A whole bunch of photos from last Friday, starting out with the prettiest ones depicting a whole range of species, most strikingly the crimson Gracilaria and blue Cystoseira. I was so pleased with it I shared it on the Seaweeds of the NE Atlantic facebook page and Frances Bunker, one of the writers of the highly recommended Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland, kindly uploaded a photo with all scientific names. This is a great idea and I should do the same for future posts (I have not done so yet as I am back home and did not bring the guide). As good as it is to be back in the Low Countries, I am missing out on being able to snorkel in some very good weather and likely better visibility than for the photos in this post. The rock pools have changed markedly since the last post a couple of weeks back, with hardly any patches left without seaweed growth. The colours have changed too, with much more of the green Ulva, and more brown (e.g. Calliblepharis) relative to reds. Some seaweeds seem to be in decline already (e.g. Gastroclonium) while some are more prominent (e.g. Palmaria). Below I have posted a range of photos, some are pretty good, others not so much, but they give a good impression of the diversity (most photos have at least ten species in them but I have not gone through the trouble of typing all the names): I have no clue what the brown, thin, frilly species is above. Below some individual species, first Dulse Palmaria palmata and Sea flax weed Stypocaulon scoparium. Not 100% sure about the next three: Dumontia, Lomentaria and either Laethisia or Colpomenia (I should know this…). Finally, some photos taken under the cover of Thongweed Himanthalia. More photos next week I hope!
David Fenwick (Aphotomarine), Matt Slater (Shoresearch Cornwall) and Thomas Daguerre (HydroMotion Media) had all tipped me off about the elusive ‘Cave of Dreams’ at Pentire/Fistral Beach in Newquay. Recent posts by Cornish Rock Pools and The Marine Enthusiast reminded me of the stunning Scarlet and gold star coral Balanophyllia regia that live there and made me decide to drive all the way (well, it is a good 45 minutes) to the North Coast. I did not find the cave on two earlier visits (see this post from almost exactly one year ago), but today Thomas showed me exactly where it was. Cave is a big word, it is more of an overhang, and I don’t think I would have ever managed to discover it myself (you can find a photo of it behind the aphotomarine link). The corals are tiny, 5-10 mm in diameter, but there are many of them, in the low hundreds. Unlike most corals, this species relies solely on catching food with its tentacles, and it does not have algal symbionts (zooxanthellae) to provide energy from photosynthesis. Dark ‘caves’ with lots of waterflow are thus a good habitat for them. They look a bit like the tropical sun corals, who I was lucky to see in Hong Kong last year, and which are quite popular in the reef aquarium hobby. I had to carefully position myself on the rocks, dipping my camera in the water. It was too shallow to stick my head in, and I did not want to enter the water anyway, to prevent disturbing this widespread, but uncommon species. There were some interesting sponges and red seaweeds, but I decided to only focus (no pun intended) on the corals. I was quite excited, this is definitely one of the most interesting species I have seen so far in Cornwall and I am sure that many people would be amazed to learn that corals live on our shores. I played around with my wide-angle lens, my new macro lens and took shots without the wet lenses. The light was low and I had to contort myself a bit but some of the shots turned out nice. The macro is still difficult, but maybe I might be expecting too much from the setup I have (without strobes). I hope to go back soon and try to get more photos, I would love to try an underwater panorama shot!
I recently posted my first photos taken with the nauticam CMC macro wetlens using stalked jellyfish as a subject. I since lost my lens, which I in large part blame on the bad fit of the adapter with which it is attached to the housing. The best thing in these cases is not to agonize over it too much, order a new one straight away and keep going, so that is what I did (also I am now a bit more careful of course). Here some more photos of macro subjects. Above a very easy subject as it is very common this time of year and also it does not move….Paddle worm egg capsules (probably Eulalia viridis). The individual eggs can be just made out in the gelatinous blob. Below, one of the more common nudibranch species Polycera quadrilineata. Nudibranchs come in all kinds of stunning colour variations and are very species rich and so are a favourite of macro photographers (see this old post hunting for them with David Fenwick in Newlyn, and check out the NE Atlantic Nudibranch facebook page for lots of eye candy). Tricky with the narrow depth of field to get the whole animal in focus. Mysid shrimp are quite common and beautiful little animals hovering about in small groups. They need dissection to determine which species it is, but this might be Leptomysis lingvura (around 10 mm). Finally, the colonial star Ascidian Botryllus schlosseri; these form colonies (‘systems’) where zooids have individual inhalant openings and a shared exhalant opening. They are common, sessile, flat, and come in a range of colours so they make ideal subjects for a beginning macro photographer. Not only that, apart from fish they are our closest relatives in rock pools, which is most obvious in the tadpole-like larvae which have a dorsal notochord (a cartilage rod functioning as a backbone). I hope to devote a post to them later in the year.
