Friday, 31 August 2012

Pevensey seal sighting

A seal was observed today by the freshwater outlet at Pevensey Bay. This was a common seal and probably the one that has been visiting Eastbourne Harbour on and off this summer. The observer also provided an anecdotal sighting of a seal in the same location about a month ago.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Seal sighting

A large seal (possibly a common seal) was observed just off the beach at Lancing West Sussex at 4.00pm.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Juvenile common starfish

A pleasant dip in the sea at Hove (East Sussex) on the evening following a very hot day.

As we walked along the waters edge I discovered tiny common starfish, some floating in the shallows others laying on the sand.
Excited kids were picking up and running up the beach with them and so Ii collected the ones I found on the sand and put them in the water.

On the way back back I found a large number of tiny starfish in a pool at the end of a sea defence.

Starfish were once very common on the beach in my youth and nowadays a rare find so I was pleased to see so many.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Another Fascinating Inter-tidal Event at West Beach Local Nature Reserve

Another session on the West Beach Local Nature Reserve at littlehampton in West Sussex.
As before we met at the visitors centre. It was a hot sunny day and a nice sized group of adults and children gathered for the tide pool session.

This time the tide was out further providing better access to the pier and tide pools.

We found lots of creatures attached to the rocks and pier including mussels, barnacles, limpets, periwinkles, top shell and dogwhelk. More about these in the previous post Saturday 11th August.

We also found some sea anemones, but they were closed up because the tide was out.
I drew a sea anemone in the sand to show what they looked like underwater and told them some facts about sea anemones.

We found lots of green shore crabs in the pools, last time the tide was not out as far and we only found a couple of tiny crabs.

We caught a few for a closer look. I asked the children questions about the crabs such as what they eat, how they catch thweir food, etc.

We also looked at how crabs can be picked up safely without being pinched and without harming the crab.
We also found lots of prawns, tiny shrimp-like amphipods and some small rockpool fish.

These tiny fish are juvenile common blennies.

We found lots of different animals in the tide pools and everyone said they had a great time. It is hoped that by running such guided session, people will come back and explore the beach or use what they have learned to explore another piece of coastline.

You can find out more about the West Beach Nature Reserve at

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Inter-tidal event at West Beach Local Nature Reserve

This is the first of 4 educational sessions I am leading on West Beach Local Nature Reserve Littlehampton, West Sussex.
The nature reserve is a SSSI, a site of special scientific interest.

A major feature are the sand dunes (rare in Sussex) which run along the back of the beach and stretch off to the west.
Sand dunes form when sand blown from a large area of exposed sand travels up the beach and forms mounds. These can starts as sand builds up around a piece of drift wood, a rock or a clump of dried seaweed.

Grasses, such as marram grass, grow on the dunes and the roots help stabilize the sand.
Even so, sand dunes are very susceptible to damage from trampling and so parts of the dunes are fenced off to protect them.
Many small flowering plants grow on the sand dunes and in turn provide a valuable habitat for birds, sand lizards, bees, butterflies and other invertebrates. 

Between the sand dunes and the sand exposed at low tide is a large area of flint cobbles, which eroded from chalk cliffs way back in the past history of the coastlines formation.
Growing amongst the flint pebbles are special vegetated shingle plants such as sea kale and yellow horned poppy. Vegetated shingle is also a rare habitat.

At low tide a wide expanse of sand is uncovered by the tide creating a fascinating habitat.
Worms and other invertebrates live beneath the sand.

Today’s tidal event focused around the pier area where tide pools provide temporary homes for marine life and permanent attachment for animals such as mussels, limpets, barnacles and sea anemones.

Attached to the wooden supports were a large number of algae grazing limpets. 

As we explored along the pier we discovered a large number of dog whelks. Looks can be deceiving, not an algae grazer, these are predators. we found the usalwhite coloured dog whelks and also some of the orange variety.
Dog whelks can drill a hole through the shells of a mussel using its radula – sharp teeth on a conveyor belt like tongue. However its takes about 2 days for the dog whelk to bore through the shell. The dog whelk produces a secretion that softens the shells making boring much easier.

