The Pearl Between the Shells
A favorite shorebird in the islands this time of year is the black oystercatcher. They walk with such a deliberate and dignified stride, run with considerable speed, and their flight is swift, yet graceful. Their song is both distinctive and memorable.
Feeding almost exclusively on oysters, clams, mussels, and various shellfish, they can often be sited along the edge of sand or mud flats or along rocky shoreline. They locate food visually, then force the shells apart with their bright red, strong, wedge-shaped, and razor sharp bills. A fascinating site, to be sure.
While it is obvious this charming shorebird is definitely partial to oysters, it would appear that categorically there are those who simply hate oysters and won’t eat them in any form, those who will eat oysters only if cooked, and then there are those who enjoy ousters on the half shell or really any way they can get them.
For the true oyster lover – the purists, if you will – just thinking of eating oysters can induce instant recall of the cucumber-fresh, sweet, briny meat – smacking of the sea and tangy minerals. Coppery, tinny, clean, intense, soft, melon-like – all are favorable descriptions and a matter of strong personal preference of the oyster devotee.
More than 90% of all West Coast oysters are grown in Washington State. While there are any number of public beaches from which to gather oysters year-round, San Juan Island is fortunate to have its very own exceptional shellfish aquaculture farm – Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, located on the shore of Westcott Bay with adjoining Garrison Bay forming a unique estuary system enriched by the clean, cold waters of the Straits, this extraordinary sea farm sells to restaurants, however oysters are also available for sale on site of, for a real treat, indulge yourself in their scheduled U-Pick Specials – personally pluck these little gems from their beaches for a very reasonable price. Affordable splendor!