More seaweed photos, taken a couple of days after the ones in the previous post, when it was overcast and the water was less clear. The photos are not as good, but there are still a lot of interesting species to see. Below some photos showing the diversity of species next and on top of each other. In the last two months, most species have been growing quite a lot. There are quite large patches of Slender-beaded coral weed Jania rubens. Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia plants are completely overgrown with all kinds of epiphytes, seaweeds, sponges and colonial tunicates, and often have a Nursehound egg case attached. Next, photos of individual species. First some flat reds: Leafy rose weed Rhodophyllis divaricata, Beautiful fan weed Callophyllis laciniata, Branched hidden ribs Cryptopleura ramosa (probably), the invasive species Devil’s tongue weed Grateloupia turuturu and Under tongue weed Hypoglossum hypoglossoides. After that, two species that look a bit similar: left the reddish Discoid fork weed Polyides rotundus and right Clawed fork weed Furcellaria lumbricalis. The former is one of the most common species (also on the photo above it) but difficult to photograph as it usually sits on the white sand. After that, Juicy whorl weed Chylocladia verticillata. Last, two quite unassuming species: Black scour weed Ahnfeltia plicata and Sea flax weed Stypocaulon scoparium. Identifications made possible using the must-have Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland, David Fenwick’s excellent aphotomarine website (and personal communication) and the good people of the Seaweeds of the NE Atlantic facebook group (any mistakes are my own).
Time for some more seaweed photos. These were all taken during a snorkel when the sun was shining and the water was very clear, and as a result they are some of the best I’ve yet managed to take. Often it is overcast this time of year which means that the colours are not vivid and the water can be turbid too, so I was very lucky. Above a ‘bouquet’ consisting of many species, including Chondrus, Dictyota, Corallina, Ulva, Cystoseira, Mesophyllum, Asparagopsis, Calliblepharis, Himanthalia and (probably) Rhodophyllis. I might look slightly ridiculous snorkelling in 50 centimeters of water but as long as I can look at this I don’t care! I really like the clarity of the next photo of Plocamium surrounded by Asparagopsis and Sargassum. The photo after shows the red Berry wart cress Sphaerococcus coronopifolius with some bright green Ulva, kelp and the brown red species False eyelash weed Calliblepharis jubata. More Berry wart cress in the photo after.In the first seaweed post of the year, I posted a photo of a tangle of species, mainly Hairy sand weed Cladostephus spongiosus, with Osmundea, Asparagopsis, Bonnemaisonia and Leathesia (here, third photo). Next, a photo of exactly the same tangle, which is now completely overgrown with the dark red Bonnemaisonia (an invasive species, just as the Sargassum and Asparagopsis also in the photo). I plan to take more photos over the months to track this succession. In the photo after that Bushy berry wrack Cystoseira baccata (still quite spindly after the winter) covered with a couple of red epiphytes and the brown Dictyota dichotoma. The last photo shows a beautiful red species covered in reproductive structures, I hope someone can tell me which species it is! Update: Spotted scarf weed Nitophyllum punctatum.
I have been snorkelling a few times in recent days and it has been generally fantastic. The pools are probably at their peak now when it comes to seaweeds, I hope it lasts a little while longer (in June it will most definitely be over, see this old post, actually, they are in decline in May already). It is the plan to get in the water again this week to take some more seaweed photos, but in the meantime some photos on one of the more common anemone species: the Snakelocks anemone Anemonia viridis. There are two colour morphs: the greys and the purple-tipped greens. In Falmouth, they seem equally common, no matter if it is high on the shore or subtidally. I recently learned that in Scotland there are almost only greys, perhaps in the Med there are mainly the other type and it has something to do with temperature tolerance, if you know please let me know in the comments! I really like thuis species, in fact, the very first blog post back in 2013 consisted of a photo of these anemones in my aquarium. I have two of these in my aquarium at the moment, they are very easy to keep. This might be because in addition to being voracious predators, they are also capable of living on sunlight, as they harbour photosynthesizing algae. In any case they grow rapidly (and very occasionally split into two).I took these photos in very shallow water. When scuba diving you can commonly observe the commensal Leach’s spider crab Inachus phalangum sitting under the anemones (see here in the aquarium and here in the wild). (In Dorset there is a beautiful little prawn that lives as a commensal, and in the Mediterranean there is a goby that is associated with this species.) Only very occasionally do Snakelocks attempt to retract their tentacles (see here); tentacles can be quite long and slender or more stout (see here), probably a response to the strength of the currents. I have tweaked some of the photos a tiny bit (but not the nicest one on top for instance). Below two photos taken on different days of the same three anemones with different light conditions and different camera settings (most importantly probably the white balance, which I use to tone down the reds caused by the seaweeds).
I now am the proud owner of a nauticam CMC wetlens. It arrived too late for my first encounter with a nudibranch this year, however, it came just in time for a proliferation of stalked jellyfish. These tiny (around one centimeter), sessile relatives of jellyfish are not very well-known, but seem to be getting more popular, see for some other recent finds the other local blogs Cornish Rock Pools and The Marine Enthusiast. To find them, you need to carefully scan seaweeds in rock pools (they are not very picky when it comes to which species they attach themselves to). The key resource for UK (European even) rock poolers is David Fenwick’s Stauromedusae website. Above, the most common species, the Spotted kaleidoscope jellyfish Haliclystus octoradiatus, recognizable by the primary tentacles or anchors (the white ‘balls’ inbetween the tentacles). Below, St. John’s stalked jellyfish Calvadosia cruxmelitensis, with a zoomed out photo and finger nail to give an idea of scale. Finally, two not so good photos of a third species Calvadosia campanulata taken above-water as these were located just below the surface. One more species can be found on mainland Cornwall (the Goblet stalked jellyfish Craterolophus convolvulus) and one on the Scillies (the Horned stalked jellyfish Lucernaria quadricornis, but who knows this species is also present on the mainland). So some more searching to do!
