It was early and for the first time in three days, we saw the sunrise. It had been wet, the light rain drifting across the coast in clouds of mist. But the wind blew, and continued to blow, cool on our skin as we strode up the beach to the Black Rock. It was a tradition here that walkers from the house needed to touch the Rock to make it a real walk.
This morning the sun shone, the sea sparkled blue and there were birds flying everywhere. The trumpeter hornbill called, mournful in the early morning, and a flock of them glided down from the top of the hill to their favourite tree where they perched on the top branches to soak in the sun. Starlings hopped on the wet grass, and a fiscal shrike perched on a branch, eyes sharp, seeking a wayward beetle or fly for breakfast.
We stopped to watch a pattern of snails, gliding across the surface of the sand. Their gelatinous bodies made double rail tracks in the dampness, weaving and winding across each other’s path to make designs in the sand. We wondered where they were going. Or perhaps where they thought they were going. For their tracks showed they turned in circles, small bumps of sand revealing their starting place, and similar bumps disclosing the spot where they burrowed under the surface, often in fear of some real or imagined threat. Fascinated we watched them for a while, the smallest just as agile as those that were full size, but their tracks minute, stretching out behind them.
We marched on. A cormorant flew low over the waves, beating against the wind. Some terns dipped and dived mewling to one another. The loose sand swept across the surface of the beach, stinging our bare legs. It would not be a day to sit and sunbathe, in spite of the sunshine. Stinging sand is not a pleasant experience.
We touched the Black Rock and turned back, the wind now behind us. A small plover ran along the wave line, its little legs churning, its head and body level to enable it to spot its next meal. We stopped to watch, charmed by its quaintness.
For me, the highlight of this early morning walk was the sight of three oystercatchers on the rocks. Well, two of them were on the rocks; the third was standing in a rock pool. The two were chattering away and the single bird stood motionless. We laughed as we imagined their conversation:
‘Come along, Shelly, try. Just put your beak in that water and see if you can prize off a mussel or catch that crab. You have to do it yourself. We can’t feed you forever. Come on Shelly, come on …’
Shelly, (or whatever her name is) just stood, looking miserable, waiting to be fed. Such is life, I thought as I left them to their chatter. And we set our sights towards the cottage and headed back for coffee and breakfast out of the wind.