Above:Shanny © Paul Naylor
Below: Spiny spider crab © Julie Hatcher, Sea Campion © Chris Fryatt
Spiny spider crabs
Spider crabs are a common species found in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. They are migratory, often travelling hundreds of mile each year. In the winter, they tend to migrate to deeper waters, returning to the shallower, warmer waters of our shores at around this time of year to breed. June is a great time of year to see them, although you have to look carefully, as they can be quite well camouflaged. Spider crabs have a spiky shell, which they decorate with seaweed to hide from predators. Unlike other species of crabs, spider crabs have longer legs enabling them to walk forwards as well as sideways.
See below to watch a short video of a spider crab with ballan wrasse in Kimmeridge Bay.
All along the coastline, plants are blooming and the beaches and clifftops are awash with colour from the flowers. Despite the harsh, windy, salty and dry conditions by the sea, these beach species are specially adapted to this arid environment and many are flourishing at this time of year. On the clifftops you will find plants like Sea Campion, Sea Cabbage and Thrift, which have developed extensive root systems to provide stability on the loose cliff edge. Beach plants such Sea Kale, Yellow Horned Poppy and Sea Rocket can survive closer to the water’s edge, with succulent or hairy leaves that help reduce water loss. Sea kale even has buoyant seeds designed to be spread by the sea itself.
Common Blennies or Shannies are inquisitive little fish often found living on rocky shores and in rockpools. As the sun warms the water in the rockpools, Blennies tend to be more active, so it’s a good time to observe them. Blennies have adapted to cope with the tough conditions in the intertidal zone where they live. They are able to withstand periods of time out of the water, providing they keep their skin moist. They do this by hiding away from the sunlight in crevices in the rocks or under seaweed, waiting until the tide comes in.