Once the hole has been bored into the shell the dog whelk injects a secretion that paralyses the mussel.  Digestive enzymes are secreted into the shell and the dog whelk sucks up the mussel-soup.

In one of the larger pools beadlet anemones remained open as they were covered by water. Sea anemones look like plants but they are infact animals related to jellyfish.
Their tentacles swaying waiting fir a small fish or prawn to blunder into the tentacles upon which the anemones will sting and paralyze its prey before passing it to the mouth in the centre of the tentacles. Sea anemones do not have eyes, so rely on touch. They are able to tell the difference between food and their own tentacles so they don’t attempt to eat part of themselves.

While we did not find any shore crabs, a girl who was rock pooling nearby caught this hermit crab.
Unlike other crabs, they don’t have a hard shell protecting the main part of their body, so they live in empty seashells – like this whelk shell.

As we waded out into the water, shoals of small fish swam around our legs.
A special find was this juvenile Solenette (Slipper Sole). This species often lives around the mouths of rivers.
Like other flatfish they can change colour to match their surroundings, helping them to avoid predators and to catch food.

Now you see me…

Now you don’t…

They often burry themselves just beneath the surface of the sand where the can catch passing prey.

A great day of tide pooling. The next event on Tuesday will have a lower tide and we will be able to explore further along the pier.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Friends of Shoreham Beach Annual Tide Pool Event

The day started quietly. I arrived early and started to fill up the large trays I had brought to display some of the animals we found. As the pools where quite shallow we walked across to the water edge (and back many times) until they were filled.

Hunting amongst the pebbles at the waters edge was a pair of turnstones, carefully flipping over pebbles to find invertebrates. They seemed quite sure that they were perfectly camouflaged amongst the pebbles as they carried on feeding as we carried the water back and forth.
A solitary cormorant preened itself at the top of a marker.

 I noticed that people had started to gather at the top of the beach. Soon they were making their way down. We usually gather at the top of the beach for an introduction but too many to do this today, so I let them down onto the sand.

Once we were all down on the beach, as the lead, I gathered them together into groups to give them an introduction and health and safety guidance. I also spoke a bit about the friends of Shoreham, Beach, the organisers of this annual event

As on previous rock pooling events we had set up containers to demonstrate some of the creatures we discovered.

These included some large shore crabs
Shore crabs are the perfect seashore dweller. Jointed armour for protection but also allows movement. If that doesn't work, they can shed a limb to enable them to escape. This can be regrown when they shed their carapace body shell.

Prawns and shrimps

 Edible periwinkle and much more.

This juvenile greater pipefish was a really good find.

Three juvenile flatfish were also found on the day. Flatfish can change their colour to match their surroundings. This helps them avoid predators and lay in wait for a tasty meal
Estuary areas are very important nursery grounds for flatfish and other marine life.

 4 different types of fish fry were found, but they are difficult to identify when they are this small. These are not tide pool fish but temorary inhabitants trapped by the out going tide.
We did identify some larger juvenile bass.

 Along with the usual common blenny and goby we found a specimen of long-finned sea scorpion.
 This fish is perfectly camouflaged in the tide pools and has protective spines on its head and gill covers so needs to be handled with extra care.
This fish has a large mouth and can easily gulp down small prawns and fish.

At the end of the event we returned all the sea creatures back to the pools where they were found. We usually have about 60 people attend the event - this year there was way over 100 people!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2012

Another successful National Whale and Dolphin Watch. Sadly, no sighings in Sussex. We ran a small watch at Shoreham last Saturday. However you can check out what species were seen around the UK. on the Sea watch Foundation website. A spectacular 151 individual sightings. Species include harbour porpoise, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, rissos dolphin, pilot whale and minke whale.
Find out more at