Thank Heaven for Little Gulls

Moving Day – 11 -10 -9

Somehow the more we sort out the stuff, and give / sell / donate /recycle there seems to be more clutter everyday. We can’t go upstairs without passing piles of books! There’s a ladder and a large pile of VHSs on the top landing, and everywhere I look there’s a huge task waiting to be done.

For the last few years, every year, we have seen a pair of gulls, the same pair, I am sure, arriving in late December, hanging out together in January, and getting closer and more bonded through the spring, repairing the previous year’s nest, always in the same place, a messy construction on the roof of the industrial unit at the back of our house (soon to be not our house). For the last few years, at least three, (not counting last year when we weren’t here) they have raised 3 chicks to noisy fledging around August / September. This is a pretty amazing achievement and I think they could only have done it because they were a well-established, mature and practised couple, able to protect and feed the brood. Herring gulls have a lifespan of 10-20 years (one source says up to 50!) and it may be that these two were reaching retirement age. I am no longer sure how long I have been watching them from my desk, or the bath.

This year has been different. As I watched them, I noticed something different, hard to put my finger on it to begin with. Just after we arrived back at the end of May there was definitely something going on in the nest, and somewhere back in the Blog, there’s a pic of a small chick on the roof. I have seen two chicks only once, but the parental scene has changed too. In previous years both parents have hung out near the nest and the growing chicks often trotted around on our side of the roof, learning to hop over the ridges and exploring the gutters. We also saw quite a lot of feeding going on, chicks begging from the parents, even late into the year bustling along behind a bored looking parent making themselves small and squeaking. This year things have been quite different, with only one gull at the nest, and now only rare sightings of one chick. It’s looking very like a single parent family. Of course we can’t tell if we are seeing a male or a female, since both parents usually do the feeding.

I feel sad to see this brave urban partnership ending, although, as we know, all things must pass.

At this time of year we wake up to the sound of gulls gossiping, chatting, telling off the kids, making much smaller and more varied noises that the raucous seaside squawk that people associate with this fearsome, beautiful animal. Yes, I will miss them.

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