May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Cooking and twitching

I have been a fan of the cook, Jane Lovett, since I was given her book 'Make it Easy'. She calls herself a 'home cook' (but not 'chefy') whereas I'd call myself a home cook, because I cook at home. Jane's cordon bleu trained.. and has taught at Leiths, for goodness sake. She lives in Northumberland and I went to one of her demonstrations this week. It was fun, and she showed us lots of 'get ahead' ideas, short-cuts and tips. I came away with some good new recipes.
I had to leave pronto to meet Nick who had done a walk from Jane's house along part of St Cuthbert's way. We had booked ourselves on  Billy Shiel's boat from Seahouses around the Farne Islands and had no time to spare.
The Farne Islands are run by the National Trust and home to a huge colony of seabirds. We (a boatload of tourists) were taken around several islands, and saw thousands of guillemots and puffins, shags and cormorants, flying and fishing, before we were left on Inner Farne for an hour. The terns, particularly the arctic terns, lay their eggs right by the footpath, and are bold and protective... They have long, pointy, vicious beaks! We were warned to wear a hat, or put up an umbrella, or just wave our hands over our heads, but still there is little escape!
A tern, or sea swallow
At the cliff by the lighthouse everyone crowded round where the shags and guillemots were sitting on eggs, some had hatched and were feeding their young. We were feet away from them and I felt intrusive... but they didn't seem to mind. A razorbill was feeding a tiny chick – regardless of people poking our cameras at them.
In yer face
The birds got their own back; as the boat skipper said “watch out, if it's white and comes out of the sky, it won't be snow!”
Puffins lay their eggs – one per couple – in burrows in the grass. The parents are very busy (they fly at 400 wingbeats per minute!) fishing to feed their young. One flies off and the other stays to mind the burrow... there are always gulls strutting about waiting for a returning puffin so they can filch the sandeels off them. It's comical to watch.
The look-out puffin
The baby puffins are fed for a few weeks and then the parents leave the burrow and go to sea. The babies wait and they wait, and then they realise no more food is coming, and they have to set off and look after themselves. They leave the burrow at night, so as to avoid predators (gulls) and hop and flop to the edge of the land and drop into the water. They're on their own...

The eider duck male is exotic looking, with sharply defined monochrome colouring; we saw them in flight and in the sea, but not in the breeding colony. He is a vain and useless creature; he and Mrs Eider only get together to mate, and then she brings up the young entirely single-handed.
The female Eider duck likes to keep a low profile
The male Eider Duck!

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