Country Corner

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This week’s photo shows a herring gull in winter plumage.

You may never have noticed the subtle difference between summer and winter herring gulls, namely this faint grey flecking of the face and head.

Around our seaside resorts, herring gulls are the most likely of the gulls to beg – or even steal – chips from you.

At one time, they followed the fishing fleet and were true sea gulls.

Now there are many which possibly never see the sea, having abandoned island nesting sites in favour of factory roofs.

This move to inland nesting has also seen a change in their food sources, from herrings to human rubbish and litter.

Foraging in massed flocks on our landfill sites, roosting on our reservoirs, and even nesting on our roofs has, of course, led to some conflict.

Council environmental departments up and down the land are at a loss to cope with the number of complaints which they receive about gull attacks, as the birds attempt to defend their young from the innocent pedestrians passing below.

One of the main difficulties being faced by these councils is the increased level of legal protection which herring gulls have been afforded because of their decline on traditional breeding sites.

This has come about because the bird recording community has not realised just how many gulls are nesting out of site in rooftop colonies.

It is a shame that the satellite photography technology which brings us Google Earth cannot be used to carry out a census of roof nesting gulls.

I am sure that such a survey would show an increase in their numbers, rather than a decrease.

More Country Corner in this week’s paper