With the weather still glorious on Sunday I was very happy to hear that Mark had arranged a trip to the island of Bryher, north west of St Mary's.
The habitat here was a lot more sandy and less rocky than previous sites and also there were beds of sea-grass which provide an excellent nursery ground for young fishes. With the seine net we soon managed to get some nice specimens; a 15-spined stickleback (a marine relative of the 3-spined variety often found in freshwater), some sandeels, some baby plaice and a female dragonet. This last specimen was beautifully camouflaged and we were lucky to spot it.
Dragonet (not sure which species yet)
After we had denuded the sea-grass of its inhabitants we transferred our attentions to some of the large stones amongst the seaweed. Lifting a few of these uncovered a wealth of invertebrates, including the most furious crab I've yet seen. As soon its rock was raised it scuttled forth with claws snapping and, although I have seen a lot of crabs come and go, this particular one really spooked me.
I mentioned it to one of the locals who had come to see us collect and they immediately asked, did it have red eyes? Yes, I said and they laughed and told me it was a velvet swimming crab - aka the devil crab - and they are renowned for being especially radge (dangerously mad) as they say in Scotland. Very gingerly I managed to grab both its claws and thus obtained the photograph below (you can see its swimming paddles on its lower legs):
Devil crab (Necora puber)
Thankfully we managed to get some nice fish specimens too, including our first rockling and some butterfish.
Shore rockling (Gaidropsarus mediterraneus)
Butterfish (Pholis gunnellus) and head of 15-spined stickleback (Spinachia spinachia)
The following day Andreia Salvador and I stayed on St Mary's and went to the town beach near Hugh Town to look for molluscs, fishes and anything else interesting. As always, the first fish I found was a shanny but with a bit more effort a few nice rock gobies were captured.
Rock gobies (Gobius paganellus) - how many can you see in this picture? *
After some more boulder hefting I found another fish that at first sight I thought was just another shanny but turned out to be the much more elusive Montagu's blenny.
Montagu's Blenny (Coryphoblennius galerita)
These can be distinguished from the shanny by the small bristles on the top of the head, which shannies don't have.
On our final day of collecting, we went to Porth Wreck and back to Porth Hellick on the south-east of St Mary's. Porth Wreck was fairly barren apart from a decent sized rockling and a clingfish but Porth Hellick was much more productive. Using the seine net with deadly effect we got sand gobies, two-spot gobies, baby pollock and a big sandeel.
Previously sandeels never really meant that much to me other than as fishing bait and something that puffins like to eat but I have a whole new respect for them now. Firstly, they are beautiful to look at, a dark blue top blending into iridescent green and shining silvery flanks, but also extremely tenacious. Our specimen took a long time to capture as every time we had it cornered it would burrow down into the sand and we would have to dig it up and go after it again. Of all the fish I collected this trip, apart from maybe the wrasse, this was the one I felt saddest about consigning to the collecting pot. The photograph below doesn't begin to do it justice.
Lesser sandeel (Ammodytes tobianus)
Pollock (Pollachius pollachius)
Two-spot goby (Gobiusculus flavescens)
And a couple of non-fish pictures to finish on. Maybe I really am getting too sentimental but I found the parental care shown by this centipede (I think) rather touching. We found it while helping my friend and colleague Jonathan Ablett look for snails.
A centipede demonstrating rather touching parental care
One of our toilet swallows, who will be very happy to see us go
So that's about it from me, it's been a pleasure and a privilege to take part in this field trip and have seen so many amazing things, not all of which were fish. If anything interesting turns up when I go through all the specimens back in London I'll let you know.
* There are 10 gobies in the picture