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Simon King Visits Kimmeridge For A Rockpool Ramble

June 29, 2012

By: Emma Godden

Marine Warden Marc Smith and I were delighted to welcome Simon King and members of his 2012 Wildlife Whisperer Tour to Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Fine Foundation Marine Centre here at Kimmeridge on Friday 22nd June.  Having spent time exploring terrestrial Dorset with visits to the heaths, moors and woodland of the Isle of Purbeck and the Jurassic Coast – as well as Kingcombe Environmental Studies Centre – it was an opportunity for the group to get to grips with and marvel at the magnificent marine life Kimmeridge Bay has to offer.

Simon King with members of his Wildlife Whisperer holiday group             Photo: Michael Leigh-Mallory 2012

After an informative introductory talk from Marc which covered – amongst other things – the strandline and intertidal animals, the group, with a healthy hunger to discover more and come face-to-face with these creatures in their habitat, headed out for a rockpool ramble.  Confronted with a carpet of seaweed – in itself a voyage of discovery with hundreds of species found here because of the rocky reef and the hard substrate on which they attach themselves – our search began.  Our eco-friendly forage quickly revealed the often overlooked and sometimes underappreciated wonders of the rockpool, including limpets and barnacles.  I was also able to point out beadlet anemones both in and out of water which perfectly demonstrated how these creatures have adapted to live in the intertidal zone.  By withdrawing their tentacles and secreting a mucus seal when out of the water (looking like a blob of jelly when they do so), beadlet anemones minimise water loss.

Barnacles (Emma Godden)

 Limpet tracks, beadlet anemones & limpets (Emma Godden)

The group, keen to put into practice some of their new (and existing) ID skills following their introduction to the marine species found here, soon identified many spiny spider crab moults, in all different sizes, washed up in the rough weather and it was a great opportunity to see up-close (and without the possibility of getting nipped!) how these masters of disguise operate.  The small hairs on their carapace act as hooks on which to attach pieces of seaweed for a rather effective camouflage.  In amongst the seaweed we were also fortunate to spot a small piece of orange sponge hiding amidst bladderwrack.  Next up, in more-or-less the same spot, I came across two shore crabs in pre-mating stance.  This provided a great opportunity for us to explain this behaviour to the group whilst observing them in action.  As you will see in the photo below, the male is holding onto the female and will continue to do so, carrying on with his day-to-day life as usual until she sheds her armour because, as with most crab species, she can only mate when soft just after shedding.

Shore crabs in pre-mating embrace (Emma Godden)

We were all rather lucky that one of Simon’s accompanying wardens, Gill, spotted a blenny too – and a large one at that!  The smaller ones you tend to see in rockpools and are known for being the nosey neighbours of the rockpool due to their inquisitive nature.  The smaller blennies won’t give you any trouble however, as they mature, they develop quite powerful jaws and can give out quite a nip as Gill found out!  Don’t worry though, it wasn’t serious and more of a surprise than anything.

Blenny

We all had a very enjoyable afternoon and I can safely say that everybody learnt something new.  It was a great privilege to chat to Simon and a pleasure to meet his team and members of the tour and share information and anecdotes with each other.  Marine Warden Marc Smith said of the visit: “Kimmeridge is such a special place for marine wildlife so it was great to share this with Simon King, a world renowned wildlife expert and his group of wildlife enthusiasts.  It was an enjoyable day for everyone.”

Oh, and Simon, if you’re reading this, the biscuits you kindly left for us were gone by Monday!  We do love our biscuits in the Marine Centre!

Marc and I  with Simon – all smiles after a great day rockpooling   Photo: Michael Leigh-Mallory 2012

If  you’ve come across this blog having not been to Kimmeridge before and would like to see what all the fuss is about for yourself there is lots of fun to be had with all the family at our forthcoming events – from craft days to eco-crabbing and rockpool rambles – and if you have been before you’ll already know what a special place it is and want to come again.  For more information about these events or any other enquiries give me a call on 01929 481044 or visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/events

For more information on Simon King and his personal appearances as well as information on his Wildlife Whisperer holidays please visit www.simonkingwildlife.com

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