It was certainly an impressive sight: mainly white and brown and much larger than anything else in the harbour. We don’t see many super-yachts in Salcombe (some would say, thankfully) but this one was calling by, not through the whim of the owner to see Salcombe but because the crew were Salcombe lads who wanted to come home for a day. For me, the ultimate super-yacht visit was paid to the Faroes in July last year by the Queen Victoria. Her captain, Inger Klein Thorhauge, was brought up there and said that her neighbours, being islanders, weren’t that impressed by her qualifications or by the fact that she was Cunard’s first woman Captain; but they might change their minds when they saw her bring a 90,000-ton cruise liner into Klaksvik.
Of course, our more common enormous white and brown visitors at this time of year are ospreys, or fish eagles. With wingspans of up to 6ft, they make buzzards look small. The UK ospreys migrate: they normally spend the summer in Scotland (“summer” in this context is a technical term you understand) and have two main migration routes. One route is Dover-Calais, as I learned when I looked up from Westminster Bridge once on my way to work and saw this huge eagle-like bird right in the middle of central London; these birds swing by Paris before heading for Gibraltar and Africa.
The other route is Salcombe-Cherbourg and these ospreys often spend a week here at the end of August, fishing in Frogmore and Halwell creeks before sloping off to France, the Straits of Gibraltar and on south (although some stop in southern Spain). The Loch Garten ospreys often use Salcombe but one came down without stopping on 20/21 August (in a panic about the indifferent August weather?). She took an express westerly route from Plymouth to Brest, flew straight across the Bay of Biscay and had arrived safely in Senegal by mid-September.
And then the whole business is reversed in the Spring, when the birds can hang about a bit before heading north. In the Harbour they usually stay in the woods on Heath Point – which, like Halwell Woods, are probably the oldest surviving traditional woods around the Harbour, since most were removed for shipbuilding. A good place to watch ospreys is from the Charleton bird hide or from a boat by the Saltstone – although we have had an osprey in our garden, much to the consternation of everything else that flies.
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