LESSER SPOTTED DOGFISH Scyliorhinus caniculus M. Ir. Freangach; Fr. Petite rousette; Ge. Kleiner Katzenhai; Du. Hondshaai; It. Gattuccio; Sp. Pintarroje, Gato marino.
Small, slender, sinuous, rough-skinned shark, with two small dorsal fins placed far back and close together. Thickly sprinkled with small dark brown spots. Nasal flaps simple, continuous and touching mouth. Anal fin ends under or in advance of the origin of the second dorsal. Grows to about 2.5 feet in length.
In all the years I have lived in Southport I had never seen a stranded fish on the beach until Sunday morning whilst out on another walk. I seldom take a walk every day, usually every second day is enough but I am beginning to feel like going more often lately. Exercise is addictive and for all the right reasons. I like being out in the fresh air and that is one thing we have plenty of on the west coast. Most of the time the wind is from the west and it is very refreshing. So it was that I went for a walk on Sunday after taking one on Saturday too. I never walk less than a five-mile distance. I chose to walk southward along the beach toward Ainsdale. The tide was out, about a half-mile out, though it can get much further to around two miles! Less so the further south you go from Southport. My favourite line is to walk along the high tide mark rather than nearer the sea unless the tide is in so it was unusual for me to see a stranded fish so far from the water and at the high tide mark. It is the fish in the picture above. I am pretty sure it is a dogfish though I am not an angler and nor am I familiar with fish types. I did a search on types of fish found in The Irish Sea on which coast Southport is and came up with the description above. It was as long as the description indicates (two and a half feet or around 750 mm). I often see dead gulls or sandpipers on the beach but never fish. I just wondered how this one came to its end.
E was going to the hospital for her first physiotherapy session early on Monday morning. The appointment was connected to her having problems with one of her feet following a recent suspected accident. As she suffers with her motability because of her other condition too I had suspected part of the treatment was for that also but it wasn’t. Meanwhile I was going for an early morning walk. On Saturday I walked a different route to my normal routes, going south along the beach for a change. It had been more of a case of not being able to walk my usual route because of the annual air show being held there. Anyway I enjoyed the alternative route but really wanted to do it mostly on the beach. The terrain had changed so much since I last went that route and I was unable to find my way to the beach until I had walked quite a distance. On Monday therefore, although I could have taken one of my usual routes I wanted to make another attempt at reaching the beach directly. I walked directly out toward the sea, the tide was out so at some point I could turn and walk along the sand. However the path was muddy and full of pools of water and being the same one that is used by the ‘cockler’s vehicles who use it every day to get to the water it is not exactly an easy path to walk. Marram grass and other plants grow either side of the path and they hide numerous pools and small streams of water making walking that way almost impossible. As I was wearing boots I could stay more or less on the path until I reached the open sand. It would be impossible to walk that route if the tide was high but on the day, the morning, it was far out. I reckon I had to walk out 300 metres before I could turn left to walk south along the sand.
Ainsdale Beach and Sand Dunes. This photo was taken on New Years Eve in 2004, looking north along the sands approaching Ainsdale. Behind the dunes lies Ainsdale National Nature Reserve, home to Natterjack Toads. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There were no other people on the beach until I reached the Ainsdale turn-off two to three miles away. Once there I could walk inland to take the coastal road north and back home. I have to say I am not impressed by the way the local authority has abrogated its responsibility to maintain the beach south of the town, the north side was left to its own devices many years ago and it has become marshland. In fact the local area is named ‘Marshside’, a great place for those who like watching the many birds who visit or habit the area. I suppose one day the whole of the beach will be covered in grass and sand dunes and the sea will be further to reach. According to studies the coast at Lancashire is already encroaching further out into the Irish Sea, whilst on the opposite side of the country the North Sea is eroding the land.
