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Rockpool Ramble Revelations

June 26, 2015

Written by Hazel Munt, Fine Foundation Marine Centre Assistant (Skills for the Future).

Since it was a warm and still day we decided to take advantage of the clear waters and low tide and investigate what could be found in the colourful waters at Kimmeridge Bay.  I went out with Sarah, who is a previous trainee and now volunteers, we went straight to washing ledge, which is the largest ledge at Kimmeridge, and in the warm shallow pools started finding peacocks tail everywhere.  Peacocks Tail tends to grow in clusters and are thin fronds growing up to 10cm but today the largest were 5cm but most were around 3cm.  They are funnel shaped and white in colour and have zones of green or brown; they have delicate wisps off the top end.  They aren’t the most common of species and are mostly found on shores in the channel and a few other sheltered areas.

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Peacocks tail. Copyright Hazel Munt

Washing ledge was absolutely littered with limpets.  Here at Kimmeridge we love our limpets and encourage people not to kick them off the rocks because they graze the seaweed spores off our rocks keeping them slim-free and making room for other species, like barnacles and topshells, and making it possible for us to safely walk over the rocks.  Sadly, on this day we found four limpets kicked off and lying on their back, although it meant we could get some very cute pictures of them with their “ears” and mouth out but unfortunately they will die if left and one I found had dried out and is very unlikely to have made it after I turned her back up the right way, but hopefully we saved the other three.

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Upturned limpet. Copyright Hazel Munt

Copyright Hazel Munt

Limpets and grazing tracks. Copyright Hazel Munt

Most of them were still in place and showing their lovely tracks, like the picture above, they release a mucus as they scrape the rock and use this to return to their home scar, which is the place on the rock where they have ground down to fit the contours of their shell, the ones who were kicked off will not be able to do this.  On a brighter note, there was plenty of barnacles and their spat who are cemented to the rock and so not so easy to kick off.

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Barnacles. Copyright Hazel Munt

We then started turning over some of the rocks to see what was beneath and we saw starfish almost instantly, we saw four of the cushion star Asterina gibbosa and a few brittle stars, you can see the brittle star in the top right corner of the photo below.

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Cushion and brittle stars. Copyright Hazel Munt

After turning over a few more, we actually found the invasive orange tipped sea squirt, the orange tip originates from the Pacific and made its way over to Britain on boat hulls.  It is highly adaptable and becomes established relatively quickly when compared to other sea squirts.  They are translucent with speckled orange tip, growing to about 8 cm but in Kimmeridge is normally about 4 cm.

Copyright Hazel Munt

Orange tipped sea squirt. Copyright Hazel Munt

We got a few interested members of the public who helped us with turning the limpets over and finding other specimens and telling us what they had found. The more patient of them had been eco-crabbing, catching mostly green shore crabs and one family said they found some mermaids purses on the strandline, always good to hear about elasmobranchs.

Sarah found a great example of the star sea squirt too, who cluster together and look like little flowers stuck on the rock. I turned a rock over and saw something moving in the gravel and picked up to find it was a hairy crab which is one of my favourite crabs, they are shy compared to greedy shore crabs and much smaller in size, but this one tried to make himself look big and menacing.

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Star sea squirt. Copyright Hazel Munt

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Hairy crab. Copyright Hazel Munt

We also found the beautiful gem anemone poking out from between two rocks, and sea hare eggs, and the yellow sea slug, Berthella plumula, which looks like a blob of yellow jelly.  They have little body shape and grow up to 6cm, this one was fairly close to that. They like to feed on sea squirts and especially the star sea squirt we found earlier.

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Yellow sea slug. Copyright Hazel Munt

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Gem anemone. Copyright Hazel Munt

As we were walking we saw swarms of juvenile mullet and we even managed to catch one of them and get some blurry photos, they move far too fast for our underwater camera.

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The darting mullet. Copyright Hazel Munt

As we walked back the smell from Stink Corner hit me, and it was ripe on such a still, hot day.  It looked like the fluvial field of a great river.  The seaweed rots into liquid and in anoxic conditions, this is why it smells like methane. This area, although is not pretty and certainly not nice smelling, is teaming with wildlife such as sand hoppers, seaweed flies and many other insects. These bugs provide food for the fish, especially the mullets on the high tide, but also birds and bats who come quite a distance to feed here, you also get the occasional adder.

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Stink Corner. Copyright Hazel Munt

All in all a beautiful and diverse rock pooling session.

If you would like to come to Kimmeridge for rock pooling please follow the Sea Shore Code:

– Don’t paddle and don’t throw things in the rock pool – its a creatures home.
– Always put rocks and seaweed back in the same place and the same way up as they were found.
– Be very gentle with animals and if you pick them up please return them carefully to their place.
– Don’t take away any living things with you.
– Don’t pull seaweed off rocks.
– Don’t try to kick or pull limpets off rocks
– Don’t frighten seabirds – give them some space.
– Always take your litter home with you.
– Take your time
– Keep an eye on the tide so you don’t get cut off.
– Keep 6m from cliff base.
– Keep away from soft mud and quicksand.
– Wash your hands before you put your fingers in your mouth or eat anything.
– If using a bucket to look at things then fill the bucket to near the top, don’t leave them in the bucket too long and refresh the water so it doesn’t get too hot and has plenty of oxygen in it.
– Use hands rather than nets – nets can be damaging.
– Don’t touch anemones or jellyfish.
– Don’t lift animals high above the rocks as you may hurt or damage them if they fall.

If you have any questions on rockpooling and the best times to do it then give us a call on 01929 481044 or email us at Kimmeridge@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk

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One Comment leave one →
  1. saligee permalink
    June 27, 2015 7:33 am

    This is fascinating. I would love to come to a guided rock pool safari, even if they are usually aimed at children. I will watch out for one.

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