Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis) Exmouth, Devon. August 2019 © Pete Hillman.
On a stroll across a quieter section of beach where the tide had gone out I came across this little arrangement of rocks. They kind of reminded me of the remains of a prehistoric cairn, although this is most likely child’s play.
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Shanklin Beach, Isle of Wight, England, August 2018 © Pete Hillman.
I believe these are Shanny (Lipophrys pholis), also called Blenny. As the tide pulled out it left these crystal clear pools of water and in them they teemed with these young fish which moved nimbly through the shallow water. They are so well adapted to their environment you would hardly notice them until they moved.
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Shanklin Beach, Isle of White, England, August 2018 © Pete Hillman.
I have shown the two gaper shells on one post to illustrate how different they are, beginning with the Sand Gaper above.
Sand Gaper (Mya arenaria)
A large and robust bivalve, the shell is oval in shape, the anterior end rounded, the posterior end more pointed. It has concentric ridges and is off-white, grey or light brown in colour. Shell length 15cm.
The Sand Gaper burrows to a depth of 50cm into mud and sandflats, where it filters organic matter from sea water. It is often found in estuaries, and is widespread and locally common.
Blunt Gaper (Mya truncata)
A thick-shelled, robust bivalve, rectangular in shape with a truncate posterior margin. It also has numerous concentric lines and is off-white in colour. Shell length up to 70mm.
It is commonly found in estuaries where it buries itself to a fair depth. Widespread and locally common, especially on the east coast of Britain.
Photographs taken April 2013, Llandudno, Wales. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.
The shell is a rounded-oval, although the posterior more angled. The colour is variable from pink to purple, yellow and white. Width 25mm.
It is found on the lower shore in muddy sand, and also in estuaries. Common and widespread.
Photographs taken June 2012, Llandudno, Wales. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2012.
The shell of the Common Cockle is cream to pale yellow or brownish, and it has 22-28 radiating ribs crossed by prominant concentric ridges which may bare short spines. Length up to 5cm.
It is found in muddy, sandy and fine gravel shores, from the middle to lower shore. Utilising a muscular foot, it burrows up to 5cm into the sand, and when covered by water they open their shells and extend a pair of short siphons to filter-feed on zooplankton. It can live up to 10 years, and is fished commercially and prayed upon by wading birds. It is common and widespread.
Photographs of Common Cockle (Cerastoderma edule), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
The shell has numerous fine, concentric rings and grooves. It is dirty white, yellowish or greyish in colour, and is flat, thin and delicate in form. Length 6.5cm.
It is found in sheltered, brackish habitats, like estuaries and muddy shores where it burrows up to 20cm, leaving behind a star-shaped tell-tale impression on the surface. It is a deposit-feeder, and when the inhalant siphon is extended it is often eaten by crabs, fish and wading birds, but it is regrown fairly quickly. Common and widespread all around the UK.
Photographs of Peppery Furrow (Scrobicularia plana), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
The colour of the shell is pale cream or yellowish, usually marked with three prominent radiating brown bands. It is fairly thick and has fine concentric ridges. Length 4cm.
It is found buried in the lower shore to sublittoral, and it can live up to 10 years. Common and widespread on all coasts, except the south-east coast of England.
Photographs of Striped Venus Clam (Chamelea gallina), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
This mollusc has a shiny white to yellow, purple or greyish-brown slender wedge-shaped shell. Growth stages show as pale bands. The inner surfaces are tinted white, purple, yellow or orange. Length up to 38mm.
Found on the middle to lower shore where it burrows into coarse sand and lives just below the surface. The Banded Wedge Shell is a filter feeder, and when the tide is in it extracts food particles from the water via a syphon. Common and widespread on all British and Irish coasts, but less common further north on Scottish coastlines.
Photographs of Banded Wedge Shell (Donax vittatus), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
The Necklace Shell has a buff to pale yellow shell with a spiral row of brownish marks near its upper edge. Similar to Alder’s Necklace Shell which is smaller and darker. Shell height up to 3cm.
It is found buried in the lower shore, in sheltered to moderately exposed sand. It feeds on small bivalves by drilling a round hole through its shell. Common and widespread along all British coasts.
Photographs of Necklace Shell (Polinices catenus), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
The shell is elongate, thin and brittle. There are numerous fine concentric lines, with a group of fine radiating striae. It is white or light brown, light olive or yellow. The hinge and ligament is positioned about a third of the way along the length of the mollusc. Length up to 130mm.
