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Bird In The Hand

My morning started the way most days do: stumble out of bed, dress hastily, take my dog to the beach for a long walk and a game of fetch.

Then we found the bird.

murreIn the last few weeks, a lot of these little black and white sea birds have washed up, dead, on shore.

This happens a few times a year on the coast – a sudden increase in one kind of dead thing washing up on shore, usually due to changes in currents or food supply. My first year on the beach there was a winter die-off of Cassian’s auklets. And in early to late spring, bluish-purple as-the-wind-sail’s jellies carpet the beach. Summer is usually the season for washed up seaweeds (a post & recipe on this in a few days!) and moon jellies. But right now, it’s the common murre.

So when I picked up the ball my dog dropped next to a bird lying on the beach, I assumed it was just another ex-bird. Until it moved. A little. The bird didn’t fly off, or flap about in a weak attempt to fly, or even squawk and puff up in defense. She was clearly too tired to do anything a normal sea bird would do if two giant potential predators walked up to it. And, judging by the cloudly appearance, blind in one eye.

Many a well-meaning person will pick up a stray creature without knowing that it’s in distress, and end up inadvertantly killing a healthy – usually young – animal by accident.

So I called a local-ish wildlife center, described the bird and it’s situation as best I could and asked what I could – or should – do for it. Sometimes – most of the time – it really is best to leave wildlife well enough alone. This time, though, the folks at wildlife center had me to wrap the bird in a towel or other fabric (which ended up being my t-shirt), and keep it warm and secure in a cardboard box until their volunteer in the area could come by to pick it up.

Just so you know, it *is* difficult to carry a frightened bird off the beach while you’ve got a dog on leash, but we managed. After a short wait in my living room, the murre caught a ride to Astoria where people who know what they’re doing (and have plenty of pureed smelly fish) can nurse it to health.

Hopefully she’s fattening up on that pureed smelly fish right now.

Avast thar, ye barnacle lubbers!

Allow me to introduce myself: *waves*
*What did you expect? Inspector Tiger of the Yard? Good, I hope so.

Okay, okay… here goes: I live by the beach. I take walks with my dog. I eat food from the ocean. Happy? Let’s move on.

 Driftwood log covered with gooseneck barnacles. Also pictured: the beach dog

Driftwood log covered with gooseneck barnacles. Also pictured: my adorable beach dog

A few days ago on an afternoon walk, I came across a driftwood log absolutely covered in loads and loads of gooseneck barnacles. Met with such a plentiful bounty, I wondered (as I often do of unfamiliar living things): “Can you eat that?”

Fortunately, I had a smart phone and a decent data connection, and in due time I verified that not only were barnacles highly sought after in Spain and Portugal, but have recently become trendy in Canada and Seattle, and were legal to gather with an ordinary shellfish license. So, gather away I did.

I’ve never had barnacles or seen them prepared, but sautéed with butter and garlic is a usually a safe bet for shellfish muscle meat. I briefly considered lemon and paprika, since they are popular in Spain, and rejected it, since I didn’t want to accidentally overwhelm them.

A handful of barnacles

A handful of barnacles

Sauteed Gooseneck Barnacles

~ 1/2 lb of fresh gooseneck barnacles, tips and roots removed, roughly chopped
a pat of butter
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

  1. Cut off the head and roots of barnacle, roughly chop neck.
  2. 20160713_202715-sm
  3. Melt butter over medium heat, add garlic and stir until fragrant. Add barnacles, saute stirring often until opaque. Serve hot with crusty bread and a green salad.

Tastes a bit like clams. Very nice. Would definitely have this again. Maybe with the paprika and lemon…