Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The lowly seagull

I grew up in a seaside town, where seagulls were an everyday part of our environment.  We saw them so often that we seldom gave them any notice, except perhaps when they flocked down in droves as we sat on a log on the beach eating handcut, gloriously browned french fries with salt and malt vinegar, from cardboard containers wrapped in newspaper.  Dare to toss one of these delicious morsels to a lone seagull, and soon a hundred gulls were flapping and flocking and squawking all around us.  As Richard Bach wrote in that delightful fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating."

There are no take out fish and chip shops along Crofton's waterfront, and the gulls here eat clams or starfish or mussels or young crabs far more often than fries.  Unless, of course, they have access to a smartphone.

Hello?  Salty's Fish and Chips?  Do you deliver to Crofton?
You do?  Oh, good, that'll be two extra large sides of fries, please! 

On my morning and afternoon walks with Maggie, I find it relaxing and fascinating to watch the gulls as they dive for crabs, tear mussels from the side of the wharf, wrestle with starfish bigger than their beaks, or drop clams from on high to the rocks below to crack open those tightly closed shells. 

Come here you darn sea star!  It's dinner time, and you're it! 

Now, where did I put my beer?

I've noticed they nearly always seem to wash their food - or, at least, the shell fish - dipping them at the water's edge or dropping them into shallow water before retrieving them and flying high to smash them on the rocks below. 


Mussels for breakfast!  Clean, fresh mussels! 

The other morning, I saw a gull spend a good twenty minutes locating a small crab amidst the rocks, catching it, washing it, and then prying each part open to suck down the insides.  By the time he was done, all that was left was a very clean, intact back shell and a few crumbs of shell from the legs.

C'mon, you, I know you are in there! 

Off to the water's edge to rinse him off!

Yum!  Fresh crab!

They are clever, crafty, and often beautiful birds with full and interesting lives, and seem to live quite harmoniously with the ducks and herons and oystercatchers who share their environment.

Gulls and heron on the wharf

I think she's talking about us!  Is this our fifteen minutes of fame?

One thing I have learned from watching the diversity of birds on Canada's west coast: there is no such thing as an 'ordinary' bird.  Each is unique, and remarkable in its resourcefulness, skill, social interactions, and problem-solving ability.  And even the lowly seagull brings great joy to my life.


Anonymous said...

Great pix. Will have to stop and watch those lowly gulls. They have been around me all my life and I have a tendency to ignore them. they are just there. You have such a way at looking at things that makes us appreciate things we ignore....Thank you Jean....M

CarolineA said...

I have always liked them, we had them at the school yards in Chilliwack. And when my son and I had our Vancouver day and went to Granville Island, we enjoyed watching them as we ate our lunch outside with the fresh sea air. Cool birds with a great survival instinct