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Waitrose Tarte Tatin and a Swimming pool… Pic and text by Anne Scott Teignmouth

Gulls are going des res!

Following on from my last story about the sad loss of Daddy Gull, I can report that this year, two new Gulls took over the tenancy of our flat roof.

We both noticed immediately how familiar this new pair of Gulls appeared to be. They seemed to know our routine and they were not afraid of us in the least. We began to wonder whether perhaps one of the Gulls was the past offspring of Daddy Gull. They simply seemed far too knowing of us. We now think that one of these Gulls must certainly have been born on our flat roof over the years and definitely ‘knew’ us.

This year to our delight, another three baby Gulls were born. Both parents welcomed the fresh water tub which we replenish frequently and they came down onto our decked area to the food tray several times a day. If there is no food on the tray new Daddy Gull stands a vigil, staring in through our conservatory door quite motionless until we cannot fail but to notice him. We then go out and put some scraps onto the tray. He doesn’t fly away, he trusts us completely and scoffs away greedily giving us the occasional eye as we talk to him gently.

What has amused us most of all with this new pair is that if they get impatient waiting for us to come out, Mrs Gull plonks herself down heavily on the polycarbonate conservatory roof and stamps her feet up and down very fast in an attempt to make us come out! The longer we take the faster she stamps.

They are clearly engaging exactly the same thought process as when you see them stamping up and down on wet grass after it has rained to make the worms come to the surface. The crazy thing is that their cunning plan works. Out we come to feed them! We have never before known any Gulls to come up with this little idea!

The first baby to fledge this year crash landed into our garden and got lost in a dense maze of plants where the parent could not reach it. The parents stood on the conservatory roof and watched as my husband went out, picked up the baby and placed it back on the roof next to the parents. In normal circumstances, parent Gulls would not allow that to happen and would certainly attack. Again, it showed their complete trust of us. The baby did not struggle and the parents trusted we were helping it.

We have to admit to spoiling our Gulls again. We have bought them treats such as tins of herring and other tinned fish and even funnier still, it all came from Waitrose! They have also been treated to a range of our left- over food, including a large tarte tatin (Waitrose again!) which I had forgotten and left in the fridge uneaten. They do also seem to love pasta dishes. The jam doughnuts were scoffed in seconds and Mrs Gull saw off Mr Gull for that. She loves her doughnuts.  So, as you can see, they are indeed spoilt.

This can, I feel, only be outdone by a lovely couple who I recently met who told me that they too feed their Gulls. This couple live in a very prestigious house with a swimming pool. Their Gulls not only get fed, but they have full use of the pool and come down each day and float around in it! The couple have invited me to come up and take a look. So, I guess my Gulls are ‘slumming it’ by comparison!

It is always good to know other locals who take pleasure in these beautiful birds. It helps to offset all the bad press that Gulls get from people who just jump on the bandwagon and demonize them unfairly.

And so, all the activity is now over and it is quiet on our flat roof again – for another year.

Anne Scott

July 2017

I am sharing this piece written by Mary Page as it might shed light on the truth about gulls. As I drove back from Torquay to Exeter this evening I saw at least 8 gulls dead on the road. I stopped and picked one up to put on the grass verge. I am shocked and moved to tears. Do people drive like maniacs or do they deliberately target these innocent creatures? These birds mate for life and it is heartbreaking to think of their mate and young waiting for its return.


