This past four weeks, we’ve been rearing a seagull chick in our garden. We had little choice in the matter, after it fell off a nearby roof. We could have taken it to Mallydams, the RSPB rescue centre at Fairlight, but its sibling looked pretty precarious too and we didn’t fancy making two separate journeys. In the event the youngster, poor little orphan, adopted us rather than we it. Woebegone and peeping piteously, it would follow us up the path and sit outside the back door for hours, begging a crust.
Yet it did have a guardian, which kept watch on us from on high. We resolutely determined not to feed it, at least not when my wife was looking, in the hope that this senior bird would recall its responsibilities. After a week or so, the chick didn’t seem to have grown, yet it must have had sustenance. It was time we took a hand if we were ever to lose our unwelcome guest.
We went fishing in our little GRP pond for the small fresh-water crustaceans that were to be found plentifully on the sides of the pool, eating algae. We had blamed them for eating the frogspawn that had been laid earlier in the spring, so we had a clear conscience in treating them as fodder for our chick. With a cheap coloured fishing net purchased from Adams, we would scoop up a right royal breakfast, which he/it pecked from the net with meticulous accuracy.
Then, it would frequent the base of our compost bin, looking for the incautious worm, particularly the bright red variety, without which no self-respecting compost is complete. It also made a meal of any passing snail, on its marauding way to devouring our hosta plants. With that, he was beginning to earn his living – nameless still, but we had settled on a gender for the sake of convenience.
By now, we had established a firm bond, at least in his mind. He would follow us around, mewing plaintively. Seeing the kitchen door open, he would enter and sit on the mat, depositing the remains of his lunch before he left. Not a joy to step on with bare feet!
The cats were wary but seemed to accept this addition to the household. They would look at each other without making a move. “What sort of a bird are you if you can’t fly?” (from Peter and the Wolf). But fly he eventually did, one evening he had simply vanished, though we searched under every bush. Next day, we were sitting in the sunshine with our afternoon cup of tea. There came a rushing of wings and a very ungainly flopping down on the garden wall, and then at our feet. His behaviour was just as before, trusting to a point beyond prudence, returning with us to the house and demanding his treat.
We begin to fear that he is a friend for life, with his life-span of 30 years perhaps now longer than ours. We quite expect to have a fully mature gull dropping by each day. Trouble is, we’ve grown quite fond of the little critter!
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .