YWT Shoresearch, Filey Brigg, April 2nd 2011

It was April, so it was sunny, cloudy, windy, showery, warm, cold, everything. It was my first Shoresearch trip, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I did at least know that Filey Brigg was a fine place to visit.

As part of a national programme, Shoresearch aims to build up a detailed picture of the wildlife found along the Yorkshire Coast, and everyone is welcome to come along. Events happen approximately once a month, the first having been at South Landing, Flamborough, in March, and the next one being at Runswick Bay on April 30th. Everyone is welcome to come along, and no expertise in marine ecology is assumed.

A crowd of 15-20 people made it to the Filey Sailing Club, and we then strolled across the beach to the Brigg. Armed with identification charts and waterproof noteboards, we split up into small survey teams. I worked with Ben, a very knowledgeable young chap, and as the tide was coming in, we began looking for life in the rocks closest to the sea and then worked our way towards the cliffs.

It seemed mostly seaweed to me, but Ben was soon turning up some interesting things.  Bean horse mussels, apparently scarce along the North Sea coast, were his first notable find, and he then discovered a butterfish, also known as a rock gunnel. I called it Sally.

As we perused our way across the rocks, chased slowly landwards by the sea, others in the group found plenty of curiosities too. The strangest were probably these swirly white worms, which turned out to be the eggs of the grey sea slug, but my favourite creatures were the two small chitons we found beneath a boulder in a rock pool. Having an interest in the evolution and diversification of multi-plated molluscs, it was great to see a couple of these beautiful and ancient organisms:

Chitons (Polyplacophora)

After a couple of hours had flown by, we all got together to go through our finds. Anthony, leading the trip, showed us a specimen of Flustra foliacea that had washed up. Although it looks like a seaweed, and is known commonly as the broad-leaved hornwrack, this is actually a bryozoan, or 'moss animal'. I kept the specimen, not least because it smelled quite strongly of lemons.  If you are interested in learning more about bryozoans, one of the world's leading experts on fossil Bryozoa, Dr Paul Taylor of the Natural History Museum, is giving a talk to the Rotunda Geology Group in Scarborough this Thursday, April 7th.

The Shoresearch event finished, and everyone headed home happily. My train back from Filey wasn't for a few hours, however, so I walked south along the beach to see what else I could find. I was mostly interested in fossils, and did find gryphaeid oysters, ammonites and corals, but the coolest things I saw were a (crushed) sea potato (Echinocardium cordatum) and a beautifully transparent sea gooseberry (Pleurobrachia pileus).

It was a great day out, and I can't wait to see what we find in Runswick Bay at the next event...