Summer (and Coastwise) hits North Devon beaches.....

The last week of July and wonderful weather saw Coastwise in welcome action after the grim grey days of recent months .

Sunday: Ecologist Pip Jollands led a team to monitor the shore at Abbotsham, the 7th year of our participation in the MBA’s  Shore Thing monitoring project.  Nine of us ventured over the boulders to reach the extensive shore platform that runs from Westward Ho! to Clovelly.    We recorded the algae and animals in 12 quadrats on 3 transects and conducted a 20 minute search for special interest species - climate change indicators, alien invaders and the like.  It may look as though Wireweed is taking over the rock-pools, and every other snail is now a Thick Topshell,  but it needs a run of data over several years to give a reliable indicator of significant trends.

Monday: we joined with three National Trust Beach Rangers as guides on a shore safari at Barricane Beach (picture with Sue Austin introducing).  Four teams led plenty of enthusiastic children and their parents, about 40 in all, down the shore (picture with Mavis Symons and Marjorie Heath helping).  Barricane provides an ideal beach for a detailed study of the smaller upper shore animals, opening out around mid shore to allow everyone space for their own exploration of rock-pools and damp dark crevices, frequented at this time of year by Spider Crabs in the process of moulting.  
It was a day of great variety, with plenty of shore fish, including long-spined sea scorpions, worm pipefish, prawns and shrimp including colourful hump-backed prawns,  cowries and their prey, star ascidian, but most exciting of all were the sea slugs.  Coastwise members Jim Monroe and Clive Symons had donned wetsuits to explore the deeper pools and gullies and found several exquisite  Janolus cristatus feeding on bryozoans .  Another, a  tiny slug (3mm) which was nearly over looked was revealed by hand lens to be proved to be  Coryphella pedata

Wednesday: Croyde regularly draws a crowd and the rock-pooling event, to mark the 75th birthday of beach-owners’ Ruda holiday park, was no exception.  A Ruda staff member joined us  to pick up tips for the weekly rock-pooling he will be running during the rest of the summer .
A team of over a dozen Coastwise members and over 60 children and their families combed the shore and rocks (picture with Paula Ferris explaing the ecology and fauna) round the popular basecamp.  Shore fish, crabs, shrimps and prawns excited interest, particularly the heart shaped crab, Portumnus latipes, a sand coloured sand-burrower that usually escapes detection.   Though few of the less common animals were found, interest was high and on closer inspection in the basecamp tank prompted lots of questions and excitement.  A rewarding experience all round, and  the Coastwise crew awarded themselves tea at the delightful Sandleigh Café.

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