Devon – and I survived

By loki11 (own work -place Oostende ( Belgium)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Last week I spent some time in Devon – risky eh?!

I even spent some time on the coast.

I saw a lot of gulls – big gulls. Really big gulls.

And many of them saw me too.

I even went to Brixham.

And I survived.

It would have been ironic to have been killed by gulls and not be able to have such a fab day at the Game Fair.

I’ve never been attacked by a gull but I’m sure it does happen, and I’m sure it’s a bit worrying if it does.  Actually, what’s happening to this bloke looks quite frightening.  I know I could cope with it but if you aren’t used to birds then it would be very scary. Let’s not minimise the importance of the trauma to people but let’s not overreact either.

If gulls are a problem for people then sometimes, yes sometimes, I’d be prepared to see the gulls taught a lesson. I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to biff a gull on its beak if it comes after my fish and chips but that would certainly be my first reaction – and I’m not really a biffing type of guy.  A few biffs might sort it out.

But what if it doesn’t? Well, then I’d be prepared to see a few problem gulls taken away down the road and released to try to solve the problem.

And if it doesn’t solve the problem, then sometimes, very rarely, I’d be prepared to see a few Herring Gulls get taken out completely to stop them attacking people.  Are you shocked? Well, there you go.

I would be less keen on seeing people getting a biffing if they feed gulls and thus encourage gulls to steal food – I’d try talking to the people first. After that, then maybe some people-biffing might be a good idea but I’m not sure that is very easy. And capturing people and taking them 20 miles down the road for feeding gulls would be tricky too. I’m definitely against shooting people even if they feed gulls.

But, as with many problems in life, and this is not the biggest problem we face, if you don’t tackle the cause then you’ll have to tackle the symptoms for ever.  It’s quite difficult to reason with Herring Gulls (and Lesser Black-Backs can be so unreasonable too) so we’d better start with the people. Will they really be any easier?

How much do we want to solve this problem? And how much do we want to read about it every summer when there is nothing much happening in the world?

Unless we do a great job on public education then we are going to end up bumping off a few gulls.  And that would be a shame. Apparently, if they were lions it would be a bigger shame.

So, unless we enforce no-littering rules on seaside promenades, and no-feeding-gulls zones in those places, and maybe, horror of horrors, have no-eating-of-fish-and-chips-outdoors zones for several months a year in a very few parts of a very few seaside towns then we aren’t really attempting to solve the problem at source, we are merely wishing it would go away or sticking our heads in the Brixham sands.

But I survived Brixham – completely unmolested by gulls.




13 Replies to “Devon – and I survived”

  1. Just back from a family holiday in Brittany. In birding terms, the gulls were one of the highlights – there was a regular roost of about 100 Med Gulls in a field adjacent to our campsite! We also managed family picnics on the beach and ice-creams in a seaside village which reminded me of St Ives. There were plenty of Herring Gulls, but not one took any interest in us or anyone else. My iPad told me there was a terrific brouhaha about ‘seagulls’ going on back home. Why such a contrast? Personally, I think that your comments regarding the birds adapting to human behaviour are spot on, but we live in tabloid-fuelled sensationalist times and I’m not optimistic that sensible change can be achieved.

    1. “Why such a contrast?” = Fish and Chips! Just take a look along Aldeburgh sea wall behind he high street at lunchtime to see the training sessions. Despite a £2,500 biff.

  2. In Newcastle and Gateshead we are lucky to have a Kittiwake colony nesting on the bridge, the Baltic Art Gallery and various other buildings and structures. For nature lovers this is something of which we are very proud but apparently not everyone sees it that way. About four years ago a consultant’s report advised that the presence of the Kittiwakes was not compatible with aspirations of being a world class waterfront environment and that their relocation should be considered. Fortunately the threat seems to have receded but who knows if and when it will raise its ugly head again? Apparently it is the smell and mess caused by the birds that is considered objectionable and off-putting to people who might wish to frequent the bars and restaurants that dominate the area (after all these are Kittiwakes not Herring Gulls and I am not aware of any complaints of people being attacked). This is ludicrous on two counts: first the crowds of people on the quayside on a Friday or Saturday night have to be seen to be believed – punters are obviously not deterred in the slightest from ‘revelling’ by the nearby presence of the birds. Secondly, the mess left behind by said revellers in the form of vomit, half eaten burgers and so on is a good deal more objectionable than anything the birds do.
    For the time being, happily, it seems that the people who are proud of the Kittiwakes and welcome their presence on the river Tyne have won out but all too often when we are inconvenienced even slightly by wildlife it is the wildlife that loses and we need to learn to be much more accommodating to the other species that share our environment.

    1. Couldn’t agree more Jonathan. The kittiwakes weren’t there 20 odd years ago when I was a student in Newcastle (at least I don’t remember them as I staggered round the Quayside on a Saturday night) As I’ve got family living in Newcastle now have been fortunate enough to see the colony several times under the Tyne Bridge and I think they’re great. They also helped get my 13 year old niece interested in birds which is a very good thing.

    1. An excellent letter, Ed.
      Notice how the woman who wrote the one after yours wants to ‘control’ our native wildlife…

  3. The worst places for gull attacks are tourist traps like St Ives and Newquay. Locals are used to the gulls and know how to keep them off, but tourists have a tendency to carelessly flaunt their food and make perfect targets.

    Here’s a tip if you want to avoid getting mobbed – gulls like to strike from behind, so try wearing a pair of sunglasses on the back of your head to confuse them. Haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard it works!

  4. I was holidaying in Weston Super Mare a couple of weeks ago. Whilst eating fish and chips on the seafront I saw at least 2 “gentlemen” deliberately feeding and provoking the gulls despite numerous signs telling them not to do so. If people weren’t so bloody stupid and stopped feeding them in the first place there wouldn’t be this “problem” (for problem read tabloid hysteria in the silly season). More seriously as Stephen Moss pointed out on radio 2 last week it’s our fault in the first place for clearing the seas out of fish so the gulls have to look elsewhere for food. Stop blaming the birds, blame us!
    As for the other “gentleman” who allowed his dog to urinate on my daughter’s friend’s sandcastle and answered my wife’s complaints with a shrug of his shoulders…….. We humans really are beyond the pale!

  5. I suggest the RSPB icon should be an Ostrich not an Avocet, It has a good view but inclined to stick head in the sand.
    I just read Martin Harper’s blog where he promotes licencing grouse moors and vicarious liability as a cure for the present failure of the system. Why any RSPB member with a iota of common sense would think this would work I do not know. Then in the previous blog Martin shows the RSPB is astute enough to see that if you destroy gulls in a desirable nesting area (towns) others will come in to replace tham and you will destroy the population.
    As I said good view but inclined to stick head in sand.

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