By: Blonde Two

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside… mainly to swim but sometimes, when you get outside and visit the beach, unexpected experiences can come your way.

On Monday I arrived at the beach without my swimming shoes. This is fine at high tide when I can swim off the steps but, at low tide, getting into the water necessitates a sand walk, which currently risks a nasty sting from the weever fish lurking just beneath the sand (friends have had these stings and they do appear to be nasty). I had a few things on my mind so I decided, instead of braving the sand-shuffle (apparently shuffling your feet warns the weever fish of your presence and helps them to develop their friendly side), to sit down and watch the tide come in. (Previous belly-flopping, bum-shuffling experiments suggest that a swimmer of my size can enter the water without touching the sand at water that is two steps high).

I must have arrived at slack water and, in 40 minutes, hardly saw any change in water height at all. (The tide rises and falls according to the rule of twelfths, only 1 twelfth in the hours before and after low or high tide but 6 twelfths in the hours either side of mid-tide). However, the motion of the waves and the seabirds were doing my head good so I stayed and watched some more.

I was particularly fascinated by the activities of a family of seagulls. Seagulls can be a nuisance (here in Torquay we have to put our rubbish out in seagull bags, which incidentally don’t stop badgers) but the sea is their environment and we humans have caused a lot of their irritating behaviour. This particular seagull (herring gull) family consisted of a parent (I am thinking mother), her two chicks (no longer fluffy and clearly very hungry) and their unwelcome entourage of around 5 or 6 crows. This poor parent seagull was working very hard to feed her offspring, disappearing off for around 15 minutes at a time then returning to regurgitate food for its demanding brood. They were so demanding that I felt quite sorry for it. There was no, ‘welcome back’, just a screeching, ‘Feed me! Feed me!’ As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the parent seagull also had to fight off the crows to stop them from stealing the food that she had brought back for her babies.

While she was away the young gulls spent their time practising eating (they didn’t appear to find anything to eat despite trying a piece of plastic, some seaweed and a few limpets), standing on one foot and standing on one foot whilst pooing (clearly advanced skills). The crows didn’t bother them during this time, one of them concentrating instead on opening a packet of chewing gum, arranging the contents into a pile of white lozenges and then flying off with four carefully picked up pieces. Presumably for their own babies… but definitely not good for them.

At this point, a swimming friend arrived and I decided to stop waiting for the tide (Queen Kanute maybe). We must have looked quite funny shuffling into the sea together. I think I heard the crows laughing!