Tag Archives: Summer

Rock Pool Bingo – Searching for Southerly Species (Part 2 – North Coast)

With our bingo cards of southerly species part-filled after an exciting day on the south coast, our visitors from Wales still had quite a wish list left to accomplish. To find cup corals and Celtic sea slugs, a trip to a more exposed coast would be needed. Naturally, I suggested my favourite beach: Porth Mear.

A flock of geese joined us on the shore at low tide.

The weather was on our side, taking a break between the endless storms that have characterised the summer holidays. So, with swimmers and beach shoes at the ready, we walked down a valley alive with tortoiseshell butterflies to where the bluest sky met the bluest sea. Even the pools at the top of the beach churned with trapped young mullet, scurrying shore crabs and bright anemones. While one of our friends stayed looking at the upper shore pools and gathering shells, Junior and I led our other friend on a long slip and slide across the rocks to reach our goal.

With two hours to go until low tide, we could safely allow ourselves a few distractions on the way. I couldn’t resist stopping to take photos of this wonderful Montagu’s blenny, which let me creep ever closer with my camera as it sheltered under a limpet shell. Blennies are able to move their eyes independently and this one kept an eye on me while scanning the surface of the pool with the other.

Montagu’s blenny looking two ways at once. This blenny has a single head tentacle.

My friend was delighted. Although it hadn’t appeared on our bingo card, the Montagu’s blenny is another southerly species which he had never seen in North Wales. This was too easy!

We had met some St Piran’s hermit crabs at Hannafore the previous day, but the colony here was well worth a look too. We found scores of these crabs in and around the pools along a couple of rocky overhangs, living in a range of sizes of shell. This species is doing well here, towards the northerly limit of its known range.

The painted top shells on this beach are always especially pink and beautiful, perhaps because in this more exposed location, they tend to accumulate less silt and micro-algae on their shells. We stopped to take plenty of photos.

A typically bright pink painted top shell at Porth Mear.

Although it can be hard to find stalked jellyfish in the summer when the beach is thick with the seaweeds they attach to, we were determined to tick one or two off the list, especially Haliclystus octoradiatus. This may not be a particularly southerly species, but it occurs frequently around Cornish coasts. After much searching we found a very small blob that was probably a juvenile, but I could only confirm that by looking at photos afterwards.

This tiny juvenile Haliclystus octoradiatus stalked jellyfish was only a few milimetres long, but in the photos, its primary tentacles are visible.

As the tide dropped further, we picked up our pace and clambered towards a wave-battered gully. This area is only accessible on the lowest tides and, even then, is often out-of-bounds due to the huge swells that pound these rocks for much of the year. Today, the calm conditions were perfect and we could explore in relative safety while keeping an eye on the time.

Junior made straight for the high rocks, where he quickly found the first Celtic sea slug, out in the open among the barnacles and mussels.

Celtic sea slug

These strange black lumps always remind me of armoured cars. This is mainly a very southerly species which is found widely around exposed Cornish coasts, but it has been recorded as far north as the Farne Islands and Scotland.

Celtic sea slugs may not be the most classically pretty slugs, but they are incredible animals. They are able to survive on these rough shores in terrifying conditions and they don’t even have gills. They breathe air and hide away in cracks in the rock when the tide comes in, staying alive by keeping an air pocket sealed inside their bodies and breathing through their skin when needed.

If there is one Celtic sea slug, there is usually a whole colony and we found dozens more on the rocks all along the gully.

Celtic sea slug foraging on tiny micro-algae and other micro-organisms.

Our next stop was a deep overhang with a pool at its base where we knew we would be able tick off another species from our bingo card, the scarlet and gold cup coral.

We had to kneel and lie at strange angles on rocks encrusted with sharp barnacles, but we were soon rewarded with the brilliant glow of many corals.

Scarlet and gold cup corals

These tiny orange and yellow corals open their transluscent tentacles in the water here and always astound me. Their delicate soft bodies encase a spongy, fragile exoskeleton, none of which looks like it could stand up to a gust of wind, let alone the fierce, pounding seas that rage through this gully on a daily basis. Despite their soft appearance, scarlet and gold cup corals, like the Celtic sea slugs, thrive in these wild places.

