Monday 21 March 2011

Perigee Winkle

The Eider ducks Somateria mollissima are back in the bay and displaying their remarkable crab-chomping virtuosity. A pair: the male with its striking black and white plumage and the mottled brown/black female. Both have very powerful wedge-shaped beaks terminating in a small hooked 'overbite' perfect for cracking stubborn shells.

The weekend saw a big tide with the effect of the Supermoon - a full moon at perigee - when the moon is at its closest to Earth on its elliptical orbit. It seldom happens that perigee coincides with a full moon and the combined effect means that the full moon appears some 14 percent larger than usual. The ordinary full moon, technically known as syzygy affects the tide because of gravitational forces of the sun and moon combining to act on the oceans. So the correct term for a full moon at its closest to Earth is really perigee-syzygy. But that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

The full moon was somewhat shrouded by fast-scudding clouds but that only served to enhance the dramatic effect whenever it broke through. It really was dazzling and, when it hung over the high-tide waterworld of Saturday night, quite enchanting. I whipped up a Thai-style prawn curry and, afterwards, we enjoyed a lazy evening of moon-watching and movies.

Sunday's weather was a bit dreich, but the uncovered kelp beds beckoned on Gastrobeach. The low-tide sandbar was dotted with people out to bag a few razorfish.

Scrambling over a rocky kelp bed in loose wellies is not the lowest ankle-break-risk activity you can undertake. You have to keep your arms out for balance and, even then, there is always a fair bit of whooping and stumbling. We didn't find anything hugely interesting apart from some large, pink and featureless jelly-like things stuck to rocks under the kelp. No dinner-potential there. We saw a few sea urchin shells, recently and expertly broken open by seabirds. I couldn't help noticing a good number of large wilks (common periwinkle Littorina littorea) feeding on the kelp, and decided to take some home for a pre-dinner snack. I ate them, with a little help from my wee nephew, with the aid of a pin and flavoured with a dash of balsamic vinegar.

The Eider ducks have gone for now but I'm sure we'll see them again on the high tide tomorrow morning. For me, it's time for strong black coffee to shake the weekend stupor - I've discovered that I like it with cinnamon sprinkled on top. The coffee that is, not the weekend stupor.


  1. hi, first time visiting ur blog, and fell in love with it straight away.

    1. Hi. Thank you. Glad to hear you are enjoying it.