The sun is shining (most days) and the water has warmed up, so ideal conditions for a bit of snorkeling. I have been out at my usual spot in Falmouth (rockpools and kelp forest) and my local beach in Flushing (seagrass) (and yes, I really count myself lucky every time that l live here!). The last couple of times I have brought my son along, as he is now old enough (nine). He is a nature freak just like his dad, actually probably more so! I need to get him fins and a weight belt soon, but he has been doing fine in the water already.
The photos above and below illustrate the state of the rock pools at the moment: quite brownish with the Sargassum and Himanthalia growing everywhere. The red, pink and purple species have largely disappeared (apart from Harpoon weed) and there is quite a bit of green Ulva growing. The water teems with juvenile pollack in the rock pools and schools of sand eels a bit further out. Diving over sandy patches, you can see the latter species shooting out of the sand en masse. It is crazy how such a silvery pelagic fish can also burrow in the sand. I guess it does take its toll, as there are quite some dead ones to be seen too.
The Flushing snorkel site is very different, no (deep) rockpools, only a little bit of kelp but with a very healthy patch of seagrass. No catsharks or thornback rays when we went in, just the odd small sea bass. There are many small Snakelocks anemones on the seagrass. I used to think that it was mostly the purple form that did this but I now noticed that most were the green variety, so the morphs do not seem to differ in this respect after all. One anemone had ‘caught’ a crystal jellyfish (an Aequorea medusa). Not sure if it was in the process of being digested or just ‘stuck’.
I have played around with my new INON strobe, which works a lot better than my old strobe. I have ordered a second one for Wide Angle photos too….(as you can see there is quite some backscatter in the pic of the Shore Crab above). I will need to get back to some shore diving to make optimal use of two strobes, as I am too lousy a freediver to get the lighting and exposure right in one breath!
I went to the foreshore of our village with my son (9y) a week ago as he is always keen on some bare-handed eel catching. No pretty rock pools in this estuarine site, just mud, rubble, worms, oysters and sponges. Also Velvet Swimming Crabs (Necora puber) (named Devil Crabs locally as they are quite pinchy) and Rock Gobies (Gobius paganellus). I tried my hand at some TSCFWANF (Top Side Close Focus Wide Angle No Flash). This obviously resulted in a blown out sky. Next time I will try to use a home-made (milk container) softbox for a strobe to light up the foreground. Have not been in the water much, so long time no post. Hope to do some snorkelling or diving soon, weather permitting…
The wind has picked up and will ruin any chances of getting good seaweed shots this week. Too bad, but what can you do? A bit of rockpooling I guess. I took my son out to our local beach in Flushing where the rocks gently slope into Penryn River. Although there are no ‘proper’ rockpools, low tide gives access to a mixture of maerl sand and rocks that can be turned over. It is silty and definitely not very pretty, but there is always something to find. It was an especially good weekend for finding fish, seeing Shannies, Tompot blennies, Rock gobies, Gunnels, Worm Pipefish, Shore Rocklings and a tiny Eel, as well as Sea Scorpion eggs. (One Shanny was quite big and proceeded to bite my son’s hand; he was very brave and we slowly put it back.)
Invertebrates were plentiful too. The main mollusc here is the Variegated Scallop Chlamys varia, which is attached underneath every single rock. We found our smallest Great Scallop Pecten maximus as well. We found some Sea lemons Archidoris pseudoargus and lots of Yellow-plumed Sea slugs Berthella plumula (which apparently can secrete sulphuric acid when disturbed…). A small selection of what we found below, all pics taken with an Iphone.
Some pics from today at Flushing Beach. Above, a pair of Green shore crabs Carcinus maenas, below two Furrowed crabs Xantho hydrophilus. (I probably should have gone for a whole crab series, as I saw several other common species…) Instead I took loads of random photos, of things that were 150 mm to things that were only 5 mm, with varying success. For instance of a Painted Topshell Calliostoma zizyphinum on the invasive Bryozoan Watersipora subatra. Also the underside of the urchin Psammechinus miliaris, showing its mouth (Aristotle’s Lantern). Photobombing top left is the commensal worm Flabelligera affinis (which I noticed as well the last time I took a version of this picture). Bit random but it was fun practicing. It actually is more difficult to take photos abovewater compared to underwater due to the glistening and the awkward position kneeling on wet gravel/rocks. Next time I might try a tripod (ideally remote flash would be used but I do not think I am going to invest in that). Btw, if you are on instagram, I also post pics as @an_bollenessor.
Another quick, brisk trip to the rocky shore in my village of Flushing today to practice my macro photography with the 60mm lens. I used the highest F-stop, varied the output of the flash and let the camera decide the shutterspeed and ISO. I did not find anything too special, but the very common organisms are just as pretty as the rarer species. Above and below juveniles of the Flat topshell Gibbula umbilicalis and the Grey topshell Gibbula cineraria on pink encrusting algae. Still not quite used to not having optical zoom as with my old Canon Powershot but quite happy with the shots, especially as all were hand-held. As I am lazy, these are JPEGs with some tweaking using Windows photoviewer.
Below a Black-footed limpet Patella depressa, a more ‘atmospheric’ shot of a periwinkle, might be the ‘normal’ Littorina littorea but not 100% sure, and a baby Edible crab Cancer pagurus. Really looking forward to go into the water again, but not only is it still cold and grey, it is very windy and choppy so bad viz. Probably another rockpooling post next weekend!
