Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Spring is here, nutrient upwelling, mackerel and marshmallows.

So Spring is finally making a glorious appearance on our woodland floor, our hedgerows and we are starting to feel the warmth of the sun's rays on our needy skin! It is a time of growth by the coast too. The Spring sees an exciting time for our coast around the UK. We are fully aware of what is happening to the land - but what about the sea? Well, finally the waters start warming in April / May time. Already, for surfers, gloves are starting to be peeled off for a bit of freedom for paddling. Although the driving cold on the peripheries is enough to make you think to put them back on again.

Nutrient upwelling is when dense, cool, nutrient rich waters are brought to the surface by wind driven currents driven by the Coriolis effect. This essentially means food! So on the coast as these nutrients make their way to surface waters - the smallest and in my opinion, most beautiful of all creatures start reproducing - plankton! Phytoplankton to be specific. Phyto derives from the Latin for light and so you'd be right to guess that the phytoplankton, like plants, use light and chlorophyll to make energy. They are the source of life in the sea. They are an often overlooked and under appreciated marine group. If there was no plankton there would be no life in the sea, or land - there would be less oxygen - they supply half of our atmospheric oxygen - another reason to love the sea.

So we have these phytoplankton blooms like the one witnessed recently off New Zealand by satellites. Great swathes of misty green water flood our coastline. As a result the zooplankton have, excuse the pun, a whale of a time gobbling up the phytoplankton and so the chain goes on. Which inevitably brings some of our more recognised majestic giants of the sea - the basking sharks and also mackerel and other schooling fish start coming closer to shore.

Then it will be time to get the kayak out - tie some new feathers on to my fishing line, aimlessly drift on the sea and wait for that exciting tug of the line by a mackerel or 2 or even 5 if you're lucky. Once a couple have been caught enough for hubby, me and daughter it will be time to drift back up the estuary on the incoming tide. Maybe, they'll meet me on "The Other Side" as we affectionately call it - gather some driftwood and light a fire. As the sun drops in the night sky we will taste the season's first mackerel - oily, rich and delicious. We don't bother with bread rolls, preferring to put the fish on a flat slate and pick at the flesh with our fingers. Occasionally, my daughter might perform a little dissection and pop an eye ball out. We might end with a marshmallow session - dropping them in the fire occasionally. But we all aim for that moment of perfection when the skin is crisp , brown and bubbly which when broken into reveals a gooey, runny centre.

It's time for Spring - I'm ready.

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