Discover Kent’s coastal treasures
PUBLISHED: 08:15 09 July 2016 | UPDATED: 08:15 09 July 2016
The strandline on Kent beaches can yield some fascinating finds, from whelks to mermaids’ purses.
Lying high on the shore there is often a line of stranded material, lifted there by the high tide waves and left as the tide recedes back down the shore. Particularly after storms and rough seas, this strandline can be full of treasures and clues as to what lives below the waves, on the shore and further out to sea. Here’s a look at just some of the fascinating things you may find there.
A word of caution; be careful of anything that is still alive, avoid sharp objects or containers with unknown contents; check the tide times and make sure you won’t get cut off.
Common whelks: It won’t take long before you find the large empty shells or yellowish egg masses of the common whelk on a visit to the Swale or other shores around Kent. The largest of our whelks, it’s a carnivorous snail which feeds on worms and other molluscs very low on the shore and in deeper water. Its empty shells make great homes for large mature hermit crabs and its empty egg masses are often mistaken for sponges, which early seafarers used for washing!
Mermaids’ purses: The empty eggcases of rays, skates and catsharks (also known as dogfish) are washed up all around Kent’s shores; our Seasearch volunteers see the adult fish when diving on the chalk and shingle seabed around Dover. Catshark cases have curly tendrils on the corners, while skates and rays have ‘horns.’
Butterflies in the sand: The empty shells of banded wedge shells and Baltic tellins scattered across the shores of Sandwich Bay and Romney Bay look like clouds of butterflies, with their delicate paired shells. They live in the soft sandy sediment from the mid shore and out in deeper water. Their long siphons extend up to the surface of the sediment to feed on particles in the water or on the sand.
Cuttlefish: A familiar sight in budgie cages, the cuttlefish bone acts as an internal buoyancy control device in life, being filled with either gas or liquid. What appears to be a bunch of black grapes occasionally appears on the strandline, but this is actually a mass of cuttlefish eggs. Our Shoresearch volunteers have witnessed on the Thanet shores the hatching of tiny cuttlefish babies, perfect replicas of their adult form.
Plastics: The strandline also harbours a huge variety of plastics and other man-made litter which doesn’t biodegrade and can harm marine wildlife. Animals can get entangled in netting, ties and can-holders, or they swallow pieces which can poison them or clog their intestines. We can all help by buying purchases with little or no packaging, and re-using and recycling plastics.
Guardians of the Deep: Kent Wildlife Trust is creating a network of coastal guardians to help protect our wonderful marine wildlife. All volunteers will receive training and contribute in a range of ways: reporting unusual wildlife sightings or incidents harmful to wildlife; taking part in beach cleans or control of invasive non-native species; or undertaking marine life surveys. w
If you are interested in becoming a Guardian of the Deep, please call 01622 662012 or email: firstname.lastname@example.orgFind out more
Look out for these free, fun, family seaside-themed events organised by Kent Wildlife Trust for the school holidays:
● Rocking Rockpooling, Lower Leas Coastal Park, Folkestone, 25 July
● Marvellous Marine Day, Reculver, 26 July
● Marvellous Marine Day, Tyland Barn, 27 July
● Rocking Rockpooling, Reculver, 28 July
● Marvellous Marine Day, Romney Marsh, Wednesday 3 August
For details call 01622 662012 or visit www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk