recalcitrant teenager or knowing a good thing when you see it?

I like seagulls, or rather gulls as they should be called. Don’t get me wrong, I know that they are loud, they dive bomb you for no apparent reason, they love to return a lovingly cleaned car to its previous state in one fell swoop and they nick your chips. But I still like them. Well generally I do.

We live in a terrace. We’ve had gulls nesting amongst our chimney posts for about the last 6 years. Myrtle and Mr Myrtle (sorry, yes we’ve named them) have brought along their friends and there’s been a second pair nesting across the way from us (Sybil and Mr Sybil) for about 4 years. The normal routine is for the chicks to hatch early June and for them all to fledge around the 13th July and then they and all their friends fly off for their summer holidays and we see them back mid September in time for them to set up their winter quarters, we think in the industrial estate near here. Myrtle’s chicks normally do their stuff about a week before Sybil’s but they do seem to have a good plan for all this. MP900262747

But this year things haven’t gone so well.

It all started when one of Myrtle’s chicks jumped off the chimney and had a wander around the roofs when it was far too small. Myrtle and her mate went crazy. I’ve never encountered dive bombing that low before and the amount of car washing that had to be done was, well, irritating to be honest. Whether they managed to get the chick back, it flew off or the inevitable happened I’m not sure, but the dive bombing stopped after a couple of days and we just had to put up with the shouting. I’m sorry, I know this is anthropomorphising gulls but they really do shout.

Two weeks later, a little before they ought to be ready to fly off, Sybil’s two chicks both jumped off the chimney and with great skill, having fluttered around and stretched their wings somewhat, managed to fall off the roof and land in a neighbour’s garden.

Needless to say the behaviour we had previously experienced with Myrtle was as nothing to that we then went through with Sybil, because Sybil called in the cavalry and a number of other gulls were also engaged in protecting the babies. And the chicks, as I must remember to call them rather than babies, started a cacophony of noise. It’s probably impossible to describe the various calls that chicks use to attract their parent’s attention. It’s REALLY impossible to describe the noise the parent gulls make in these circumstances! The only thing I can say is that sales of ear plugs increased considerably around here so that we could all sleep at night, or rather from dawn which was at around 4.00/4.30am .

The neighbours, into whose garden the chicks had fallen, were really considerate. Boxes were provided as was food – but the parents were providing food as well. We discovered after a few days of the incessant calling by the chicks – or rather teenagers as we were by now calling them – that rather than being trapped in the garden, the chicks could in fact fly and were, when the parents arrived and landed on the edge of the roof, flying up, getting fed and then going back to their nice comfy boxes and having a bit of a sleep until the next feed. Now you know why I’m calling them teenagers.

There was great rejoicing in the street when one of the chicks/teenagers finally got up some gumption and flew off with some of the other adults. This is it we thought, peace and quiet will return until next year once the other chick gets the message and goes off as well.

This was three weeks ago.

The second teenager hasn’t gone yet.

He (sorry, yes I know you can’t sex a bird from a distance, but his mum is still feeding him and he doesn’t want to leave home) flies everyday, shouting loudly to tell everyone where he is because he’s so clever at finally doing what ought to come naturally to a bird.

Every, yes every, day he comes back to the nest – yes the one he jumped out of about 5 weeks ago – and he’s so proud of himself. He even pops down into the garden and pecks on the window to get the neighbours to feed him.

His mum is still feeding him – I’ve seen her today. She’s mad. He’s grown up enough now to find his own food isn’t he? And he’s still shouting all the time. He’s got three different calls – baby chick, nearly fledged chick and nearly adult gull. They are all loud and incredibly annoying. They all drill into your head. We sometimes imagine it’s stopped and then disappointment comes over us as we realise he was just taking a breath.

But as I said in the title of this blog. Is “he” just being a recalcitrant teenager? Or has he developed a lovely cushy number for himself?

If you could get fed from numerous sources with very little effort, do a bit of flying around to see what’s going on in the world but then return to the comfort of a home where your Mum will look after you – wouldn’t you?

Personally, I’m not sure I would because I liked the idea of standing on my own two feet and going around with my mates. But maybe that’s the problem with anthropomorphism. Maybe I shouldn’t transfer my feelings and human emotions on a bird.

But please, could someone tell this gull to leave home and give us some peace and quiet.


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