Readers’ wildlife photos

February 26, 2021 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Dom, who’s spent the lockdown in Cromer, a seaside town on the east of England. Dom’s notes are indented, and you can click on his photos to enlarge them.

Here are some snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, in the Cromer woods. Not a native species in the British Isles, they have however become naturalised. They hang their flower heads- I suppose it protects the flower from precipitation…

This is a mass of hornwrack, not the same as horned wrack which is a seaweed, but a form of sea-mat and a Bryozoan or Polyzoan. With the iPhone it is hard to get a good close-up, but you can see the spaces individuals live in—a bit like a honeycomb. They live below the tideline & presumably dead ones get thrown up on shore in storms. This mass of hornwrack was 2-3 feet deep, & full of bits of shore crab; and I found part of a lobster shell. There was a dead black-headed gull, probably the victim of one of the peregrines that nest on the church tower, also remains of 6 dead woodcocks – wings & breastbones- possibly  also eaten by the peregrines.

There were also masses of Whelk eggs – Buccinum undatum – astonishingly large compared with the size of the whelk. They look like bubble-wrap. Apparently of all the eggs in each bubble, only one hatches, after consuming its fellows! Common Whelks, found on shores of the North Atlantic as far south as New Jersey and France, do not tolerate waters warmer than 29° C. They are also affected by marine pollutants, like the coatings used on ships to inhibit growth of marine life – Tributyltin or TBT.  These can cause female whelks – they have male/female sex unlike some molluscs – to develop male gonads, which is called ‘imposex’.
Photo attached is a rather bashed whelk shell. I threw the egg cases in the sea – some eggs were still unhatched – but they could easily have been washed up again. I imagine whelks attach them to something. I cannot understand how one whelk can produce so many eggs!

Some pictures from Cromer this week. The only visible flowers are on the gorse which can be seen with some flowers every month of the year, though I wonder what insects would take advantage of that—perhaps winter flying gnats Trichoceridae? But they tend to be in the woods rather than heath-like habitat.

 A couple of pictures show snow showers blowing in from the north-east.

We have unusually had snow lying here for over a week – one of the crab fishermen said he’d never seen it last this long. Usually being by the sea moderates the cold, but that means it is often cooler in summer of course.

18 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. I am super-excited about the hornwrack! Fossil bryozoans are very very common in Paleozoic rocks, but I’ve never knowingly see a modern bryozoan. I may overlooked it thinking it was seaweed?

    My winter photos in Pittsburgh are similarly lit–we love our dark winter clouds here.

    1. Ooh! Palaeozoic bryozoans? Bet they are little changed. The North Sea is shallow &, a bit like a child on a beach, has a sandy bottom! I reckon the hornwrack – which must be on the US Atlantic coast as well? – I suppose they proliferate around the pier.

    2. Most modern bryozoa are “encrusting” forms, rather than “free-standing” forms like this one. It’s so common to see encrusting bryozoa on shells, sometimes on thick stalks from kelp that I barely notice them when I’m beach-combing.

  2. Thanks for these interesting photos. I was amazed to see snow on the seaside! 12°C?! We haven’t seen that since October here. I’d be on our deck in a chair with a beer!

      1. “I never wear a coat – even in that snow.” – it’s true, and he always wants his bedroom window open when he visits.

  3. A couple of whelk corrections; the individual ovals in the egg mass are egg cases rather than eggs, each one contained multiple individual eggs. Secondly, the species affected by TBT is the Dogwhelk, which I always knew as Nucella lapillus, but I know it has been transferred to a different genus. The Dogwhelk is intertidal on rocky shores feeding on barnacles, the Common Whelk here is a sub tidal species which uses Sandy substrates.

  4. Nice photos and interesting commentary. I recently read J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine where he describes the demise of many black-headed gulls and woodcocks.

  5. I have taken to watching for the emergence of snowdrops at this time of year, and as of yesterday, no sign of any leaves outside Pittsburgh. But it hit single digits F a few days earlier.

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