Sometimes a day at the beach is not complete with out a little bit of rockpooling, but do you know what you are looking at?
Recently I spent an afternoon exploring the rockpools of Kimmeridge Bay. I am going to share with you the wonderful marine life I found and what you should look for when rockpooling.
Let’s start with a little bit about Kimmeridge. The bay lies within the Purbeck Marine Reserve and is a stretch of the Jurassic Coast that is significantly important for biologists and geologists. Not only does it have an abundance of marine life but has a huge geological history. So if you fancy a bit of fossil hunting between the rock pools this is the ideal spot for it. The beach is host to the ‘Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre‘. This marine centre is run by Dorset Wildlife Trust and you can learn even more about the reserve and the marine life in the bay. Unfortunately when I visited on this trip in February and the centre was not open for the year yet.
Its not just rockpooling you can do at Kimmeridge too. It is an ideal place for snorkelling and diving too. From what I’ve heard it is a rainbow of colour under the waves, plenty of fish, crabs, seaweeds and more to look at. Over the summer the marine centre has an underwater nature trail marked out. Perfect for snorkellers to get out there and see the best of what the bay has to offer.
Watching The Tide
Now onto finding marine life. The number one thing to remember is to follow the marine and coastal code (set up in Cornwall however is relevant and should be used everywhere coastal you go!). The next thing is to remember to check the tide times. Low tide is best for rockpooling as more rockpools are exposed and you can get closer to them. When I went, it was rather early. The high tide had just turned and started going out. So there were not as many rock pools on offer for me to have a look at. Next time I will make sure to get there an hour or 2 after high tide to give the sea time to retreat, exposing the deeper further out rock pools.
Always remember to check the tide times, and keep a watchful eye on the tides, particularly incoming ones while enjoying a spot of rockpooling. You don’t want to get cut off by the sea!
Heading out across the rocks rather gingerly as it was pretty slippery. The water was still drying up and the seaweeds were damp. Finally, I managed to creep over to the first of the pools. There was plenty of life to see.
The first rockpool creature I found were sea snails. Specifically the Flat Periwinkle. The first one was this lovely bright yellow colour, standing out on the rocks. However, they do come in a variety of colours, including orange, brown and green. It’s like a mini marine lottery which colour you are going to find! For those going off to spot a Flat Periwinkle, you are most likely to find them hiding in the seaweeds along rocky coastlines.
The Humble Barnacle and Friends.
The next little creatures found were Limpets, Barnacles and small Dog Whelk. Not everyone’s favourite or most exciting creatures to find. So let’s start with Barnacles. Do you know those small white hard lumps stuck to nearly all the rocks on the tide line? Yeah, those are the Barnacles in question. Okay, not very interesting to look at however here is a little bit of interesting information on them. They are a sub-group in the Crustaceans family, the crab family. It has crab-like armour that forms flat plates which give it its house shape. They also have these little limbs that pop out the middle when the tide is high. The little limbs wave around in the water catching plankton to eat. The humble Barnacle isn’t as boring as people might think.
As the rocks got drier, I headed out further west around the bay. Where there are more slightly deeper rockpools. Next up are limpets, let’s go straight into the interesting stuff, as again they are not everyone’s favourite rock pool creature. When you are looking at the Limpets, see if you can spot perfect rings on the rocks. Slightly indented into the rock and usually pretty close to the Limpets. These are made by the Limpets. Each one grinds into the rock which makes the rings than every low tide that Limpet hopes to be back in their spot. Even though they cannot see, the Limpet can leave a trail which they can follow back to their ring. How clever!
I’m sticking with the same rockpool for this next marine animal. A Dog Whelk. A member of the sea snail family that can be found in large numbers on rocky beaches. They are a carnivorous sea snail that enjoys munching on Barnacles, Limpets and Muscles. When rockpooling or beachcombing you might spot old limpet shells on the beach. Take a closer look and if there is a little hole in the shell then it’s likely a Dog Whelk has drilled its way through the shell over a few days and taken a Limpet shaped meal! They tend to be white or pale grey in shell colour however some are in different colours or have banded/stripy shell. (Photo below is a photo of a Limpet and what we believe to be a Rough Periwinkle)
Red Flower of the Rockpool
My final rockpooling creature to share with you today is one of my favourites. If any of you follow me on Instagram or have read any of my other marine/snorkelling posts will know that I have a bit of a love for anemones. The anemones in question while rockpooling at Kimmeridge were Beadlet anemones. They are very commonly found around the UK shores and are pretty easy to spot when open. The Beadlet anemone tends to be a deep red colour but can be found in green, brown and oranges. The anemone will be open with all its limbs waving around when covered in water. However, then the tide goes out and leaves the anemone exposed they retract. Turning into what looks like a little blob of jelly. A bit harder to find when closed. When they are open in the rock pools the anemones remind me of flowers. Red flowers of the rockpool.
All Good Rockpool Adventures Have to Come to an End
That’s, that. Another day adventure over and it’s now a matter of time until the next one. After looking at rockpools I headed back around the bay to the car park, stopping to admire fossils embedded in the rocks as I went. I am planning to visit Kimmeridge Bay several times this year, so will work on my timings more to allow access to more rock pools. Hopefully then will see more variety of rockpool creatures. Maybe some crabs or small fish? Also planning to head over and complete the underwater snorkelling nature trail too. Look at the bay from a new underwater perspective, then spend some time having a good nosey around the marine centre.
If you’re heading that way on a rockpooling adventure any time soon be sure to share your marine findings with us all!
See you next time and happy adventuring!
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