Distractions on the Road to Delphi

"Ever since Reading The Pilgrims Progress by John Buyan i have been inspired to go on a journey – This isnt it" …. This is the blog of a Man 34 living in a city he is learning to love, meeting people he doesn't understand, loving dogs who cant talk back, trying to live a greener life, yearing for 'fireside' moments with someone he's not found and basically just getting on with a life full of fun, anger, fear, love, Kylie and contradiction the best he can – just like everyone else – obviously.

Seagulls – Why we should stop removing our urban neighbours and learn to love them

Seagulls 

The word itself is a generalisation for the 7 different species of gull living in the UK today. What you commonly associate as a seagull is probably a Herring Gull as they are now more likely to live in urban areas, increasingly the Lesser black backed gull is also moving in.

Growing up around the east Yorkshire coast has given me a fairly broad sense of my place in the world and how to live alongside the natural world. We played as kids as everyone did on the beaches, rocks and sea walls and invariably the odd chip or ice cream cone was lost to a greedy gull. Gulls picking over the remnants of a discarded chip paper was as common a sight as the flocks circling the fishing boats when the catch was coming in. I used to love watching the lobster pot lines being brought in – still a daily sight in Filey Bay – where sat on the wall I was often joined by the curiously intelligent gulls ferociously concentrating on the job at hand lest dinner be dropped in its lap. This isn’t nostalgia – go to Scarborough sea front today and you will battle for position with the gull population whose food of choice – like mine is fish! The Gulls in Scarborough – twice the size of most urban gulls – are however lucky, they are fat on the spoils and don’t spend much time picking over the litter bins of the wasteful urban dweller.

This brings me on to the main reason for writing this,

“Progress of Egg and Nest Removal Service …

“The eggs themselves are being weakened due to the service provided (i.e removal of eggs) as many are produced without shells due to the lack of calcium from constant laying. Therefore this is considered a great success. Hopefully this will better with mortality of breeding pairs”  1

1. The extract was taken from minutes of a stakeholder meeting ‘Hereford Urban Gull Management’ 29th November 2012 Herefordshire Council. Not once in this document was it shown that there is even an understanding of the 7 different species of Gull and that there are more than one living in the city – each has to be responded to differently and that nests and eggs are practically the same for each breed. Not a widely publicised meeting, parties concerned with the methods used would be seen as disruptive and not as stakeholders with a valid view.

This doesn’t sound like a service that we should be particularly celebrating, it is effectively the systematic destruction of a species by disrupting the natural breeding and laying processes. The main reason behind actions taken like this is mainly ignorance and a wish to halt an ever-changing shift in the way we interact with city wildlife, although perhaps that last statement is giving city councillors too much credit for thought. The continuing assessment from the document provides such inspired suggestions as widening the slots on litter bins, putting more pressure on RSPB to class gulls as vermin,  putting adverts in magazines to remind people to pick u litter – a suggestion which will surely be remembered at 3am after 11 jagerbombs and an ill-advised kebab wrap hits the pavement . It’s clear that the only way to deter Gulls from picking though our litter is not to litter in the first place. Sustained education of ‘civilised’ human beings might be a start not the sustained destruction of a species that is just trying to survive.

The RSPB has classified the Herring Gull as a Red Alert – its breeding pair numbers have dropped alarmingly since the early 90’s and yet it continues to turn a blind eye to the pest control issues. The RSPB itself promotes wildlife diversity and shouldn’t get too cuddly about tackling some of the more difficult to sell issues.

We treat animal that come into our urban environment as threats and use such language as vermin, pest, maintenance, reduction. Maybe I am alone in my thoughts but I was reminded the other day of the famous you tube video where a child in China is repeatedly run over and ignored – Its horrific. My own experience was when recently a young Gull had fallen from its nest, I could see this clearly from a distance away as it wandered around a busy pedestrian road junction. As I approached I had hoped that I might not be the first person to be concerned, but I was, at least 70 or 80 people passed blithely, ignoring its situation. As a number of adult gulls cawed wildly in an attempt to coax it to fly back to them it was bumped by a car as it lifted of the ground. No 1 person went to help and not 1 car stopped – not even the one that hit it. This was all relatively quick but eventually I reached it and was able to see it wasn’t seriously injured and ushered the young gull to a safer place whether it could gain flight to safety – It thankfully did and lived to tell the tale !

Personally I don’t think I’m particularly woolly and green, I just feel that as a human with all the many wonderful attributes that brings we should always be working to help and develop the wildlife that surrounds us  not destroy it. Wildlife protection laws in the UK clearly state that the removal of eggs or disturbance of protected bird species is only permitted for the most specific of reasons – what is the reason used in most towns? Health and safety, they are perceived as a threat to health perhaps because someone might get poo on them ? this might be embarrassing but a risk? surely not … Maybe they will cause damage to roofs? perhaps but so does rain and snow and not cleaning out the gutters and moss and heavy wind .. maybe they will swoop down and peck furiously at a child or mistake your pet poodle for a tasty snack? perhaps (unlikely as it sounds this is actually one of my councils reasonings) but do we really enact such destructive methods on a maybe? It says something about what we as citizens of our towns and cities are happy to have our tax money spent on and what we are happy ‘not to notice’. Councillors with views heralding from the last century are running our towns like battlegrounds against perceived threats when they really should be promoting future welfare, harmony, environment and sustainability. Our world will change dramatically within our lifetimes and we really can have a hand in its direction – but not while we are not tackling the root of nearly all our problems – OURSELVES!

So why should we learn to love our urban wildlife neighbours? Simply because it will enrich your life and perhaps open our eyes a little to how the world around us isn’t quite so dreary and that joy can be found in tiny things. Just put your rubbish in the bins, don’t bother them when they are feeding young and I’m almost certain they wont peck your eyes out or carry off your sustainably sourced Pret crayfish Wrap!

And while I’m at it .. don’t throw your crap in the waterways, feed birds in winter and always do what you can to give urban wildlife a helping hand when life gets a bit tough!

for all the information of Gulls and different species and how to live with them visit the RSPB link below:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening/unwantedvisitors/gulls/index.aspx

(unhelpfully to my cause it’s in the section ‘unwanted visitors’)

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