Today being Valentines Day, it seemed an appropriate time to report that there are some gorgeous birds at Kelso Racecourse. But before male readers get any ideas about rushing down to the track, I should point out that this is not a dating hotspot. The twig-legged beauties at the racecourse are strictly monogamous.
And despite a reputation for dining on aphrodisiac oysters, these particular love-birds are more partial to eating worms. Not your typical Tits or Shags (perish the thought), the birds are actually Eurasion Oystercatchers and they’ve been visiting Kelso Racecourse every Spring for more years than some of our most loyal racegoers.
Breeding pairs of Oystercatchers have been known to return to the same site together for upwards of twenty years. Frequently one generation passes the habit (or habitat) on to the next – a generationally ingrained trait of fidelity which has much in common with the membership base of Kelso Racecourse.
The reasons are obvious: Oystercatchers tend to place their nests in positions where they command a good view. And what better view could you wish for than the one from the roof of the Grandstand, just above the Doody Room, at Kelso? Not only is it a fantastic place from which to enjoy the racing (and witness horses like The Con Man, our selection to follow up his recent Kelso success by winning at Ascot on Saturday), the roof has a loose gravel surface which is perfect for laying eggs in – not that most of our racegoers are too bothered about that.
Every springtime the Oystercatchers (which I’ve christened Brian and Gillian because that’s what we usually call couples that live at the racecourse), announce their arrival with a series of loud tweeting noises as they fly up the finishing straight. This distinguishes them from the other Brian and Gillian who also like to fly away to warmer climes in the depths of Winter, but who aren’t away for quite so long nor as noisy when they return.
The presence of the Oystercatchers is a sure sign that Spring is on the way. As the days lengthen and the temperature picks up, the grass on the track will start to grow again and the birds will attempt to raise a clutch of chicks. Responsibility for incubating the eggs is shared – although not equally. The females tend to spend more time with the family while the males spend more time defending the territory – a familiar, if slightly sexist, convention which gets subverted every now and again.
One of those occasions occurs every Leap Year when, on 29th February, it has become traditional for girls to propose marriage to boys. We happen to be racing at Kelso on that day – so if you’re planning a proposal, do let us know and we’ll do our best to help you celebrate a memorable occasion. And we promise not to feed you any worms as long as you agree not to sit on the roof of the grandstand.