There’s a questionable theory that 10 000 hours of practice makes you an expert and I may be close to ‘doing my time’ in the Cornish rock pools by now. However, I often feel I’m only scratching the surface of what’s out there. What better then, than to spend a few days on the shore with the genius that is David Fenwick, creator of Aphotomarine together with a fabulous group of fellow rockpool fanatics from Coastwise North Devon?
With layers and waterproofs aplenty, Junior and I joined them at Hannafore Beach, a site I know intimately, to see what new discoveries might await us.
I realised within minutes that I should have brought a notebook. David’s knowledge of marine species is immense and he wasted no time in finding signs of nematode worms living inside seaweed, reeling off their names. It was windy, drizzling and cold and to make matters worse Junior sprung a leak in his wellies, but there was no doubt this is going to be a fascinating day. Leaving Junior playing at reconstructing ancient ruined cities from the rocks of a mid-shore ridge, we waded across the lower shore.
Some species were familiar. The sea hares were everywhere and so abundant that it was impossible to avoid them. This swirling cloud of purple ink in the water was a sign we’d accidentally disturbed one of them.
Although Greater-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus stellaris) egg cases are commonly found on parts of Hannafore we found more than I’ve seen before in this particular area, suggesting the nursery is more extensive than I’d realised. The eggs were at various stages from recently laid, smooth cases to bio-encrusted cases that had been in the water for months and seemed close to hatching.
Rob from Coastwise North Devon made one of my favourite finds of the day, this hairy hermit crab, Pagurus cuanensis, had some of the hairiest knees I’ve seen in a while.
David Fenwick was finding creatures at a dizzying rate. The speed with which he could pick out and name the different animals under each boulder was incredible.
Wading through the myriad colours of the seaweeds and past the many pretty Calvadosia cruxmelitensis stalked jellyfish clinging to them, we came to some rocks that are exposed to more current than some other parts of the beach. (Check out David’s brilliant Stauromedusae site to find out more about stalked jellyfish),
Under a deep overhang where I sometimes see lobsters, there was a small cluster of green and turquoise jewel anemones. They look more impressive when they’re open underwater, with little beads on the end of each tentacle, but I love the colours.
After a while, I spotted a colourful squat lobster, Galathea strigosa, scuttling across the back of an overhang and dived headlong in to retrieve it.
The wind on the pools was making it difficult to see much and my camera lens was steamed up, but we crammed in a last few minutes of rockpooling, looking at sea slugs, fish and hermit crabs before calling an end to day 1.
Coming soon – Part 2 of rockpooling with the experts!