Winged wreckers

Monday, July 14, 4-5.15am, what a wonderful sky – such dramatic clouds of red and lines of lightly coloured blue. It had to be seen to be believed!

Yes, as usual, a wheeling (and squabing from unfledged young, squabbling – petty quarrelling amongst the ‘adults’ and squalling – screaming) spectacle of one or two particular species: two obvious and prolific herring or common gulls. We in Sidmouth do not have seagulls. 1. A herring gull is a bird of the coasts and estuaries. 2. A black-headed gull and common gull are birds of the mountains and moorlands. 3. A greater black-backed gull and a lesser black-backed gull are birds of the sea cliffs.

So we have common and herring gulls – just now the resident population is increased by the eggs that hatched – mostly between our chimney stacks topped with pots. Eight in two rows being fiercely fought over – even vindictatorily defended – as the prime sites – in the spring (which this year enabled two times of coupling) hence the masses of fat, grey bundles of feathers about to launch from their nest areas and poo out and about! Please do not feed the gulls – especially white bread – in public places. Our herring gulls and common gulls are scavengers and their diet is varied – very varied thanks to humans dumping large quantities of edible food/kitchen waste.

Yes, voracious eaters – and they are clever and canny and crafty – always shrewd: and their guano (sea fowl manure) stains our roofs, pavements, ‘whitewashed’ house walls and people’s hair – so never go out without a hat or scarf – and clothes – which unless instantly scrubbed are permanently stained.

Vermin, maybe no – but verminous, yes, as injurious ie damaging and harmful (to our visitors who resolve never to come to Sidmouth again, and clap the kestrel and trainer!) and yes, as expensive to clean up; and outdoor picnics are too risky – for us residents and taxpayers.

I hope education prevents feral permanence like London’s pigeons and ducks.

R Speers

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