From anywhere north on this planet going south means getting warmer but in my case, at least on Saturday morning , it was due to my not being able to go northward on my walk. The Air Show was taking place over the three days from Friday which meant road closures for a while. It might seem odd but it had been many years since I walked along the beach or even through the sand dunes in a southerly direction. In any case I was usually running, not walking. In the intervening years the area had changed somewhat, different paths, the old ones lost in the shrubbery meant I was led away from my intended route. I remembered the time I could walk or run along the path and still be able to see the beach and the sea, in fact the path ran alongside the beach. Either I had taken the wrong path initially else the original one had simply become lost. I should have walked as far out toward the sea to be able to turn and then walk along the beach but I had thought the path would eventually take me to the beach instead. That was my mistake for I ended up walking along this path with sand dunes on my left and the coastal road beyond that and with dense shrubbery and trees on my right beyond which were more sand dunes and the beach. There were no paths leading off to the beach until I had walked two-thirds of the way to my destination where I would turn left and back toward the coastal road for my return home. I finally found the path leading to the beach so I was able to walk the last section on flat sand. Having turned from the beach I walked along till I reached the footpath on the coastal road to get back home. I doubt I will ever use that path again because I found it boring. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will make sure I follow the beach route. From my access point to the beach if I go north I pass the town’s seafront but if I go south I can walk on the beach for miles depending on how far I want to walk, even as far as Freshfield where I used to live….
Sand Dunes and Beach, Freshfield. Sand dunes and the beach at Freshfield. Blackpool tower and the Big One rollercoaster could clearly be seen from the top of this high sand dune on this day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Southward the beach is lovely and many use it in summer for all kinds of water activities but northward the beach, apart from directly in front of the town, turns muddy and is covered in grass. The sea covers it all when the tide is in and it hides it. Some years ago the local authority decided against defending the beach from the build-up of grass and has allowed it to grow for a short distance to the south. Consequently sand dunes have and are taking over more of the beach to the north but not south. Because of tidal action the trend is for the sand to drift northward leaving the south clear, clean, flat and sandy. Further north toward the next river, the River Ribble, there are large sandbanks due to the action of the tide. A few years ago I was on a yacht with two others when we were marooned on a sandbank for a few hours because the tide receded faster than we could make it to deep water. Our ‘captain’ thought we could make it. How wrong she was. That is another story which perhaps I’ll post one day. As for my walk, I might just go south more often, it all depends on the tide.
I have never been a beachcomber as some would describe or imagine the activity to be though whenever I am on the beach I do keep a sharp eye for anything that might be interesting. I was up early on Wednesday so that I could go for a walk. E had kindly left a wad of envelopes the night before near to the door which she evidently wanted posting and probably in the hope that I intended to go for a walk and would post them. Well naturally I did post them. I took the direct route to the sea front and along for a mile or so before deciding to get off the concrete and on to the beach itself. Although there is plenty of sand along the shore from further south and to the north of Southport there is only a short stretch where the sand comes right up to the sea wall. The stretch you see below….. Everywhere else is either covered with marram grass and other salt-resistant plants and in places it is very muddy too. Even so there is a sandy pathway near to the sea wall for much of the way and it is nice to take that route as long as the tide is out. Once down on the sand the noise of passing traffic quieted down considerably and depending upon the wind direction it is often less windy too. Apart from the debris left by inconsiderate people there is little else of interest to be found lying about for any would-be beachcomber. On this day I found two new hair bands and a small silver-coated knife. Nothing to write home about to be sure though I’ll wager greater things have been found by others in the past. As I walk along I think about how the beach would have looked say a thousand or two-thousand years ago and who might have been walking there at that time. I suppose not many people in the day would be out taking a leisurely stroll but would be out fishing or collecting cockles (an industry still thriving in these parts and along the coast) or maybe hunting for rabbits of which there are still plenty even down on the beach! I walked a mile or so along the sand before setting foot on concrete once again to make up the mileage before returning later to walk back along the sand until I had to get back on the street and on homeward.