Friday, 8 April 2011

I'm in the middle of a seabird colony... are probably the large majority of people reading this blog. You might not have realised it yet though.

...Before saying anything on this matter, I'll just state the few little things I saw today. After singing Chiffchaffs on the 5th, I topped that with a Willow Warbler today. Otherwise very few birds are around at the moment. But I saw a few more Cabbage Whites today, along with my first Orange-tip of the year. On the night of the 5th, my first Pipistrelle Bats in Seaford being nice to see.

I'm talking, of course, about the breeding colonies of gulls that must now occur in almost every town in Britain. Certainly Herring Gulls breed in every coastal town in Sussex.

It is very easy to write these birds off as just being 'flying rats'. But, don't forget, they are still wild birds. In fact, along with crows, it's probably fair to say Herring Gulls (and other gulls in some areas) must be one of the most adaptable species in our country. To adapt to an environment in such a short period of time (in most cases less than 100 years) is a remarkable achievement.

There are a lot of people who say, they're only gulls, and barely worth a second glance. I used to be like this. The only time I would notice a gull was when it took a shit on me.

But take a look at them, and they are, in fact, a fully-functioning seabird colony. Of all the birds we see from day-to-day, I would argue urban gulls are one of the easiest to study the behaviour of. We can see the hierarchy in their ranks in winter, when they flock together in areas like school-playing fields (like mine). The adults tend to be dominant as you'd expect. The juveniles squabble over all the scraps of crap left outside, but all part if an adult swoops in.

Come spring, they are ubuquitous nesters. You can see pairs on roofs all over my hometown of Seaford. They often embark on fierce territorial battles (I have seen a bird drown another on a local pond once before!), and once they have young they will mob anything that gets too near. Even a human in a garden is seen as a threat to them. For some this is a nuisance, but I personally love seeing wild birds in their element like this. And if they crap on the guy next door who has probably given me lung cancer with all his filthy second-hand smoke, I won't complain...

In the evening, they all take to the air, calling and circling the houses below. If you stop imagining yourself in the middle of a town, close your eyes and picture youself on some far-flung clifftop, it's actually very atmospheric.

They are also an alarm system for birdwatchers. Me and Dad have seen HONEY BUZZARD, RED KITE and MARSH HARRIER flying over our garden in the past, thanks to the local gulls. I'm sure every birdwatcher has their own story to tell about how gulls helped them to see a raptor travelling over their garden.

Perhaps my favourite story involving the local gulls was actually an attempt to get rid of them, about this time last year. The school, fed up all the gulls, called in a falconer. They must have thought a Harris's Hawk would scare all them off. That was rather stupid. I'd have thought it doesn't take too much intellect to work out the result of pitching one domesticated hawk against the 50+ gulls that hang around our school. and several hundred others from the surrounding area. The hawk sat in a tree, feeling sorry for itself and trying to avoid several hundred dive-bombing gulls. The school scratched their heads and wondered what the fuck was going on...

so there you have it, gulls. They are a reminder of the rugged seaside their ancestors inhabited. They are a detection device for birds of prey. and they really piss off the governers of my school! Which is why I love them!


  1. Great post Liam , love the story about the Harris Hawk ....lmao

  2. Hi Liam,
    Excellent site, will def visit again,