Bird's Eye View of Bute

Herring Gulls

(1) Herring gull
(1) Herring gull
(2) Herring Gull
(2) Herring Gull
(3) Young Herring Gull
(3) Young Herring Gull
(4) Herring Gull
(4) Herring Gull
(5) Herring Guls
(5) Herring Guls
(6) H Gull
(6) H Gull
(7) H Gull
(7) H Gull
(8 H Gull
(8 H Gull
(9) H Gull
(9) H Gull
(10) 2013 Kerrycroy
(10) 2013 Kerrycroy
(11) 2013 Kerrycroy
(11) 2013 Kerrycroy
(12) 2013 Kerrycroy
(12) 2013 Kerrycroy

 

 

BIRDS EYE VIEW OF BUTE

Now that the summer has long since gone, and the bird migrants that we enjoyed seeing and hearing have returned to their winter residence, with the bulk of them heading for Africa. We are now looking forward to our wintering birds that descend on Bute from places further north, as when the winter sets in to these places, they cannot get food as the ground is frozen, so they move down south, where hopefully the grass will still be green and soft.

But what about the “Local Birds”, what do they do? Like us they are stuck here, unless they can get a “Cheep flight to the Med “and enjoy a few weeks in the sun?

The species that I cover today, are the 'Herring Gull, and the 'Lesser Black Backed Gull', with more emphasis on the herring variety. Birds of the sea we were told many years ago, not so nowadays, as they have now become “Townies”. Look out of your window at any time, especially in the morning, and you will see a gull on most roofs waiting for food to be thrown out. As one spots food it dives on it giving out screams to tell the others that breakfast is up.

There follows a fight for every morsel, from whole slices of stale bread to the carcass of chickens and the like. The screams like a 'Banshee ' wakens all that are trying to get some sleep. If you have a washing out on the line, say a nice duvet cover and sheets plus pillow slips, that have been washed and treated with 'Lenor' and smell lovely, and they get in the way of the gulls fighting or clearing yesterday’s food out of their system, well, the horrible mess that comes out of a seagulls bottom can take the paint of a car, so imagine what it can do to your bedclothes? They will never be the same as that stain is almost impossible to remove, and even worse, if you keep them and use them then these stains will be on the sheets that you are lying on or on the duvet that covers you. Not a nice thought but expensive to replace.

Next we move to the birds that find their food on and around our streets. Before you enter a fast food outlet, have a look upwards to see a few pairs of beady eyes watching you every move, hoping that you are not too hungry and will give some of your fish and chips to them, or that maybe you have had too much to drink and will get the 'Whirling Pit' and will eventually throw up and then they will get the whole fish supper? There are times that you may not even have a chance to eat your supper, as they dive-bomb you for more than their fair share. Red hot Fish and Chips Pizza, Kebab, Curry (even vindaloo) are all the same to them, they will polish them off with no need for gaviscon or other sore stomach remedies. Their stomach consists of acid that can cope with whatever is thrown at them. You could keep a fish supper in a warm place for a week, then throw it out to them, and they would eat it with relish. Your child in a pram having an ice cream cone is fair game for a gull, one gulp and it is gone, with hopefully no harm done to your child, other than the fright, and the loss of their cone.

Now where do they sleep? Anywhere that they can. They only build nests to have their young, and so have no need for warm dry digs. They settle down on places like the British Telecom’s building at King Street, or at Job Centre Plus at the same street, or cross over the road to the Moat/Library, or to the Castle Ramparts, The Discovery Centre, which had an Eagle Owl to scare them which worked for a while but they soon got used to it and it has now disappeared, or, what they did this year was to take up residence on the roofs of Rothesay Court, and to build their nests and bring up there young. This caused much distress to the residents of their place and also to friends who dropped in to see them. Bearing in mind that all birds nest in the summertime when there is plenty of light and very little darkness, well those little gulls that were soon walking around the double pitched roof of the establishment cried for food all the time, so their parents went in search for it for them.

