Cornish Rock Pools Junior deep in contemplation

Port Nadler in the Fog

The other side of the Looe valley has disappeared. Beneath the thick Cornish sea fog, a steady, soaking drizzle is blowing in. Junior, contemplating the scene out of our back window, decides it’s a perfect day to go for a picnic at Port Nadler.

Two and a half miles later, with water running off our noses and mud splashed up our waterproof trousers, we arrive in the deserted bay. We listen to the whistles of oystercatchers, sounding closer than they are in the fog. Junior follows trails of bird footprints across the beach.

The sun doesn’t shine on our picnic, but the rain eases and we begin to catch glimpses of the sea through the mist. After a quick sandwich, we start exploring.

The cool, damp conditions aren’t great for humans, but they’re ideal for rockpool creatures that need to avoid drying out. I’ve barely taken a few steps across the rocks when I spot a decorator crab out for a walk among the seaweed. It’s so well covered with pieces of weed that I have to move it to take a distinguishable photo.

A decorator crab - a small species of spider crab - out for a walk
A decorator crab – a small species of spider crab – out for a walk

It’s not a particularly big tide, but it’s low enough to access some wide, shallow pools and an area strewn with loose rocks begging to be turned.

Cornish clingfish wriggle under every stone and sucker on to their hiding places. It won’t be very long now before they start laying their golden egg clusters under these rocks. 

A Cornish clingfish uses its sucker to grip the rock
A Cornish clingfish uses its sucker to grip the rock

Overhangs in the rock harbour extensive colonies of sponges. These Sycon ciliatum sponges catch my eye.

Sycon ciliatum sponges
Sycon ciliatum sponges

We find a large and very red shore urchin under a rock, waving its tentacles in the water. I show Junior the purple tips to the spines. 

Shore urchin at Port Nadler
Shore urchin at Port Nadler
Shore urchin - its capped, mushroom-like tentacles protrude from among the spines
Shore urchin – its capped, mushroom-like tentacles protrude from among the spines

Nearby, a Lamellaria perspicua is inching along the rock. It looks like a slug, but is actually a snail, with an internal shell that you can’t see when it’s alive. Its back looks like an abstract splash-painting of white, purple and yellow. These markings help it to blend in among the sea squirts it likes to eat.

Lamellaria perspicua - a slug-like snail
Lamellaria perspicua – a slug-like snail
Lamellaria perspicua at Port Nadler
Lamellaria perspicua at Port Nadler

A few minutes later, Junior spots a yellow blob on a rock. This time it’s a true sea slug, a Berthella plumula (or ‘Feathered Bertha’ as I call them). I pop it in the water and soon we can see its rhinophores (antennae) emerging. The dark spot in the centre of the slug is an internal shell.

Berthella plumula sea slug (Feathered Bertha)
Berthella plumula sea slug (Feathered Bertha)

We find what might be the first stalked jellyfish record in this location, a Calvadosia cruxmelitensis. Another one to add to the Looe and Whitsand Bay Marine Conservation Zone records.

Calvadosia cruxmelitensis - possible a first record for Port Nadler
Calvadosia cruxmelitensis – possible a first record for Port Nadler

I spot this lovely little keyhole limpet under a rock. As the name suggests, they have a hole in the top of their shells.

Diodora graeca - The keyhole limpet
Diodora graeca – The keyhole limpet

The odd-looking Candelabrum cocksii is abundant here, although it’s not common in the UK as it prefers warmer waters. A relative of the jellyfish, this hydroid (hydrozoan family) can contract and expand greatly, so varies in size and appearance. The white balls are the stinging cells, although fortunately they’re not harmful to humans. These creatures have a very limited range in the UK.

Candelabrum cocksii - one of the strangest Cornish rock pool inhabitants
Candelabrum cocksii – one of the strangest Cornish rock pool inhabitants

It’s a productive afternoon. We find more crabs than we can count and plenty of cushion stars and brittle stars too.

Junior spends some quality time with a cushion star
Junior spends some quality time with a cushion star

 

A small dahlia anemone with some lovely shells stuck to its column
A small dahlia anemone with some lovely shells stuck to its column
This Xantho incisus crab doesn't look too pleased to meet us!
This Xantho incisus crab doesn’t look too pleased to meet us!
Brittle star
Brittle star

This time of year, it might not seem appealing to trudge through the mud and rain to reach secluded bays, but it’s worth the effort.

When the tide rolls in and the oystercatchers gather on the rocks, we begin the long climb out of the bay and strike out for home.

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4 thoughts on “Port Nadler in the Fog”

  1. Thank you for your lovely comment Scooj, I’m so pleased you’re enjoying my blog. I’ll admit I’m looking forward to warmer weather in the spring, but there is something special about being out on a wet day and having the shore to yourself.

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  2. I just wanted to say thank you so much for the time and effort you put into exploring and cataloguing our rocky shore species…I have a lot of rubbish turn up in my mail box…but yours is one of the only ones that I really appreciate and enjoy…I have learned so much from your blog and this inspires me in turn to get out and seek the hidden treasures on our amazing rocky shores…keep up the good work so I can keep on expanding my own knowledge. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vicky, Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment. It’s great to know that you’re enjoying the blog and finding it useful. I never realised until I started keeping the blog how many other people shared my love of the rock pools. I always enjoy finding creatures, but sometimes when I’m out there on the shore with freezing fingers and toes, I start to question what I’m doing (and my sanity!) – and feedback like this helps me to keep going. I’d love to hear how you get on with your own rockpooling adventures – drop me a line any time. 🙂 Heather

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