron microscope to identify them so maybe we wont be able to do that!  They also found this beautiful sea beech plantlet growing on the edge of one of many beautiful corraline algae rich pools.

Overall it was a great survey and a fitting end to a great year! Please get in touch if you would like to recieve my update emails and look out for next years programme coming soon (fingers crossed!)

Cystoceira nodousm - there are lots of beautiful Cystoceira seaweeds growing in the pools here. Some I couldn't identify!

another shot of the stalked jellyfish. 

Corrallina officinalis ,   coral weed growing luxuriantly on the edge of the pools

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Shoresearch Week 2015 Day 5, Readymoney Cove Fowey

The last day of our Shoresearch week  - I was getting tired but the enthusiasm of the shoresearch volunteers and members of Friends of Fowey estuary kept me going!! Sadly my camera died - five days of being dunked in rockpools finished it off!! Its a shame as I have been so pleased with the photos that camera has been producing!  Thanks to Rob and Claire for sharing their photos from the day with me!
It is rare to get this low on the shore at Fowey - this gulley is teeming with life but it is very slippery! Photo by Claire Hoddinott

Lots of my favourte little crab - Broad clawed porcelain crab  Porcellana platycheles Photo Claire Hoddinott

We found alot of this red algae - creating fluffy lumps on a north facing reef - it is a non native Caulacanthus oakmuridae and one that we need to be monitoring.

Claire found this starfish literally hanging out - pretending to be spider man! 

a cup coral - probably Carophyllia smithii but not looking very healthy was found by Margaret. Phil Croxton found another one on the North side of the beach too. 

Lots of this Desmaretsia was found at Readymoney - mainly cast up from deeper by the easterly swell- the common name for this is landladies wig as earlier in the year is is all fluffy and hairy - it took a while to identify! 

Here is the holdfast

Claire and Margaret getting stuck into shore identification! 
For more infomation on Foweys amazing wildife visit the Friends of the Fowey Estuary website.

Shoresearch week 2015 day 4, Prisk Cove, Helford, Highlights in Photos

Discovery of the day a rarely recorded species of hermit crab Pagurus forbesii

very different colour to a common hermit 

He has a distinctive shaped wide claw which acts like a front door and is right handed! 

Beautiful bright green juvenile Ballan wrasse -Labrus bergylta

Ballan wrasse in very different colour variety

Butterfish portrait

Chameleon prawn Hippolyte varians - they can quickly change colour - look for a spike on the top of the rostrum -diagnostic feature

Tiny queen scallop Chlamys varia

Underboulder life - cushion starfish Asterina gibbosa and a small sea ghurkin Pawsonia saxicola

Closeup of a Green sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris
After years of trying Patrick has finally got his eye in and he found two stalked jellyfish in shallow weed filled gullies. here is a Haliclustus octoradiatus - a rarely recorded species in many areas of the UK

And Patrick  also found this Haliclystus octoradiatus growing on Sargassum weed.

Berthella plumula - a really cool sea slug - common name - plumed bertha! this one was approx 20mm but they can grow bigger.

A strange worm found beneath the shore - its undulating movement was very bizzare! I have a video...

Im not very good on identifying Chitons - they are cool animals though - a segmented gastropod, next to it is a pink rayed limpet Tectura virginea- the first I had seen size approx 10mm

Heres another - Perhaps a chiton expert out there will let us know what we were looking at!!

Unusually pale colour form of Rissos Crab Xantho pilipes

And two more colour varieties - they are much more variable than their cousins the Montagu's crabs
But my favorite was this juvenile Xantho pilipes which was only approx one centimetre across the shell! 

Rivularia atra - a rarely seen blue green algae - was abundant on open rock on the mid shore on the edge of the gully

Shore rockling with some harpoon weed

And just so the seaweed people don't feel left out here is a nice cockscomb! 
 Visit the Helford Marine Conservation group website for more info on this fabulous local marine volunteers group

Shoresearch Week 2015 day 3 Polzeath Highlights in Photos

 Polzeath on Cornwalls north Coast is an incredible shore,  it is exposed to huge Atlantic swells yet its gullies and caves provide habitats that are rich in marine life.  Filter feeders thrive here thanks to nutrients coming from the camel estuary. The place is teeming with diversity!
The weather could not have been better - flat calm (very rare for this site) and no wind plus a huge low tide thanks to the Supermoon and high pressure further pushing the water down
A vast area of kelp dominated reef was exposed and explored for the first time by the Shoresearch team!

Heading to the North end of the Bay 
Laminaria hperborea kelp and dulse covered a huge area - the rocks below were carpeted in Corallina and pink plates - Mesophylum lichenoides 

Jake and Mango exploring some low tide crevices!

Leaches spider crab sheltering in a snakelocks anemone

Montagus sea snail - a small fish related to a lumpsucker was found in low shore pools 

This beautiful tiny sea slug Polycera quadralineatus  was found in a large mid shore pool on Cystoceira seaweed. 

Non native seaweed Asparagopsis armata was found for the first time at this site. Its spear like branches act like velco allowing it to be spread accidentally around the coast. 
This is the first record of Corella eumota the orange lipped seasquirt at this site too. This is another non-native that is rapidly spreading around the coastline.  found by Jake Meyers

Hairy crab portrait 

Closeup of an orange sponge  Opthalitospongia papillae

Probably Sabellaria worm tubes! They can be found at many sites but for some reason rarely form colonies in Cornwall - except of course for along the coast of North Cornwall from Crakcington haven and past Bude

Long spined sea scorpion Taurulus bubalis

This is a favorite large pool higer up the shore where jake found the tiny Polycera nudibranch

The diversity of sponges on the overhangs and rock faces is incredible - Photo by Stella

Here is a cool crab  - totally covered in camoflague! This is Pisa armata -or Gibb's spider crab still rarely recorded in Cornwall -we found two males and a female.

Green leaf worm (Eulalia viridis)  Pink corraline encrusting algae, Corralina elongata , a pheasant shell and  some saddle oysters.
Long horned porcelain crab - Porcellana longicornis
Unidentified small polychaete worm  
Upper shore pools are teaming with Bifurcaria bifurcata, tuning fork week
Blue Rayed limpet Patella pellucida
An Isopod Ideotea baltica - these were everywhere and come in a huge variety of colours! Identified by the shape of the tail 

Cliona cellata booring sponge - by Jake Meyers
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The biotope that they like - breadcrumb sponge, beadlet anemones, pink encrusitng algae

Onchidella celtica - the celtic sea slug - is a land gastropod that has become adapted to life on the shore- they only come out to feed when the tide drops out and then they are only able to feed for a limited time before becoming too dry after which they will dissapear as we found out!

It was an awesome Shoresearch!!  Polzeath is great!
To find out more visit the website of Polzeath Marine Conservation Group a local independent volunteer group! Who run loads of fun events and activities, beach cleans, rockpooling and much more.