It was a good thing we had left ourselves plenty of time to explore this rock pooler’s paradise. Between deep pools packed with enormous snakelocks anemones and prawns as big as my hand, we scrambled and stared at the huge diversity of species in front of us. Arctic and three-spot cowries moved across the damp surfaces encrusted with pink seaweeds and colourful sea squirts. Groups of light-bulb sea squirts seemed to shine out from the dark water and so much life abounded on every surface that we moved with great caution for fear of accidentally treading on creatures.

3-spot cowrie

The underside of a large boulder at the head of the gully was coated in a red sponge. A quick inspection revealed a small white coil of sea slug sponge. It took me longer to find the slug, which matched its background flawlessly. Rostanga rubra are a common find on these sponges but this was another first for my friend who is almost as obsessed with slugs as I am. He was so delighted with this little find that he took some persuading to move away from the gully before the tide turned.

Rostanga rubra sea slug
Rostanga rubra sea slugs feed on orange and red sponges such as Ophlitaspongia papilla. As they feed they take in the colour from the sponge, which makes them perfectly camouflaged.

On our way out of the gully, we waded through a pool, up to our waists in the water and no longer caring how wet we were. Hidden at the back of the pool we discovered a deep hole in the rock that harboured dozens of scarlet and gold cup corals and many large snakelocks anemones. I spotted a leg sticking out from underneath this one and uncovered this Leach’s spider crab (Inachus phalangium) sheltering there.

Inachus phalangium living in the shelter of a snakelocks anemone’s stinging tentacles. This crab also grows sponge on its carapace for camouflage.

A shallow pool nearby was dotted with tufts of rainbow weed. To our surprise, these harboured many Asterina phylactica – a small species of starfish. A nearby clump of codium seaweed was also home to several Elysia viridis sea slugs.

Asterina phylactica – a small species of cushion star.

On our way back across the beach, my friend found a clump of seaweed with half a dozen stalked jellyfish growing on it. This time, the blobs of the primary tentacles between the arms were easy to spot and we could be sure that these were Haliclystus octoradiatus.

A white Haliclystus octoradiatus stalked jellyfish

With most of our bingo card of southerly species complete and with another day of rock pooling to try to find the remaining species, my friend set off up the beach to rest and enjoy a well-earned picnic.

Junior and I lingered in the sunny pools, exploring further into the slippery masses of thong weed and kelp until the tide turned.

To celebrate the rare August sunshine, we finished the day with a visit to the vast rock pool where I used to swim as a child. Plunging into the cool waters, I experienced the familiar feelings of wonder and trepidation at the thought of what might lurk in the depths.

We splashed and floated between the rocky walls, finding starfish, prawns, star ascidians and sponges as we swam, side by side. Time might move on, but this beach never loses its magic.

Sea hare, Aplysia punctata, at Porth Mear
A blue-rayed limpet on kelp at Porth Mear
A yellow form of the Scarlet and gold cup coral.
A huge prawn checks out my camera!
A shanny (common blenny) hiding in a crevice waiting for the tide to come in at Porth Mear.
Light bulb sea squirts at Porth Mear.
The walk to and from Porth Mear is always a wonderful part of the adventure – Junior spotted lots of cinnabar moth caterpillars on our way back.

Summer Holiday Rock Pooling Events in Cornwall – The Full List

Here it is… the 2017 list of summer rockpooling events in Cornwall during the holidays. It’s the best ever, with events to suit all the family!

Take a look below to see what’s on near you. There’s no better way to make the most of your rock pooling than to join the experts to find amazing marine creatures and learn all about them.

All you need are: some sturdy rockpooling shoes like wellies, neoprene beach shoes or wetsuit boot (not flip flops or crocs); a bucket, and sun protection.

Please check the organiser’s page carefully for the exact details and any alterations. You will need to book in advance for some of these events.

 Happy rockpooling! Maybe see you there?

