It’s another world down there, believe me! Although I’m primarily from a bird-watching background I do have a general interest in all aspects of natural history. That is why I am also interested in rock-pooling and the shoreline. It’s a great way for someone like me to get a taster of what’s beneath the sea. I would love to try snorkelling or scuba diving, but I only managed my 10 meter swimming badge when I was at school so it gives me a chance to see some interesting maritime wildlife without worrying about staying afloat!
Every time I go out rock-pooling, I know there will be the usual suspects but it’s great fun, as you never know exactly what you may find as there is always the chance of finding something out of the ordinary. I’m lucky enough to live by the sea in Cemaes Bay, North Anglesey so rock-pooling is on my door-step. You can do it on your own or with your family and friends. Adults and children alike can be amazed at what you may turn up on the underside of a rock down on the beach!
Regular favourites include fish like Shanny, Black Rock Goby, Butterfish, 5 Bearded Rockling, European Eel , Worm pipefish and occasionally 15 Spined-Sticklebacks, Sand-eels and once I even found a Lump-sucker. An assortment of crabs are also available including Shore Crabs, Edible, Velvet Swimming Crab, Spider Crabs, Long and Broad Clawed porcelain crabs and occasionally Hairy and Montague’s crabs. In the Star-fish department Cushion stars are the commonest locally but Common Starfish and Brittle -stars are also regularly found! However once I had a Purple Henry, a bright Purplish-pink Star fish.
Highlights over the years have included Octopus, Corkwing Wrasse, Common Lobster, Squat Lobsters, Nudibranchs like the see-through Polycera Sea slugs with bright lemon yellow appendages, which wouldn’t look amiss in the Caribbean, or the rather groovy looking Candy striped Flat worm. Google them, they are pretty cool!
1. Check on a map and check you have a nice rocky shoreline near you that you can explore.
2. Check the tide times. Spring tides are better than neap tides and occur though-out the year, not just in Spring! On a spring tide, the tide comes further in but better for us goes further out, exposing more of the lower tide line. I normally either check my Tide tables in my little book or Google the Tide times. When the tide is far out, that exposes the more productive areas to explore.
3. Plan to be on the beach an hour before, till an hour after low tide. A two hour session is usually plenty time for you and the kids to find some good stuff.
4. Dont forget Wellies, nets and either viewing containers or a small catch tank, but a selection of buckets will suffice.
My favourite Sites are Cemlyn, Rhosneigr and Cemaes Bay but Anglesey and North Wales in general is surrounded by many suitable rock-pooling sites.
Take care and bear in mind there may be sinky sand nearby and follow the Shoreline country code-gently turning over stones, check under the stones and when you put them back in the same position check you don’t squish things! Also don’t put crabs together or with fish, or they will attack each other, and don’t put small fish in with Anemones or they will kill the fish.
But most importantly get out there and explore the shoreline and enjoy yourself, it’s a different and exciting world out there!
by Stephen Culley (Anglesey Birder and Naturalist)
Originally from St Helens, Stephen has lived on Anglesey for the last 21 years where he was the County bird recorder for 16 years. He has a general broad interest in all Natural history but since he moved back to Cemaes Bay in 2008 he has spent a lot more time down at the shoreline exploring its hidden treasures with his family.