Saturday, August 8, 2015

A gull-full summer

When  something becomes a habit, one begins to know other people with similar habits just because you're in the same place at the same time. Thus it is in the summer when I walk on Long Beach every morning approximately 8:30 to 9:30. My "familiars" are Stephanie and Ross. Ross works and is only there on weekends but S. is a regular and is now known to me and many other regulars are the gull lady. 

Last summer she began feeding an adolescent black back gull that she felt was possibly retarded (or cunningly lazy) because he was still being fed regurgitated food by his mother when he was big enough to fend for himself. If there isn't an adage, there should be that says "feed one gull, feed them all." Soon S. had a flock of gulls surrounding her beach chair. They watched for her and sent out the word to friends and foes. As soon as she appeared, so did the gulls.

Last year she occasionally had three dozen gulls around her. Sometimes she fed them bread, sometimes nuts. sometimes rather expensive kitty chow, sometimes rice cakes. They would eat anything and fight over it if it landed on the sand and not in an opportunist's beak.

This year the gang is larger. It was a hard winter for all wild life and for gulls too. That probably triggered a reproductive spurt. At any rate there are many, many young black backed gulls and others as well (also a super congregation of young crows). The lone bird above is an adolescent - I think his feathers are gorgeously patterned. They will be shed and he will become black backed.

One morning I was quite early and I saw not one gull at S's spot on the beach. Not one.  A long gull -- maybe a watcher, a scout, was floating in the water about ten feet out. I walked on up the beach. When I came back I knew S. had arrived, the flock was gathering, I saw a few winging from a distant shore.  This morning she had only recently arrived but I saw nearly fifty floating within sight of her and probably another three dozen on the sand waiting  for her to stop chatting with Ross and get to the serious business food distribution. She complained, when we talked, that they were now lazy.  The water was clear, they should have been fishing for crabs.  It seems crabs are scarce this summer and I think it is in the nature of a gull to watch for freebies when there is promise of them.

It's a part of the summer's entertainment.

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