FRIDAY 28TH JULY, 14.00-16.00, St Michael’s Mount. Rockpool Explorer with the National Trust https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/795f56c8-54f5-4205-acde-482402421940/pages/details

SUNDAY 6TH AUGUST, 10.00 – 12.00, St Michael’s Mount. Rockpool Explorer with the National Trust (Scroll to the bottom of the following web page for this date) https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/795f56c8-54f5-4205-acde-482402421940/pages/details

MONDAY 7TH AUGUST, 12.00 – 13.30, Northcott, Bude. Hurray for Honeycomb with Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Meet at Northcott Mouth National Trust car park, Bude http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/06/hurray-honeycomb?instance=0

TUESDAY 8TH AUGUST, 11.30 – 13.30. Polzeath. Rockpool Ramble with Polzeath Marine Conservation Group and the National Trust, BOOKING ESSENTIAL https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/4d6bf7a6-558b-4e53-b1c1-3929cec9591e/pages/details

WEDNESDAY 9TH AUGUST, 11.00 – 13.00. Mousehole. St Piran’s Crab Search with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Mousehole (Meet in Car Park, The Parade, by The Rock Pool Café) http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/06/st-pirans-crab-search?instance=0

THURSDAY 10TH AUGUST, 13.00 – 15.00. Falmouth Harbour. Horrible Beasts Up the Creek. With Cornwall Wildlife Trust. BOOKING ESSENTIAL – Falmouth – location provided on booking. http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/06/horrible-beasts-creek?instance=0

THURSDAY 10TH AUGUST, 13.00 – 15.00 Lantivet Bay. Rockpooling with the National Trust. Free no booking required https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/0916c2da-8026-4e5e-a507-5d6c413e46a0/pages/details

FRIDAY 11TH AUGUST, 13.00 – 15.00. Marazion. Strandline Scramble – looking for creatures washed up by the tide. With Cornwall Wildlife Trust. BOOKING ESSENTIAL http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/06/strandline-scramble?instance=0

FRIDAY 11TH AUGUST, 14.00-16.00. St Michael’s Mount Causeway. Rockpool Explorer with the National Trust. (Scroll to the bottom of the following web page for this date) https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/795f56c8-54f5-4205-acde-482402421940/pages/details

SATURDAY 12TH AUGUST, 14.30 – 16.00. Hannafore, Looe. Rock Pool Ramble with Looe Marine Conservation Group http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2016/12/23/summer-holiday-rockpool-ramble?instance=0

MONDAY 14TH AUGUST, 15.00 – 17.00 Polzeath, Rock Pooling and Beach Games with Wild Thymes. BOOKING ESSENTIAL http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/26/rock-pooling-and-beach-fun-wild-thymes?instance=0

SATURDAY 19TH AUGUST, 21.30 – 23.30. Durgan. Night Time Rock Pooling with Cornwall Wildlife Trust. BOOKING ESSENTIAL – No children under 12. http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/06/night-rockpooling?instance=0

SUNDAY 20TH AUGUST, 10.00-12.00. St Michael’s Mount Causeway. Rockpool Explorer with the National Trust. (Scroll to the bottom of the following web page for this date) https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/795f56c8-54f5-4205-acde-482402421940/pages/details

MONDAY 21ST AUGUST, 11.00-13.00. Polzeath. Rockpool Ramble with Polzeath Marine Conservation Group and National Trust. BOOKING ESSENTIAL (Scroll to the bottom of the page for this date) https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/4d6bf7a6-558b-4e53-b1c1-3929cec9591e/pages/details

TUESDAY 22ND AUGUST, 11.00 – 13.00. Polzeath. Radical Rockpooling with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Polzeath Marine Conservation Group. BOOKING ESSENTIAL – Children over 11 only. http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/26/radical-rock-pooling?instance=0

WEDNESDAY 23RD AUGUST, 11.00 – 13.00. Hannafore, Looe. Rockpool Safari Time with Fox Club, Junior branch of Cornwall Wildlife Trust. BOOKING ESSENTIAL http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/05/rockpool-safari-time?instance=0

WEDNESDAY 23RD AUGUST, 12.30 – 14.30. Camel (Location available on booking). Rockpool Ramble with Fox Club, Junior branch of Cornwall Wildlife Trust. BOOKING ESSENTIAL http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/04/20/rockpool-ramble?instance=0

THURSDAY 24TH AUGUST, 13.00 – 15.00. Polzeath. Rock Pool Ramble with Polzeath Marine Conservation Group BOOKING ESSENTIAL  http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2017/01/26/rock-pool-ramble?instance=4

FRIDAY 25TH AUGUST, 14.00-16.00. St Michael’s Mount Causeway. Rockpool Explorer with the National Trust. (Scroll to the bottom of the following web page for this date) https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/795f56c8-54f5-4205-acde-482402421940/pages/details

Can’t see your event? Please let me know of any additions or alterations to this list and I’ll be delighted to share them.

