So how would you pronouce ‘Ribe’? To rhyme with   that wonderful Southern French town ‘Antibes’ I would have thought. It’s obvious. But KBP our distinguished elder insists on pronouncing it to rhyme with ‘river’ : ‘Riber,’ effectively, and spouted this to anyone who would listen – which was a surprisingly large number of people.

In other news, the unseasonable weather was wonderfully hot, but had sadly led to the sudden onward flight of the many sea birds that frequent the coast, rather thwarting our attempt at some serious ornithology, the raison d’être of the original invitation. But no matter – warned of the damage of floods and rip tides, the mortal risk to life and limb of those who unknowingly cross the causeway to Mando in their own vehicles, we took the tractor…prepared against the elements…

across a causeway that looked as though it hadn’t seen water for weeks! Never mind. The two tractor companies appear to be in some kind of pact which perpetuates the myth of the risks – yet also allowed us to take things slowly and watch the intertidal area from a good height thus allowing observation of many sea bird species, and in particular the oyster catchers sitting on their nests.

Who knew about the interspecies variation of the oystercatcher beaks – be they stabbers or prisers, or indeed worm eaters – which apparently evidences ‘resource polymorphism’, a term better explained by this fascinating link..….

Mando Island has an area of around 7.6 km sq and a population of around 50.  We, Shropshire people, thought Ribe was quiet but this was something else.   And so after the picnic lunch on the sand dunes we  bird and nest spotted, KBP with his eagle eyes pointing out nests I couldn’t see even when he gesticulated wildly towards them, so great is the camouflage.

OK so it looks pretty obvious now but….

This nest had three eggs, most had one. Each time we spotted one we were buzzed by an angry parent. Those bills, whether chisel shaped or otherwise, can look quite alarming….

We watched terns, unable to identify which of the many possible species  were there, as it seems the differences are   very slight, viz:

Common Terns were heavier and had higher values of bill + head length, wing breadth and wing area. Although Arctic Terns were smaller than Common Terns in most measurements, they had significantly longer outer wings (wing length as normally measured by ringers). Differences between the species in total wing length (wing tip to body) and in wing loading (body weight/wing area) were not significant. These differences, especially the longer outer wing and lighter weight of the Arctic Tern, can be related qualitatively to the flight characteristics and habitat preferences of each species.

Thus it seems you have to kill a large number of terns, measure bill size, wingspan, tail length etc and then you can determine whether the beautiful aerobatics emanate from a common, or arctic ( or Roseate or Little or…. or…..)

So we played in the water,  watched seabirds on nests slung on the ropes between groynes, dunlin skittering about the shore and oyster catchers buzzing us – and two huge exuberant hares…..

I must be getting older as I’m definitely getting wiser. That’s not true. N is getting wiser. Leaving K to go directly back to the tractor we went looking for a dog  and came across, at the last minute prior to departure, an ice cream shop. We risked a degree of wrath, selecting not just an ice, but one which required discussion about flavours, toppings etc etc. Far too hot to take one to K    said I – it will be melted.  Not at all, said N. He would rather have  a melted thought of an ice cream than none at all. And they have pistachio. R agreed fervently.

They were right. We were extremely last minute. Storm clouds were gathering. The proferring of a semi-liquid greenish sample in a s mall cardboard pot seemed to disperse all concerns in a flash. Wise old birds…….

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