with Jim Hall (Swansea)

Saturday 10th March 2001.

It is the time of the first really big spring tides and this one is a must for rockpoolers. The weather was rather inclement and with a low tide at about 12.30 pm I spent the morning watching the skies in anticipation.    By 11 am I decided to go for it, and suitably dressed I ventured forth.

With the skies still overcast I began working my push net underneath and along the old sewer pipe that runs across and under Mumbles pier, an area that has produced many wonders in the past.   I netted a few small prawns and the odd Scorpion Fish, Taurulus bubalis, but not much else until I spotted a rather strange pale beige blob of something in the bottom of the net. Was it a sponge? no, maybe an egg-case of something, no it was too firm for that.  I carefully put the "blob" into, one of several small plastic jars that I always carry to isolate small creatures such as this.  Only much later did I realise that I had inadvertently netted a sea slug, Jorunna tomentosa the first one found by me anywhere.   It was 25 mm, pale beige in colour, with velvety skin and with the ability to withdraw its rhinophores completely also the gills.  Undoubtedly it had done this when captured, hence my failure to recognise what it was at the time.

A gentleman in his 50's past the time of day with me and asked how I was doing! I chatted with him for a few moments and then continued working that sewer pipe. About fifteen minutes later I caught a young 5 cm Pogge, Agonus cataphractus, in the bottom of my net.  These fish can be easily mistaken for Scorpion fish at a quick glance and I nearly missed this one because of this fact and more importantly, the fact that I have never known this species from the Swansea or Gower area before.  I have caught them some years ago, but in Pembrokeshire and off the beach in a dragnet. They are very easily recognised on close inspection, if only for the "puggy uplifted nose" and whiskers around the mouth, and a kind of prehistoric appearance to the head area.

I found many egg ribbons of sea slugs and eventually discovered two specimens of Goniodoris nodosa, also noted on my last trip to the Mumbles, although not seen previously in the area. I also noted many specimens of Onchidoris bilamellata

About this time I heard a call from the gentleman in his 50's.  He waded over to me carrying a large polythene bag shouting that he had something "odd" and did I know what it was. I opened his bag to find a Lumpsucker, Cyclopterus lumpus of  some 18 cm in length and to my amazement, a deep red in colour! To my obvious stream of questions, he told me that he had found it sitting in a shallow pool, no more than 3 cm deep, mostly out of the water and totally unable to reach the sea again for at least another 2 hours. We put the fish in water in my bucket and I left the fish in peace for the next 15 minutes.  He was in his breeding colours and had been exposed for quite some time I would think, before being brought to me in that plastic bag.

Lumpsucker (Photograph by Peter Glanville)

The fish survived and after I removed 6 parasites clinging to the body, placed him into my 2 metre long aquarium and filmed him with my camcorder whilst he retained the breeding coloration. It was a shade resembling glowing embers on a fire and covered the entire body, including every fin as well.

One week later he is still alive, albeit very quiet and adhered to the side glass, all of the time, but now moving around within his little space and he has taken a few live mysid shrimp. I will not be really happy until I see him swimming freely and confidently around the tank. The red breeding colours are already fading and only his belly and anal fin are now red.

This Lumpsucker had a very unfortunate experience but thanks to two men being sociable, he will now undoubtedly survive instead of becoming food for the seagulls as I fear would have been his fate. What an amazing day!

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