OK, it was the plan to post a general Falmouth seaweed/rock pool photo post every month but I am faltering the second month in… It is not for lack of trying, because I have been sneaking out of the office quite a bit, but the weather has been pretty awful. Lots of wind, choppy waves, rain, cold and bad viz. I had one good day this week and I am posting some of the better pics from that session. Again a photo of Nursehound mermaid’s purses attached to Bushy rainbow wrack, pretty much the only seaweed species these sharks use to attach their egg cases to. This must be because this seaweed species is very sturdy, and especially because it is a perennial: the eggs can take up to twelve months to hatch! Below three more Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia photos. The first photo shows a short plant with few epiphytes but the following photo shows that this species is an especially great substrate for all kinds of other seaweeds, including Harpoon weed, Fern weeds and Juicy whorl weed. The plant in the third photo (unfortunately out of focus) is completely covered by a beautiful flat red species: Above a general impression of the scene before the sun reappeared. Btw, most of the photo’s have not been post-processed but some I have tweaked a little using the standard photo editor that comes with Windows 10, which is actually really good. The seaweeds have been growing quite a bit since January. A few have become more prominent, such as Slender wart weed Gracilaria gracilis (first two photos) and (I am not 100% sure) Purple claw weed Cystoclonium purpureum in the two photos after that. I have a bunch more photos that show different seaweed species, but I hope that I can take better pictures of these later this month for a follow-up post (I am trying to find a balance between showing what I have seen and posting ‘good’ photo’s, which is a bit tricky!). I have a macro lens now as well, which I will mainly use for animals but also can be used for the smaller seaweeds; the last photo is a first attempt.
The last day of January I took an hour to explore a pool at the upper part of Castle Beach. The resulting shots turned out a lot better than they did the last time. As most of the pools are bare rock, there are no problems with sand/silt, but they are very shallow and on the receiving end of drainage pipes resulting in rain water mixing with the salt water, affecting visibility (this is not necessarily bad as it can make a photo more interesting). It was overcast and I did not experience problems with overexposure; I actually found that tweaking in Photoshop made the photos look worse. Below a Beadlet anemone Actinia equina, the most common anemone on rocky shores. They can be bright red or a drab brown (the green version is rare here) but have bright blue beadlets, or more technically acroraghi. These contain stinging nematocsysts used in territorial fights. After that a small Daisy anemone Cereus pedunculatus, which are usually more mottled in appearance (and not common here, or perhaps I do not know how to look for them…).Next up, a red growth which I should have investigated further, I am not even sure if it is a sponge or something else. After that, a worn Thick top shell Osilinus lineatus, a young Dumont’s tubular weed Dumontia contorta, a red Banded pincer weed Ceramium sp. happily producing oxygen and finally Patella limpets covered in Brown limpet paint Ralfsia verrucosa.
More photography practice lately. I have started to use Photoshop to post-process images, which is hard. I have sat with Thomas Daguerre for a session which was very helpful. For some images, the twiddling is of not much use; the image above of a Bull huss egg case for instance I am pretty happy with as is. Below I have pasted some before and after-Photoshop photo’s. Mostly adjusting highlights and contrast, cropping and playing around with sharpness (in the RAW files), most images tend to be a bit reddish. I have not bothered to tackle the ‘marine snow’ with the Spot Healing brush tool. First, Snakelocks anemones, next, Cocks’ comb Plocamium, then Harpoonweed Asparagopsis armata and an old kelp holdfast covered in feeding Grey topshells Gibbula cineraria. On and under the seaweeds I encounter many interesting tiny animals, but it is hard to take good photo’s without a macrolens. I have pasted a couple photo’s below (none have been edited in any way): the Stalked jellyfish Haliclystus octoradiatus (these can also be reddish or brownish, and can be found on a wide variety of seaweeds), a sponge, a juvenile Snakelocks anemone Anemonia viridis (next to a Flat top shell Gibbula umbilicalis) and the Star ascidian Botryllus schlosseri where I later noticed the fecal pellets underneath. Pooping tunicates, that is what we need more pictures of!Finally, some more before- and after- Photoshop images. The first is the nudibranch Rostanga rubra (‘Red doris’) which was only 5mm or so (see also the tiny Daisy anemone in the background). I shot it today, very cold: 4 degrees, and the water might have been only 8 degrees, brrrr! Next, a closeup of the seaweed Osmundea (see the first photo of this post) which shows its interesting pigmentation. The photo’s are nothing special yet, but I notice I am making progress. Excitingly, I just have ordered a macro wetlens and so hope to get some proper macro photography going soon!