This Friday at the Seven Stars pub in Flushing there was a lot of activity in the water. Huge shoals of Sand smelt Atherina presbyter ((EDIT or potentially Herring….very difficult to make out!) were chased up the slip by mackerel. The shoals were so dense you could scoop the fish out of the water with your hands and shed fish scales were shimmering everywhere. I quickly picked up my camera from home down the road and stuck it underwater. With the fading light (and two kids to take care of) the filming was hurried and not ideal, but still gave a nice view of the frantic activity.
I was lucky to go diving twice this weekend, first at Grebe beach next to Durgan in the Helford Passage. As the photo above shows, this is as pretty as Cornwall gets, and the water looked crystal clear at high tide as well. It was a pain to get all picknick stuff and diving gear down (no parking nearby) but it was worth it. Unfortunately I left my fins in my car, so it was a very slow swim out. I emptied my stab jacket and tried walking over the seabed which half-worked (let’s say it was an interesting way of diving). Unfortunately the viz was not as great as expected. I spotted a small squid but it took off before I could take a snap. Other than that no special sightings. Below two images of the eelgrass, two frisky Sea hares Aplysia punctata and a macro photo of a Necklace shell Euspira catena. I had the rented tank refilled at Seaways in Penryn in case there was an opportunity to go out Sunday. The opportunity turned out to be limited to the village where I live, Flushing (opposite the harbour of Falmouth). I had never seen divers in Flushing or heard of anyone diving there, and judging from the siltier conditions and presence of boats that seemed to make sense. However, I always was a bit curious how this bit looked underwater, especially I wanted to check out the extent of the eelgrass emerging at very low tides (see this old rock pooling post). The visibility was not very good and near the shore there was only decaying seaweed. After a while though, lots of eelgras appeared. I was unsure whether this spot is known for eelgrass so I recorded my findings on the seagrass spotter site. This was the first time I brought my new strobe to have a play with, I need lots of practice for sure. Below a Thornback ray Raja clavata photographed with and without flash (no postprocessing used). The eelgrass looked very tall and healthy and many plants were flowering (middle of the photo). Towards the channel the eelgrass thinned out which allowed to observe little mud dwelling creatures. Sea lemons Doris pseudoargusPleurobranchus membranaceus are not that little actually (egg masses present). Finally, a lucky shot. Looking through the eelgrass, a curious school of Seabass Dicentrarchus labrax circled around me quite closeby. (After I left the water I heard a seal was near too but it would have had to be right in front of me for me to see it.) All in all it was a very interesting shallow dive close to home and I will definitely try to return soon.
In a recent post I showed some pictures of fish I caught off the quay in Flushing. I have since quite regularly scraped the sides of the quay with my net and netted a bunch more species. No good pictures of the Shanny, Rock Goby and Two-spotted goby yet, but here are some OK pictures of other species (I do not like to keep the fish too long out of the water so it is a bit rushed). Besides many juvenile individuals, occasionally I catch an adult Corkwing wrasse Symphodus melops. I have only once I managed to cath a bright green juvenile Ballan wrasse Labrus bergylta:
Twice I have caught a Sea scorpion Taurulus bubalis, they look a bit like gremlins. Once I caught a Greater pipefish Syngnathus acus, very cool:
My friend Thor is a very good photographer with a very good camera and he made some great pictures of fish in the cuvet this week. Two Corkwings, a Fifteen-spined stickleback Spinachia spinachia, some Thick-lipped (probably) grey mullet Chelon labrosus. The latter are more difficult to catch as they are in open water and the net has a small mesh size. As a bonus the most common catch, a Common prawn Palaemon serratus:
With the aquarium ready and a neap tide, I resorted to some fishing from the quay with my humongous (>2.5 meter) net. This thing is a pain when moving/emigrating but I’m glad I’ve kept it. It is custom-made for RAVON: Reptielen Amfibien en Vissen Onderzoek Nederland (Reptiles Amphibians and Fish Research The Netherlands), a great club that I joined for a while when living in Holland. (The ‘fish’ in the acronym covers only the species living or migrating in fresh water). The net can be bought via the RAVON web shop; at the time they also sold a handy cuvet:
I have scraped along the sides of the main quay in Flushing a number of times now (btw, the quay was built by the Dutch; Flushing is named after Vlissingen in Zeeland, the old Cornish name of the village is Nankersey). Two-spot gobies (the most common semi-benthic species), a rock goby and even a Fifteen-spined stickleback Spinachia spinachia have ended up in the net. The last species I did not keep, as they prefer live food that I cannot offer them, but I took it home for a quick pic:
I never caught young mullet, a species that is great for the aquarium, which is strange as they are common around water fronts. This weekend to my surprise I caught two wrasse for the aquarium: a Rock cook Centrolabus exoletusand a Corkwing wrasse Symphodus melops. Two very beautiful little fish (both species grow up to 15 cm, these were around 5 cm). Here the Rock cook Corkwing wrasse that looked superficially like a Rock cook but back home in the aquarium showed its distinctive spot on the base of the tailfin (best way to identify is counting scales and rays but that is almost impossible now; useful info on wrasse determination on this angling site):