This week the spring tides are huge, which means perfect rockpooling conditions all around Cornwall. Yesterday’s ‘storm without a name’ passed just in time and today the sun shone, so I dusted off my waders and followed the tide out to see what it would reveal. Answer: lobsters, baby sharks and a whole lot more.
I was hoping to re-discover an overhang packed with jewel anemones at the far end of the beach that I’d come across once before, but couldn’t resist taking a look at the wildlife on the way. You know it’s going to be a good day when the first stone you lift is unexpectedly awesome. This one was hiding a troop of hermit crabs, a rock goby and a beautifully camouflaged scorpion fish.
I pressed on towards the general area where I hoped to find the overhang, but there were so many distractions. A stalked jelly caught my eye.
When I came to the larger rocks it was hard to know where to start. A large tompot blenny flashed away before I could photograph it. This little shrimp (Philocheras fasciatus) was more obliging but still too fidgety to capture well. This was a new species for me and highly distinctive with its bold markings and flashes of blue on its back.
At the back of a large hole I thought I saw a crab. Crawling half-in revealed I’d found my first ever lobster. It was dark and a very tight squeeze to get the camera through the overhang, but I at least managed one passable shot.
While I was still half-lying among the damp rock, working out how to get myself out without braining myself on the overhang, something else caught my eye. Yet another first that’s been on my wish-list for as long as I remember. What it lacks in size, this little squat lobster (Galathea strigosa) makes up in spectacular colour.
Of course, it was in an awkward position again, wedged in a narrow tunnel in the rock and pressed upwards against a stone, but it was well worth further contortions in the tight, dripping space to see it up close.
It was only when I started wriggling back out from under the rock that I realised this was my overhang. Above me, the rock was studded with turquoise and pale green jewel anemones.
When these anemones are underwater, they open up their tentacles, each of which has a beaded tip, making them look like miniature crowns.
Moving on to the opposite shore, I found the tide so low that the sea grass bed, normally under a metre or so of water even at low tide, was completely beached. Among the nearby rocks and seaweed I found so many greater spotted catshark/ bull huss egg cases that I lost count. Some were developing, others empty and it didn’t take long to find a newborn shark.
There were several in the area. One was struggling in very shallow water that had warmed in the sun, so I took it to deeper water to recover.
These tides only come a few times a year and this month’s and April’s springs are especially low. It’s a fantastic time to check your local tide times and head out rock pooling. Check out the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s events page for group rock-pooling events, which are always a brilliant way to see and learn loads.