Life on the Rocky Shores is one of my favourite books for beginner rockpoolers. The guide is a compact (148mm x 105mm) guide that features 96 species that are commonly found along the shores of South-Eastern Australia. It has since become one of the first books I check when trying to identify intertidal marine life.
It Is Very Practical
One of the first things I look for when reviewing books is whether it is easy to understand for the total beginner. This is one of the most user-friendly guides.
Unlike some other field guides, this isn’t a book that you need to read sequentially. You can flip through and look for the species you are after. I prefer to find first and research later so very much appreciated this. The introductory information isn’t overwhelming, nor does it bog readers down with technical terms. It focuses on the essentials and quickly moves on to species profiles.
It is also handy because of it’s compact size. I can quickly put it in a backpack and not notice the weight, nor does it take up much room. This has been an issue with other guides when my bag is already full of camera gear.
The species profiles feature a wide variety of plant and animal species, such as crabs and sea stars. These profiles usually feature one photo, although occasionally you will get two. This is accompanied by information about its appearance, habitat and ecology. These sections are very user friendly. Any technical terms are accompanied by explanatory text. These descriptions discuss:
- what other species the plant or animal may be confused with
- >whether the typical environment differs across different states
- whether species that are found intertidally are a different size to those found further out
- Information about breeding and, for some species, planktonic larvae.
This is pretty comprehensive for a book of this size. You can learn how to identify the species and get information about their ecosystems.
Most profiles feature just the one species. In some cases, the pages contain information on multiple species. This is the case with the Austrocochlea top shells, where two winkles are featured. There is a second top shell page where species from two genera are featured. These examples focus on species that are visually similar and explain the differences between species.
There are also a couple of pages at the end dedicated to helping identify other life forms you may come across, such as egg masses and flotsam/jetsam.
I was able to identify a lot of animal life based after consulting this guide. I did struggle with identifying plant life. This is partially due to a lack of confidence. I was also disappointed that no fish were featured.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. It is an affordable and compact book to help you get started with identifying marine life you may find in rockpools.
You will likely outgrow the book within a year or so. This isn’t a fault of the guide, as it already covers such a diverse range of plants and animals. The marine world is very similar to the insect one, and the 96 featured species covers just a fraction of what you can find. However, it is one of the best guides for beginners and will significantly lessen your learning curve.