Where have our gulls gone?


I have been away to the coast in Yorkshire to see my family. In the mornings the seagulls usually wake me up as soon as the light dawns but not this time. There were no gulls screaming and quarrelling. There was silence and only one solitary gull flying alone over the rooftops.

Down at the fish and chip stall on the prom there were no eager eyed gulls waiting for the odd discarded chip. They used to bombard the food tray if you took your eye off it for a moment, but not this time. The gulls have disappeared. Where have they gone? What can be the reason for this eerie silence?

Welsh coastal towns have also been reporting a loss of gulls and workers at the Norfolk Broads have been pulling dead or sick swans from the water. Could it be avian flu? Some people might be glad to be rid of the noise and mess, but it is worrying and our coast and waterways are not the same without their birds.

There was one bird, however that we did see.

‘Look, there’s a swallow,’ shouted a bird watcher with binoculars, and we all looked into the clear sky. But it had sickle-shaped wings and no forked tail; it was a swift. It was a very pale colour, but it was certainly a swift. Yes, even at this time of year. It should not be here, but we were pleased to see it because the RSPB told us that it was a pallid swift. They breed around the Mediterranean and over-winter if Africa, so it was very special to see it here. I do not suppose though that it felt very special to be so far off course.

I do not suppose our little wren felt very special either this week. One morning I heard a noise tapping then scraping along our wall. I waited and there it was again. I hastily got dressed and looked through the window to see our kind neighbour up a ladder filling in some gaps under the eaves of our house. He had said that he would do it for us, our house faces his across the road and so he knew the gaps were there, but we had not seen them.

Some nights my friend stops off to see me on her way from work. If it is fine, we sit out talking until we cannot see anymore and our voices echo in the dark. Every time we do this the little wren pops into one of the holes under the eaves to shelter safely until sunrise. I wonder where she will go now the holes have gone.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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