Monday, 27 September 2010

Autumn Springs

Rockpooling. What better way to spend a glorious summer's day at the beach? Shorts on, sleeves up, paddling about in the water heated up by the beating sun. So why was I doing it yesterday on a freezing Northumbrian beach in an icy, cap-lifting, north easterly blast coming straight off a mountainous sea? Well, when me and John planned the trip three days ago to hit the autumn equinox low spring tides it was beautifully still and double the temperature. Remind me - why do I live here? 

There was no way my boots were coming off for a paddle that's for sure, yet there was plenty of interest for the frozen fingers to get to grips with.

The sea-slugs are a curious group of animals. Some are extraordinarily ornate, all are difficult to find.  This one, about an inch long, is the common grey sea slug (Aeolidia papillosa), and it looked like something you'd find in your hanky when out of water.  Once back in water, its delicate form emerged.

This member of the Nudibranch group is reckoned to be common but they are very easily overlooked.  It feeds exclusively on sea anemones, stinging bits and all.  Now, here's an interesting snippet. They don't digest the stinging cells; they use them. Apparently, they somehow manage to transport the cells through their bodies to their backs where they are incorporated as a defence mechanism.

And talking of anemones, the lower shore produced a fair number of these beauties - the dahlia anemone. This one is about three inches in diameter. You can judge the scale from the dog whelk in the foreground.  More of this and other finds, including a quarter inch squat lobster with fabulous yellow feet in my next post.

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