|Wembury, Area of Outstanding Beauty|
Rockpooling is a super fun and easy activity to do with children, and if you pick a good spot for it you'll certainly find plenty of specimens to investigate. Rockpools are diverse and unique habitats filled with salty sea water and plants and animals that are well adapted to weathering harsh living conditions. They have to deal with fluctuating water temperature, salinity and oxygen levels, plus predators. They're really fascinating environments and can help to get children excited about biology, evolution and marine life in a practical but safe way. Take along a few basic tools, including bucket, not a net - this useful infographic tells you all you need to know to plan an expedition:
For the guide I recommend Collins Complete Guide to British Coastal Wildlife, because it has everything you might need to identify in it including molluscs, algae, fish, sea squirts, sea anemones, crustaceans.. You need this guide! But, be warned: it will likely end up looking rather weathered, like this:
|May come with added sea water|
The velvet crab is the largest swimming crab found in British coastal waters, and it's relatively easy to identify because of the red markings around its eyes. We were really excited to find one! This one took a good look at us before scuttling back into the water:
I didn't manage to get a good photo of this worm we found, but there were so many of them and - if I'm honest - we were kind of excited after spotting the velvet crab and had higher ambitions than worms! The kids were interested in what kinds of worms live in water though, and we're going to have a better bash at identifying them next time.
Our third and final find was in the actual sea rather than in the rockpools, and it was really difficult to get a photograph of this compass jellyfish as it was being thrown around with the waves, particularly since it seemed to spent a lot of its time upside-down:
|Compass jellyfish: tricky to photograph!|
The compass jellyfish is commonly found in British inshore waters between July and October, and is also easy to identify thanks to the beautiful markings on the outside of its bell, better pictured here:
The compass jellyfish is not dangerous at all, but if you do get sting by one it's apparently similar to the feeling of being stung by nettles (ouch), and you'll need to rinse the wound in salt water or vinegar and remove any stingers with tweezers. (Urinating on the sting won't help.) Compass jellyfish can grow upto 30cm in diameter, and the one we saw was around 10cm, so possibly just a baby!
And for future ambitions...
|Calliactis parasitica, image from the Collins guide|
|Sharing a Shell: essential reading for mini rockpoolers|
Oh, and it would be cool to see a basking shark too, which can also be seen off the coast of Wembury, but we weren't so lucky this time. The Wembury Marine Centre is also a must for keen rockpoolers, and offers free entry to those with National Trust memberships. They also do identification sessions on the beach.
That's it for my first post on coastal wildlife identification.. Now it's time for another trip to the beach - rockpooling is for adults too!
|Rockin' the beach selfie look (groan)|