Gardening with Children

Family Zone

Go Rockpooling

Date Posted: 01 August 2016

We are very lucky in Britain to have a wide range of coastal landscapes, sand dunes, pebble/sandy beaches, large estuaries and magnificent cliffs all of which support a large variety of wildlife. If you want to explore the wildlife on the beach look no further than in a rockpool, rockpooling is a brilliant family activity that can be done not just in Summer but throughout the year.

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What you will need

  • Suitable shoes that have a good grip - old trainers, wellies or wetsuit boots NOT flip-flops
  • Buckets & Nets
  • A Seashore or Rockpooling guide – it’s great to find lots of creatures but even better when you know what they are.
  • Notebook, pencil and camera - to record and photograph your discoveries
  • Warm jumper – Rockpools can be quite exposed on the beach and you may get chilly standing around
  • A small first aid kit for scrapes and tumbles on the rocks.
  • A Rockpool Viewer – see below

Rockpool viewer

How to make your Rockpool Viewer

You will need:  Large plastic drinks bottle, Cling film, Elastic bands, Scissors, Dark tape

What you need to do:

  1. Ask an adult to cut the top and bottom off your bottle so that you are left with a clear tube.
  2. Put a strip of tape over the rough edge at the top and bottom.
  3. Stretch a piece of cling film over one end and hold in place with an elastic band; gently pull the cling film tight to remove any creases.
  4. Wrap the dark tape around the bottle this will keep the light out and make it easier to see.
  5. It may be an idea to take spare cling film, tape and elastic bands with you in case you need to repair your viewer.

What you can find in a Rockpool

Seaweed - you may think that seaweed is just slimy and not very interesting but take a closer look, there are many different types in Britain in various sizes shapes and colours, many creatures live and feed within a clump of seaweed it makes the perfect safe home. Have a look underneath seaweed you can often find crabs and fish hiding there, here are some types of seaweed that you may find: Channelled Wrack, Gutweed, Bladder Wrack or Popweed, Spiral Wrack, Dulse, Sea lettuce, Kelp or Oarweed, Throngweed, Knotted or Egg Wrack. Many of our British Seaweeds are edible, you can find them on the menus at Seafood and fashionable restaurants, I believe they are an acquired taste if you are not sure which are edible do not pick them.

Anemones – These stunning colourful underwater creatures use their tentacles to catch food, they get their name from the Anemone flower. Some Anemones have stinging tentacles so it is better not to touch them. You may find Anemones out of the water that are closed up they look like blobs of jelly, common Anemones include Beadlet, Plumrose, Snakeslocks, Wartlet, Daisy, Dahlia, Strawberry.

Molluscs – Creatures that are encased within a protective hard shell; Periwinkles, Limpets, Mussels, Whelks, Top Shells, Cockles, Screw Shells, Cowrie etc.

Crustaceans – Theses must be our favourite beach creatures; Crabs (Velvet Swimming, Shore, Hermit that live in an empty Periwinkle or Whelk shell, Edible, Spider Crab) are often found in crevices and under rocks, Lobsters (Squat and Common), Common Shrimp, Common Prawn dart around quickly and can swim backwards.

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Shore Crabs

Fish – Most fish that you will find live in Rockpools but you may also discover something unexpected that has been left stranded as the tide went out. Fish that you may find include; Common Blenny, Montagus Blenny, Tompot Blenny, Butterfish, Snake Pipefish, Worm Pipefish, Sand Eel, Rock Goby, Two-spotted Goby, Dabs (flatfish), Weaver Fish and Scorpion fish which both have venomous spines it is advisable to be able to identy these as they can look similar to a Goby or a Blenny if in doubt do not handle them.

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Dab

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Blenny, Common Prawn and a Sand Eel

Jellyfish – Can be washed up on the beach you may find small ones in rockpools they look like balls of clear jelly, some jelly fish have stinging tentacles so avoid handling them.

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Stranded Jellyfish

Sea Urchins and Star Fish – Both are spectacular to look at but very fragile, both have prickly spines and suckers underneath to drag themselves over the rocks you may find Green Sea Urchin, Heart Urchin, Cushion Star, Common Brittlestar, Common Starfish, Spiny Starfish, avoid handling them.

Worms and Sea Slugs – There are many kinds of worms to be found most burrow in the sand they include Ragworm, Lugworm, Sand Mason, Green Leaf Worm. Sea slugs are molluscs without shells they have tentacles on their head and are bright coloured and include Green Sea Slug, Sea Lemon, Grey Sea Slug.

Lugworm

Lugworm

Be safe at the Seashore

Your safety and the conservation of the wildlife is very important, here is a Seashore Safety guide produced by the Wildlife Trust.

  • Don’t paddle or throw things in the rock pool – remember it’s a creature’s home!
  • Always put rocks back carefully in the same place and the same way up as you found them
  • Be very gentle with the creatures if you pick them up, return them to where you found them
  • Don’t keep your creatures in your bucket longer than you need to
  • Don’t take any living things away with you, make sure shells are empty if you want to take them home
  • Don’t pull seaweed or Limpets off the rocks
  • Don’t frighten seabirds, give them some space
  • Always take your litter home with you
  • Take your time – don’t rush about
  • Take care when walking on rocks they can be slippery and sharp
  • Keep your eye on the tides, some come in faster than you think and you may get cut off, check the tide tables
  • Don’t get too close to cliffs and stay away from soft mud and quicksand
  • Wash your hands before you put your fingers in your mouth or eat anything

National Marine Week

If you want to learn more about the wildlife on and around our shores why not take part in National Marine Week which this year runs from 23 July – 7 August, there are lots of events and activities being held throughout the country where you can get hands on and learn who and what lives in our Seas, for more information, to find events near you, where the best place to go Rockpooling is and to download activity sheets for children visit The Wildlife Trusts website by clicking here.

 

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