Thursday, July 12, 2012

Discovering Portsmouth and Spotted Sandpiper Chicks

On Tuesday I took the day off and headed to the mainland to explore Portsmouth for the day. I met up with Kayla at the dock and we set off for downtown Portsmouth, making a brief stop at Starbucks to grab coffee and try out their new “green coffee” samples. I wasn't a big fan, however; I like my coffee dark and brown.

It was a cool, sunny morning and Portsmouth was just beginning to stir, the shops flinging open their doors and touching up their window displays. Less than two minutes into our ramble, we stumbled upon a quirky sign announcing a “Gurgle Pot (Produces a delightful "gurgle:" sound!)”.

We went in to check it out, but unfortunately, it only gurgles if you pour water out of it and somehow we didn't think that the shopkeeper would approve of us pouring liquids into her pots. The display was accompanied by a short note on the “story” of the Gurgle Pot. Apparently, the artist had come across such a pot on a visit to France for a wedding. He didn't speak a word of French, and his hosts didn't speak a word of English – they took mutual comfort in the gurgling of the coffee pot at awkwardly silent dinners.

The Gurgle Pot, in a way, sums up my experience of Portsmouth: a small, quirky, eclectic town with a rich history and, for some odd reason, a plethora of hair salons.

For example, we found a shop, appropriately named The Salt Cellar, devoted entirely to salt: salt carvings, salt slabs and, best of all, flavoured salts – salts infused with everything from coffee to chillies. I quite enjoyed the lemon salt and Kayla was enthralled by the spicy ghost pepper salt.

The Salt Cellar

"Fleur de Sel" flavoured salt

For lunch we decided to try out a tiny breakfast & lunch place called Colby's that we happened to happen upon just as our stomaches got to the rumbling stage. Hands down, the best poached eggs I've ever had. 

Kayla and her egg scramble at Colby's

And, of course, a meal in Portsmouth is never complete without Annabelle's ice cream. Unfortunately, the heat of the day made my Kahlua Chocolate Chip a tad difficult to eat, resulting in a lot of ice cream drippage on someone's parking lot. It was still delicious, however, perhaps more so for the weird stares I attracted as I tried to lick all sides of my cone at once.

After food, we paid a visit to the Discover Portsmouth center to check out an exhibit on the archaeological discoveries made on the Isles of Shoals, mainly Smuttynose and Star Islands, by Nate Hamilton and his class. It was a great exhibit, with actual fragments of clay pipes, pottery, bones and arrowheads found on the isles displayed alongside complete examples of each from other collections, thus helping one visualize what the fragments might once have looked like. 

How fish was dried on the Isles of Shoals, back in the day

Highlights included a “Touch Table” (for Kayla) and an axe, the murder weapon of the famous Smuttynose murders (for me).

Kayla at the Touch Table

The axe! (and me)

We also checked out the Strawbery Banke museum, or rather just the museum store since the ticket prices were a tad too high, and a rather good bookstore called RiverRun Bookstore. That's just about all that a town needs to win my approval, a good bookstore.

Back on Appledore, we discovered that things had been pretty busy while we were away. An injured seal pup that Michelle had noticed a few days back while checking nests had been rescued and taken to a rehab center, some snail mail that I had been waiting for for a while had finally arrived, and, best of all, the Spotted Sandpiper eggs from Yellow Flower Nest were hatching!

Thus, yesterday, I spent another blissful hour hiding out in the bushes opposite the nest and getting some sweet shots of the little, but already quite skittish, sandpipers as well as the parent. As Brendan aptly put it when I emailed him the baby sandpipers photo, “The island is just pumping out cuter and cuter creatures as the summer goes on!”

Day-old Spotted Sandpiper chicks!
Spotted Sandpiper, une 
Spotted Sandpiper, deux
Random Red-winged Blackbird

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