Tag Archives: mermaid’s purse

The Equinox and a Crazy St. Patrick’s Weekend… and a Mermaid’s Purse

Last weekend was St. Patrick’s weekend, with St. Patrick’s Day occurring on Saturday. Every year I attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade, usually in Greystones by the sea, and after the parade I will normally make my first proper nature walk of the year. This year was very different…

If you watched the little video above I can tell you the adventure reached a climax when I attempted to return the ray’s egg to the sea at Kilcoole Station. As many of you will probably know, after the ray hatches out of the egg it might be used by a mermaid as a purse, which is why these leathery eggs are known as ‘mermaid’s purses’.

I walked to the bottom of the steps and decided that to give the mermaid’s purse the best chance of being taken back out to sea I must wait for a particularly large wave to break, and then run out after it as it withdrew, and toss the mermaid’s purse into the surf. To do this I waited on the bottom step and watched. After a minute a particularly huge wave approached and I stood ready to run after it as it went out again. However, when it broke it came in very fast, and only at the last moment did I realise I needed to get to higher ground, and just managed to reach the third step when the water came in up to my knees! I tossed the mermaid’s purseĀ  over the wave. I was very lucky not to have been knocked over and washed away. So, let that be a lesson to you all – never take chances with the sea, and never, ever trust a storm sea.

Now, back to the Equinox – despite the awful weather in which winter has attempted to take over the spring, the Equinox was on Tuesday. The precise point (halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Summer Solstice) was on Tuesday afternoon at 4.15 pm. And Tuesday was a gloriously sunny, but very cold day. The Equinox marks the beginning of the true spring, and from now on days are longer than nights. So let’s hope they’re sunny!

I dedicate this bulletin to my nephew, Mitchell Connolly, who began a very big adventure last week. Wrap up warm, Mitchell!

Birth of a baby shark

Today I witnessed one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. I was walking along the beach after an extremely high tide (in fact, it was only just ebbing away) when I spotted an extremely fresh-looking mermaid’s purse. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s the name given to the egg-case of sharks, rays and skates. It does look like a little purse. But this one was different – a baby shark’s head was sticking out of it. It might have hatched too soon, prior to term, but I’m not sure as there are several factors and it depends on the species.

The little dogfish (aka catshark) sliding out of the egg-case in my hand
The little dogfish (aka catshark) sliding out of the egg-case in my hand.

It was like a large pink tadpole, but with blue around its eyes. I thought it was dead, but suddenly it began sliding out of the egg-case even further, and then its little pectoral fins (the main fins at the sides of a fish’s body) began moving. I had already started taking my photo, and finished doing this, running down to the sea to get some badly need water over the dogfish’s gills.

Here you can see the mermai'ds purse more clearly, and the little shark's head sticking out of it.
Here you can see the mermai’ds purse more clearly, and the little shark’s head sticking out of it.

 

You can see the little shark's gills at the sides immediately behind its head. When I realised it was still alive it was a race to get it back in the water. I hope it lived and is out there swimming around right now.
You can see the little shark’s gills at the sides immediately behind its head. When I realised it was still alive it was a race to get it back in the water. I hope it lived and is out there swimming around right now.

These egg-cases tend to belong to smaller shark species. The smallest sharks are the so-called dogfish, now usually referred to (ironically) as cat sharks due to the fact that their eyes have elliptical pupils like the eyes of cats. In older times all sharks were known as dogfish on account of their carnivorous nature.