PHOTO FEA­TURE

Bird Watching (UK) - - Photo Feature -

WORDS & PICS: ARNIE MON­TEITH

OU COULD HAVE your head­phones in, there may be a po­lice siren in the dis­tance, cars lin­ing the streets at rush hour, with the sounds of roar­ing en­gines sur­round­ing you, but there’s no way you would miss the sharp call of a Black­headed Gull in the city. They’re one of our most charis­matic gull species; an ex­tremely so­cia­ble bird which, de­spite their size, call louder and are more quar­rel­some than any other gull found in Bri­tain. They’re a bird that di­vides opin­ion – peo­ple seem to ei­ther love them or hate them.

Al­though their name may sug­gest so, these gulls have white heads for much of the year – de­vel­op­ing the full black head only in sum­mer months. For the most part of the year, they are left only with a small black patch be­hind the eye. The ac­tual fea­ture of the bird which can be used to dis­tin­guish them from other gulls is the white lead­ing line along their wings. Gulls in gen­eral, or ‘sea gulls’ as they’re more com­monly re­ferred to as, have re­ceived a lot of bad press re­cently. Over the past sum­mer, scare sto­ries about gulls on the at­tack have been reach­ing news head­lines. Sto­ries of gulls killing dogs or break­ing into homes have been mak­ing the front pages. Sto­ries which are ridicu­lously ex­ag­ger­ated but seemed to strike fear into the pub­lic; even to the

ex­tent that our Prime Min­is­ter, David Cameron, stated that “se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tions” were needed to com­bat the “gull prob­lem”. I re­alise I may be in the lesser pop­u­lated cat­e­gory when I say that I like gulls, but there is def­i­nitely a mis­con­cep­tion sur­round­ing their be­hav­iour through­out the pub­lic. The true na­ture of gull be­hav­iour is that our own be­hav­iour is largely re­spon­si­ble for that of Bri­tish gulls, whether this be through our in­abil­ity to prop­erly dis­pose of our waste, our poor at­ti­tude to lit­ter­ing or the ex­tent at which we have de­pleted our seas of fish stocks in re­cent years. As a pho­tog­ra­pher and nat­u­ral­ist I have al­ways been in­ter­ested in the com­mon, and of­ten ne­glected, species close to home. I like to find out more about the an­i­mals I see on a daily ba­sis, to

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