BBC Springwatch – Sea Cucumbers

Andy spent a week diving in Loch Duich, near the spectacular Eilean Donan castle in the western Highlands. He was searching for Psolus phantapus, an underwater creature that appears in sudden forests while breathing through its bum.

Sounds clever? It’s a pink-spotted sea cucumber. But you will gape as you watch it feed, long tentacles pulling food from the tide, stuffing it through a hole that looks astonishingly like… Well, like the bit it breathes through.

These amazing creatures colonise a muddy bank, 14m deep, near the tiny hamlet of Inverinate. Each May, they appear, and then they disappear. No one knows why.

They haven’t chosen an easy filming location. Even dancing scallops make silt clouds that hang thick in next-to-no tide. Ambient light changes rapidly. The Psolus are skittish. A passing crab will stop them feeding or make them dart under the mud.

At one end, ten arms spread out of a soft body and feed the central mouth. At the other end, their bottoms wink, disposing of waste – and breathing.

We do wonder which end they talk out of.

Although Spring sunshine has been warming our waters, in Loch Duich, it was a week of extremes beneath the snow-capped munros. Weather changed hourly: from icy hail storms with thunder and lightning to quiet stillness with beautiful light and warmth.

It was a magical week, discovering these striking animals in all their splendour. Big thanks to Janet Ullman, George Brown, and Sue Scott for their generous help and support.

The film was featured on episode 12 of BBC Springwatch, on Thursday 11th June.

Link to film

Images by Andy, words by Jackie

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