Living next to the sea is rewarding. Very rewarding. Particularly when it is the sort of beach that is rocky and covered in seaweed. Sure, it doesn’t sound as nice as the white-sanded coast in that travel magazine, but there is so much life to find!
Turning over rocks is a good place to start. When the tide goes out, all the small animals hide under rocks to keep cool and lessen the risk of predation. I have found many crabs, snails and even small fish such as blennies and butterfish by looking under rocks. But be careful to gently put the rock back where it came from.
On top of the rocks you may find jellyfish, such as the harmless moon jellyfish, the lion’s mane which is large and has a nasty sting, the barrel jellyfish and the rare blue fire jellyfish.
Sometimes something unusual turns up. This is more common after a large storm, when many creatures from deep or open water can get washed ashore. Recently, after a disheartening day of finding nothing but whelks and anemones, I found a small sea mouse, an extremely interesting marine worm with a short, fluffy body with large iridescent hairs on it. Sea mice are not rockpool dwellers. They live on the sea floor buried in the silt, so it would take quite a violent storm to wash it on to this shore. I was really excited – I’d never seen one before, so I took a few photos before returning it to the sea.
One of my other recent finds was a cross jellyfish, a transparent, deep-sea jellyfish with a bioluminescent blue cross on the bell, which can be found a kilometre under the sea.
So next time you want to go to the sea, skip those beautiful, but boring sandy beaches, and try a rocky shoreline. And remember, always handle everything carefully as you are dealing with live animals.