Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Curious Incident of the Seagull In The Daytime

Or The Seagull Has Landed.

You develop a complicated relationship to seagulls when you live on the coast. The seagulls in Whitby are a cause for great annoyance. They are most hated by the drivers and the goths. Anybody who has a car knows what it is like to get guano off the paintwork – our friend H’s car which we use was once brown but is currently a kind of mottled beige such is the amount of poop on the roof. The goths get it the worse perhaps; black velvet, daubed with white seagull plop - well, you can imagine. I guess the nuns up at the convent must have similar troubles but you never hear them swear about it.

And the gulls are cheeky. If you leave food anywhere that they can get to it, even if it means entering an open window, they will. If you leave leftovers of your Chinese meal from the Good Luck takeaway in a rubbish bag outside, they will eviscerate it, leaving a mess of noodles, like entrails, all over the yard.

However, they have their advantages. Like they attack the tourists.Bram Stoker,Lewis Carroll, Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell (Dickens as well but Dickens visited everywhere). You have the philosophical/ historical set who come here because this is the birthplace of English literature (Caedmon, the first person to write poems in English), Roman Christianity in England and Lucky Ducks. Then you have the railway people and the Austrailians come to visit the home of Captain Cook. You have the people who are into Jet jewellery and early photography. There’s the goths for Whitby Gothic Weekend and then there’s the beardy sandal-wearers at Folk Week and the new Abbeygael Festival. All of these people are very welcome here.

But mostly you get the scally day-trippers from Teeside. Not everyone from Teeside or indeed every day-tripper is the same of course, but there is a certain type. This type keep their custom exclusive to those shops which they have branches of in their native towns, i.e Woolworths and the cheap shoe-shops, thus contributing little or no money to the local population. Their children seem at first undisciplined, but then you see them being subject to corporal punishment in public places.

And strangely enough it is always these people who get attacked by the gulls. We all get shat on, but these folks sit there eating their fish’n’chips and getting gradually drunk on some sickly fizzy concoction they have purchased in two litre bottles from the Co-op, teasing the gulls by pretending to throw their chips but then not letting go and bursting out into slack-jawed laughter. Then they complain to the local council when some great hefty herring gull swoops down and pinches their dinner.

Anyway, on the whole locals live side-by-side with the gulls and you don’t notice them anymore. When you’re on the phone, the landlubbers on the other end comment on the noise they make although you don't hear them. People staying over have their sleep disturbed by them but you wouldn't even know you were there.

Until someone tries to hurt them.

We went to York today and when we came back there was a seagull sat in our yard. Seagulls do venture into our yard, but there’s not a lot of space and they certainly don’t stay in our yard when there are people about. And they don’t then hide behind the dustbin as opposed to flying away when you approach them.

Our seagull could not fly away, but he wasn’t obviously injured and there were no feathers about. Suddenly we were filled with suspicion and rage. There are three possible explanations of how our (now beloved) seagull came to harm;

  • We keep finding BB gun pellets in the yard. Has someone been shooting at the seagulls? Almost certainly. Did they actually hit the seagull? Perhaps.

  • Our landlords use the flat above ours as a holiday flat, perhaps five weekends in the year. They have roses up there and they put slug pellets down on our steps this weekend. It just so happens that all the slugs live directly opposite our flat and today there were about two dozen shrivelled slugs outside our flat. Could poisoned slugs harm the birds that digest them?

  • Are the seagulls themselves being poisoned?It is hard to kill animals as big as seagulls with poison without endangering other animals. So they get sick. A few years ago a mass culling exercise resulted in 'drunken' seagulls flying headlong into buildings and people, causing a greater hazard and nuisance than they ever were before.

  • Whatever happened, the chances are that foul play was involved.

    Most conflicts between man and nature are entirely man-made. The reason seagulls are pests is because people feed the seagulls or leave their kitchen windows wide open with plates of food on display. Reduce their food source and their numbers reduce. Simple.

    On a positive note, we phoned the local RSPCA for advice, convinced that they would have no interest in a mere seagull but a lady did come out and rescue it (tiny woman picked this rotten great gull up in one hand and gave it her other hand to peck on). So hopefully our seagull will live happily ever after.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Just got back from a weekend at Whitby and must say the amount of seagull poop appeared to have increased considerably since my last visit some 5 years ago. I mean it was digusting. I went to the beer garden of one pub (well small concrete bit with tables) and came straight out again as I was not prepared to sit on the mass of poop on the seats.
    My last visit was during the winter when very few other tourists were about so perhaps the daytrippers with their chips contribute to the emmisions. Great place nonetheless. Mr Chips cod was delicious and the Turbot at Green's restaurant to die for.