“So is this a world record?” Cornish Rock Pools Junior has just found 26 stalked jellyfish and is feeling rightly proud of himself.
“It’s a record for Portwrinkle,” I tell him. “They’ve never been found here before.”
“But is it a world record?” he insists.
I take a moment to consider this. Only a moment, because my hands are frozen from holding my camera in the water and another snow flurry is starting.
“Yes,” I say. “You now have the world record for finding stalked jellyfish in Portwrinkle.”
From the leaping and cheering, I’d guess he’s satisfied with that.
If you follow this blog regularly, you may be starting to find the recent focus on stalked jellyfish a touch tedious. You wouldn’t be alone. Although I remember the excitement of finding my first one, the beauty of its markings and delicate tentacles, after seeing scores of the things and spending hours in freezing pools staring into the seaweed, they’re losing their edge.
Still, given that one species is a recognised feature of my local Marine Conservation Zone and two more species have potential to be added, any evidence that they’re here might help to protect them. So far, all of that evidence has come from beaches in walking distance of my home in Looe because I’m pretty much the only person recording them. When I took Natural England on a stalked jelly hunt at Hannafore, they asked if I could help them search beaches at the opposite end of the Looe and Whitsand Bay Marine Conservation Zone.
It seems such a great idea. Leaving home in a snow flurry though, I begin to question my sanity. I’m not sure, in such circumstances, whether it’s a good thing to have a wonderfully supportive partner and son, but neither of them bat an eyelid at the weather. Wearing boots, waterproofs, scarves, hats, gloves, and just about every item of clothing we possess, we head for Portwrinkle beach.
Junior becomes less supportive when I find the first stalked jelly. I hadn’t realised how badly he wanted to find it himself and wish I’d kept quiet about it, but after 45 minutes of fruitless searching it seemed like the sort of breakthrough worth announcing.
“I’m useless,” he sighs. “Now I won’t get the world record.”
I try to reassure him. Surely we are a team and finding them together? But nothing is working. A little further down the rocks, where the pools meet the sea, I notice an arc of rocks forming a shallow, rock strewn bay with plenty of weed.
“Come and try over here,” I suggest.
He kicks at the rocks and mopes over to where I’m standing.
“Just try,” I repeat.
It only takes a second.
“Here’s one,” he screams, his voice easily reaching his Dad, in the distance across the rocks.
Seconds later, while I’m crouching to photograph his find, he tugs at my shoulder. “I’ve found another one.”
And so it goes on; Junior’s voice becoming more excited with every find. I can’t keep up. There are so many stalked jellyfish that Junior is finding three in the time it takes me to take a photo of one. They’re everywhere. As I’m taking the photos I keep finding yet more.
Now, I don’t like the cold. I may have mentioned that before? My hands, in particular, don’t cope well with being plunged into icy water or drying in an easterly wind. By the time Junior has racked up 26 stalked jellies and I’ve found a further 15, the pain in my fingers is becoming all-consuming.
Fortunately, by this time, the boys are more than ready to go to the pub for lunch.
“Have people actually looked for stalked jellyfish here before?” Junior asks as we head for the car.
“Yes, I think so,” I say.
“So it really is a proper world record?” he asks.
“Yes, I suppose so.”
Junior glances around him and narrows his eyes at a dog walker.
“What’s up?” I say.
“I don’t want lots of publicity. Do you think the newspapers and TV will find me? I’m not going to tell them where the stalked jellyfish are.”
I assure him that only people who care as much as we do about nature will ever read my blog.
He thinks about it for a moment and nods.
Tomorrow I’ll be off to the rock pools again, on the north coast this time, and I’ll be taking a day off from stalked jellyfish!