Monday, 21 November 2011

Side Salad

Vegetarians look away now....

I do like a meat treat. Steak, cured ham, some kind of spicy sausage or any type of game.

( By the way I in no way endorse the suffering of livestock or cruelty to animals, but if it is farmed sustainably and prepared ethically then I have no problem eating it.)

I do have a problem with salad. Leaves in particular. I just don't like them that much. I can tolerate a certain amount of lettuce on a sandwich but that is about it. We've all been to a BBQ where all the burgers and bangers are scoffed and the afterthought that is the bowl of salad leaves are left to wilt in the summer sun. ( Stay with this thread - it does go somewhere!)

So I'm back on Hilbre Island and the chill wind and low cloud fade the memories of summer outdoor feasts, to be replaced with thoughts of flasks of Bovril and bowls of chilli off the portable stove.

I'm joined for lunch by some of the locals. I am keen to catch up with some of the newly arrived Purple Sandpipers. They will spend the winter here on the island and I haven't seen any since they left for the Arctic in March.

I have a real soft spot for these birds - I certainly wouldn't eat one.

They are to be found at the bottom of the old lifeboat slip on the seaweed festooned rocks they share with the Turnstones. One flies in....

These waders will have been all the way to Arctic Canada or Greenland since I saw them last. As they sift the weeds for fishy treats I spot a flash of colour. One of the Turnstones is colour ringed....

Unbelievably it is the same ringed bird I photographed on January 7th this year! I even posted a picture of it on the blog! Search the archive and it's there. It is hard to comprehend it's massive round trip to the top of the world and then bumping in to it again on the little tidal island on my Patch. Awesome!

The Purps are starting to feed on the freshly washed seaweed uncovered by the receeding tide. It looks like a massive salad bowl.

The light is truly atrocious and I have to set an ISO too high to get really great pictures, even with a few software dodges the images are a little noisy, but I can't help myself with these cracking little waders. They are so well camoflagued with the seaweedy rocks they blend into bladder wrack obscurity.

They are tame little rascals too. I got into position early (before they arrived for their lunch) so I didn't disturb them during their meal. Lying on the rocks is a cold and damp experience but it gets me near to these brilliant waders, they wander close on several occasions, accepting and fearless.

They are not interested in the salad leaves lookalike seaweed, they are after the meaty treats that lurk within it. They flick it aside and plunder the barnacles and periwinkles they find.

Then I get more evidence that salad is almost universally disliked. A Purple Sandpiper is wandering up the slipway and stops by some sea lettuce. Like a tipsy BBQ-goer it seems to look at the lurid green soggy, droopy leaves and think "It doesn't look that bad, I'll try a bit of that salad".

It tears a strip of the sea lettuce and swallows. It takes a couple of seconds but the reaction is clear. I recognise it. I've had it and I dare say a few readers will have had it. Yuk.

As my brother-in-law once said at a BBQ "we don't make friends with salad...." and it seems neither do Purple Sandpipers.

 I have total respect for these birds.

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