Strange things have been reported on RSPB Marazion Marsh….sightings of weird and wonderful phenomena that will chill the blood and freeze the soul!
On a misty Tuesday morning in West Cornwall RSPB volunteer, Christine Moore, ventured out on our Marazion Marsh nature reserve in search of dragonflies. Little did she know that she would be facing something so bizarre, so unusual it would have her scratching her head in bewilderment and disbelief for at least 25 minutes.
While walking across ‘the meadow’ she found nestled among the blades of grass, a strange, stiff jelly-like substance….it was approximately 20 cms in diameter and congealed into odd viscous blobs.
Photo 1: Strange slime at Marazion! by Christine Moore
Could this be ectoplasm manifested by some ancient spectral being wandering lost through eternity? Perhaps astral slime disgorged by visiting aliens on a mission to conquer our beautiful planet? Better still could this possibly be the nocturnal deposits of the infamous (and extremely elusive) Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal?
Christine said: "As for what I thought? Oh! Well, I had no idea what it was, something from a giant amphibian was the joke, who knows what lurks out there in the reeds! Seriously I thought it was animal of some sort, vomit (ugh!) or something out of the bum-end!"
Unfortunately none of these wild speculations are even close to the truth - although the real story is almost as fascinating. In February 2013 a similar sighting was made at RSPB Ham Wall in Somerset and at the time generated wild speculation as to its origins - it even made the national press! It stumped experts until Peter Green, a Devonshire vet who works with wildlife, contacted the RSPB with a very simple and logical explanation. He believed it to be amphibian in origin.
Photo 2: Common toad by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
At the time Public Affairs Manager Tony Whitehead stated: “At this time of year amphibians are spawning. The spawn is held in a substance known as glycoprotein which is stored in the female body. If the animal is attacked by a predator it will quite naturally drop its spawn and the associated glycoprotein. However, if it’s unfertilised, it is just empty glycoprotein that is dropped – which on contact with the ground will swell and give a clear slime like substance.
“While this is our favoured explanation for the appearance of the slime, it’s also worth remembering that other things can give a similar appearance. Certain slime moulds can. So can the wonderfully named crystal brain fungus, but this appears on wood. Also certain algae and blue-green algae can also appear as a clear slime”
So the mystery appears solved, but strangely the RSPB Ham Wall incident occurred in February and Christine’s sighting in October….surely too late (or 5 months early) for frogs and toads to be even thinking about spawning? Some may speculate that this is probably due to the mild weather we enjoy here in Cornwall. Some might say that it is evidence of climate change blurring the seasons for many species. After careful consideration of all the facts, and examination of the evidence, I think my money’s still on the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal!
Photo 3: RSPB Marazion Marsh by Dave Flumm