It burrows deeply in fine to medium course sands in the lower shore and shallow sublittoral. Found on the south-west coasts of England, Wales and Ireland.
Photographs of Bean Solen (Pharus legumen), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
Have you ever wondered what the underside of a limpet looked like? Note the large muscular foot, the relatively small mouth above, and the tentacles either side.
The Common Limpet has an ashen-grey or greenish-blue shell, sometimes with a yellow tint, and with radiating ridges. It is conical with an almost central apex. The shell is often covered in barnacles. The sole of the foot is yellowish or orange-brownish with a green tinge. Shell length 6cm. They are fairly long-lived, up to 15 years.
It inhabits the intertidal zone, clinging tightly to rocks along the shore or in rock pools, and with its thick shell it is able to withstand the pounding ocean waves, exposure to drying out, and attacks from birds or fish. It grazes on algae growing on the rocks beneath the water. It is not ‘stuck’ in one position as it may always appear to be, but follows a mucous trail as it feeds and finds it way back. Scarring maybe evident on the substrate where it has ground it down to get the perfect fit. Common and widespread around the British coasts.
Photographs of Common Limpet (Patella vulgata), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
Also called the ‘Blue Mussel’, the shells are dark brown, blue-black, or purple in colour. Shell length up to 10cm.
It is found middle to lower shore, and attaches itself to rocks via byssus threads. It will also find crevices in the rocks, or attach themselves to manmade structures like piers and harbour walls. They can form large beds up to 6 layers thick and covering many square kilometres. Mussels are filter feeders of plankton, pumping large amounts of water through their bodies to extract the food.
Very common and widespread all around the British coast.
This is an edible marine mussel which has been harvested by humans for centuries. They are a rich source of protein, and are very important to the marine life ecosystem.
Photographs of Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
This is one of the larger waders, and certainly one of the most distinctive with its black and white body, dazzling red-eye and long, vivid orange-red bill. It has short, pale pink legs, and long and broad white wingbars with a white ‘V’ on its back can be seen when in flight. In the winter it has a white-collar and a dark-tipped bill. Length 40 to 45cm.
They feed in large groups probing sand and mud with their long bills for marine worms and molluscs, or they prise shellfish from rocks along with seaweed. They will also eat earthworms and other invertebrates when venturing inland if food is in short supply on the coast. They breed on almost all UK coasts, and within the past 50 years further inland. They form a shallow scrape in shingle or sand, often amongst rocks or grassy tussocks where they lay 2 or 3 eggs in 1 brood from April to July. They can live for up to 15 years.
Seen all year round, and they often occur in enormous tight flocks where they may dominate whole estuaries. Also seen on sandy, muddy, and rocky beaches, grassy islands, shingle or riverside grassland, and grassy fields. They are common and widespread, occurring on almost all UK coasts. Most UK birds spend the winter on the coast, where on the east coast their numbers maybe increased by birds from Norway. The RSPB have given them an amber status due to their vulnerability of the over-fishing of cockle beds which they rely on for food.
A very noisey bird, especially as they form tightly packed flocks, producing penetrating kleep sounds.
Photographs of Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), taken April 2013, Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
This is a small, dark green lettuce-like algae when wet, which forms flaky coatings over rocks and boulders. Length 1cm.
It grows on rocks and stones in the splash zone, mostly frequented by seabirds which drop their faeces from which it gets its nitrates to flourish. A common and widespread species, but mainly seen in spring and early summer.
Photographs of Prasiola stipitata taken April 2013, Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
Greenish in colour when young, but becoming purple-red as it matures, and is very resistant to drying out and the action of the waves. It forms thin, delicate sheets which cling to rocks and has a polythene-like texture. Width 20cm.
Found attached to rocks in sandy habitats. Abundant and widespread on rocky shores throughout.
Purple Laver is used to make laverbread in Wales, which is a traditional Welsh recipe.
Photographs of Purple Laver (Porphyra umbilicalis) taken April 2013, Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
Also called ‘Sugar Kelp’ or ‘Poor Man’s Weatherglass’, this is a long, belt-like brown to olive coloured seaweed with wavy edges and a crinkled centre. Length 4cm.
It grows in deep pools and around the low tide mark, usually on sheltered rocky shores attached to rocks with a small branching holdfast. A common and widespread species.
