wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Herring, and Egg on Your Face

So much fuss over a little fish.

But it is a very popular fish, especially on the tables of the UK and Germany. You can have it smoked or fried, or fried and served in tomato sauce, or pickled and rolled up into Rollmops. If you like fish, you probably love herring.

My mother told me that back in the days before WWII, a fishmonger was selling herring in the street, and he called out to the customers, “Herring! Herring! So fett wie der Goering.” (“Herring! Herring! As fat as Goering” [the commander-in-chief of the Nazi air force]). Since Goering’s name rhymed with the name of the fish, it caused a chuckle among the townspeople who came out of their houses to buy his fish.

But the Nazi bigwigs didn’t like to be made fun of so they arrested the fishmonger and put him in jail for two weeks.

When he was released, the fishmonger went back out onto the streets to sell his herring, calling out, “Herring! Herring! … As fat as … they were two weeks ago.”

*****

Right now the local herring fishery is winding up and the cleanup begins.

Here is a photo of the beach area below our house where you can see the herring spawn turning the water close to shore a turquoise blue colour.

The seiners have caught their allowed quotas of herring and most have gone home.  There is still a lot of herring spawn (eggs) in the water, a lot of it stuck to seaweed and being washed up on the beach.

This is what the seagulls gorge themselves on.

The one on the bottom left has “egg on his face” but doesn’t seem to mind it. See the herring roe sitting on his beak?

*****

In my other blog, you might be interested in a post about what turns readers off.

https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2021/03/20/what-turns-readers-off/


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Herring Provides for All

The seiners wait in the harbour for the signal that the herring are fat enough, with a high enough roe count, to allow the roe herring fishery to proceed.

Rafts of sea lions are waiting too. They will take advantage of the herring being “rounded up” in the purse seines of the big boats. Many herring “escape,” right into the waiting jaws of these huge mammals.

Some of them like the fishy smell coming from small power boats and are trying to investigate up close.

Seagulls wheel around the seiners trying to grab any herring that swims too close to the surface.

This immature eagle is about to find out that the beach will be full of bounty as roe and herring and bycatch float ashore. These foods provide much-needed calories for the eagles especially at their nesting time, which happens very soon after the herring fishery. Healthy eagles will have healthy chicks.

And let’s not forget that as much as we scoff at seagulls and their shrieking habits, they are the janitors of the beaches, cleaning up every bit of mess.

Once the carnage has been cleaned up, the animals have to scrounge what food they can until next year’s feast.


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Bald Eagles

I saw an eagle land in a tree below my house, so I went out onto the deck to take its picture.

Then I zoomed in on it and got a close up of it, but had no place to steady the camera and just took my chances.

In a second closeup, I saw that he had his beak open and I could see its tongue, but I see that the photo is quite small on the blog, so if you want to see the eagle’s tongue, you’ll have to click on the photo to make it bigger. Even so, it will be hard to see.

These birds are much bigger than they look. If you had one sitting beside you with its wings spread out, tip to tip those wings could span 8 feet. The bird might weigh about 14 lbs., the size of a small turkey. 

Anyone walking a small dog or worse yet, letting it run around in their backyard in eagle territory, had better watch out for it. They make a nice snack. Although eagles are not water birds, they will do what they have to do to procure food. I have seen an eagle with a loon in its beak, dragging it across the surface of the water as the eagle swims with one wing paddling like a lifeguard saving a drowning person, until it got to shore where it cold devour the bird. I have seen it do the same after swooping down to pick up a coho salmon just below the surface of the water. They are incredibly strong birds.

At this time of year, the herring come close to shore to spawn. This means a bounty of food for the eagles. You can see these birds showing up in the tall trees near the beaches in greater numbers to await the arrival of the herring. 

Eagles are not totally scavengers, but they are like a cleanup crew of a different kind. They are opportunists and will eat what is already dead, but they pick off sick or injured animals, whether they be land- or sea-birds, small mammals, or fish.  A crippled duck won’t suffer long with eagles around.

This is why you will often see eagles high up in a tree. They observe a large area, watching for stragglers in a flock of birds, or any weakness in animals small enough for them to pick up.

 

This raccoon may have been sick, injured, or dead, and became an eagle’s meal.

“Hmm…. There must be a little morsel left.”

 

“He’s messed up my nice white head feathers, but it’s worth it. What’s a bit of blood when you can fill your boots like this?”

“Just a few tidbits left. I hope I can still fly up into that tree with my stomach so full.”

 

Once when I was playing with Ruby, our late springer spaniel (then a small puppy), in the backyard, two eagles had been sitting unnoticed by me, in a nearby fir tree. They swooped down low across the yard, heading for tiny Ruby. I ran for Ruby and spread out my arms to provide an “umbrella” over her, and the eagles lifted up like two jets making an aborted landing. If I hadn’t been out there with her, she would have been eagle food that day.

 

So take care if you live in eagle country and have small dogs or cats. 

 


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Beach Walk

After months of wind and rain, followed by at least a week of snowy blasts, the sun let us know that it’s still up there. It lit up the white hills and said to us, “Come out, come out. I’ll warm your back as you walk on the beach.”

The Captain and I took Emma to the beach on the east side of the spit, where the morning sun was warmer and much of the snow was gone.

Emma loved it, but then she saw something that stopped her in her tracks. “Whoah!” she said. “WHAT is that large woman doing out there in this icy water?”

She wasn’t swimming much — more like bobbing in the waves. She didn’t seem to mind the cold.

To her right, was a very relaxed sea lion head. I looked back at the woman and saw that what I thought was a head,  was really the sea lion’s flipper.

A whole group of them lay on their backs, enjoying the morning sun. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d had a breakfast of kippers. It’s that time when the herring come in close to the beaches to spawn. That makes the sea lions happy, as well as the eagles and sea gulls, all of whom love to eat the herring spawn and herring bodies that wash up on the beach for a wonderful smorgasbord.

Everybody (except the herring) is happy these days.

Don’t forget to visit my other blog, https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2021/02/12/the-trap/

Also, please visit my website to find out more about my books and my copy-editing.  http://www.anneli-purchase.com/


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Herring Time 2019

Two years ago to the day I did a post about the herring fishery. If you are interested you can find it here. https://wordsfromanneli.com/2017/03/08/herring-time/

At that time a fisherman lost his life working in this dangerous job.

However, the fishery goes on. The pressure is on the fishermen to set their nets and catch what they can in the short time allowed.

As seiners from all along the coast of BC gather to await the herring opening, the wharf at Comox, on Vancouver Island, is congested at this time of year. You can see the seiners in the center of the photo above in the government fish wharf, and the toothpick-like masts of the sailboats on the far right, tucked away in their private marina.

How do these boats not get tangled!?

At one time the herring fishery was lucrative, but see, below, the problem facing the herring fishermen now.

These are a few of the sea lions left after a herring season three years ago. Since then the number of sea lions has exploded to the point where the fishermen lose nets repeatedly from dozens of these giants tearing through them to get at the herring in the seine nets.

Every animal needs to eat, but the fishermen are now finding it difficult to make a living when all they seem to do is feed sea lions and pay for very expensive nets. The staggering number of sea lions that have moved in to take up permanent residence on the coast of Vancouver Island has become an overwhelming problem for the fishermen.

Solutions are hard find, as the remedies are all controversial.