The snow had melted, at least at sea level, and it felt colder and damper than ever, with a vicious wind sweeping across the sea.

Algy tucked himself down into the Marram grass on the dunes at the back of the beach, and wondered where all the skylarks had gone. Were they sheltering in the long grasses too, or had they gone away somewhere for the winter? On a chilly, dark January day it was not easy to believe that in only a few weeks time the larks would start rehearsing again, softly trilling a few lovely notes as they fluttered a little way off the ground, preparing to ascend into the spring skies once more. Algy wished that he could just curl up and go to sleep somewhere nice and warm until then, and not wake up until the glorious songs of the larks announced that it was spring at last…


Once the excitement of his book launch was over, Algy felt surprisingly weary. After all, it was the middle of the Highland winter, and the days were short, dark and cold – a fluffy bird should spend most of his time tucked up asleep in his nest at this time of year.

But there was a touch of colour in the sky in the late afternoon, so Algy nestled down among the long grasses of the dunes, and gazed out across the sea at the wintry scene. He could see an otter swimming and diving in the middle of the bay in front of him, together with several diving birds, and he was glad to know there were other creatures around, just in case he should feel in need of some company…

The wind had strengthened during the night, and by mid-morning it had blown the mist away; at times there were even some patches of blue sky visible. It was not yet spring, but on the other hand it no longer felt like winter. Like the other birds, Algy was highly sensitive to the rapidly lengthening days and change of light. He felt a restlessness in the air, and he hurried down to the soothing sea. The wind was bitter, as usual, but it was always possible to find some shelter among the dunes, so he tucked his beak into his book of Poems of the Sea, and this is what he read:

          The people along the sand
          All turn and look one way.
          They turn their back on the land.
          They look at the sea all day.

          As long as it takes to pass
          A ship keeps raising its hull;
          The wetter ground like glass
          Reflects a standing gull.

          The land may vary more;
          But wherever the truth may be –
          The water comes ashore,
          And the people look at the sea.

          They cannot look out far.
          They cannot look in deep.
          But when was that ever a bar
          To any watch they keep?

[ Algy is reading the poem Neither Out Far Nor In Deep by the 20th century American poet Robert Frost. ]

Overnight, most of the remaining snow quietly vanished from the area around Algy’s home, and on the following morning the air felt much less icy. Algy had stayed away from the beach during the recent run of bitterly cold north winds, as it was much too exposed for comfort. But when the wind dropped to a more reasonable level and the temperature rose slightly, he wasted no time in returning to the ocean. He had to admit that it wasn’t exactly warm, but it was cosy enough tucked down among the Marram grass. It was so good to be beside the sea again…

After several weeks of grey skies and persistent rain, the sun was finally shining again and the sky was a beautiful blue. It was a wee bit windy, needless to say, but that was only to be expected. At this time of year there were always many tourists on the beach, and a fluffy bird is naturally shy, so Algy decided to tuck himself into the Marram grass on the dunes, well away from the crowds. He picked out a high spot where he could look out at the islands and the sea, and settled down to a happy afternoon of quiet reading.

Algy was thinking of his old friend who was about to have a cataract operation. She was naturally feeling rather frightened and anxious, so Algy searched in his book for a very silly poem to cheer his friend up and make her laugh:

          On the Ning Nang Nong
          Where the Cows go Bong!
          and the monkeys all say BOO!
          There’s a Nong Nang Ning
          Where the trees go Ping!
          And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
          On the Nong Ning Nang
          All the mice go Clang
          And you just can’t catch ‘em when they do!
          So its Ning Nang Nong
          Cows go Bong!
          Nong Nang Ning
          Trees go ping
          Nong Ning Nang
          The mice go Clang
          What a noisy place to belong
          is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

[Algy is quoting Spike Milligan’s poem On the Ning Nang Nong, which was published in his book of Silly Verse for Kids in 1968.]

Poor Algy! Just as he was beginning to recover from one storm, another gale came sweeping in across the ocean. The sea birds riding on the crest of the wind told Algy that the gusts were reaching over 100 mph in places. Algy was not pleased… He quickly retreated to the nearest shelter he could find, and took cover in one of the many hollows in the sand dunes at the back of the beach. It was evidently going to be a wild night …

To all his friends in north-western Europe this evening, Algy says please take great care in this wild weather, and stay safe! There have already been several fatal accidents in this storm, and the North Sea coasts are expecting the worst tidal surge for 60 years or more.

Algy found a new position on the highest of the dunes, to take in the view to his right. He wished that he had eyes in the back of his head, so that he could see the whole expanse of the bay and all the islands at once, without having to turn his face into the bitter north wind. It was certainly very lovely, but it was also very cold!

May Day dawned beautifully bright and clear after the storm, so Algy seized the day – or at least the afternoon – and went off to spend some happy hours at the beach. It was a particularly lovely day, but the biting north wind sent chills through his feathers as he perched on the top of the dunes, watching the waves ripple gently over the sand at low tide.