It sometimes feels like I don’t get out much – either socially or out of the county (Not that it’s a hardship to be in Cornwall!). So, I could barely contain my excitement at having the opportunity to attend the Porcupine Marine Natural History Society Conference in Plymouth. I packed my passport and set forth across the Tamar.
Not only did I mingle with the most amazing bunch of fellow marine wildlife obsessives and hear their latest findings, but the third day of the conference was spent rockpooling at Wembury in South Devon.
I doubt anyone in Looe can have missed it – the moment today when Cornish Rock Pools Junior found his first stalked jellyfish. His scream of, “I’ve actually found one!” rang across the beach and echoed off the hillside.
His first find was closely followed by his second, next to which was a third. A volunteer from Looe Marine Conservation Group found a fourth. The Natural England team found some more and by the time we were done we recorded a whopping 26 Stalked jellyfish.
As all our records today were of two species (Calvadosia cruxmelitensis and Calvadosia campanulata) I’m feeling hopeful that they may soon be added as recognised features of the Looe and Whitsand Bay Marine Conservation Zone.
In December, good tides, mild temperatures and low winds coincide about as often as it snows on the Cornish coast (i.e. about once every ten years). Amazingly, today was one of those rare occasions and the rockpools were in impressive festive colours. What could be more Christmassy than this Dahlia anemone?
We were doing so well with our stalked jellyfish survey that I didn’t feel too bad about getting distracted. When I spotted a wriggling piece of seaweed, I chased it across the rocks.
As I suspected, under the seaweed decorations was a small spider crab species. This one was a Macropodia deflexa, a long-legged spider crab.
Relying on their camouflage, scorpion fish were lying still among the seaweed, allowing us to come right up to them.
It was a huge relief that everything turned out so well for our Stalked jellyfish survey. Had the conditions been less favourable we’d have been more likely to find none at all. 26 was an amazing total.
I needed my hot chocolate afterwards, but it was an afternoon well spent with some fabulous people. And tomorrow the forecast is even better… I’ll let you know what I find!
My local area is special and it’s partly down to some fabulous little jellies we find here.
Looe and Whitsand Bay was one of the first to be designated a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) three years ago. Apparently Ocean quahog (a clam shell), pink sea fans, pink sea fan anemones and a stalked jellyfish species (Haliclystus sp.) can all be found here.
I’m hoping we can add more species to that list. There have been some local records of giant gobies, which are one of the MCZ ‘feature’ species and we’ve found three other species of stalked jellyfish on our beaches.
The problem with stalked jellyfish is that they’re tiny and seaweed coloured. In theory, the winter die-back of seaweed makes them easier to see, but Cornish winters don’t often provide the calm conditions you need to spot stalked jellies. Consequently not many people see them and even fewer people record their discoveries on ORKS – so please, please do share your finds!
In a quest to add more evidence that these species are present in significant numbers, I take Cornish Rock Pools Junior for a wander through the pools at a quiet local bay.
I find it’s best to focus on nothing else if I’m going to find stalked jellies. The problem is, as anyone who’s seen me in the vicinity of a chocolate hobnob will know, that I have no willpower. So, I spend the first half hour snapping this gorgeous strawberry anemone as it stretches its tentacles towards the last of the autumn sunshine. Continue reading On a stalked jellyfish mission…→
The lack of time before the sea laps back in can sometimes make the hunt for sea creatures a bit of a frantic affair. Add eager small children to the mix and the clock is ticking. After a busy week, I took the time to stop and stare and it paid off.
The wide blue skies gave us perfect conditions for taking our Easter visitors and their children rock pooling this week and I’m pretty sure they weren’t disappointed. A quick search was enough to find starfish, blennies, crabs and shells to wow our guests.
Inevitably a child fell in a rock pool – but fortunately it was fearless Cornish Rock Pools junior. He was already shouting, ‘I’m all right,” as I hooked him out and he ran off to climb rocks as soon as I’d wrung out his coat.
On Monday, another set of visitors arrived with their teenage boy, so the pace was suddenly less urgent.
As I clambered over the rocks with my friend’s son, I pointed out shallow pools packed with snakelocks anemones and we sat awhile entranced by the tangle of moving tentacles.
“Sometimes,” I said, “if you sit and stare at a pool for long enough, you begin to notice things you didn’t realise were there.”
We were looking into a clear rock-top pool lined with pink corraline seaweed. “You might even spot rare creatures, you just have to make time to look,” I explained.
I trailed my finger gently through the seaweed a few times. Then a few times more, and a tiny star shape came into view. I reached in and lifted it on the tip of my finger, realising it might just be… yes, it was… an Asterina phylactica.
I’m probably not meant to have favourites, but Asterina phylactica are absolutely, without a doubt, my favourite sea stars. They are decorated with dots of bright colour, like little gems. I don’t often see them and had no idea they lived here at my local beach.
Of course, I was there without my camera so I went back today for some more staring.
After half an hour of gazing into pools and browsing the seaweed, I finally found this little fellow.
I walked out to the lower shore and stood in a welly-deep pool staring and staring some more. I’m not sure how long I was there before this little stalked jellyfish caught my eye. The Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis is another beautiful little animal that I don’t often see.