Mary’s article from her blog

I might regret this, but here goes. This is MY blog and I shall yet again make a few points even though I tell myself every year that I won’t get involved. There’s a local post berating our local herring gulls and I won’t comment on it there, waste of time and effort because folk have already made up their minds and nothing will change them. Nothing. It brought up some points I’d like to address.
Juvenile gulls are finding their wings right now and fledging. This causes a ruckus all around because the adult population of gulls join in the noise and activity. It sounds worse than it is, it’s simple high spirits. It shall be over soon.
If you have gulls nesting on your roof and you don’t want them, then hard cheese. It’s up to you to do something about it no matter the cost. It’s your property, rented or owned, so its your responsibility. It’s no good asking the council, it’s not the money, the herring gull has been protected since January 2011 and it’s against the wildlife laws to harm them, their habitat, nest, eggs and chicks. In certain cases a licence can be granted, but that’s rare. Whether you believe it or not their numbers are down. We might have a pocket of them around us here but that’s because they’ve been chased off the high street and sea front, and other roads. I did my own survey two summers ago and I learned a lot. You have a good ten months of the year to do something about making your roof inaccessible to gulls, so it’s no good thinking about it and complaining once they’ve arrived.
Gulls do not eat lead! It’s poisonous. They might peck at stuff, probably plaster work, even peck away the lead to get at something tasty like insects. It’s a normal habit of birds looking for food. Ok it’s destructive. If you don’t want them doing that, see above paragraph.
Yes, they’ll protect their young. Wouldn’t you? They live by instinct, not reason. Suffice to say that wild creatures don’t know what spite is and any apoarent nastiness is sheer survival tactics. If you haven’t done anything in the above paragraph, then carry an umbrella with you until the worst is over! And don’t get snippy about it, I say again, gulls don’t reason about ownership and your house is their cliff as far as they’re concerned.
Someone called them thieves. In that case so is all wildlife because they take food from wherever they find it. Gulls, like all other wildlife, are opportunists and take what they can to survive. Simple. And if there’s a lot of OUR food lying around then we are the mucky, untidy scourge of the earth that shouldn’t throw litter willy nilly like we do! Don’t blame the wildlife for snacking, quite rightly, on it, blame thoughtless humans. And don’t whine about black bags being torn open. Simply don’t leave them about outside. Stands to reason whats going to happen. And if they see food anywhere, even in your toddlers hand, yes they will take it if they can. They don’t wish your toddler harm, they hardly notice him, they just see the food.
To recap. We live near the sea. The wildlife is being pushed about by humans. They have to fulfill their natural instincts somewhere, so they move where there are nice new nesting sites surrounded by rich pickings of chucked away food. Deal with it. It’s the old old story that shall rear its head every single year.

Text taken from the Guardian and photograph by Saurabh Narang. 

Every year between October and March, thousands of seagulls migrate from Siberia to Delhi. Locals come to feed them, believing it is good karma. This image shows one of them, Mr Ramnath, rowing across the river Yamuna near the Red Fort at sunset. It was taken by Saurabh Narang, who lives nearby and says this has become one of his favourite places to visit in his home town. “After years of travelling to distant places, this was my first visit to Yamuna Ghat. It left me wonderstruck.” Another man feeds the migratory birds in Yamuna Ghat in Delhi. He believes in good karma and feels his duty to feed these birds. According to him, these birds wait for someone like him to come every day with food. They also recognize Mr. Ramnath (boatman) as he is a familiar face for them now.

The Guardian article

Goodbye Daddy Gull 

 A local true story from a Devon resident (2016) – Anne Scott – Teignmouth

A few weeks ago, we lost a feathered friend. To some, indeed to many, it will seem unfathomable how we became friends with a Herring Gull as they are either liked or vehemently loathed.

It started eight years ago when a fine gull appeared on the flat roof outside our home office window. We didn’t pay very much attention at first but the gull soon brought a mate onto the roof and much chattering and head bobbing took place between them. It soon became clear to us that they were in a mating ritual and looking to nest.

It wasn’t long before a loosely built nest was constructed. Not the most technical and certainly not the prettiest of nests but even so, much to-ing and fro-ing took place collecting twigs and moss and bits and pieces which they placed in a safe corner of the flat roof against the wall. It was a straggly nest but roomy and comfortable. Eventually the female took to the nest and there she stayed, dutifully watched over and cared for by Mr Gull. He sat alongside her on the flat roof for days and they chattered away together and dozed quietly together in the sun or rain. Any dangerous imposters such as crows and magpies were seen off by Mr Gull who was fiercely protective of his nesting partner.

