Country diary: Eye to eye with a shanny in the rockpool

Country diary: Eye to eye with a shanny in the rockpool

Castletown, Isle of Man: My little pool is transmuting both shape and content for the second time today

It’s low tide on the rocky shore of Scarlett Point. A fissure in the limestone pavement guides me down to a collapsed kelp forest at the waterline. The sea’s retreat has caused the oarweed to lay down its arms and drape its fleshy paddles over claw-like holdfasts that anchor it to the rocks. Exuding a briny tang, this fearsome tangle of oil-dark rubbery hose and neoprene “oars” is a danger to unwary feet. I find some solidity on a limpet-mined boulder, and dunk my head towards the surface of the nearest rockpool.

The still water under my chin has the pristine, algae-free serenity of a newly established fish tank, a multicoloured bed of shell fragments, and fish jinking through tufts of translucent seaweed. Or rather, one fish, a goggle-eyed shanny with an open-mouthed surprised look. It is a tiny tiger of sorts, its back striped with alternating bars the colour of wet and dry sand.

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