Wednesday 5 April 2023



“What do you want to do on your birthday?” asked Ishbel.

“Go hunting for mermaid's purses,” I replied.

Ishbel wasn't phazed. After all, she's getting to know my eccentricities now, and she's savvy enough, natural hitory wise, to know that mermaid's purses are the egg sacs of sharks and rays. And so, on the bright sunny morning of April 3rd, we went off to Allonby on the Solway Firth to begin our hunt. This is part of a citizen science project, details of which can be found at if you want to take part.

The first egg cases we found were those of the Thornback Skate. The name is confusing as the terms skate and ray are interchangeable and if you look up Thornback Skate on Wikipedia you will find it endemic to Australia. The much more widespread fish is referred to as the Thornback Ray. This is one of the reasons we use scientific names. The egg cases we found were those of Raja clavata.

A little further on, we spotted these odd structures, which I had to check out on iNaturalist, as I hadn't come across them before. Turns out, they are called egg clouds, and they belong to the Common Whelk, Buccinum undatum. Learning all the time.

After an hour or so, we came upon a cluster of shark egg cases. You can tell that they are shark egg cases as they come with noodles attached. They are actually tendrils that anchor the egg cases to structures on the sea bed. These particular ones belong to the Small Spotted Cat Shark, Scyliorhinus canicula. This used to be a staple of fish and chip shops, sold under the name of rock salmon, but it seems to have gone out of fashion these days.

Having got a crick in the neck from peering myopically at the wrack line (the line of seaweed left on shore at high tide), we wandered back along the dunes. As we sat with a coffee, looking at Scotland across the firth, the first butterfly of the year landed nearby; a Small Tortoiseshell.

We rounded off the morning with a nice bit of home made chicken and leek pie at The Lowther Arms at Mawbray. This pub nearly died, but was brought back from the brink of extinction by the villagers who, along with other shareholders, bought it, and now run it as a community pub. Cheers!

News From The Old Cornmill

Last year, a mouse used to feed at my bird feeder, where he was quite welcome. This year, however, he found a way into my cupboard under the sink where he was not so desirable. He has now been deported to the old Cockermouth railway line where I hope he'll be very happy.

Meanwhile, the antiques shop continues to ship orders worldwide. A vintage copy of John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress flew out to Australia yesterday, and, to mark my birthday, I'm offering a 10% discount on all glassware this week, so pop in and have a browse for some preloved gifts (much more environmentally friendly than buying new, and better value too).

What with nature blogging and running a shop, I haven't had time to promote my novel, The Magic of Nature of Nature, but you can read the beginning for free on Amazon by clicking on Steve's Books below.

All the best,


Steve's Vintage Collectables.

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Steve Daniels Cumbria

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