In the first week of September 2000, my girlfriend and I travelled about 600 miles north to Onich, a tiny village situated by the shores of Loch Linnhe. I have never collected any Calliostoma zizyphinum, Linne 1758, in this country and thought that I should look for them while on holiday. We arrived in glorious sunshine on the Saturday and fairly quickly decided to check what was up for grabs on the beach close to the house.
The beach is mostly pebbled with a zone of sand and when we arrived it was (luckily) just past low tide. We began browsing and within a short space of time had collected a few beach specimens of various species including some really huge Gibbula magus, Linne 1758- the biggest I have ever seen. However, they are all very beached and one had a hermit crab in it which was eventually persuaded (by Lynn's offer of alternative premises!) to leave. I collected several of those over the week at several different localities, not just Loch Linnhe. Scattered amongst the rocks were several species of bivalve: Mytilus edulis, Linne 1758, a broken Modiolus modiolus, Linne 1758, Ensis siliqua, Linne 1758, Marcta corallina, Linne, 1758 and Cerastoderma edule, Linne 1758. Also, that evening, I found Natica poliana, Chiaje, 1826, Patella vulgasta, Linne 1758, Gibbula cinerea, Linne 1758, Littoria littorea, Linne 1758, Littorina obtusa, Linne 1758, Littorina saxatilis, Linne 1758 and the subspecies radis, Maton 1797. I also found the operculum of a Buccinum undatum, Linne 1758 miraculously unbroken wedged between the rocks, a very small Chiton - Lepidopleurus asselus, Gmelin 1791 and a single Rissoa lilacina, Recluz 1843.
Shelling continued the following day in another part of the loch, specifically a place called Cuil Bay, in fantastically hot and sunny weather! We found intact Modiolus modiolus, Linne 1758 and broken fragments of Buccinum undatum, Linne 1758 as well as Venerupsis rhombodies (Pennant,1777) Venus casina, Linne1758 and Spisula solida, Linne 1758 and more of the same at the previous locality. The searching continued at home base in the evening but no new species were found (although I did find several Green Pea Urchins (Psammechinus milliaris, Gmelin and one Echinus acutus, Lamarck).
The Wednesday of the week involved a tortuous drive up to Mallaig from where you can catch the ferry to Mull, if you wish. We did however go to the Mallaig Sea Life Centre which is worth a visit if just to see the live Buccinum undatum, Linne 1758 in the tanks with the Sea Cucumbers. I also asked the chap on the door who informed me that the Top Shell shown on the display "is common on all our shores -look in rock pools and stuck to rocks" I tried to explain I had already tried this after advice from my friends Barbara Shepherd and Brian Hammond but to no avail.
So we drove a little further down the coast again to Morar Beach -a beautiful white sandy beach with frequent rocky headlands separating the coves. Apparently, the composer Sir Arnold Bax used to come here often for the peace and quiet and I can well see why. So, I left Lynn reading in the sunshine and set off. Further along, the beaches offers more of the same plus Turritella communis, Risso 1829, Aporrhais pespelecani, Linne 1758 (juvenile), Nucella lapillus, Linne 1758, Crepidula fornicata, Linne 1758 Capulus ungaricus, Linne 1767, Nassarius reticulatus, Linne 1758 and one slightly eroded Buccinum undatum, Linne 1758. Additional bivalves were Chlamys tigerina, Muller 1776, Spisula subtruncata, Da Costa 1778, Scrobicularia plana, Da Costa 1778, Zifaea crisaata, Linne 1758, Mya truncata, Linne 1758, Mya arenaria, Linne 1758, Ostrea edulis, Linne 1758, Anomia ephippiium, Linne 1758 and Tellina donacina, Linne 1758.
That was about it for the holiday, shell wise, but on the Thursday (by which time the weather had turned) we stopped off at a small cove near the road to Kinlochleven in a vague effort to locate the Calliostoma I wanted to find. The beach had very little to offer at all except that it was populated with lots of beached Buccinum undatum, Linne 1758 -I found thirty in the space of 10 minutes.
However, no Calliostoma zizyphinum, Linne 1758 anywhere, despite extensive searching in all sorts of places. If anyone has any ideas what I may have been doing wrong... answers on postcard, please!
Article by Jonathan Welsh originally published in April 2001 in our magazine Pallidula We would like to thank Lowtide Shells the specialists in Atlantic shells for the use of their pictures (Copyright).
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Gastropods Aporrhais pespelecani Linné 1758 (juvenile), Buccinium undatum Linné 1758, Capulus ungaricus (Linné 1767), Crepidula fornicata (Linné 1758), Gibbula cinerea (Linné 1758), Gibbula magus Linné 1758, Littorina littorea Linné 1758, Littorina obtusa Linné 1758, Littorina saxatilis Linné 1758, Littorina saxatilis rudis Maton 1797, Nassarius reticulatus (Linné 1758), Natica poliana Chiaje 1826, Nucella lapillus (Linné 1758), Patella vulgata Linné 1758, Rissoa lilacina Récluz 1843, Turritella communis Risso 1829. Bivalves Anomia ephippium Linné 1758, Barnea candida Linné 1758, Cerastoderma edule Linné 1758, Chamelia striatula Linné 1758, Chlamys tigerina (Müller 1776), Ensis siliqua Linné 1758, Glycymeris glycymeris (Linné 758), Mactra corallina Linné 1758, Modiolus modiolus Linné 1758, Mya arenaria Linné 1758, Mya truncata Linné 1758, Ostrea edulis Linné 1758, Scrobicularia plana (da Costa 1778), Spisula subtruncata (da Costa 1778), Tellina donacina Linné 1758, Venerupsis rhomboides (Pennant 1777), Zirfaea crispata Linné 1758. Others Chitons Lepidopleurus asselus Gmelin 1791. Echinoids Echinus acutus (Lamarck), Psammechinus miliaris (Gmelin).
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