Wildlife Village 21st August 2011
Good Morning Villagers
I was going to continue with Fungi this week but something came up and I have decided to do a post on the issue of Gulls in towns and their interactions with we humans. I was inspired to do this post by someone who feels quite passionate about this subject and rightly so. It never surprises me how ignorant the human race can be but it still saddens me that we cannot learn from what has gone. Watching a gull ride the ocean waves with not a beat of its wings in a howling gale, there is not much can beat that.
Did you know that there are 19 species of Gull in Europe and 51 in the world, this includes Kittiwakes? They tend to be found on the coast but some species live inland. Gulls are carnivores and scavengers. It is their ability to scavenge that has seen them follow humans whereever we go for thousands of years. When we started to settle into villages, towns and cities so did some species of Gull. In the coastal towns of the UK the species we live most closely with are the Great Black Backed (GBB) and the Herring Gull.
The larger of the two, the GBB has a 5ft wing span similar in size to the Osprey and on many occasions mistaken for this majestic raptor. The wing span of the Herring Gulls is only a little shorter. They are big birds and can be very aggressive to any intruder in to what they see as their territory and this includes us humans. We have given these birds the ideal breeding habitat in our seaside and in some cases inland towns. Our buildings make fantastic breeding sites and lookout posts. If you started to climb a cliff with nesting gulls on the ledges what would you expect to happen, they would swoop down on you trying to deter you from getting to their eggs or chicks. This is what is happening when a Gull swoops down on us when we walk along a street that has breeding gulls on the roof tops, they see us as a predator that wants to kill and eat their young.
The people of Montrose on the east coast of Scotland are no stranger to the problem of Gull attacks on people. This problem has been reported on by the local paper the Montrose Review, unfortunately this newspaper has decided not to educate its readers on the reasons why Gulls are attacking people but have chosen to incite hatred towards these birds with headlines like these.
The use of words like “raid” suggests that these birds sit in their avian HQ and plan the dastardly deed with the use of projectors and flip charts, along the same lines as Dad’s Army. “Right chaps the enemy has covered our feeding area with some kind of protective material, what we need to is to remove the cover so we can get to the worms, any suggestions” Private Fraser (the Scottish one) replies abruptly in a high pitched voice, “ Aye Captain, let’s just shit on it” yes I know it is ridiculous to think like this, isn’t it!
In the same article they referred to one of their readers as” Our informant”, I find them very funny but the situation the towns people and gulls face is not and I can understand the frustration they feel. The people are only trying to find a resolution to the problems they face and this should be done in a way that does not include the shooting, oiling of eggs, piercing eggs or destroying the eggs and nest.
In this country it is illegal to litter but how many times do you hear of a prosecution for someone throwing litter in our streets. I for one have never heard of a prosecution, there probably has been but not as much as there should be. Do our police have the time or the enthusiasm to arrest someone for littering? If they did I think we would have a lot less of this disgusting habit that costs the taxpayers of every country millions each year, for instance it costs Scotland over £65,000,000 per year to clean up the streets. If we fined everyone who is caught littering £100 (the average fine) it would not only go a long way in paying for this clean-up, it would also reduce the amount of litter on our streets and in turn reduce the amount of food available for gulls in our towns (yes I finally got back to Gulls). The lack of food available would reduce Gull numbers and attacks on people. I see this as a long term solution to the Gull issue in all our towns. Culling these birds will cost the tax payer even more as council tax in these areas would have to go up to cover the Environmental Services annual budget. Would it not be better to fine the people who cause the problem in the first place? The Litter Lout causes many more problems for our society than this, too many to go into here. If you feel passionately about this issue write to your local politician and ask them how much does it cost you the taxpayer to clean up after Litter Louts and how much does local government receive in fines from Police prosecutions. They have the power to give on the spot fines in the UK so why is it not used as often as it should be. So let’s pressure them into using the power to clean up our streets and protect the people and the wildlife from the part of our society who do not care about their environment. It would not only make our lives a whole lot better but it would also save thousands of beasties that die because of our littering.
We humans have caused this problem, let us not now do as we have done so often in the past and make the natural world suffer for our mistakes.
camacdonald.com (Gulls of the world)
Nestcap 20th Aug
Nothing to report
The Dyfi Osprey Project and the Scottish wildlife Trust have kindly given their permission for us to post still and video images from their webcams. To visit their sites please click on the relevant link. Loch of the Lowes. Dyfi Osprey Project.