The summer has been such a wonderful time of outdoor adventures both with adults and with little ones alike. More time was spent at the beach than in the woods, however I was lucky to spend time in a place where the woods would lead me to the beach and loved my jaunt each morning walking through the woods as I headed for my swim.
Finding time to connect with nature with my nieces and nephews is always a highlight of time spent with family and, spending a week together at the beach, we inevitably headed one morning at low tide for the rock pools. There is so much life to be found in Irish rock pools, something I think many people are unaware of, expecting the need for a trip to an aquarium to really get up close with sea life. Turning over rocks in pools at low tide will be a much more rewarding experience than spotting sea creatures through glass, as children spot hermit crabs scurrying for shelter, or sea anemones drawing in their tentacles, right in front of them and in their natural habitat.
Rock-pooling need not only happen in summer time, in colder months donning wellies will keep feet warm from the dropping sea temperatures. However, going barefoot always seems more adventurous and gives you a sense of really being in the sea and at one with the ocean. While you can arrive with no equipment at all I like to bring a small bucket and some see through plastic containers to place our finds in and take a closer look. I don’t bother with nets as they can be difficult to navigate in shallow waters.
It’s as simple as turning over a rock and noticing what creatures you see darting around once startled by the light as their cover is removed. Attached to the rock itself you’ll find periwinkles, barnacles, limpets, sea anemone, sea squirts, various snails and sponges; swimming or scurrying through the water could be starfish, hermit and porcelain crabs, sea hares, sea slugs, shrimp, rocklings, goby and blenny.
Most importantly ensure to return the rocks to their original position as the creatures attached have chosen this position based on access or not to water whatever the tide. A great accompaniment for any journey by the sea is “Ireland’s Seashore, a field guide” by Lucy Taylor and Emma Nickelsen, which helps us identify our finds. We found a four legged starfish which the guide informed us could then regrow its missing fifth arm or leg, but could also survive happily without it. Last but not least we always make sure to return all our finds to their natural habitat to carry on with their lives, and invariable the bucket fills on the way home with seashells, stones and sea glass to remind us of our trip along the seashore.