Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Tasty. Tystie.

Sunshine and light winds and a contented baby mean this is the ideal time to introduce my daughter to the delights of Peel, on the west coast of the Isle of Man. We haul up and over the island's central hills, pausing briefly for a couple of pairs of distant Hen Harriers, then drop steeply down to the narrow western coastal plain, swinging south past Kirk Michael, through green fields dotted with sheep and the occasional patch of grubby snow left-over from the March snows, then wind down through the higgledy-piggledy multifarious houses of Peel to the harbour. Lunch is a bacon and egg roll with coffee (or a kipper roll with tea for the ladies), eyed up by a troop of ever-hopeful House Sparrows and a couple of cocksure swaggering Jackdaws, all of whom descend with delight upon the crumbs and fragments thrown around by S.

After this, there's only one thing to be done: head around the harbour walls and find our way to Davison's ice-cream parlour, who pride themselves on selling the best Manx ice-cream there is. I've not been able to contradict them yet... We wander back over to the beach where S discovers the pleasure of being able to sit on the sand and play without being wrapped up to the shape of a football, we devour our ice-creams (blackcurrant & liquorice with ginger for me: a surprisingly good combination) and we are watched with unblinking fascination by some of the locals, just in case we drop anything... A couple of Sandwich Terns on the edge of the tide parade up and down, heads tilted back and tails cocked, trying to impress a female who looks as if she'd actually rather just digest that last fish, thank you so very much.

Herring Gull. This young bird was the first in - bold enough to settle a few metres away from us, but not enough to come and get the fragment of cone I threw it...

...and as soon as there was any sign of food, in came an adult. Immediate display of dominance and the younger bird sensibly retreated before any damage was done.

Finally we walk back around the harbour and upriver a little to pay our respects to the inhabitants of the harbour walls: old (blocked) drainage holes have proved the ideal size for the Tysties which live round the coast, giving what must be a rat-proof and collapse-proof residence. Sure enough, two birds were present with heads jutting from the holes and occasionally reaching out and twittering in a most un-auk-like fashion. The spring's late this year and they aren't yet nesting, so our interest proves a little too much for their nerve and they flutter out onto the water below, scarlet legs akimbo and white wing-patches gleaming against their otherwise velvet-black plumage, where they float downriver on the current and pretend they were never interested in those holes anyway.

Another black bird I'm admiring. Starting to think there's a pattern developing.

But those red legs lend a touch of the exotic.

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