News from the Little Shore

Posted on 12th April 2011 | in Heritage & Tourism

Spring comes stealthily to the Little Shore. February Fill Dyke came in grey and wetly, raising the level of the Coquet, with dramatic gusts of 90mph.

The sky changed day by day from grey to cloudless blue. It lit up an occasional rainbow which regularly indicates that the good folk of Shilbottle are sitting on a crock of gold; they should invest in metal detectors without delay.

March did not come in like a lamb but shepherded grey mists over low grey tides. Weather experts offered frequent snow alarms, so far unfounded.

Our birds are more reliable witnesses. Wintering flocks of oyster catchers have returned from inland feeding and now patrol the beach. With their immaculate black and white plumage, orange chisel-like bills and pink legs they attract many an admiring photographer.

Shyly, they scuttle along the shoreline, carefully just out of camera range. Often they come within closer view and carry out a measured trampling of the grassy verge. It seems to this non-ornithologist to be an eccentric method of catching oysters. Unless the humble worms they find are used as bait! Starlings too, who during summer months chuckle and chatter like roof top guttersnipes, have swarmed in aerobatic flights on the occasional sunny day.

Viewed from the pier, the trawlers Nimrod and Aquarius chug into harbour, past congregations of cormorants lining the derelict staithes. There they dry their unfit for purpose wings. Unlike the terns, the unfortunate cormorants’ wings are always short of oil.

Several residential dogs are outstanding in stature and personality. It is always a pleasure to meet Maisie, Diane’s magnificent Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Linda’s lively pair of Bedlington Terriers and Bob’s brave old Meg. Tom’s feisty Jake was considerately left at home whilst his master regularly fed the swans.

Yes, they were all three still with us during February, a centre of interest to over generous visitors. Overfed, on a rising tide, they waddled, ungainly onto the beach, avoiding incoming breakers. As the tide receded, it was amusing to watch the portly cob and pen send their lean grey juvenile in advance to test the restless waters. Now in March they are gone.

Of the more unusual migratory species we welcomed the early arrival of a Year Three school party  from Amble First School; well behaved and observant, ably led by Mr. Pringle and his colleagues. First of the year, come again soon!

Our friendly neighbour, Lifeboat man Willie is a busy electrical contractor who has been known to down tools on a household task at the urgent demand of a “shout.” A fount of maritime news, he tells us that calls for assistance lately were usually due to engine failure.

Let us hope that it will be a peaceful shore if March goes out like a lion. The same old experts warn us that an unusually large full moon will presage abnormal high tides. As I write, the March sky is cloudless blue, but watch out birds.

John West
Photo by Darryn Wade

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