Sunday, 12 February 2017

Spawnographic Content

Stunningly gorgeous weather today, although the windchill dropped the temperature to about zero degrees centigrade. But I had my daft hat and woolly gloves, I didn't care! I climbed the hill by the cemetery (highest point of the square I think) and revelled in this view across the bay. Ravens and a Buzzard wheeled overhead but no sign of any eagles today. Like that really matters - just LOOK at that view!!!

Tide's out...I better get down there and find myself some goodies!
Quickest way to the beach from up here (apart from trespassing) is to head down through Uig Woods and along the Cuil Road. I had a brief look at lichens and mosses in the woods, but to be fair I just wanted to hit the beach so didn't collect any apart from a Pellia with male and female sex organs on the same leaf. I couldn't remember which one(s) had that feature, turns out it was Pellia epiphylla and a new one for my NG3963 species list. First of a few as it transpired...

Microplana terrestris from beneath a log. The flash makes it seem quite blue, it is grey in real life.
The gulls were busy eating a starfish, I couldn't make out which species of starfish but it'll be new to the square whichever it is. Bit frustrating but there you go, hopefully I'll find one before the gulls do next time. I headed down to the water's edge, as far down the shore as I could manage without getting wet. Lifting stones seemed the best bet of finding seashore stuff, but then I spotted an actual rockpool! Only about 7ft by 4ft and all of 5" deep, but better than nothing. I carefully began lifting stones and before long I found this truly remarkable-looking creature

Tadpole!, what? Umm???
I recognised what this was but simply couldn't remember the name. All I kept thinking was juvenile Lumpsucker, bizarrely. A quick look in the book reminded me, yes of course - Montagu's Sea Snail Liparis montagui, a lifer for me and my 63rd species of British fish. Brilliant. It seemed quite docile and soon assumed this characteristic resting position. But the fishy fun didn't stop there, oh no. Moments later, in the same small pool I found a Butterfish Pholis gunnellus under a stone and even managed a short video of it too.

I left the rockpool and headed to the water's edge, lifting rocks all the way. Beneath one large rock I found yet another Butterfish, this one being the largest and palest one I've ever encountered. Large because she was heavily gravid, note the mass of eggs at her side, I'm sure many more were about to follow

Butterfish are unusual in that both parents will guard the eggs
And still the fish came, my total count was one Montagu's Sea Snail, four Butterfish and two small Shore Rocklings Gaidropsarus mediterraneus, my second new fish of the day! The three barbels on the head seperates it from all other British species of rockling apart from Three-bearded. The uniformly unmarked browny flanks confirm it as Shore Rockling, Three-bearded Rockling has much paler marbled/spotted flanks.  

There were two of these beneath one large rock. This is my 64th species of British fish.
The underside of rocks were fast becoming my fave habitat to explore! Despite much turning I failed to find any anemones. Loads of encrusting bryozoans though, none of which I could name because I wasn't about to start lugging large rocks up the hill to my microscope. Electra pilosa was found on wrack blades (I don't mind taking bits of seaweed back with me!) and I spotted this distinctively patterned snail on some kelp

Banded Chink Shell Lacuna vincta - and another lifer!
Invader from Outer Space!
Dog Whelk Nucella lapillus eggs being actively laid
Next up I found a really weird-looking blobby thing attached to the underside of a rock. No, I hadn't dropped a rock on my toe - this was even weirder and blobbier than that. Essentially I had no clear idea of what I was looking at, that's how weird it was! Here's the first of several pics of  'The Thing'

Any ideas or thoughts so far?
At this stage I was thinking along the lines of it being some sort of a sea-squirt. So I prodded it. No sign of any squirting. Ok...I poked it again, still no squirt. Hmmm. I took another pic whilst waiting for inspiration to strike

Still waiting for that blast of inspiration to arrive...
Then it did something quite unexpected, it fell off the rock! This is what the underside looks like

Aaah - NOW I have an inkling as to what this might be!
This, I think, is some sort of a mollusc!
Sherlock Holmes himself couldn't have figured it out any quicker. The foot was the big giveaway, hiding under the outer mantle. This was some sort of a sea slug, or so I figured. I'd never seen anything like it before and back indoors I was still none the wiser after a fair whack of internet and literature trawling. Bugger, I had to do something I hate doing - I asked for help on the PSL Facebook Group. The thread pretty soon deteriorated after Steve Trewhella joined in (he's an absolute diamond really!) You can read it here if you're logged in.

Suggestions so far are Lamellaria perspicua (though I think it's about twice as large as that species is meant to be), Jorunna tomentosa (that's Dave Fenwick's suggestion, so I ought to listen really) and Doris pseudoargus (my own suggestion and the one I'm happiest with - despite my lack of experience with any of the species mentioned!) As if that wasn't bad enough, I turned a nearby rock and found this!

I still dunno what they are but now they're making babies!
I love seashore stuff, it's just so damned alien!!! I saw a paddleworm egg sac bobbing away in weed, it really is that time of year again isn't it. It was full moon a couple of nights ago, I suspect this may have triggered this spawning/mating behaviour. Or maybe the increasing daylight hours? Pretty sure the sea hasn't warmed up noticeably of late!

If I ever get a definitive answer on the identification of the blobby things I'll let you know. My money is on Doris, though what do I know?


  1. I love this blog! Keep it coming Seth!

  2. Haha, thanks Steve. I shall try and include some nice plants for you soon. Cheers again!