"Are we in Avatar now?"

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 23 March 2019 09:43

So after work yesterday I went straight back to the Pound for an even lower tide (the lowest of the spring). It was however at 18:40 and was pushing dark. Torches were essential by this point but it was mild an calm. I met up with James Harding-Morris and Robert Jaques, both pan-species listers that I had never met. Everyone was buzzing after last night's haul but it was the Snakelocks Anemone photo that gets pride of place. This is taken under water with the TG4 with James' UV torch shining on it. The title of this post comes from a quote by Robert that I had to rip off. I really appreciated the amount of nonsense these guys came out with, a really fun evening. And I didn't have to turn any rocks again.

Now I think Polycera quadrilineata was on top of everyone's list after my post yesterday so we started sweeping sea weed with pond nets. On my first attempt, I got another lifer!!! Not a nudibranch but still a sea slug, and more closely related to terrestrial molluscs than sea hares (thanks to Cynthia Trowbridge for this info!), here is the incredible Solar-powered Sea Slug Elysia viridis.

And whilst I was taking these photos, James found Polycera quadrilineata effortlessly. Four in all in fact. And another two Elysia viridis! A really nice shot of the rhinophores here showing the detail, these are the 'chemoreceptors' of nudibranchs. You've got no chance of seeing this detail unless the animal (and camera!) is under water. The Olympus TG4 is just brilliant for this stuff. Just remember this and the above specimen were about 5 mm long.

Check out this shot of a Sea Lemon found by Robert crawling through weed.

Early on we spotted a few Dahlia Anemone.

And a Wentletrap!

A couple of White Tortoiseshell Limpets.

And a huge crustacean which must be Common Prawn Palaemon serratus (and not Crangon crangon as I originally labelled it - thanks Evan).

As for the fish, we wracked up (see what I did there) a whopping seven species (or eight in two days). Long-spined Sea Scorpion showing the diagnostic spines at the side of the mouth which are so easily visible when the animal is under water.

And beyond the kelp zone, Ballan Wrasse and Tompot Blenny were the commonest fish. This huge wrasse took some team effort to catch. It was cathartic because in this same area two years ago I bungled something that looked exactly like this and given how many we saw here last night, I was convinced that that was also a Ballan Wrasse but now I am not sure it's not a huge Corkwing thanks to Evan. The wrasse is the one on the left. Not sure what the other vertebrate is.
So in favour of Ballan: Smooth preoperculum, huge size (25cm), no black tail spot, lots of smaller Ballans present beyond the kelp zone. In favour of Corkwing: black kidney mark behind eye, larger scales that do not appear pale centred, blue fins beneath.  OK, a third opinion is needed but Evan has started to sway me into thinking this is actually a massive Corkwing...

UPDATE: It looks like this is a big Corkwing male. Thanks to Evan and people from the Seasearch Facebook group for commenting. I'm amazed how different it is to all the other Corkwings I have seen, I really take the point that divers must see these animals much more frequently than I do. Amazing!

One the way back in I turned over a tiny rock (that's literally all I can do) and I found a clingfish! Now we have four clingfish species and I knew it wasn't Cornish Sucker or Connemara Clingfish. So it's either Two-spotted (the common one) or Narrow-headed (the scarcer one). I am not convinced I can tell which from these photos or even if it is possible at all. Using the Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe it's about the relative placement of the fins but this doesn't seem to be a character used in more recent field guides. If it had two big spots then that's easy to ID as a male Two-spotted. Females are apparently not separable in the field. I think the head is about 1/3rd the length of the body and not the 1/4 required for it to be Small-headed. So I think this is likely to be a female Two-spotted Clingfish. And in hindsight, I believe all the individuals I have seen of this species pair are likely to be that too.

Beyond the kelp zone, I spotted a piece of red sea weed dancing around in a rock pool. It was clearly a crustacean. What a strange creature. I have just keyed this out and I believe this is a type of skeleton shrimp called Caprella linearis. Other marine crustaceans new for me were Siriella armata and Gammarellus angulosus.

Another incredible evening's natural history. I was amazed that there wasn't a soul there again yesterday. If you want to get a big list of species it's really key to hit the lowest tides of the year.

A real highlight was walking back up the cliffs into the back of Eastbourne. The Alexanders was covered in moth and beetles. Upwards of 20 Oedomera femoralis feeding on the flowers but also Common Quaker, Satellite, Dark Chestnut, Bloxworth Snout, Double-striped Pug, Agonopterix heracliana and Digitivalva pulicariae, better than the moth trap at Woods Mill on Thursday morning. And I got two new spiders new for the year. Amaurobius ferox (116) and Dysdera croccata (117).

5 Response to ""Are we in Avatar now?""

Hilary Melton-Butcher Says:

Hi Graeme - sounds like you've had a good foray - love the names of these creatures. I heard mention of Tompot Blenny on Radio 4 yesterday I think ... but can't find out why now. I didn't know what Alexanders looked like - I do now. Wonderful photos for us ... thank you - cheers Hilary

Robert Jaques Says:

Hi Graham. Nice to meet you yesterday. Was the Sting Winkle we saw Ocenebra erinaceus?

Graeme Lyons Says:

Good to meet you too! Yes, I have recorded that one from there before so believe it was.

Unknown Says:

Nice blog! Sacoglossans are actually sea slugs. just not nudibranchs. They are more closely related to pulmonates (e.g. land snails and slugs as well as marine pulmonate "limpets") than sea hares. The joys of molecular studies.

Graeme Lyons Says:

Thanks Synthia, I will adjust. Very interesting!

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