We are now back to the fast food outlets who cater for these young gulls by supplying food to the public to throw away, and to those of you who throw unwanted food from your window, and watch with pleasure as the gulls eat it. Well spare a thought for those that are in the firing-line from these birds and their young, as they eat, they also have to defecate, and if you looked at the roofs of Rothesay Court this year you would have thought that the painters had been in and painted it a mottled white, and that is just the roofs, the cars that were parked at this area had the same treatment, as did the residents and visitors as well who went out shopping etc. It got from bad to worse when the young birds got part use of their wings and took off too early and could not get back onto the roofs. Those birds were fed where they landed, and this caused more problems when the public were dived upon by the adult gulls, not for food but to keep you away from their chicks. This was a horrendous time for the elderly residents of this place, they could not keep their windows open for the “all day cries” from the gulls, and had to resort to sleeping with them closed 24/7 to get some peace, not nice in the summertime. I believe something will be done early next year by the owners to deter the gulls from doing a repeat performance at this area, but if they succeed, the gulls will only move somewhere else and cause the same trouble.
Why are they here in the first place? They are “Sea Gulls and should be on the sea where there is a shortage of them, perhaps with over fishing? By a great reduction on the food that they were accustomed to eating? I do not know the reasons I only know that they are here.

In days long since gone, they all used to breed out on the moors around Bute, and their eggs were sought after for wifies to use for baking. This would have been great during times of war when hen’s eggs were impossible to get, and gulls eggs were plentiful, but as they have a very strong taste they were not much liked for using as a fry up, and so after the war they were left alone as hens eggs came down in price. This in turn gave the gamekeepers on Bute a headache as the gulls were eating the young grouse and pheasant chicks plus others, which was a no-no as it was their bread and butter to keep these chicks alive. What was done to keep the gulls under control was stand on and crush the eggs, but they would just lay more, so they were then pricked with a pin, which would in turn kill the egg, and by the time the nesting adult realised that their eggs were not going to hatch, it was too late to lay more, altogether a good move, it kept the new gulls to a minimum. But gulls are not daft. Over the years with all their eggs being treated with a pin, they got the message, lots of them moved away from the moors and descended in Rothesay. With no low down safe spots to build their nests, they used our rooftops like cliffs, and took up residence. The practice of pricking them could still be used, and eventually after many years they may move back to the moors as there are no more gamekeepers to attend to them, but who in their right mind is going to scale up the roofs to do this task with screaming adult gulls attacking you? The more modern way of dealing with them is to dip the eggs in paraffin oil, this in turn stops the egg from breathing, and so kills it, but you still have to get up to the nest.

Many years ago I also fed them with left overs, this was because the council in those days supplied tenants with a wire basket type of rubbish bin to replace the “Galvie” ones that could hold the ashes. The new style held a black bin liner(supplied by the council), but as you put food in it, it was seized upon by cats who would tear the liner to get at the food, causing a mess, well I started to put all waste food on a slab at my garden early morning if there was no washing either side of me, which there never was as, if you left it out on these days overnight it sometimes would not be there in the morning, taken by some light fingered person who thought that their need was greater than yours. This went on for a while then we were given “Wheelie Bins”. This was the end of my feeding the gulls, and the rooks that tore bin liners to pieces in their search for food.
I have been in a few coastal resorts over the past two decades, and they now all have signs asking you to stop feeding the gulls as they are becoming a nuisance, with their threatening behaviour. It is up to us to stop this from happening here, with or without the signs.

Have a thought when you go to throw food out to the gulls, it may give you pleasure for you and your children for a few minutes, but will cause grief to others for much longer. If we stop feeding them they may go back from whence they came.

Norrie Mulholland.

Since going to print, the main cause for them being nesting in Rothesay, and other places is because we now have Foxes on Bute, and they were eating the chicks and eggs, so our roofs have now become Gulleries. Jan 2013.

 

First Published in the Buteman.  07-04-2006.


 


Pagehits: 1011 (Today: 2)