Beach survey 2020

August 7th, 2020

The opportunities for communal beach surveys this year are a bit limited, but you can still enjoy a visit to the beach for a (socially distanced) walk or rock-pool hunt, and we have plenty of good beaches to visit around the Bay (so there is no need to crowd!) As we cannot be with you to help you identify what you have found this year; I include a few resources below that might help – so take a photo of what you find, so you can look it up later!

Online photographic guide

Beach finds around Morecambe Bay.
Walking the beaches around Morecambe bay you will find lots of shells – many from cockles – shown live underwater top right above. You can also find evidence of more interesting dwellers in the deeps though: The cuttlebone was one of a pair we found at Half Moon Bay in August 2015 – a live cuttlefish is shown bottom right. Occasionally you will find a dead dogfish on the beach – trapped in the rocks at Heysham point, perhaps, but at the right time of the year you will find lots of mermaid’s purses, which are their egg cases!

National MCS has a nice photographic guide to UK coastal wildlife, which you can access through the link below. The photographs are mostly taken underwater, in the plant or animal’s natural habitat, so you may need to look carefully at a specimen you find in the strand line.

https://www.mcsuk.org/ukseas/search

Jellyfish survey 2020

Photo showing two common jellyfish underwater.
The most common jellyfish in the Bay are the Lion’s mane (above left) which can give you a nasty sting (you can see masses of stinging tentacles hanging below the animal in the photo), and the Moon jelly (above right), which is harmless. Lion’s manes can grow to over one hundred meters in length – including their tentacles – making them one of the largest animals on the planet!

Jellyfish are voracious predators on plankton and smaller animals at sea. They live seasonal lives, most die over winter, with a new crop appearing in late spring, and multiplying rapidly to form vast swarms. Fish competed with jellyfish for food, but in some parts of the world, over-fishing has removed this competition, and Jellyfish swarms can become very large indeed.

Unlike fish, jellyfish are not powerful swimmers, and in late summer large numbers from these swarms can be washed up on beaches – where you will often find them beached from the strand line to the water line.

Take care approaching stranded jellyfish – they all rely on stinging cells to paralyse their prey so their tentacles can bring it to their mouths to feed. Jellyfish that live on plankton are safe to handle, but jellyfish that take larger prey items – like small fish – are heavily armed, they will cause painful stings. If you are not sure what you are looking at, don’t touch it, and be aware that fine tentacles may spread out for some distance around the main body or bell, and can stick to shoes, buckets, spades or clothing, and give you a nasty surprise after you have left the beach!

National MCS has a helpful guide to common UK Jellyfish online at the address below. Most of the Jellyfish around Morecambe Bay will be wither Moon Jellyfish (safe), or Lions Manes (look like burst tea bags – can give you a very nasty sting), but we occasionally get rarer individuals or swarms.

You can use the online guide above to identify what you have found, and report more unusual findings to the National MCS below

https://www.mcsuk.org/sightings/

Local help

We will be happy to try an help you identify plants and animals you find on the beaches around the Bay – if you can take a photo and email it to us at: strandline_AT_lancashiremcs.org.uk (replace _AT_ with @). Please tell us where you found it, and whether or not you are happy for us use the photograph on this website.

Barry Kaye

Posted in Science, Shore walks