Flinging open my top floor window this morning, and sticking my head out, as I do every day, I was suddenly bombarded by a crowd of raucous white birds swooping and diving only a couple of feet from my face.
Close the window quick. See just underneath, a gull chick splatted on the sloping roof, obviously just fallen out of its nest.
Tiptoeing around my room (why?), deciding not to open the window again (so as not to frighten the parents?), I feel sad. The chick will die, probably slowly, just stranded there in the midddle of the roof, gasping for water and sustenance. I can hear its little cheeping sounds, and when I peep out of the window again, its bright little eyes are looking around, trusting.
I had to sit down. How can I feel like this about something that only a few days ago was an egg! Then I noticed there was some noise – perhaps the neighbours, shifting furniture? The noise grew even louder and even louder. It was coming from the roof. And there were little chirruping sounds and loud squawks and screeching. Outside I could see a mass of gulls circling and diving with full force, filling the air with their penetrating cries. Deafening.
When it had all quietened down, I tiptoed to my window again and saw the chick was no longer there – I dont dare stick my head outside to see what has happened. I keep away and let nature take care of itself.
A week later – garden full of noise and diving gulls, just skimming our heads every time we go out… the chick has not disappeared, nor been carried off, but just temporarily shifted along the roof. Is it really only a week since this first happened? Seems like an eternity. We can’t go outside, or even put out the washing, without instant screeching and dive-bombing from above – not to mention getting splatted with the white stuff. Whenever our three cats attempt to go out for a ‘call of nature’ they rush back in like rockets, hair standing on end. So now we have their tray permanently situated in the kitchen – great!
We have taken to going outside brandishing big sticks or mops etc, which we like to think throws the birds off their flight path. This is ridiculous! We are big grown up people. We shouldn’t be scared to go out into our own garden. So we got out our son’s old toy pellet gun, and stood, brandishing mops, trying to fire up
Earlier a crowd of gulls came circling around him, with loud piercing cries, filling the air into the air, with gulls screaming around our heads. Unfortunately the gun jammed….
Meanwhile the garden goes unpruned and the chick grows bigger and bigger outside my top window – cheeping incessantly with its little cries that I have grown to hate. Maybe I will just push it off the roof….
Then I look at its little body huddled against the ventilator so it doen’t slide downwards and fall off the roof in its sleep. It stares me in the eye, from time to time uttering pathetic little squeaks…..
Here’s the cause of all the trouble.
More about the gulls in my ‘Devon Art Works’ page!
I have lost count of the days now. it is all just endless torrential rain , diving up and down the garden to my studio, clutching my work and waving a broomstick in the air to fend off attacking gulls. The RSPB said this is likely to go on for three weeks or so… great!
Shivering, whether from rain or wind or wing tips whistling past my ear, I duck down and run – like a character from that Hitchcock movie – only not screaming but laughing (sort of).
Working in the studio, slow and tedious work, and from time to time I rush into the house to try and photograph the gull chick. I think it is about to fly – I dont want to miss the moment. What a relief it will be both to its frantic parents and to me, when it takes off at last. Dream wistfully of strolling in the garden among scented flowers, in sunshine.
Tomorrow We Fly! Watching the gull chick on the roof. Only a few untidy bits of white fluffy down, sticking out around its head and shoulders. Its body is firm and plump. It seems to have doubled in size within the last week, and is covered now in a coat of sleek feathers, dappled brown and white.
I watch it preening and smoothing down its new coat, and every now and then little bits of white fluff float away in the air.
It is as curious about me as I am about it. It comes close. We look deep into each others eyes – maybe I have food? It pecks around a bit and we stare at each other some more, before it loses interest and slithers and stamps off across the tiles on its great feet. It settles down for a moment against the ventilator, then gets up, stamps about a bit more, restless, picks at little bits of moss and pokes it beak between the tiles. It finds a rusty screw and drops it time after time on the roof with a clatter, trying to eat it. Afraid he might swallow it, I call out and wave my arms around, open and close the window with a lot of noise – but it takes no notice. Eventually it gets bored with the screw. It tries to settle down again but it is restless. It staggers over to the skylight window, climbs upon it with much flapping of wings, then falls off again with tremendous and undignified squawks and flappings- raising itself about two feet into the air, before wandering off to have a think.
Earlier a crowd of gulls came circling around him, with loud piercing cries, filling the air with noise and movement, calling him to fly. Now they have left him alone. But I see the parent birds circling over the estuary. Every so often they call by, and then go again. I curse every time I miss getting a photo of the mother bringing the chick some food.
I see the expanse of its magnificent wings and hear its rasping call. I watch as it spreads and flaps and stretches, taking a little run as it tries, time after time, to take off – slithering down the roof, then scrambling back up again on its big flat feet.
At night it tucks its head into its soft feathers and sleeps against the ventilator near my window.
The roof is now covered with white gull droppings, lumps of moss and assorted debris. It is time for preening, scratching, staring down over the edge of the roof and holding out its gorgeous wings with their new brown and grey markings. It is quieter now – the parent birds are no longer swooping and dive-bombing every time we go into the garden. The chick’s squeaks and squawks are no longer continual and irritating, but reserved for the crucial and exhausting moments when it launches itself upwards. I notice its tail feathers are still not fully developed, though growing amazingly fast. I notice, when the wind ruffles its feathers, there is still a covering of soft white down underneath.
It is not still for a moment – preening, pacing, stretching, scratching, spreading its wings. Preparing for take-off.
Morning sun. I talk to the chick settled against the skylight, and it listens attentively. The parents are away. It is quiet. Though I can see them circling high over the estuary. Sky streaked with white vapour trails shining in the sun, and I briefly wonder about planes, condensation in the atmosphere, pollution… and try to relate it all to the prolonged heavy rain we have been experiencing. But I can’t get my head around it.
The parent gulls call to the chick with shrill penetrating cries – come! come! And the chick answers with baby cries, looking upwards – but they are gone again. It staggers a bit, looks over the edge, then climbs back up close to my window, to rest against the edge of the skylight.
Freedom!! 4 Aug, 2007
The bird has flown! My friend, the gull chick spotted on rooftop, two streets away. The joys of estuary, ocean and mudflats waiting in the background.