Monday, 3 November 2014

Secrets of the Seashore

From dramatic, wave-battered rocky shores to gently flowing brackish creeks and lagoons, Britain’s coastline provides over 5000 miles of varied habitats for a huge assemblage of animal and plant life, as well as an unrivalled hunting ground for the naturalist. And, whatever the interest of the naturalist, it seems the seashore can cater for it birds, mammals, fishes and a myriad of worms, shellfish and other invertebrates all find rich pickings on the seashore. 

Geological upheavals in the past have determined the overall nature of our coastline, but the sea is a constantly modifying agent, and by a relentless programme of erosion on the one hand and deposition on the other, we’re witnessing long term re-shaping by the action of water. Nevertheless, whatever the forces of nature, animals and plants seem infinitely adaptable, and there is scarcely and outcrop of rock or a patch of shifting shingle that is not inhabited. 

Unlike several other habitats, the seashore supports a constant community of plants and animals which are always on view. There is some seasonal variation but overall the seasons are of less significance than the tides. At times of low tide the naturalist can pick among the seaweeds and rock crevices for molluscs worms echinoderms and other small animals, or wait quietly by rock pools for the inhabitants to show themselves. The cliffs are often rich in wild flowers, and provide superb vantage points from which to watch seabirds such as gulls and fulmars wheeling and soaring on the thermals. Estuaries, too can provide many hours of rewarding investigation, especially even the tide is out and the wading birds flock into feed. 

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