I’m still hiding away safely in my crevice
home. Phew! Well kind of, it’s still like being in a washing machine down here
after Storm Freya and Storm Gareth whizzed through followed by continuing wind
and rain. There is a lot of swell and 2 metre waves crashing in on my beach.
Optimistically, I can feel it in the water
that 2019 is going to be a good year for us tompot blennies. Us ‘bourgeois males’ (that’s the way males like
me that guard a crevice territory are described) are getting busy. We’re preparing
for the spring by clearing any debris from our homes, getting ready to
encourage our local ladies in to lay their eggs. It’s an ongoing job at the
moment because, as soon as I clear lumps of seaweed out of my home, the swell
whooshes them all back in.
I’m really hoping that, this year, we won’t
have anything like last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ sweep over and drop the
water temperature dramatically.
The seawater temperature is still 9 degrees
C and about to turn back up I think. The days are lengthening so spring has
Things are looking up now the water temperature has increased to 11 degrees after the warm Bank Holiday. Bradley has moved into my old crevice home and has a good raft of eggs. The crevice he moved out of has no tompot occupant for the first time in 10 years of observing the reef. A cheeky Connemara clingfish has moved in there! Bertram who is further round the reef is doing well and so is Byron, they both have eggs to look after. Paul is able to recognise us tompot blenny males individually from our face markings and that’s why we have names; this article in the Guardian is a photo story all about us – please take a look at this link.
I’m “eggscited” and “eggsstatic” now I have a full raft of eggs to look after! That’s because this spring I’ve:
a) secured a territory – my crevice home
b) done my spring cleaning
c) done an “eggscellent” job of attracting the local females in to lay their eggs.
I did this by wafting inviting smells (pheromones) from the enlarged glands just under my belly. Back on 24th March, Belinda was the first female to respond to my smelly message, she came in and had a good look at my home, I gave her a show of my bravado by whizzing round at lightning speed. Once I’d calmed down, she then decided to lay some of her beautiful dark purple eggs with me, which I fertilised immediately. Since then I’ve had visits from Brenda, Barbara, Bertha and Becky too. Belinda has been back twice. I’m very particular where they lay their eggs so you will see in the video that I boss them around to make sure they lay their eggs just where I want them to! They tolerate a little gentle barging and fin nibbling as they know I have a good track record as a Dad; I’ve lived in this crevice for 3 years and have been very successful looking after eggs.
I noticed this year that the females visited us more established males in the better crevices first. Byron and I are the ‘top dogs’ on the reef and we both had a good layer of eggs in our crevices a week or two before the females started to lay eggs with Billy, a small younger male tompot blenny with an inferior crevice home.
Well, the storms have gone, the sun is out, the seawater temperature which has been around 9 C most of the winter has just crept up to 11 C and, most importantly, the days are getting much longer. I’ve been cleaning out my crevice home to ensure that the floor and ceiling are perfect for egg laying; I flick and shiver over the surfaces clearing off any mud and nibble away at little barnacles and worm tubes that have been growing over the winter. All this to prepare the maximum surface area to impress the female tompot blennies that I invite in.
You might think that I’m not fussy about which females I attract to my crevice home but you’ll find I have my favourites. Yes, Paul’s research into our fishy community Unique face markings has suggested there is a pecking order amongst the females. As I’m one of the top males with an excellent crevice home, and a proven track record for being a good dad looking after eggs, the top females like to lay their eggs with me!
Just after the video for my last blog was taken, I kept seeing dark shapes being swept past my crevice home. It took a while but then it dawned on me what they were. The waves had ripped lots of kelp (a large type of seaweed) off the rocks around my home and it was being swished around in the waves. I’ll have to be careful when I venture out as it could damage me.
A lot of the kelp will be washed up on the beach. This photograph shows a pile, 1 metre deep, that arrived all in one night… pretty impressive!
The recycling gang will have to get into action on the beach; sand hoppers, beach hoppers, kelp flies and other small creatures will break it all down over the next month or so. More broken off kelp will stay around the gully in front of my rock, it will be eaten by thousands of amphipods and isopods (small crustaceans). Those amphipods and isopods will eventually be a nice feast for me, so that’s the good side of the storm, yum yum!
This smallspotted catshark egg case (mermaid’s purse) was washed up with the seaweed too!
You can see that all us fish have different ways of bringing on the next generation. Super-Dad blennies like me guard our eggs http://www.bennytheblenny.com/blog/?p=240, while the single catshark and ray eggs are wrapped in those tough ‘mermaid’s purses’ so they don’t need to be guarded. Some fish, like plaice and cod, don’t guard the eggs or give them a strong coat, they just produce so many of them (plaice ~500000, cod over a million) that they reckon a few are bound to survive. That sounds a bit too risky to me!
I’m glad I chased that velvet swimming crab out when I did. I’ve been in dire need of my crevice home to myself for the last few days. Gales hit the south-west coast but there seems to be some debate whether it was just very windy or officially ‘Storm Doris’, as some of the newspapers called it. It felt like Storm Doris to me. Take a look at this video, imagine what it’s like around my reef, a bubbly wild underwater whirlpool! I’m staying hidden away in the narrowest, snuggest part of my crevice for now, using my fins to keep me safely in position.
The winds are now easing but there is still a big swell coming in from the open sea. The surfers are enjoying it!
This pesky velvet swimming crab keeps creeping into my crevice home when I’m out searching for food. He doesn’t seem to get the message that he isn’t welcome, so I have to deal with him every time I get home. It takes a full blown head on barge, followed by careful manoeuvring to avoid his sharp claws. I then back in beside him and forcibly shove him sideways out of my crevice. As you can see from the video, I’ve nearly succeeded. It’s an uneasy truce for now but I’ll have another bash later!
I use a different technique to shift edible crabs from my territory, please take a look at my blog of 19th June 2015.
Thank you for reading my blogs, I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I’ve loved writing them. There’s always so much happening on my reef to tell you about.
Take a look at this photograph, it shows me looking at the children’s book that is all about ME and my world under the sea. It uses lots of underwater photographs to tell you all about where I live, what I like to eat and what would like to eat me! My eccentric author was very keen that I should see the book so, when the first copies were printed, she brought one down with Paul (the photographer) to show me! I came out of my crevice home to have a good look, swam over it and ……
Talking of marauding predators, I watched this cuttlefish cautiously from the safety of my crevice home. It grabbed a small fish with its long tentacles and I wondered who had been the unlucky victim. Before the cuttlefish jetted away, I saw a sea scorpion’s tail sticking out from its tentacles. That fish’s camouflage hadn’t deceived the superb vision of the cuttlefish this time, with fatal consequences! Sad to see I guess, but cuttlefish have to eat and better a sea scorpion than a tompot blenny, especially as sea scorpions can eat young tompot blennies too.