Get out of the city and into nature with Roger Harrison
My interest in nature began watching ducks and grebes with my dad, and has continued over the last 12 years via weekly visit to Welsh Harp Lake in my lunch breaks. I’ve been amazed at what can be experienced to close to the North Circular, Brent Cross and the M1, and I hope I can share its story through the year
WHILE sitting on the bank of Welsh Harp Lake, a trio of gulls comes twisting and turning from over my shoulder and out above the lake, two pursuing the third for its lunch.
They’re practicing piracy and theft, one of the established ways in which these highly versatile birds obtain food, and it’s amazing to watch.
Gulls, particularly the bigger ones, represented at the lake by herring and lesser black-backed gulls, with light and dark grey colouring on their upper wings respectively are brilliant pieces of bird design. Endowed with the ability to walk and swim with equal ease (not a given in a more specialised species), they also have a toughness born of being fitted for life offshore in the North Atlantic and a piercing gaze, burning with curiosity, intelligence and an eye on the main chance.
But most of all it’s their flight that gets my attention, for it’s here they demonstrate their beautifully balanced combination of grace, power and agility, even chasing each other between lines of queueing cars, not bad for birds with a four to five foot wingspan, or gliding effortlessly on the wind.
No matter how hard I remind myself that they like everything else out there face a daily struggle to survive, the sight of one of these out of the office window, riding the gusts and billows over the lake and its surroundings, can’t help but convey a sense of serene detachment from the worlds troubles, even more attractive when attempting the negotiate storms of my own but with seemingly less success.
Yet at seaside resorts, their inquisitiveness, intelligence and adaptability will this month see them branded as “crazed”, “psychotic” and “sadistic” as they pursue our chips and sandwiches, having been introduced to them by the amount of these that we leave discarded on the floor.
This is a mistake, not least because it applies human values to something that is not human; they may be aggressive, but this is a given with piracy, or in any creature with predatory instincts, but they’re also just practising survival and they’re very good at it.
Our wastefulness creates opportunities, and like any opportunistic raider, they will take advantage of them. If we were more careful with our food and rubbish, we could avoid attracting their attempts at robbery, and be free to enjoy their command of the skies, whether at the beach, or over our towns and cities once the summer has gone and holidays are a fading memory.
CHIP THIEF: The lesser black-backed gull