Wrasse and wrack

The Cornish summers are anything but predictable. One day I’m sweltering in shorts and beach shoes and the next I’m shivering in waders and a thick jumper. Although the showers are back with a vengeance, there’s always something to be found if I can make it across the rocks without breaking an ankle.

Painted top shell, East Looe
Painted top shell, East Looe

My first outing is to the rocks beyond East Looe beach and I’m pleased to come across a new colony of St Piran’s hermit crabs on the mid-shore.

A St Piran's hermit crab starting to emerge from its shell.
A St Piran’s hermit crab starting to emerge from its shell.

They’re becoming a familiar sight around Cornwall and I’m starting to recognise them from the tips of their red legs, before their chequerboard eyes and equal-sized claws emerge from their shells. Continue reading Wrasse and wrack

Summer Lazing in Cornwall’s Rock Pools

It’s funny how the summer days float by. The house has been practically bursting with people for weeks now and I haven’t found the space to write about our many beach trips, but August still feels like a lazy month.

It reminds me of my childhood summers; a jumble of paddling, swimming, rockpooling and finds. Only I’ve just turned 40 and now I’m the one remembering hats and towels, preparing picnics and being called on constantly to help build dams or identify creatures. Every few days I realise that I’ve failed to take many photos and still haven’t blogged anything I’ve found. It’s just the way August goes.

Compass jellyfish. Also known as sea nettles as they pack quite a little sting, these jellyfish have beautiful markings.
Compass jellyfish. Also known as sea nettles as they pack quite a little sting, these jellyfish have beautiful markings.

The warm waters are drawing in all sorts of creatures at the moment. The north coast especially is teeming with jellyfish. Harmless Moon jellyfish have washed up in their thousands. These transparent little jellies have four mauve circles in their centre in a pattern that reminds me of cucumber slices (OK, that’s probably just me). 

One of many moon jellyfish washed up by the strong swell. This species is harmless.
One of many moon jellyfish washed up by the strong swell. This species is harmless.

Other jellyfish that have mild stings, like the compass jellyfish are also washing in and I think my thigh met with one of the many blue jellies in the water at Mawgan Porth a couple of weeks ago from the unattractive rash I developed! On the plus side, some friends found a spiny starfish in a pool at the top of the mid-shore pools, which looked like it might be feeding on the stranded jellies. Continue reading Summer Lazing in Cornwall’s Rock Pools

Rock Pooling and Marine Events in Cornwall this Summer

The summer holidays are a great time to explore the Cornish rock pools. What better way to discover the crabs, fish, starfish, anemones and a host of other animals found around our shores than to join a guided event? You’ll have the experts on hand to tell you all about the animals and how they live and as part of a group, you’ll get to see everyone’s finds.

Here’s a summary of rockpooling and marine events this summer, which are all listed on the Cornwall Wildlife Trust events pages.

If you can’t make it to a group event, my pages on how to rockpool will help you make the most of your trip. Just click on beaches tab above to find a great rockpooling location near you.

Please check the organiser’s site for full details, any booking requirements and changes before attending. In all cases, children must be accompanied by an adult and wear suitable weather protection and footwear.

JULY

 24 July – Family Rock Pool Explore at Kingsand. 11.00. Booking essential for this fun rockpooling event for 5-11 year olds with Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Cost: £1 donation to Fox Club.

26 July – Seaweeds and Seaweed Pressing with Angie Gall at Trebah Garden, Helford. 10.00 – 12.30. Booking essential. Suitable for all ages, this workshop is a great chance to meet an expert and learn about seaweeds. Organised by Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Association.

28 July – Helford Snorkel Safari. Details available on booking – booking essential. A chance for experienced snorkelers and confident swimmers age 8+ to enjoy a guided one-hour snorkel with local experts from Cornwall Wildlife Trust. £5.

29 July – Get Crafty at Polzeath. 10.30 – 12.30. Marine themed arts and crafts with the Polzeath Marine Conservation Group at the Marine Centre in Polzeath. £2 per person (free for members).

31 July – Rockpool Ramble at Cape Cornwall. 11.00 – 13.00 with the experts from Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

31 July – Carnival Rockpool Ramble at Hannafore Beach, West Looe. 11.30 – 13.00. Join the Looe Marine Conservation Group experts to explore the shore during Looe’s Carnival week.

31 July – Rockpool Ramble at Spit Beach, Par. 11.30 – 13.30. Join the experts from the Friends of the Fowey Estuary to explore the shore. £2.50 for non-members.

