I've always thought I was pretty good at knots. Was I not, after all, once Patrol Leader of the Swallow Patrol of the 13th St Augustine's Guide Company? Am I not able to tell my reef knot from a granny knot, my bowline
from a clove hitch, and - most tellingly - my sheet bend from my sheepshank. Okay, so if challenged today with a length of string, I might struggle to execute any of the above, with the honourable exception of the granny knot which has become my favourite
knot since I became a granny myself. But, in theory, I Know About Knots.
Today, however, I discovered a whole new knot, one of which I had never heard before. Did you know that a knot, as well as being a method
of fastening a piece of string or rope, is also a sea bird? Oh, dear, lots of you obviously did - but, until today, I was completely ignorant of the existence of this particular breed of bird.
All I can say
is that it is a very good thing that membership of the Birdy Group is not determined by an entrance examination or I would never have been allowed to join - and what a lot of fun and enjoyment I would have missed out on. Today was the first meeting of 2017
and a dozen or more of us gathered outside the Bluebird Café ready to walk along the seashore in search of any feathered friends prepared, like us, to brave the elements.
The weather forecast was threatening
rain in the afternoon but we all reckoned with a bit of luck and a fair wind (as in, one which wasn't too bitingly bracing) we could trot as far as the orange boat, moored for all eternity on the beach to the east of us, and back again before the rain came
down. If it started to look as though the rain might arrive prematurely, we would be quite prepared (we agreed) to turn back a little early, especially as we had planned to finish off the morning with a post-Christmas lunch in the café. You knew it
Out on the horizon we could see evidence of the massive wind farm being built off-shore. So far, no sails - one of our number suggested that the developers were waiting for better weather. Rather
like the absent members of the Birdy Group in that respect.
Penny and I found ourselves walking ahead of the rest of the group, engrossed in our own conversation which was not, I must confess, particularly
Bird Related. We were within sight of our destination, the Orange Boat, when we looked over our shoulders to see everyone else way back, binoculars trained on the beach. Clearly we were Missing Something Important. Probably with feathers and a beak.
As we trudged back towards the others, Penny's fella David came to meet us to tell us what we were missing. Turnstones! Yes, there's a bird called a turnstone, too, and it is a Bird After My Own Heart in that it does
exactly what it says on the tin. It scuttles along the stony beach, industriously turning over stone after stone in search of juicy morsels like barnacles, periwinkles, crabs and insects. Each to his own, I say. It's an amazingly friendly bird, too, not afraid
to venture near enough for us to check it out in our Book of Birds to ensure correct identification.
Our leader, the Lovely Linda, encourages us all to gather together so that she can take a photograph of
us for posterity. Or presumably for the Worthing U3A website. One or the other. I'm the one on the end, binoculars round my neck, trying to look knowledgeable.
Look! A whole flock of birds has landed on the
beach in front of us. "Knots!" says someone, excitedly. Which was my introduction to this "medium sized, stocky wader" according to my RSPB Book of British Birds. Apparently its most frequent call is a low-pitched "knut" which makes a certain sense in onomatopoeic
Over lunch - it was a bowl of hot mushroom soup for me, I know you always like the details - we set the world to rights. Outside a wagtail strutted back and forwards, just for us. A new year of Birdy
Group meetings stretches out before us, from winter, to spring, to summer.
What's knot to like?