Nature Notes Nature Notes 2010

September 2010

I can’t understand why Cirl buntings are so scarce. We have been tracking one pair (well, actually something of a threesome!) over the summer that have started three broods! The first brood came to nought, but with the arrival of a new partner things have gone much better and they have fledged at least 6 young out of two broods. The parents have been fiercely protective of their young, shouting and screaming at anyone that comes to close.

But August has to feature the beach doesn’t it? A couple of years ago we had friends over from the East coast of America and we were sitting around after an early supper when I was taken by the need to go rock-pooling. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of grand kids so I at least will have some excuse for pottering about in these jewel-like universes. I was met with blank stares, “Rock-pooling? What’s that?” Well say no more and we were off down to Porthcurnick beach faster than you can shake a shrimping net! He was hooked! We had to go rock-pooling every evening following accessibility defined by the tides. We found all sorts of fishes, from baby fry from who knows what, to blennys and Bull heads, we found swimming crabs, edible crabs and green crabs. I have to admit to an appalling ignorance on the correct nomenclature for most rock pool inhabitants, but there are plenty of shore guides to help out. We found the ubiquitous red sea anemones and the occasional much larger green anemones patiently sieving the water of any edible morsels. As well as exploring these pools we also took the time to sit quietly and to watch the life of the pool resume once the all clear had sounded. Little eels would slither out from cracks you would defy them to have got into, and the starfish that had frozen in place when we arrived would resume their laborious progress across rocks and sand to get to wherever some primal urge had defined for them. We found two types of starfish, the orangey common starfish and the much harder to spot brittle starfish. By the way, everything we netted to look more closely at in the confines of our bucket was released moments later.

More recently we have taken great pleasure in searching a couple of beaches where we have found cowry shells. These tiny involuted shells, maybe 4-8 mm across are very rare, but usually the sifting mechanics of the beach bring them together in little clusters of un-inhabited empties! You can search for hours, slowly sweeping a patch of beach (this can only be done properly sitting down with a flask of coffee and an unlimited supply of Kit Kats), and then you hit the spot where the constantly sorting wave action has decreed your quarry should come to rest till the next tide, then in the space of a few minutes you can find 4 or 5. In four years we have collected less than 50-60 of these pretty little relics, so you’ll excuse me if I fail to pass on where we go to search them out! Yesterday we waked Pendower beach and were amazed to see how many razor shells there were on the beach, in every rock pool and washed to the top of the tide’s reach.

Walking on a beach like Pendower at this time of the year does make me feel wickedly smug! I want to go over to all the families huddled behind their wind breaks and just gently introduce them to the fact that long after they have gone home, we will still be revelling in the wonderful beauty of the place we live in and that they can only share- so there!! But, it doesn’t do to mock the afflicted, after all they are to be congratulated on their good taste in deciding to holiday down here. Have you been for a walk on a beach this month? Have you been rootling in a rock pool? Why ever not?

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