A combination of funding from Bude Stratton Town council and Bude Carnival Committee has enabled the group to undertake a new venture. Exploring the microscopic world of the coast brings together, science, technology the environment and people and their generous donation provided equipment for our first public event.
Sunday 25th November saw a microscope and rockpooling workshop, in the excellent Bude Sea Pool hub room. The event was oversubscribed, and it brought together experts from Devon, professionals from Cornwall wildlife Trust, children, parents and many others to find just what lives on the rocks at Bude.
With both young and old scientists leading the day the information flowed, the creatures were found, and the tea and cakes vanished. On a perfect sunny autumn day, we washed weed, peeked at sleeping blennies and hugged crabs. The event gave us a chance to try out new technologies with a wide audience to see how to best run mixed public events. Now with this information we can wisely invest our new funding to ensure the maximum interaction by all age groups and abilities.
2019 sees the launch of our ‘From little fishes’ project to engage not just children but those who want to play a bigger part in the environmental issues we are all becoming painfully aware of. Little fishes become big fish is our motto, we each can play a part. The first stage of this is to simply experience the fun of the sea shore and in doing so to understand, we are all children at heart. We are all little fishes swimming in a very big pool but together...
November has brought the dark nights and cold winds, rockpooling bent over in icy draughts isn’t fun. The pools freeze you fingers so what to do? The autumn storms have arrived and with them, quantities of weed are washing in, this offers a perfect solution to creature hunting – weed washing.
Walk along the strandline and pick up the freshest bits of weed, the clumps of wracks and kelps are best. If you can get the claw-like holdfast on the bottom of the kelp even better. Take a white bucket with you. Now simply wash the weed in clear seawater (get it from a clear rockpool), give it a good shake around and dislodge anything hiding on it. Take all the weed out and let the bucket stand for a few minutes. Now drain off most of the water leaving a few inches in the bottom and watch.
All going well you should have a section of small creatures to identify. Isopods, shrimps, sand hoppers, perhaps even sea slugs. These will be small so a hand lens might be a good idea. Catch them in a smaller tray such as a plastic cheese spread box and have a good look. A turkey baster is good to catch them.
The claw holdfasts can be full of interesting bits if you have time not only wash these but cut them up and untangle the claws. In here are often bryozoans, sponges, squirts, slugs and anemones. Since the kelps have come in from deeper water they can be very interesting to examine.
There is nothing wrong with taking these samples home just make sure you also take plenty of seawater and at home keep them cold and dark. Return them to the sea the next day please. Tiny creatures do not need to be kept in an oxygenated aquarium overnight just give them plenty of sea water. This way you can sit at home in the warm and sift through your catch but remember to cool them so don’t keep them in shallow containers for long.
What a summer, heat wave, drought, possible hose pipe bans, hottest on record, the headlines said it all. Now outside the door a gale is raging through the trees. Where once I couldn’t see my neighbours house now the falling leaves reveal it once again.
Autumn on the land is a season we all know well; the leaves turn as unwanted chemicals are pumped into them and the chlorophyll is taken back into the tree. The ultimate recycling scheme, one we would do well to adopt. The birds change, finches gather in flocks, tits and tree creepers join forces and roam the woods, hunting our empty bird tables reminding us to go and buy seeds and nuts. But what about the sea, other than the crashing waves thrilling the more advanced surfers, just what happens?
Many of our rocky shore creatures move away from the shallows in the autumn, the coming storms are too strong for them. Crabs that have moulted and mated especially the big spiders move back to the calmer depths. Sea weeds die back, many are annuals, they complete their life in a single year. Others such as the thong weed, cast off the long reproductive blades and exist as buttons on the rock over winter. The blenny stays in his pools, the shore crab finds a safe spot but might not venture far, the anemones brave it out. Limpets do what they always do, grip the rock and hope for the best.
One fragile creature you would not expect to stay is the Celtic sea slug, this little black blob that has probably ventured only a few feet over the year now slowly moves into its favourite crevice and slows down to a torpor. Here it will semi-hibernate until some trigger prompts it to venture out again.
The winter storms can be spectacular, cliffs are battered, and rocks fall, landslides into the sea, beaches are washed away overnight and human structures are tested fully. So, imagine you are a 2cm long blob of jelly with tentacles clinging to a seaweed in the pounding waves. The stalked jellies increase in the winter, unbelievable, it really is insignificant and sits in the full force of the waves, how?
So as the strandline brings in the inevitable dead remains of gannets and other unfortunates, and you hold onto the kids to stop them blowing away, think of these special little creatures, hard to find, beautiful to see, totally baffling to understand. Autumn is here, be safe on the beach, take a bag and help collect the inevitable rubbish the sea now spits back out until we learn to recycle as efficiently as those soon to be bare trees.
At last, time to put the vest away, we have some great events over the next few months. We want to show you diversity. Looe, Millock, Crackington, Widemouth and more to be listed soon.