The Safari has had a couple school groups on the beach over the last two days. Yesterday's group also did some pond dipping and mini-beat hunting. While the children were rummaging around for interesting insects we spotted this delicious flower in our wild annuals bed. We're not sure what it iss, but assume it came from the seed packet which was supposed to contain, Field Poppies, Cornflowers, Corn Marigolds, Corn Cockles and Corn Chamomile. Whatever it is it's a looker - over to you...
Find of the day yesterday was on the way in to work when we saw that last year's Ergot had reappeared on the Sea Lyme Grass.
We've been taking school groups exploring the beach for over 10 years now and almost without fail every trip someone will find something we've not seen before. Almost invariably it's one of the children because there's more of them and they really hunt, which is really exciting for them to have found something the 'expert' hasn't seen, but this time it was one of the teachers who made the find with one of the last sweeps of the net - how often does it that happen like that too! This was a school from the hill country of East Lancashire so the teacher was just as excited to find something new as the children are.
It's 'only' a Common Prawn but what are the black things stuck to its legs? We've never seen anything like that before - could it be eggs, she's carrying a load underneath her, could it be a species of sponge? Shame it was a bit dull and the phone cam's resolution isn't quite so good as it would have been in bright sunlight.
Today another group was scouring a different part of the beach nearer town. Sea conditions were absolutely ideal for them to spot any Bottlenosed Dolphins that might happen to be passing by but none did although earlier, before they arrived, we had seen a rather distant Grey Seal.
Trying to get the youngsters to stay away from the numerous jellyfish was counter-productive we might have been better telling them to pick them up and put them in their pockets...no, they'd have done that too. There were a good many Moon Jellyfish and a few mainly small Compass Jellyfish.
One of the little ones picked up some 'brains', better known as Whelks eggs. But then another child found some enormous ones. We should had got a pic of them side by side to show you how much larger these are to the 'normal' ones - each 'egg' is about 5x regular size and almost pure white rather than a buttery cream colour.Whelk or some sort of as yet undiscovered Super Whelk crawling around in the sand out there in the depths.
Once again towards the end of the session a shell was shown to us that at first glance looked like the many Tower Shells that had been stuck under our nose for inspection. This one, however, looked just that little bit different to hold our attention. A little longer than the Tower Shells and on closer inspection has a set of fine longitudinal ridges. The ridges weren't striking enough for it to be a Common Wentle Trap Shell, which are far from common here.
A rummage round a few on-line marine encyclopaedias suggest it could be Turton's Wentle Trap Shell (Epitonium turtonis) - a new one for us and consequently another great find by the kiddies. You just never know what they're going to hand you next! We'll await confirmation from DB who graduated from her Marine Biology degree yesterday so big congratulations to her.
Both groups found a rather strange blob like amphipod which we've yet to identify. They both could have been large Speckled Sea Lice without the speckles but they were more free swimming rather than trundling around in the sand at the bottom of the trays. Who knows what they'll eventually turn out to be identified as.
All great fun exploring the wildlife out on the beach in the sunshine, it's what summer is for!
Where to next? It's the weekend and we're hoping for a moth or two, might be some butterfly action too if the weather stays good.
In the meantime let us know who's exploring things unknown in your ourback.
National Whale & Dolphin Watch is coming up shortly - details of where we'll be and when will be posted here until the event ends