A Summer Splash with a New Friend

I know there are good reasons not to meet people you only know from the internet, but I often do. It has been brilliant every time because people who love the rock pools are the best! When an online acquaintance who is part of the Shores of South Devon group messaged me about meeting up, I knew we would have a great time.

Junior and I grabbed our beach shoes and headed to the local rocks to meet her. The tide might not have been the lowest ever, but with three keen pairs of eyes on the job and warm water (by Cornish standards) to splash around in, we couldn’t fail to have fun.

Our new friend especially wanted to see cowries and sea slugs, so we had fun looking.

The summer seaweed was starting to die back and the water was cloudy with plankton and silt, but the sun breaking through the water made it easy to see. There are always plenty of interesting molluscs; the dusky-pink cowries and chitons caught our eye.

A pretty chiton – Lepidochitona cinerea

The mid-shore pools are extensive around Looe and are crammed with rock pool species, all jostling for space and food. This cushion star was out exploring a shallow pool.

Cushion starfish in the rock pools

Anemones know their place as the star of the show! They love plankton-rich water and come in every possible colour. The brightest of the day was this gorgeous dahlia anemone.

Dahlia anemone
This daisy anemone had a fabulous purple mouth
Waving tentacles of snakelocks anemones catching the sunlight (and some plankton).

One of the great benefits of summer rockpooling is that we can go as deep as we like in the pools. Junior was excited to show our new friend his favourite swimming pool. It’s unusual to find seagrass in the rock pools, but there are usually a few clumps of it here. Sure enough, Junior spotted it straight away.

This deep pool often has some seagrass growing in it.

Our new friend was wonderfully excited by everything we saw and the time flew by as we met urchins, crabs, variegated scallops and other incredible little creatures.

A green shore urchin wearing a selection of this season’s seaweed.
A St Piran’s hermit crab pops out to say hello.

Many of the rocky overhangs and boulders were coated in animal life. Thick sponges, gelatinous sea squirts and mossy bryozoans crowded together with tube worms and spiral worms in a jumble of colours and shapes.

This distinctive sea squirt has four crimson spots at the tip of each zooid.
A collage of sponges and sea squirts.

It almost goes without saying that we were looking for sea slugs. Our friend had found a few on other beaches and was keen to discover more. There are generally fewer about on the shore at the end of the summer, when the spawning season is coming to a close, but there was still a chance of seeing some.

On a loose piece of seaweed floating in with the tide, I found the unmistakable pink spaghetti coils of sea hare spawn. Looking through my camera, I could see the developing eggs inside. These ones probably would not survive, but many others will have hatched successfully.

Pink spaghetti! Sea hare spawn.
Lots of baby sea hares developing!

As we searched among the rocks in a shallow pool, an eel slid past my feet and promptly disappeared, tunneling effortlessly down among the pebbles.

Common eel slinking away to hide under the stones.

Just when we are leaving the pools, I checked under a stone and found a nudibranch sea slug. It was a beauty with long pink cerata and striking brown rhinophores. The slug might only have been a centimetre or two long, but it was speedy; every time I thought I had it in focus, it went gliding away across the rock. It didn’t matter. We were all happy just to enjoy watching it for a minute before returning the stone exactly as we found it.

We found a sea slug! Favorinus branchialis.
The brown rhinophores with a bulge near the top are typical of Favorinus branchialis.
Favorinus branchialis. This little nudibranch likes to eat the eggs of other sea slugs.
Look closely – the shining blue dots are the eyes of tiny baby fish!

As always, it was great fun to explore the shore with someone else who takes delight in the little things. In a fast-moving world, it’s important to take the time to connect with nature and with each other.

Social media certainly has its downsides, but I love how easy it is to find others who care about the natural world and to build real-world social connections with them. If we are going to find solutions to the problems facing our environment, those connections will be essential.

Whatever the tide, always stay safe in the rock pools. Follow my rockpooling tips to look after yourself and the wildlife on the shore.

This website is a labour of much love and the content is available for free to everyone. My wonderful readers often ask if there is a way to support my work. You can now ‘buy me a coffee’ through my Ko-fi.uk page. (Just click donate and you can set the amount to pay by PayPal). Thank you!

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