Photographs of Sea Belt (Saccharina latissima), taken August 2015, in rock pool Meadfoot Beach, Torquay, Devon. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
A brownish-red seaweed which is tufted and made up of branching filaments which gives it a wool-like consistancy. Length 70cm.
Found middle to low shore, and grows mainly on Egg Wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum) for physical support, known as an epiphyte. It makes use of the hosts buoyancy at high tide so it will gain more sunlight. Common and widespread throughout the British coastline.
Photographs of Egg Wrack Wool (Polysiphonia lanosa), taken August 2015, in rock pool Meadfoot Beach, Torquay, Devon. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
Also called “Saw Wrack’ or ‘Serrated Wrack’, this is an olive to golden brown seaweed, flattened with a prominant midrib and saw-toothed fronds. Length 60cm. Frond width 2cm.
Found on the lower zone, it latches onto rocks on more sheltered shores. A common and widespread species.
Photographs of Toothed Wrack (Fucus serratus), taken August 2015, in rock pool Meadfoot Beach, Torquay, Devon. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
Also called ‘Flat Wrack’, it is a dark olive-brown or greenish seaweed with a prominent midrib with no gas bladders. There are often pairs of swollen reproductive bodies on the tips of the frond branches. The fronds have a tendency to twist. Length 15 to 20cm.
Occurring on the upper shore, preferring sheltered to moderately exposed shores, where they cling to the hard surfaces. It also extends well into estuaries. It reproduces from July to September. A common and widespread species.
Photograph of Spiral Wrack (Fucus spiralis) taken June 2012, Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
This seaweed is dark greenish-brown in colour when dry and yellow when wet. It has no gas bladders, the fronds have no midribs, and they are curled along the length forming a channel. Height 15cm.
Found on the upper shore attached to rocks. Reproduces from August to September. It is very resiliant to desiccation, and can survive for up to eight days without water. A common and widespread species.
Photograph of Channelled Wrack (Pelvetia canaliculata) taken June 2012, Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
Also called ‘Knotted Wrack’, this is a yellowish to olive-green seaweed, which has long, narrow chain-like fronds with gas-filled bladders. This is a slow-growing seaweed which has no mid-rib. Height 0.5 to 2m.
Found on rocky shores, often on the mid-shore, preferring sheltered conditions, extending into estuaries and usually attached to rocks. It reproduces April to June. Egg Wrack Wool (Polysiphonia lanosa) is commonly found attached to it in clumps. A common and widespread species.
Photograph of Egg Wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum) taken June 2012, Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
This limpet has a humped, smooth shell with variegation in colour, usually pinkish, orangey, cream or purplish. It has a fairly thick shell with a shelf on the underside, which resembles a slipper. Shell length 5cm. Shell height 2.5cm.
It is found on the lower shore, attached to rocks and other shells, and they form stacks of up to ten individuals or more. They begin life as males, and then change progressively to become females. An introduced species from north-east America in 1887, the Slipper Limpet is quite an invasive species which competes with native oysters for space and food, and is also a threat to Common Mussel beds. Common and widespread.
Photographs of American Slipper Limpet (Crepidula fornicata), taken August 2012, Bournemouth, Dorset, . © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
The Variegated Scallop has rather an elongated, flattened shell, which come in a variation of colours from orange to purple, yellow and greys, which can often be mixed. The ribs of the shell bear spines. Shell length 6cm.
It inhabits the lower shore, on rocks and seaweed holdfasts attached by a byssus. It feeds by filtering organic matter from the sea water. It is a sequential hermaphrodite, maturing as a male and then changing its sex several times during its life. It is common and widespread.
Photographs of Variegated Scallop (Chlamys varia), taken August 2012, Bournemouth, Dorset, . © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
On the coast, I enjoyed a couple of hours watching and photographing Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), floating on air currents along the top of the cliffs. This one was a juvenille, which began to turn, and came quite low overhead.
This type of photography can be quite a challenge, but with some practise you can master panning, following the subject. You have to try to keep your focus, of course, and you have to watch you don’t follow the gull directly into the glare of the sun. I took over 300 photographs in this session, and hoped some came out reasonably well, at least.
Photographs taken of Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) July 2016, East Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.
I have created a second blog called Snapshots In Time for photography of a different kind, but which may cross boundaries with this one at times. You are more than welcome to join me there if you so wish.