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Our first stop on day two of ‘Christmas in Cornwall’ was at Marazion beach for a wander and some photographs of the sublime silhouette that was St Michael’s Mount. But there was a surprise in store for us, and rather a smelly surprise at that.


On this and preceeding days, thousands of dead fish had washed up at various Cornish beaches, and here the high-tide line was awash with them, mostly sardines but some mackerel and herring as well. I read later, on the BBC website, that the problem was caused by fishing boats catching so many fish in their nets that they were at risk of capsizing or sinking so were having to release part of their catch. Unfortunately the fish rarely survive this catch-and-release process.

Though this was obviously a horror story for the fish, it was a dream come true for the seabirds, and, as we watched, a huge flock of gulls and the occasional cormorant were feasting on the fish in the waves just offshore. It was sensational to watch them, constantly dipping down to wave level and rarely coming up without a fish in their beaks. Hundreds more birds were bobbing about on the sea just beyond the breakers, probably too full to move. And, on the beach, too, the crows were enjoying this plentiful pre-Christmas bounty. It was both a macabre and marvellous introduction to St Michael’s Mount.