I hate Herring Gulls... usually, I mean but not today!

  I am sure it has happened to you many times. At least once in your life. You are walking in a perfectly quiet and calm place and all of a sudden you feel like someone is watching you. You try not to get panicky.

You hear no footsteps. But “Eyes” are following you. Will you turn around and face whatever is lurking behind you? Or will you quicken your step and try to find a safer spot?

This is what happened to me this afternoon while I was trying to take a walk on the beach...

Trying to because I still feel very tired but I couldn’t resist. The beach was empty, so empty... Cloudy skies. Rain showers. Choppy sea. Where were the people who love to spend September in Brittany?

I was walking not far from the shoreline, watching some gulls that were fighting over some seaweed and taking pictures as usual. Suddenly I felt like someone was following me. No footsteps because the sea was receding and the sand was very wet.

I tried to quicken my pace but I still felt stared at. There was someone or something behind my back.

What could I do? No one around. I had to face it. I grabbed my house keys from my pocket, ready to lash out... Pitiful, I know!

Well, believe it or not, I faced IT.

I am a seasoned photographer and I know how to react in front of something very surprising... I make no noise and I take pictures. Which is the reason why I didn’t burst out laughing!

There it was... very intent on following me on the beach. Walking right behind me and determined to go for a saunter close to me. A very surprising attitude from... 

a herring gull...

I usually hate herring gulls.

You should see them fight over a piece of bread around the boat. They are not necessarily hungry but they are scavengers at heart. Because I have seen them tearing each other’s guts out for a piece of paper.

When you live so close to the sea and you go boating fairly often, you get to loathe them... And it gets even worse in cities where they are a real nuisance. (Our mistake, by the way...)

Herring gulls are such a long way from Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull!

Well, they are extraordinary flying ‘machines’ and I do enjoy watching them floating along airstreams. They really are magnificent. Too bad they do not remain this way once they touch down.

Very lone birds even if they tend to spend most of their time in flocks. Very aggressive too. Always bickering. So noisy. So mean and nasty. There I said it. I do hate them. Which is stupid I know. They are not friendly nor unfriendly towards humans so they don’t disturb me at all while I am walking on the beach.

I guess it’s just that I love so much being in a calm and quiet environment. They are so obstreperous and belligerent all the time that they do annoy me a lot. There are lots of birds on the beach. Most share my idea of peace and beauty. Gulls don’t.

Am I being unreasonable there? Probably.

So back to my follower! The incredibly friendly herring gull... which looked like it enjoyed a lot having its picture taken!

Oh, my God! Suddenly I knew I had already seen it not too long ago. A so-called “third winter” herring gull with its white head still flecked with brown. Not quite adult yet, not for another year.

I know a lot of things about birds but this is going too far... How can I recognize one herring gull from hundreds of herring gulls on the beach? Very simple.

The reason is...

A very weird young herring gull - probably born this April.

We had noticed them on the beach during one of my first walks there. I had stopped to get my breath back. And there they were, acting strange.

Two birds, three years apart, being friendly. One of them acting like a chick begging for food from its mother. So bizarre. No fighting there.

Maybe some weariness barely perceptible from the older bird. No brutality. No animosity.

So eccentric from a herring gull that we stopped quite a long time to watch them. And then we walked back to the car and I forgot about them. Remember: I hate herring gulls.

Today, I was on my own. Nothing to do besides watching them closely. I was getting tired and it provided me a much needed respite before walking back to the car.

And watch I did! They were a real puzzle to me. 

Let’s put it this way. The youngest one was too old to beg for food. And the oldest one was much too young to feed a bird which no longer was a chick. Too young to be its mother or father.

I hate herring gulls but I know an awful lot of things about them.

There could be another explanation. It could be a mating dance! The young one being a female trying to convince the other one to fall for her. That’s how it’s done in the herring gull world. The female acts as if she is a chick (no pun intended there) and she begs the adult male for food. Well, sort of. You get the picture, I imagine.

There is no feminist female herring gull, so far as I know. They all beg for food but it’s only a game, really. But they have to because there is no other way to differentiate male from female. They all look alike.

By the way, herring gulls are monogamous. This mating dance only happens between young unattached (single) gulls. And only after they turn four.

Well, I guess this explanation does not work for my friendly gulls. Too young to mate. Both of them. And this is definitely not the mating season.

I am a very imaginative person as you know if you’ve been reading my posts faithfully. I can make up a story about a few letters scrawled on a wall in India.

But as for today, I am totally lost. I can’t even write that the youngest one has a problem of growth retardation... well, it sure walks oddly. Because the oldest one is also acting very strangely even though it is three years older. Why does it accept such a behavior from a nearly chick when herring gulls are usually quick to push away intruders quite roughly. They always refuse any contact with an other fellow creature. Unless they are ready to tussle over whatever may come to their attention.

I can’t lapse into anthropomorphism and start writing a screenplay for a cartoon, can I? Well, I guess I could. Why not? But not tonight.

We parted amiably and I walked back to my car, feeling deeply puzzled and a little bit sad because I know from experience that at least one of them will not survive very long unless things get right in its head.

Charles Darwin, you do annoy me today.

Besides the fact that I no longer will be able to keep on hating herring gulls just because they are herring gulls. Noisy. Belligerent. Mean. Nasty.

One life of certainty blown away today!

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

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