Martin dropped me an email about the imminent draining of Bude sea pool, would I like to survey it he asked. A concrete pool that has been full of water for a year and is frequently washed over by waves, might have a few things in it so why not (I didn’t expect to find much). For safety reasons it could only be a few of us, we would need to work with the contractors and it was potentially dangerous. So on an almost sunny morning, we arrived to find the pool full of water. With several hours to kill we had a stroll around the locks, dunes and other bits (more on those another day).
Two hours later we returned, only a few feet of water gone so we decided to go to Rosie’s to get a coffee. As we walked over we looked down on the pool and there was a Raven happily eating the creatures we wanted to find, so coffee sadly now abandoned we decided to get in and have a look at the little bit now exposed. The Raven gave us a look that said really, you want my food! and departed, leaving us to scratch around to find something.
You know that feeling on Christmas day when you realise the big pile of presents still under the tree are yours; like a kid in a sweet shop, Carole said. I just kept finding things, not just boring bits, but really exciting things. It started with the first seaweed, a Bushy Wrack (Cystoseira nodicaulis) the entire concrete section was covered with it, this is a low shore species and an indicator of what was to come. The first stone turned revealed young freshwater eels (over 25 found that day), the next stone had Black squat lobsters (over 30 found), one of my favourite creatures as they flap their tails to get away like rattling mechanical toys. Then Grey topshells, Chitons, Broad clawed and Long clawed porcelain crabs, a baby Montague’s crab. All of these are low shore organisms and not what I was expecting. A hunt around the rocks revealed at least 6 species of sea squirts, including the invasive alien Orange tipped, several strange debris covered Molgula looking like tufts of muck until you press them and they squirt water at you. A glorious yellow star ascidian colony of Botrylloides leachi twice the size of my hand and a vibrant Orange encrusting sponge.
So, the pool was not so lacking in creatures after all. We found monster size Edible mussels and Common limpets, lots of Ragworms, Shore crabs, Blennies, a 5-Bearded rocking, a thumbnail size flatfish, Cockle, Gobies, hundreds of Mason worms and lots of other things but something then caught my eye, a flash of orange. This creature is not seen in rockpools it is seen on dives, a Spinous squat lobster, the flashy cousin of the common black variety. Only the second one I have ever seen, definitely the prize of the day.
We also had some mysterious things lurking in the rocks, one I think was the end of a Black sea cucumber, another a Piddock and one alien lifeform, that I do not even know where to start to describe. Over 60 species were recorded, most of these are now named but I still have a bucket of seaweeds to go through. The pool is an absolute gem, a giant low water rockpool sitting in the high tide zone. Most of the area is solid rock, not concrete, on this are many loose rocks, and in the deeper section by the wall, sand. It is the loose rock and crevices that make this such a special place, lots of homes for creatures relatively undisturbed in comparison with the open beach. Many of the things we found were filter and detritus feeders so plenty of food comes in with the waves, but creatures that might live out in the open were missing. Few anemones and hardly any fucoid wracks, clearly the use of the pool prevents this community from establishing on the rock surface.
We found things that I did not know lived around Bude and it has certainly extended our species list for the area. I look forward to next year, to see what is there and this time the Raven will not get anything, we will take a flask. Oh did I mention the Lightbulb sea squirt colony the size of a drawing pin or the fantastic flatworm that flowed over the rock or the impossible to identify Scale worms, the isopod Sphaeroma serratum that rolled into a tiny ball, or the Pistol and Glass shrimps, terebellid worm… the list goes on.
A huge thank you to Martin and Alison for organising this, what a treat.