Sometimes nature can produce truly incredible instances. As this is a column which strives to bring you eyebrow-raising wildlife facts, I turned my attention across the Atlantic to allow me licence to pen the dreadful title of this week’s article.

A man whose emphysema took a drastic turn for the worse with a collapsed lung, was mightily relieved when Massachusetts doctors confirmed a pea plant had sprouted in his lung and caused the collapse. It is thought that a raw pea popped down the wrong tube and ended up in his lung rather than his stomach. In this warm, moist environment the pea decided to have a go at growing! Next thing you know, a blocked bronchus leads to a collapsed lung and the poor chap is fearing the worst. With the pea removed, Mr Sveden has confirmed that the incident will not dampen his appetite for the leguminous vegetable.

Right, back to local things...

Last week saw the beginning of the East Devon coastal festival. A rather grand title for what is, in effect, me spending time on the beach revelling in our fabulous marine wildlife! As ever, the best creatures were not found by me, but by the families enjoying the beach exploring the pools.

A positive constellation of starfish wrecked in the lower rockpools, confirmed thoughts from earlier in 2010, that this is indeed a starfish year. Further spawning this summer is leading to weakened common starfish being swept ashore in a swooning lethargy. A sorry sight, but confirmation that populations below the waves are in fine fettle.

The third little cuttle I have ever seen in Devon was fished out of a large pool, once again at Chit rocks in Sidmouth. These cephalopod molluscs are more closely related to slugs and snails, but have advanced intelligence and identifiable emotional behaviour. Perturbed at being caught in a shrimp net and placed in a flat white tray, the cuttlefish shot about under jet propulsion, its skin flashing colour from pale white to dark chocolate; however, no ink was released, so perhaps the little fellow had jettisoned this when it was netted.

It is always a tear to put these fascinating little creatures back in the water, but they are simply too clever to keep in a stressful plastic tray for any period of time. As soon as everyone nearby had got a look at the little cuttle, back into a quiet corner of the rockpools it went, hopefully none the worse for its encounter.

After four years of mooching about in East Devon’s rockpools during August, I thought I had pretty much seen all of the fish I was likely to see stranded by the receding tide. Three species of wrasse, two species of cod family fish, pipefish, both snake and lesser, the list goes on and on when I pause to consider it. However, there is a fish I have been dying to see, a close relative of the ubiquitous shanny, but something of a superstar after appearing on

The fish in question is a tompot blenny, a common sight for scuba divers and a not uncommon fish off our coast, but a rarity in the intertidal fringe of the beach.

A family who had been rockpooling at Sidmouth and came over to get their bucketful identified made my day when, lo-and-behold, their bucket contained a tompot!

At first (and this is a trap I’ve fallen into with bird identification too) I overlooked it as a large and well fed shanny. Impressive, but all too frequently seen. Its not that I am a pessimist, quite the opposite, but I simply wasn’t expecting to see this species in a castellated red bucket. At first it was the large and continuous dorsal fin which made my internal ID key twitch. Being out of the water the frilly appendages on its head were flattened and hard to see, but as I realised what the fish was, I dipped it back into the water and there, on the top of its head, appeared two antler-like fringes.

I corrected my first assumed identification immediately and was a babbling mess of excitement as I explained to the appropriately named Marriner family what they had found. This for me is the best thing about rock-pooling, when compared to other forms of wildlife exploration. When it comes to birds, you really do have to be a seasoned birder, well-versed in all the common species, before you can hope to find those elusive rarities. Sure, the unexpected stroke of luck is always possible – like the legendary nutcracker in a little old lady’s garden – but more often than not, it’s the same people who turn up the goodies.

In the rock pools, however, all bets are off. The playing field is levelled and everyone has an equal chance of finding the little cuttle or tompot blenny to get the pulse racing. I thanked Jason and his children so much for crossing the beach to find me and a second thanks here in print is fully justified.,

I doubt that fish will be bettered this summer... or will it?

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