One of my favourite things is the sound of seagulls. The shrill cry of gulls evokes memories of lazy days on the beach, ice cream, screams of delight from the funfair and later in the evening, a visit to the arcade with its flashing lights.
A couple of weeks ago I fled the green Chiltern hills for the Kent coast in search of sun, sea and sand. There was no sun or sand but I managed to find a shingle beach overlooking a murky English Channel.
After a stroll down the promenade, the salty tang of a stiff, northerly breeze had promoted quite an appetite. I was tucking into fish and chips when a young, fluffy seagull waddled up. Its beak was twisted and its parents were nowhere to be seen. It looked fixedly at my battered cod. I tossed Twisty Beak a chip, and herewith lay my mistake.
Word got around the local seagull population very quickly that chips were freely available.Within seconds there were dozens of seagulls swooping in. Seagulls perched on the bench opposite. They formed a bickering crowd, jostling for front row space and a glimpse of the fishy bounty. The seagulls edged closer and closer, pecking at the ground and at each other. There was a scuffle and Twisty Beak was swallowed by the mob. Become bolder they pecked at my feet. “Retreat!” I cried, and off to the arcades we fled.
How one chip created such a mob mentality is frightening. But seagulls are scavengers, particularly in the summer months when mating and rearing young. They can become territorial and aggressive towards people. The gulls will commence their seige with a warning cry to keep you away from their young, then they will swoop low and give an alarm call that attracts other seagulls from the colony to help protect the nest site. If this doesn’t deter people, the gulls will then defecate and vomit to protect their chicks.
To avoid an overcrowding problem with seagulls it is advisable not to feed them. Homes and businesses close to the coast can easily deter birds from nesting by employing methods like bird netting or electrical bird deterrent and gull deterrent systems. Birds of prey can also be used to frighten the birds away, a bit like a flying scarecrow.
It is here where my affection to seagulls end. Chip pinchers are not welcome to join my lunch.