I walk down the Saltcot Loaning and hear a crunch as I step. Glancing down, I notice a snail shell under the toe of my boot. I jerk back immediately, worried I’ve just crushed some little creature. I crouch down to look at it and it is just an empty shell.
I pick up the shell and turn it over in my fingers, admiring the whorl. I cast my eyes along the loaning and see four or five more shells. Where have their snails gone?
Well, as it turns out, they’ve been eaten.
Song thrushes and the occasional blackbird use a hard surface to smash snail shells open to get at the soft flesh inside. They return to the same ‘anvil’ again and again so often you see loads of shells in the same place. Probably why I’ve just heard a chorus of crunch crunch crunch as I walk along this concreted path.
Song thrush with snail in its beak by Jacob Campbell
Thrushes eat snails when their other favourite foods are less abundant in harsh winter or dry summer weather. No wonder they’ve been eating lots of them with the weather we’ve had.
I keep my eyes peeled for a song thrush but don’t see one. Only more snail shells.
Words and feature image of broken shell on path by Marianne Nicholson