Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 31 May 2013 17:21
We've just got back from four days in Teesdale but before that we spent a great few days at Rachael's folk's new house in Whitley Bay. I hadn't prepared myself for how much wildlife, literally just on their doorstep, we were going to see. Within fifteen minutes of arriving we were sat in the garden when a Spoonbill flew over flying north! the next morning I was up early for a sea watch in the hope of a skua or two but sea watching into the Sun isn't much fun. I was rewarded with a Hen Harrier flying north out to sea being mobbed by terns. Close in Eiders remind you of how far north you are.
I soon discovered that the rocks around St Mary's Lighthouse are pretty good for rockpooling and on Monday at about lunch time a very low tide was due. We headed out and found quite a few goodies but the net that I bought on the sea front lasted me about 5 minutes. The above Common Sea Urchin Echinus esculentus was a new species for me. I caught a Shanny which bit me. We also saw Long-spined Sea Scorpions and Butterfish.
The strange Broad-clawed Porcelain Crab put in a show.
And the first squat lobsters I have seen in almost a decade, this one is Galathea squamifera and looks like the ones I saw on Anglesey in 2003.
Strangest of all though was this 'armoured worm'. I have keyed it out tentatively to Lepidonotus squamatus. The plates are referred to as elytra in Hayward & Ryland.
Next time I go though, I will be prepared for some serious rock pooling as I suspect that Lumpsucker is not out of the question. It's pretty amazing having all that on your doorstep!