Category Archives: Crabs, prawns and lobsters

Rockpooling Heaven (And a downpour)

The sun is shining and, for the first time in months, I can feel the warmth on my face. With calm seas, the tide has run out even further than I hoped, rockpooling conditions here in Looe are near-perfect. There are ominous clouds looming over the hills behind me, but I choose not to look at them.

Perfect - this sheltered gully has weathered the storms.
Perfect – this sheltered gully has weathered the storms.

After the fierce storms, I half expect to find the rockpools empty, scoured of life, but I couldn’t be more wrong. I explore an area of my local shore in Looe that I don’t often visit and within minutes I have found my new favourite rockpooling spot, a gully that’s visibly wriggling with life. Continue reading Rockpooling Heaven (And a downpour)

Searching for Starfish

We’ve been planning this trip since our visitors first came to Cornwall a year ago. They’re determined to try rock pooling having missed out last time. This week the tides are perfect. They live near the sea back home in Essex, but they tell me it’s not the same and I can well believe it.

They’ve never seen a starfish in the wild before. My mission is clear.

Getting stuck in to Cornish rock pooling
Getting stuck in to Cornish rock pooling

With picnic and buckets in hand, we set out, treading gingerly over seaweed and searching among the rocks. Within minutes, our friends are putting yesterday’s hasty tutorial on crabs into practice as they try picking them up safely. They score top marks on this and on working out whether the crabs are male or female from the shape of their tails. We find several species of crustacean, including this large squat lobster.

A squat lobster - galathea squamifera
A squat lobster – galathea squamifera

While our visitors search the shallow pools, finding anemones, fish, prawns and hermit crabs, Other Half and I walk out through slippery gullies towards the sea with Junior, taking photos and collecting interesting creatures for our visitors to see. I find a small rock with a beautiful covering of star ascidian. Continue reading Searching for Starfish

A perfect rockpool ramble in Looe

Friday was the ideal day for a Cornish rockpool ramble with warm weather and calm conditions. Over a hundred people joined the Looe Marine Conservation Group rockpool event and I’m sure other rockpooling sessions around the Cornwall were similarly well attended. (Here’s a list of what’s on this summer).

Learning about crabs with a Looe Marine Conservation Group volunteer
Learning about crabs with a Looe Marine Conservation Group volunteer

Continue reading A perfect rockpool ramble in Looe

First Looe Rockpool Ramble of the Summer

It’s not quite warm enough for shorts yet, but there’s sunshine aplenty and a good turnout for Looe Marine Conservation Group’s first summer rockpooling session of the year. As always, the Cornish rock pools don’t disappoint.

Berthella plumula - a sea slug with a small internal shell
My first find of the morning –  a ‘plumed Bertha’ Berthella plumula – a sea slug with a small internal shell.

The big creatures are always the star attractions of public events. Today we are lucky enough to find several magnificent spider crabs.

Spider crabs come into the Cornish rock pools in early summer
Spider crabs come into the Cornish rock pools in early summer.

These large crabs with their characteristic spiky shells live out at sea for most of the year, but venture into shallower water in the early summer to breed. They get their names from their long, spindly looking legs – although, being crabs, they have ten legs, not eight like the spiders.

Edible crabs can be large and powerful, but are usually placid
Edible crabs can be large and powerful, but are usually placid

Some sizeable edible crabs lurk at the bottom of buckets, but it is the velvet swimming crab that causes the most gasps. These red-eyed crabs, which my son calls devil crabs, are feisty to say the least and as today’s rockpool leader, Matt, goes to pick one up, it raises its claws in defiance.

Velvet swimming crabs are quick to attack.
Velvet swimming crabs are quick to attack.

 Matt takes several attempts, but eventually manages to lift it from the bucket and hold it in front of the upturned faces of a circle of children. He points out the paddle-shaped legs that help it to swim and the smooth velvet surface of the shell before swiftly returning it and moving on to more placid creatures.

This rock goby was easier to handle - the yellow top to its fin can clearly be seen here.
This rock goby was easier to handle – the yellow top to its fin can clearly be seen here.

Our local vicar has become a staunch regular on these jaunts and, as always, he’s brimming with smiles and enthusiasm. He makes one of the best finds of the day, although only a few of us make it to the tide’s edge over slippery rocks to see the stalked jellyfish.

Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis - a stalked jellyfish
Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis – a stalked jellyfish.

This little jelly is in an awkward position to photograph and the tide is rushing in, but we manage to get some pictures. Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis – it’s a mouthful to say, but I think it’s the most beautiful of our stalked jellies with its wide open profile and delicate decoration of white nematocysts around each arm.

Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis - the hand in this shot shows just how small these stalked jellies are. One of my favourite Cornish rock pool creatures.
Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis – the hand in this shot shows just how small these stalked jellies are. One of my favourite Cornish rock pool creatures.

The next jellyfish we find is a little larger, but still only a few centimetres across. It’s so transparent, I can’t tell most of it is there until I feel the curve of it against my fingers.

This week's mystery jelly - probably an aequorea species - crystal jellyfish.
This week’s mystery jelly – probably an aequorea species – crystal jellyfish.

From the shape and the faint radiating lines around the base of the bell, I think it may be an aequorea species, also known as the crystal jellyfish. We’ve found these before in Looe, but they’re not a common species – or maybe they are but they’re so transparent they’re hard to spot.

Holding the transparent jelly (aequorea/ crystal jelly?)
Holding the transparent jelly (aequorea/ crystal jelly?)

It’s wonderful to spend a whole morning on the shore without my fingers becoming painfully cold or having to rush home to counteract early signs of hypothermia with hot baths and drinks. I might even risk going out without a coat soon.

Looe's vicar doing some quality rockpooling.
Looe’s vicar doing some quality rockpooling.

Summer is definitely on its way and if you’re heading for the shore, group events like this one are the best way to discover the fantastic Cornish rock pools.

See my links page for lovely groups who run events all through the year. Follow Cornish Rock Pools on Facebook for updates.

 

Chilly but Fabulous – February Rockpools

I’m not cut out for rockpooling in a northerly wind in February. My hands are too frozen to hold my battered old camera steady, but nothing is going to make me miss this tide. It’s so low that the seagrass at Hannafore is high and dry and a shark is lurking in shin-deep water, but I haven’t seen that yet.

A male Xantho incisus crab
A male Xantho incisus crab
A beautiful dahlia anemone (Urticina felina).
A beautiful dahlia anemone (Urticina felina).

There are fish, crabs, worms and brittle stars in droves Continue reading Chilly but Fabulous – February Rockpools