Mermaid’s Purses, Egg Wrack Bladders and other Red Herrings

After a too long interval of activities which have kept me grounded in my houses, Nick and I took the opportunity to make a trip to the coast for some walking.   As we stepped out of the car near our chosen beach we were a bit non-plussed to see a view that suggested that it was already high tide.  However as we walked down some steps we could see that access to upper shore was still available and the morning’s strandlines were still in place.   We chose Baie d’Ecalgrain because it is on the West Cotentin and I was keen to see if there would be interesting material mixed in the strandlines of seaweed, driftwood and other detritus.  Blog-EcalgrainPebbles14The south and southwest coasts of England have been receiving assorted exotica and long haul drift items – like Velella, and plastic containers such as fish boxes and other substrates to which are attached several species of goose barnacle.  Columbus crabs, non-native to the northeast Atlantic, live in the goose barnacle colonies and in consequence sail the high seas.  The plastic items also have attached non-native bivalve species such as ChamaThree species of these ‘Jewel Box Clams’ (worth checking out this link to see variety of images) were found on one item which helpfully had the name of the Florida-based fishery to which the fish box had belonged!  Clearly a long haul stranding.

But there was none of that.  Instead along the strandline at the foot of the cliff I found the usual suspects: bottle corks and tops, pine cones, feathers, mermaid’s purses, cuttlebones, limpet shells, and bits of seaweed, particularly fucoids.  One species in this group of algae, Ascophyllum nodosum  carries particularly large air bladders and when these die and start to dry out they turn a kidney red colour.  Blog-EcalgrainPebbles12There is something that I have been searching for ever since I discovered the delights of beachcombing and that is a Sea BeanHow I would love to find one.  A friend in Dorset has found three on the beach at Kimmeridge in the past two weeks.  Rarely do they get carried so far up the Channel after they have survived an Atlantic crossing.  Sea Beans and Nickar Nuts do get stranded around the coast of Cornwall more frequently but they are still rare finds.  So when I spotted the Ascophyllum bladders my hopes soared for a fleeting moment before I realised that the shape was too oval for the bean. Blog-GouryColoursRedPebble I also had a moment or two of expectation when I spotted the occasional round and russetty red pebble lying in the weed and detritus tangles.  But as of the moment the search goes on.

What the shore at Baie d’Ecalgrain does have to offer is a wonderful colour range of stones in a wide range of lithologies.  I picked up one or two but there would be far too many eye-catching pebbles to weigh down my rucksack so I contented myself with some pebble photography of which a small selection are presented in the gallery below.


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