While walking toward the coast path from Lizard recently I got talking to a fascinating botanist who told me that the slope he was looking at was home to twelve different species of clover, if I remember correctly. He also pointed out some other plants, many of them rare and most of them with spectacular names. It made me think about our inshore algal diversity so when I found myself at Kennack Sands last weekend I decided to do a one minute search to see what I could find.

I recorded ten species of seaweed adjacent to and in a small rockpool on the midshore. There were plenty more but sixty seconds flies! The only green seaweeds I saw were Ulva lactuca (sea lettuce) and Ulva intestinalis, aptly known as gut weed which becomes apparent when you see it floating in a rockpool. Brown seaweeds dominated the area in terms of mass which is typical of the midshore.

New born seal pup on the Lizard Photo by Alec FarrLate autumn on the Lizard coastline can be a wild time and, for grey seal mums, major life events are unfolding beneath steep cliffs edged by crashing waves. Hardy volunteers from Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (CSGRT) brave the elements daily to protect our seals at this important time. Such intense research studies reveal fascinating insights into the lives of these precious marine mammals – Cornwall’s speciality marine species. The stories that unfold can be a magical experience for all – never to be forgotten.

The submergence circa 10,000 years ago of the land the Helford River to form the Estuary or Ria if you were using the correct technical term, has created the most amazing habitat for marine fauna. These rocky reefs and the communities of marine life that have established over thousands of years are named as particular features for protection in the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) that covers the Fal and Helford Estuaries. Intertidal rocky shore communities are one of these features, providing fabulous rock pooling fun for adults and children alike, the lower the tide the more likely you are to find the more unusual looking species like this Scorpion fish.

Scorpion fish Scorpion Fish-Photo Anthony Sutton

If you snorkel or dive then the subtidal rocks and boulder habitat or the Kelp forests are fascinating to explore, and the variety of species, colour and spectacle rivals anywhere in the world.

Grey seal pups are an amazing wildlife spectacle around the Lizard peninsular at this time of year...as little and then big barrels of white fluffy fur with huge appealing eyes.

But they need our help. They are only fed milk by their mothers for three critical weeks that determine their survival prospects.

In celebration of World Oceans Day (8th June), marine ecologist Caz Waddell delves into the exciting world of rocky shores and uncovers the extraordinary lives of rockpool creatures.

Kennack Sands. - Photo: Simon Lewis-www.westcountryviews.co.uk.jpgKennack Sands. Photo Simon Lewis www.westcountryviews.co.uk

Spend some time rockpooling on any shore around the Lizard and you will almost immediately discover a wealth of fascinating plants and animals living between the tides. Barnacles, periwinkles, sponges, prawns, anemones and crabs can all be found in abundance, and the lives of these (and many other) marine creatures are truly extraordinary!
Common starfish eating mussels. Photo: John Archer-Thomson

Common starfish eating mussels. Photo John Archer-Thomson

Limpets at Poldhu CoveLast weekend I headed to Poldhu Cove to enjoy some sunshine and watch the surf. Having never been there the first thing I did upon arrival was head to the rocks to see what I could find, although being heavily pregnant with a toddler in tow precluded a proper nooks and crannies search of all the terrain the rocky shore had to offer. Many people might have looked at the rocky shore at Poldhu that day and concluded that there wasn't much there. Yet much like festive traditions, it was the presence of the familiar that I found comforting. Limpets, barnacles and beadlet anemones were everywhere; consequently these are often overlooked yet they all have fascinating roles to play on the rocky shore.
The humble common limpet Patella vulgata is an 'ecosystem engineer' of epic proportion. Their immobility at low tide belies the journeys they undertake when submerged by the tide when they crawl around grazing on microscopic algae on the rocks before returning to their home 'scar' before the tide goes out. Without limpets, our rocky shores would look quite different with some areas instead covered in thick carpets of algae.

1 Lucky Flipper by Sue Sayer CSGRTLast week Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust’s (CSGRT’s) Sue and Kate went out on one of their twice weekly surveys of the West Cornwall seal complex. Usually at this time of year, seals are hauled on the offshore island, but the rough seas and cooler temperatures have obviously confused the seals, leaving Sue and Kate surprised to find a good number hauled on the mainland site instead. As Kate began counting, aging and sexing the seals, Sue was taking photos to enable the individual identification of each seal. Suddenly they spotted an extra seal lying on its own at the back of the beach. Although nearly invisible, as Sue zoomed the camera in, she was saddened to discover that the young male seal (one of last year’s pups) was actually entangled in a long piece of monofilament net. This was cutting in deeply around its neck and there was no doubt that the seal would not survive without being rescued. Whilst rescues are not always possible given weather, sea and tide conditions, combined with how close the seal is to the sea and the number of other animals present, Kate and Sue were hopeful that a rescue might just be possible. 2 Abseiling down cliff by Kate Hockley CSGRTThey rang British Divers Marine Life Rescue’s hotline number (01825 765546) and their Welfare Development and Field Support Officer Dan Jarvis was soon on the scene and agreed that a rescue might be possible. A rope safety team of Chris Howell and Phil Knight were mobilised, while Tamara Cooper, Animal Care Curator at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, arrived to assist as well. As a crowd gathered to watch, the rescue team made their way down the steep cliff.

In July 2015, while torching some rock pools at night east of Lizard Point, I noticed a crab that was unfamiliar, but also familiar. I secured a record shot with the help of Luke Marsh, which was essential for the next steps, and released the crab.

Marbled Rock Crab-Tony Blunden
As I started to research the identity its familiarity dawned on me as a rock crab species, a family that I, and anybody who has visited the area, will be familiar with as being found on the Atlantic Islands.  The Red Rock Crab is a large and obvious species there, along with the smaller Marbled Rock Crab. I checked over the features and sent in the record for verification.