Friday, 14 October 2016

Seagull

Well. there is no such bird as a 'seagull', but is a name that is given to all sorts of gulls and covers (for us in Europe),14 different varieties. Most commonly we are referring to Herring gulls in this part of the country. Other well known species include Great Black Backed gulls, Lesser Black Backed gulls, Black Headed gulls and Kittiwakes. All these we've heard of. However the coast of Britain welcomes more unusual varieties (as testified by the RSPB observers) such as the Common gull (not so common) the Mediterranean gull (I've seen one of these at Heysham), Iceland gull, Little gull, Glaucous gull...to name a few. These visitors are often difficult to spot as they mingle with our commoner gulls.

So not all gulls get a bad press. The accounts of gulls becoming predatory are true but really of man's making . Let me stand up for the gull for a moment.  British waters have become depleted of fish, either through over fishing in the past  or due to global warming. Fishing fleets no longer enter ports joyfully discarding fish offal behind them (search your memories and picture this scene). Remember the gulls diving into the sea behind the boats? Secondly, local rubbish tips are netted preventing gulls from scavenging in the refuse. Thirdly, gulls always followed manuring and ploughing of fields, but so may farmers have resorted to chemical fertilisers and perhaps this too has a detrimental affect on gull feeding habits. Lastly I know that traditional nesting places (are they called 'gulleries'?) on moorland of the fells have been raided, eggs destroyed, gulls chased off to prevent predation of young grouse. So the protected gull is starving.

Never in my young days did I see a gull 'dancing' on the grass to get worms to rise. No. This is a more recent attempt to feed. It is a common sight today and the young have learned the technique from their parents...along with other feeding habits...like raiding bins, begging for food, stealing food. For like the urban fox the gull has had to adapt in order to survive.


Summer 2015 I had a pair of herring gulls nested by my chimney and they successfully raised one chick (I found the other infertile egg on my lawn). It was a dreadfully wet summer and the very young chick would take shelter beneath my solar panels (good thinking) . The parents were very attentive and devoted. 'Henry ' (my name for the chick) screeched continually with that raucous sort of mewing sound that drives us crazy...let alone it's parents. Then he discovered that the glass roof of my conservatory made a great place to launch up into the air on practice flights , landing very heavily each time. Then of course it  was like a runway and he'd run full pelt and try to fly. Great to see his large webbed feet running like yellow flippers across the glass. Not so funny however when a parent bird regurgitated a meal for the said chick!

When I lived in Buckie we had a clifftop house and three years after we moved in we were woken at dawn (early that far north in the summer) by a most persistent tap, tap, tapping on the front upper window. This was a herring gull. Every morning we would be wakened . No reason . The windows didn't open in a way that he'd maybe been fed at one time. No reason. But he was determined. How to put him off. Well, I dressed a mannequin and put it in the bay window....no luck. I tried to persuade the cat to sit on the windowsill...no luck. Eventually I went to the Esso garage and got some 'tiger's eyes posters and struck these up...that worked!

For you see , the fishermen believe that gulls are dead sailors returned. So maybe a long forgotten fisherman had returned home?

With that in mind I've quickly penned a piece relating to the house we lived in and some of the history of it that we learned.  Be patient as it was the first draft without alterations and may need some tweaking !

The Smiths Of Craigbo

Emigrated to New Zealand in 1921.
Moved away ..lock,stock and barrel
As the herring fishing was done
A slump. The fish they didn't run.
My wife had died within the house,
Falling off a ladder in the loft.
My life had fallen through,
What else was I to do ?

So I packed my life, my children
Into my trusty boat,
And I sailed to far away seas
In hope my pains might ease.
I, John "Latin" Smith, skipper.
With elder sons as crew.
Our lives had fallen through.
What else were we to do ?

I left behind my kinfolk,
All I'd ever known.
Childhood friends and family.
To venture to the unknown.
I left behind her spirit
To haunt the house we'd built.
My life had fallen through.
What else was I to do ?

Years passed in New Zealand.
I raised our family well.
Made a life in a new land
And kept my promise to you.
On my death I soared the oceans,
Signalled at the window that I knew.
Our life together had fallen through,
But I've come home for you.....

     Thanks for reading...Kath.
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