Every year, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Shoresearch project undertakes the ultimate rockpooling challenge with a week of beach surveys. I’d love to survey all five locations, but Junior has other plans, including a midnight rockpooling session. Watching hermit crabs bombing about the pools at 1am is great fun, but isn’t conducive to being the other side of the county bright and early.
We catch up with the indefatigable Matt and Adele from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust on days three and four of their Shoresearch survey marathon. Together with a team of enthusiastic volunteers, we complete a randomised quadrant transect and a general search at Readymoney Cove in Fowey and Hannafore beach in Looe.
It’s lovely to hang out with like-minded people and whether you’re experienced or completely new to rockpooling, there are always new things to find and learn by exploring the shore in a group.
At Readymoney Cove, we soon discover that there are lots of Common starfish about. These are the classic orange five-armed sea stars that are always represented on children’s seaside books, but are more common in deeper water than on the shore.
In fact, it’s an echinoderm-rich sort of day, with loads of representatives of this family of animals on the shore. There’s a whole collection of echinoderms together on one rock: a green shore urchin; sea gherkin (a type of sea cucumber); brittle stars and cushion stars.
It feels like interrupting a family meeting so I replace the stone and leave them to it.
Later in the day we find another echinoderm, the Kaleidoscope starfish (Asterina phylactica) which is very small and lives among the pink coral weeds in sheltered pools. Its back is covered in colourful circles of orange and white, forming a dark star in its centre. The dots are made by the little pincers (pedicillerae) which the starfish uses to keep its back clean, as you can see in the photo.
Other great finds were numerous Devonshire cup corals.
When these are underwater they extend their translucent tentacles, but on the shore you tend to only see the calcerous cup shapes.
There are several Calvadosia campanulata stalked jellyfish in the pools. They seem to grow large this time of year and are easier to spot as the seaweed begins to die back.
After a lot of looking, I finally turn up some sea slugs too. There are several Sea lemons under one rock and next to a coil of spawn I also find a Jorunna tomentosa slug.
On the next day we survey Hannafore, which has a vast are of rocky shore. We spread out looking for interesting creatures and have no problem finding them.
We spend a lot of time failing to re-find the very rare Lucernaria quadricornis stalked jellyfish which was recorded on this beach a few months back. We do, however, find many other fabulous creatures while we are looking.
Junior and I decide to leave a bit early as he’s been wading in deep water and is completely sodden, so we miss the find of the day, a Giant goby.
Shoresearch has been going for a good few years now and is a perfect opportunity to learn about wildlife, contribute to conservation and connect with others. I’m hoping I’ll get to do all five days of Shoresearch Week next year as well as other surveys and events during the year. Perhaps I’ll see you there?
In the meantime here are some more of the week’s finds…