You rarely find a novelty or a rarity, but especially for children each pool is a new experience, and this is so for those who have retained the inner child in us, retaining which is the way to remain young at heart despite the failing of our bodies. There are some creatures that I have never seen. For example, I have never come across a hermit crab. Maybe they are hiding from me. I have found one dogfish [cat shark] and that was on a beach in Donegal fifty years ago. Shrimps and prawns can be found in abundance, darting to the safety of rocks or weeds from our probing nets. Shore crabs are also evident, waving their claws in self-defence. Seeing any of these species is a great experience for a young child, and I admit, I still love the experience even at seventy, though I can no longer spring from rock to rock.
The jewels of the rock pool are the anemones. At low tide they are variously-coloured, water-filled blobs, purple, red or green against the rocks to which they cling. But as the tide surges over them they open up and begin to wave their tentacles in their urgent search for prey. Sea anemones are not plants, though they superficially resemble members of the plant kingdom. Anemones are animals and so they consume others.
Generally rockpools are places where you can find shellfish. Mussels are regulars in the pools in the middle zone and are available for picking in many places [with due care for water quality, toxic algae and local regulations. ] I have never found oysters in rock pools, they prefer sandier ground. There are large beds of them on the extensive Laefan Sands in North Wales. But only people with extensive knowledge of the sands and the tides should walk these dangerous places. Stay safe! Limpets and barnacles commonly smother rocks in pools that are regularly exposed. They are so familiar that they are like old friends. Winkles occur in profusion on rocks and wooden structures, providing pickings for shellfish hunters seeking a free meal, and occasionally we find a whelk shell washed up, reminding us that there are shellfish in deeper waters.
Rockpools are magical places where children can experience nature safely and adults can indulge the inner child that keeps them young at heart. There is a joy in the moment of discovery, however small and insignificant the creature might be. Stay young, keep searching!
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