Some more jellies, this time the Compass Jellyfish Chrysaora hysoscella. These are currently the most common jellyfish here in Falmouth, with blue jellies and moon jellies also spotted (the Crystal Jellies, see below, seem to have disappeared). These photos were made without a strobe (my struggle with them continues…) which would have made them much better. As it stands, I have relied heavily on the standard Windows Photo editor to reduce the green hue and get rid of some of the highlights. I might give the old strobes a go next time I go in!
Photography during my last snorkel was a bit frustrating as I could not get my strobes to work. Luckily I was saved by a subject that did not require any extra light: beautiful translucent crystal jellies slowly pulsating near the surface. Crystal jellyfish are not true jellyfish (these belong in the Class Scyphozoa), but hydromedusae (Class Hydrozoa) which have a polyp stage in their lifecycle that bud of these sexual medusae. They are difficult to identify to species level so I keep it to Aequorea sp. I saw a few, around 10 cm in diameter, and had fun diving under them and get them in front of the afternoon sun.
Last Tuesday I went on a boat trip with BlueSharkSnorkel departing from Penzance. The Celtic Fox took us an hour out from the coast. On the way we were greated by Common Dolphins and a small Sunfish sped past as well. (Being in the water with a big Sunfish would be an amazing experience!) After some chumming and mackerel fishing it was time to wait for the sharks. There was quite a bit of swell and I felt a bit seasick! Finally, the plastic bottle tied to a hookless line with mackerel bait started to bob up and down, announcing the presence of the first Blue Shark (Prionace glauca). After giving the shark(s) some time to get settled around the boat we slid in. Two sharks around my size appeared and disappeared. I did not pay attention to their sex, but at least one had small wounds on its back which could suggest it is a female (the males bite when mating). They had some parasites too. The sharks came up to about a metre from us but remained relatively wary, so I did not get any close up shots unfortunately. The pic above came out OK, it gives a nice impression of the blueness of the shark and their pelagic habitat. This was my second Blue Shark experience (see this old post) and hope to go look for them again some time!
When it rains it pours: another feature in print! A while back, I was contacted by Chris Sergeant who had a plan to write a piece for Practical Fishkeeping Magazine on rockpool inhabitants, to be accompanied by a short interview with me about my native tank. As coldwater marine tanks represent less than 1% of all aquaria this would be a nice ‘niche’ article that could introduce this part of the hobby to other aquarists. The issue arrived at my doorstep today, and as the blog name is mentioned, I thought I’d better write a quick aquarium post!
I have not been posting much about my aquarium lately (click on the ‘aquarium update‘ tag at the bottom of the page to see relevant older posts). This is in part because the aquarium on the whole has been ticking along nicely and in part because covid meant I have not been diving or visiting different beaches much this last year and so have not introduced many new inhabitants. There are a few changes though: in the photo above you can see a mermaid’s purse of a bull huss (or nursehound) shark that my son found washed ashore, tendrils tied to a suction cup. The gestation period is up to 11 months, so let’s see what happens! I have also reintroduced prawns, as they are active and really pretty when you look up close. I have also added a scallop, but need to relase it sometime soon as it is not able to filterfeed properly. The bit of kelp tied to the pump has been surviving (it would go too far to say thriving) for quite some months now. Although the beadlet anemones have spawned quite a few offspring, I am going through a phase where many are wasting away. I have no idea if this might be a disease or if this batch of anemones has just reached the end of their natural lifespan.
I have posted a bunch of tank pics below. For more info on my tank please have a look at the July issue of Practical Fishkeeping (which also features reminiscences on rockpooling by editor Nathan Hill). I promise to post more regularly about the tank here on the blog though, and also on instagram. Please also see the Links page for other relevant blogs and websites. Anyway, I am very honoured to appear in ‘PFK’; a true institution when it comes to the aquarium hobby in the UK!
I had not been in the water for many weeks due to bad weather, work and laziness, but as the sun was shining last Tuesday and there were indications from social media that the plankton bloom had gone, I went back in for a snorkel. The water has warmed up, although the viz was not as good as I had hoped. I swam a bit further than my usual shallow rockpools to explore the kelp forest. Pollack, wrasse, mullet and sandeels swam about. I noticed a line with crabpots starting very close to shore, something I had not seen before. Unlucky spider crabs and some lobsters could be seen in the pots. Below a Spider Crab that was still free….
After exploring the slightly deeper waters I went back into the pools where the viz actually cleared up a bit. Seaweed-wise, things have deteriorated a bit compared to early spring, but it was a very nice swim around all the same!
A quick posts of some wide angle photos I took at the start of this month. The seaweeds were just past their prime but still looked nice and the viz was really good. It was great to slowly swim through the water in my usual spot between the rockpools ‘proper’ and the kelp forest. Just like swimming in a giant aquarium! Not too many fish or other animals to be seen. I always manage to suprise one big resident Ballan Wrasse. Other than that there were tiny Pollack and some Two-Spot Gobies. I have not been in the water since because the weather (wind) has not been great; maybe next week! Btw, I am also on instagram: @an_bollenessor.
Although St. Martins does not seem to have any rockpools, the beach that was nearest to us (called ‘Lawrences’) has a stretch of rocks lying on the sand that can be turned over at low tide, and so we did! A nice find was a small Sevenarmed Starfish Luidia ciliaris (these can grow up to half a meter across, although you will not find them that size in rockpools). We also found a Bootlace Worm Lineus longissimus, which is (probably) the longest animal on the planet. These nermertean worms secrete a powerful toxin in their mucus, but luckily for us it affects arthropods and not mammals. They are not very rare btw, I see them here in Flushing and Falmouth too. It was about 5 meters long (without stretching it), but they can grow ten times the size of this! In the second photo you can see it in its natural habitat, under a rock, with some photobombing crabs and worm pipefish. Another cool find was a juvenile Conger Eel Conger conger. Otherwise we found the usual suspects, lots of crabs and a bunch of fish, see for a small selection below.
Last week we visited St. Martin, one of the Isles of Scilly again, the first week we were allowed to do so. As a result, the islands were very quiet (and the pub was still closed, aargh!). It was sunny, but the easterlies were still cold and there was even a bit of frost some nights. However, I managed to get a snorkel in almost every day, which was great. I brought all my gear (again stepping on the boat wearing my weight belt…) but only used the strobes the first day; these are still an ongoing frustration of mine! I tried out most beaches, especially enjoying Porth Morran, where the kelp met the seagrass. (The pics in the Gallery are click-able btw.)
Some sites were dominated by kelp Laminaria digitata with Common Sea Urchins Echinus esculentus munching away. Fish life was very limited; I saw Ballan- and Corkwing Wrasse and Thicklipped Mullet but not much else.
Other sites were more ‘beachy’ with white sand, small rocks covered in Snakelocks Anemones and Seaweeds and Seagrass. The visibility looked very promising but was quite bad some days unfortunately (especially compared to our visit last September, see here). All in all a great time was had and we hope to visit again next year!
I have been trying to make the most of the seaweed season the past few weeks. This mainly entails lying motionless in two feet of 9C water, taking 100s of pics until my finger refuses to press the shutter lever. It is a lot of fun! Yesterday was a no go unfortunately: the easterlies picked up (there were even surfers in the water which is very rare at Gylly Beach) and the water was very milky. I managed to go a few times last week though and here are some photos of seaweed assemblages with names (there are a few species hidden that I did not bother with, so these do not fully do justice to the biodiversity).