The Emerald Ghosts

“Oh look he’s caught something!” I said.

“So he has!” said producer Nigel Pope (creator of Springwatch), with whom I had been spending the afternoon. He passed me his binoculars to have a look and, indeed, the otter was swimming victoriously back to shore with a butterfish in its mouth. Shaking itself off it devoured the fish before returning to the water for more.

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We were watching from only 15 metres away but it either hadn’t noticed us, or didn’t mind that we were there. We watched for about 20 minutes before he scampered off across the beach and into the trees.

Nigel left, but I decided to sit in the afternoon sun, hoping the otter would come back. While I waited, I dangled myself off a pontoon and looked down into the clear waters for anything of interest. A sparkle of emerald green caught my eye – a transparent blob the size of a grape, floating in the water. Another sparkle appeared further away – this time turquoise. Like ghosts they drifted through the water, appearing and disappearing before me. Wow! What were they?!

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It took quite a while to get good photos of these creatures while they were fluorescent without a macro lens – my telephoto lens kept focusing on the surface of the water! But eventually I got a few snaps…

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A quick google when I got home told me they were Sea Gooseberries. Flourescent organisms, common around British waters (and indeed worldwide). However, as a first to my eyes they were nothing short of fascinating. I marvelled at these emerald and topaz blobs as they sparkled like jewels. It’s not often that I stop searching for the big wildlife: whales, dolphins, eagles and otters (the “megafauna” if you will) and take time to look at the tiny, but equally beautiful, creatures.

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I think sea gooseberries are great – and they’re vicious too – using their tentacles to catch fish eggs, larvae and even other sea gooseberries. Hopefully this summer I’ll have more time to look under the waves, not just what’s on or above the surface!

Until next week,

Sara

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