When the eggs hatched and the three fluffy grey spotted chicks emerged, we spent time watching their progress with fascination. They looked like tiny ostrich, little round balls of fluff on long legs.   We observed the different noises made by the parent Gulls and over the years we came to understand what some of the various noises and calls meant. We came to learn how extremely protective the parent Gulls are and indeed what brilliant parents. The gull community have a distress call which means ‘all hands on deck’. If parent Gulls send out their distress call it is quickly answered by many other local gulls that fly over to help fight off predators such as hawks, crows or magpies. As soon as the danger is cleared, all gulls return to their own roof and all is once again calm – until the next time.

As the babies grow and start to learn, the parents bring back learning toys for them to play with such as a variety of seashells which they can toss around on the flat roof. This was very interesting because these empty shells were certainly intended as toys and not food.

We then watched with great trepidation as the babies got ready to fledge and take their maiden flight. We have watched with anxiety. Will they crash land? Will they make it to the next roof? It is a mixed experience but all usually ends up well. Any crash landings are dealt with efficiently by the parents. The babies although fledged and quite big, still like to be fed by the parents although they can quite well feed themselves. They bob up and down and whistle, calling for food and attention.

Over the years we have watched the same male Gull return year after year to our flat roof. We know it is him because he has a distinguishing mark, a missing web to his right foot. He had grown to know that we are friends and try to help out with a constant supply of fresh drinking water in a deep, wide container which we know is greatly appreciated. His trust was evident in that he stopped threatening us with alarm calls. What amazed us, in this, which was sadly to be his final year, is that when his partner became distressed by our presence, he stopped her distress by gently chattering to her and she calmed down. It was so very obvious that he had communicated to her that we were friends and she need not be alarmed.

This year, he had arrived as usual with his partner. He showed her the usual nesting site and she approved. They built a nest in the same spot as always. The same ritual was carried out and we commented on what a fine, experienced, caring partner and father Mr Gull was. The three babies were born and all was well until nearly two weeks later when we noticed one morning that there was no Mr Gull. He had gone off on his early flight to find food but did not reappear. His partner looked and called for him but he didn’t arrive.  This had never happened before during all the years we had known him. We instinctively knew that something had happened to him. It soon became clear that he had somehow been killed and could not return. His partner eventually knew this and stopped calling and looking for him. We suppose that she could no longer hear his calls in the distance as she always did. We don’t know whether he was run over, killed on the beach by a dog or maybe a person with an air rifle. Perhaps he was caught in discarded fishing line and couldn’t free himself. We’ll never know. What we do know is that Mr Gull would have returned to his partner and babies if he possibly could. He was such a loyal and excellent mate.

We can only hope that a member of the anti-gull brigade didn’t intentionally take this wonderful birds life. We wish that someone could have helped him in his plight whatever that might have been. If he tried to steal your sticky bun or your chips, he was only trying to feed his babies. It is hardly surprising when nature’s food cupboard has been fished out. Hardly surprising when the public are told not to feed the Gulls or drop any morsel of food accidentally (which the Gulls would be delighted to immediately clean up).

We will miss Mr Gull very much indeed. His partner was left trying her best to protect her three tiny fluffy chicks as well as to somehow feed them and herself too. It was impossible for her as crows were on the lookout for defenceless chicks. Well, we stepped in and helped her. Mr Gull gave us much pleasure over the years and we were not about to let his three final chicks die. We went to the supermarket and bought tins and tins of herrings, pilchards, shrimp, crab etc., we mixed this with bread and any other food scraps we had each day. Yes, it cost us to keep this up until the chicks were big enough but it was well worth it.

And so, we are pleased to report to all those who care about birds and wildlife that all three chicks survived and successfully fledged.

And so we ask, don’t just be anti-gull because others are. Yes, they are noisy but it is the sound of the seaside. They have a right to be here.

Goodbye Mr Gull. You were a very fine bird indeed and the very best of parents. You did your duty year after year and protected your partner and babies in a way that some human parents would do well to emulate.


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