Friday, June 8, 2012

Daily Dabbling into the Herring Gull's World...

Life is quickly falling into a sort of routine. Alarm at 5 30, crawl out of sleeping bag at 5 45 and wash face, grab some pre-breakfast cereal and check e-mail, gather up blood kit and callipers, walk to the first nest and be jerked fully awake by the first yeow of the day. The first call always reminds me of Niko Tinbergen's words from The Herring Gull's World

"The voice of a Herring Gull is wonderfully melodious. Of course I am biased, but I think there is no finer bird-call than the clear, sturdy, resounding cries of the Herring Gulls, carried away by the wind along the wide beach or over the undulating dune..."

 And indeed, having worked with these magnificent birds for over two weeks now has exponentially increased my appreciation for them. They vigorously defend their nests, successfully maintain a pair bond for a whole season, feed or receive regurgitated food from the other and care for their fluffy little chicks for over a month till they turn into awkward gangly mini versions of themselves and can fly away; all of this managed by a system of complex visual and vocal communication. And, about four summers later, most of those chicks, if they survive, come back to the exact same island, to within the exact same patch of land, to have their own chicks!

I am only an insignificant spectator in their lives, someone who comes by once a day to pick up their chicks and take them away for a while. They yeow at me, dive-bomb and poop on me, but it's all over in about the ten minutes that it takes me to take a blood sample, measure and weigh their chicks. And it is with this this thought that I try to start each day, to treat the birds with respect and recognize that although I am trying to study them and monitor their population, when it comes down to it, what matters the most is their lives, their magnificent, tough lives, and not just my own research.

A just-weighed Herring Gull chick

Laighton chick!  -- Great Black-backed Gull with chick outside Laighton

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