Get out of the city and into na­ture with Roger Har­ri­son

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

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

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