31 July – Rockpool Ramble at Polzeath. 11.30 – 13.30. Booking essential. Join the Polzeath Marine Conservation experts to explore the shore. £2 for non-members.

 

AUGUST

 2 August – Rockpool Photography at Durgan on the Helford 14.00 – 16.00. Booking essential. Suitable for families. Find out how to get great shots using your basic camera including phone cameras.

3 August – Beach Treasure Trail near Newquay. 13.00 – 15.00. Booking essential. A fun trail using a treasure map for primary aged children – collect natural materials along the way.

3 August – Beach Treasure Trail near Crantock. 13.00 – 15.00. Booking essential. A fun trail using a treasure map for primary aged children – collect natural materials along the way.

4 August – Rockpool Ramble at Swanpool, Falmouth. 14.30 – 16.30. Explore the shore with experts from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

5th August – Wild Wednesdays Seashore Shenanigans nr The Lizard – 14.00 – 16.00. Rockpooling for primary aged children with the Wild Lizard Ranger. Contact claire.scott@nationaltrust.org.uk for further details.

5 August – Beach Art fun with Frugi on The Lizard at Kennack Sands. 14.00 – 16.00. Beach art for all the family with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Team and with Prizes from Frugi children’s clothes.

12 August – Wild Wednesdays Seashore Shenanigans nr The Lizard. 10.00 -12.00. Rockpooling for primary aged children with the Wild Lizard Ranger. Contact claire.scott@nationaltrust.org.uk for further details.

14 August – Mad About Mud at West Looe. 11.00 – 14.00. Booking essential. Join experts from Looe Marine Conservation Group and the Friends of Kilminorth Wood to discover the marine life of the Looe estuary. Suitable for all ages.

16 August – Public Sea Watch near Tintagel. 11.00 – 14.00. Look out for seals, basking sharks, sunfish, dolphins and other marine life with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust experts.

17 August – Beach Games near Newquay. 12.00 – 14.00. Booking essential. Learn about sea creatures then become them as you complete fun games and activities. For primary age children.

17 August – Newquay evening boat safari. 18.00 – 20.00. Booking essential. Discover the coastal and marine wildlife of Newquay with local expert Dave Thomas – birds, seals and more.

18 August – Fowey Marine Day at Fowey Town Quay. 10.00 – 16.00. A day of fun activities including meeting huge crabs with Friends of Fowey Estuary and Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

19 August – Wild Wednesdays Seashore Shenanigans nr The Lizard – 14.00 – 16.00. Rockpooling for primary aged children with the Wild Lizard Ranger. Contact claire.scott@nationaltrust.org.uk for further details.

24-28 August – Seaquest South West Road Show – at various locations. The Seaquest Southwest team will be touring the county, providing nformation, games and activities to teach people about whales, dolphins, sunfish, seals and basking sharks. Details available on request from seaquest@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk

26 August – Wild Wednesdays Seashore Shenanigans nr The Lizard. 14.00 -16.00. Rockpooling for primary aged children with the Wild Lizard Ranger. Contact claire.scott@nationaltrust.org.uk for further details.

29 August – Seashore Forage and Feast at Poltesco nr The Lizard. 10.30 – 14.30. Booking essential. Suitable for children aged 7+. Explore the shore, learn what’s edible and join the rangers to cook over a fire. £5 per child, £10 per adult – includes foraged lunch. http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/whatson/events_pages/Seashore_forage_and_feast_near_The_Lizard

 29 August – Rummage in a rockpool nr Penzance. 11.30 – 13.30. Booking essential. Join Cornwall Wildlife Trust experts to explore the shore. Suitable for primary aged children.

Have fun! If you know of other events please contact me and I’ll add them – and don’t forget to let me know what wildlife you find this summer.

A Cornish clingfish, Lepadogaster lepadogaster
A Cornish clingfish, Lepadogaster lepadogaster

 

 

 

Summer Holiday Rock Pooling Events in Cornwall 2014

Rock pooling with the experts is a great way to explore the shore this summer. Below is a full list of events where you can find amazing rock pool creatures and learn all about them.

Asterina phylactica cushion star

Have a fantastic summer!

Please check the full event details with the relevant organisation page before attending in case of changes and cancellations. Continue reading Summer Holiday Rock Pooling Events in Cornwall 2014