Friday, 1 April 2016

Sketching from the Strandline

I had intended to write a post about illustrating birds of prey, but perhaps I will do that once I have finished my owl drawing.

Instead, I will introduce you to a few mysteries of the strandline, that area on a beach where natural and man-made debris gathers after the tide has gone out.  The position of the strandline on the beach can vary according to what type of tide there has been.

You may wonder what mysteries I am referring to, especially as it is April 1st !

I visited our local beach at Meon shore which overlooks the Solent between the mainland of the south coast of England across to the Isle of Wight.  I never tire of visiting here, as one side of the road is the shore and the other side is where Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve is located.  Regular readers of the blog have no doubt heard me mention this place before.

The tide going out revealing the shingle spit and looking across the Solent to Fawley Power Station.
Can you spot the Turnstones ?

The sun shone brightly to reveal the beautiful shades of green on the Spiral wrack seaweed.

An area of the strandline revealing its contents

 Now for the first of the mysteries .....

As I wandered through the tidal pools out on the shingle spit, I always walk along head down looking out for Snakeslock sea anemones, but no luck today.  What I did notice was several small gelatinous blobs bobbing around in the water.  A photo wasn't possible but I managed to illustrate one in my sketchbook (bottom left above).  Apparently they were the egg masses of the Green leaf worm, which is common on British coasts in a variety of habitats.

The biggest mystery of all was this ......

I had spotted a mass like this several times as I walked along the strandline.  They were generally attached to remnants of shells.  When I got home I did a bit of research and discovered it is a Sea squirt called a Baked bean sea squirt Dendrodoa grossularia !!!!  No I am not kidding !

It is most common along the south and west coasts and occurs at low tides and at depth as solitary individuals or in clusters.  The dots on top are the siphons and as in many of the sea squirts the fertilised eggs are held in the atrium, from which the larvae are released.

Other things seen ......

Sea wash ball - the egg capsules of the Common whelk.
Each of the capsules forming the mass may contain up to 10 or more eggs, but most will be eaten by the single one which develops into a juvenile whelk.

Left - Sand masons protruding from the sand as the tide goes out.  These are segmented worms and when the tide is high the tentacles extend to feed on passing organic matter.
Right - I just loved the colour and pattern of the seaweed holdfast.

Lots of lovely treasures collected up and will be used later for the Natures Details Seashore Palette course.  As an important aside, I always check shells and other objects just to make sure that nothing living is inside them, if there is it goes straight back to where it came from.

Starting a sketchbook ......

I always like to provide interesting learning resources for my students.  So for each of the courses this year I am going to create a concertina sketchbook with examples of subject matter and colour notes.
There are only 4 pages in each and I have used watercolour paper, so it will tolerate the moisture from the paint.

The left hand page consists of  seashore treasures collected off of the coast of California, sent to me by a very kind friend.  There are still a few more items to include. 

Painting the items collected from Meon shore.  Left to right - Oyster shell, Sea wash ball, Cuttlefish bone, Mermaid's purse, Mussel shell and a Grooved razor shell.

If you would like to find out more about the strandline, there has been a brilliant programme on Radio 4 this week at lunchtime, A Guide to Coastal Wildlife.  Each day Brett Westwood, Phil Gates and other wildlife experts explore different areas and habitats of our coast.

The Natures Details Course - The Seashore Palette-Colours and Details of the Seashore is taking place on the 19th and 20th August.  There are still a few places left, but if you are interested I would book up soon, it's proving to be a popular subject !