|Seas around the British Isles reach their
highest during the month of August. The surface
sea temperature offshore is unlikely to reach the magic 'toe test'
temperature of 20°C. However, on sandy, shallow beaches and in estuaries,
temperatures at low tide have been measured in hot summers up to 22°C.
Rock pools high up on the shore could even heat up to 26°C, but they
will be devoid of fish and crabs and the mobile forms of shore life.
The average sea surface temperature in the English Channel during August is only 17°C. In the northern North Sea the sea will only reach 14°C. These temperatures are important to the aquarist/rockpooler because of the narrow range of sea temperatures in which fish and other marine life can live. For half the animals kept in home aquaria, a cooler is necessary to keep the water temperature down to 21°C and below.
School is out for summer so there will be plenty of kids kicking their
heels by the middle of August. A visit to the rocky coast with the family
can provide a welcome change
Regular readers of this column will know just how important it is to consult the Tide Tables and arrive down at the shore when the tide is out. However this is just an elementary step. Whereas, just mucking about in the pools will keep the youngest happy, a few extra props will make a long trip to the coast much more worthwhile
EQUIPMENT TO TAKE
Bucket and spades are the standard seaside holiday fare. Do not load yourself up with too much equipment because somebody has to cart all the stuff around.
White buckets are recommended because crabs and their ilk can be seen easily against a white background. Brewing pails with lids, so the fish and crabs do not escape, are the most popular containers. The butterfly nets so often seen on sale at seaside stalls are a complete waste of time: they are far too flimsy for pool dipping. A large net is not an essential, as crabs and other animals can be picked up by a careful hand. A medium-sized aquarium net (10 cm) is the most useful choice on most shores. When clambering over the rocks it helps to have at least one hand free. The small net can fit in the bucket.
Invicta Toys and Games Ltd produce a 'mobile laboratory' for examination of the small animals of ponds, as well as insects, etc., on land. It is supplied by Hogg Laboratory Supplies Ltd for £11.40 plus postage, and I received one of these useful tools to see if it was suitable for rockpooling on the shore.
It is a micro aquarium (you need to fill it with seawater) of clear plastic, with magnifying lens so that the smaller animals can be seen in close-up. It is lightweight (325 grams) with an adjustable strap so that it can be carried around the neck by a child of school age. This means that the youngster can have both hands free. A few instructions are included, and it is worth repeating some of the important rules:
It is an ideal piece of equipment for the child that shown a serious interest in the natural world.
DANGERS ON THE SHORE
Parents have two problems. Firstly, the dangers on the shore should be recognised. Without scaring the youngsters you have to watch out for the incoming tide on some shores which can rush in and cut off children engrossed in examining the fascinating creatures under rocks and in the pools.
I have always been impressed by the ability of primary school children, with their low centre of balance, to scramble over slippery seaweed covered rocks, to avoid the sharp barnacle-encrusted boulders, whilst the adults slither around and generally put their foot in muddy pools.
However, young children should always be watched the consequences of a fall can be serious.
INFORMATION FOR CHILDREN
The second problem is how to answer all the queries that this mysterious world is likely to pose.
Children have the ability to ask all those pertinent questions that
are awkward to put into words that are understandable. The recommended
way to answer all these questions is to buy one of the many books, or study
packs, that are available from book shops or wildlife centres. Expect to
pay between £5 and £10 for a book which will introduce the
youngster to the world of the seashore, and enable the parent and older
children to put a name to the commoner of the animals and seaweeds between
the tides. Although I think that some books are better than the others,
just about all the books will help appreciate the world of small marine
BOOKS FOR THE YOUNGER READER
Saltwater Life of Great Britain & Europe. by Leslie Jackman. Junior Nature Guides. Dragon's World Children's Books, 1995. lSBN 1-85028-295-1. Price: £7.95
Collins Watch Guide No 5 Seashore, by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. Translated by Josephine Weightman. Harper Collins. 1997. ISBN 0002200880 Recommended Price: £5.99
There are many small guides that are also excellent. Identification Guide for Adults Collins Pocket Guide to the Seashore of Britain & Northern Europe, by Peter Hayward. Tony Nelson-Smith, Chris Shields. Illustrations by the Wildlife Art agency. Harper Collins. 1996. ISBN 0 002199556. Price: £12.99 and Special Offers.
Study Packs Marine Environmental Education Resource Pack. Devon Wildlife Trust, 1997 Tel: 01392 279244 Richard White (Conservation Officer).
This study pack is specially designed for teachers wishing to take groups of children on activity adventures down to the seashore. It is ideal for first time explorers, but is not a comprehensive guide to the animals.
Marine Conservation Study Pack for Schools, by Carolyn Heeps and Sarah Welton. Marine Conservation Society. Tel: 01989 566017
This pack has a different emphasis on the conservation issues to do with the marine environment.
For for people going out on boats. The Marine Conservation Society also produce an information pack called Ocean Vigil.
Naturescope supplier: Address: Hogg Laboratory Supplies Ltd. Sloane
Street. Birmingham B13 BW