Shores come alive in time for World Oceans Day............
Lee WI cares about their beach and regularly clears it of litter. When members decided they wanted to know more about the shore and the wildlife that lived there, Coastwise was happy to offer a guided tour to the geology and shore life, particularly as the chosen date was 8 June, World Oceans Day.
Geologist Paul Madgett and marine enthusiast Paula Ferris, ably assisted by Marjorie Heath and Dawn Murphy, explored the bay in the company of a dozen WI members, before adjourning to the Grampus for lunch.
Sea water temperatures have been slow to rise this year, but the heat of the previous week had brought plenty of life to the shore. Several large crabs had moved inshore including a Spider Crab, a Velvet Crab, and a particularly large Edible Crab, still soft from moulting, which had to be treated with great respect as he guarded his partner prior to mating.
Fish included Blennies, which as usual were abundant, the more elusive and slippery Five-bearded Rockling, and the occasional Sand Eel. But the show stealer was a blackish blob of jelly which when immersed in water, slowly opened up to reveal a Sea Hare, a good size sea slug of about 3 inches, the first seen so far this year. Like cuttlefish, the sea hare emits a cloud of ink when alarmed and duly did, just one of the many quirks of this animal which has fascinated scientists for thousands of years.
Lee is a popular spot for demonstrating shore ecology to schools and colleges. A sheltered shore, with good seaweed cover, it is gently sloping and provides good upper, mid and low shore habitats suited to a wide range of animals. We saw enough to excite more interest and pose a few questions. Why for example were the Snakelock Anemones which were exposed to the full glare of the sun, all the dark form, whereas those in shaded gullies were the green and purple form? Had the strong sun of the week before “bleached” the symbiotic algae with their chlorophyll of those exposed to it, as Paul Madgett conjectured?
Our next trip, the next day, took us to the exposed shores of Coombesgate and Barricane where again we found plenty to interest us including three Sea Hares in the rock-pool where they have been found for the last three years, where egg laying was already underway.