Controlled Crash

It’s that time of the year again when the Herring Gull chicks fly from the nest site. I live by the sea, we don’t have cliffs, just sand dunes, so the gulls come inland to nest. Rooftops are a favourite, especially in the angle between the chimney and the roof, perfect for a large nest. Herring Gulls are large and noisy, all day, every day, even through the night, although they are not just as noisy.

When the chicks fly they are almost fully grown, although their tail feathers aren’t full developed. The consequence is that they tend to have a controlled crash onto another rooftop away from the nest….and we are in the firing line.

Once on the new rooftop the parents will zoom and swoop to protect them. Step into your garden and you are liable to get a very large Herring Gull either have a peck at you as it swoops by, or at the least they will fly over your head calling aggressively and loudly in an attempt to scare you off.

Meanwhile the chick is trying to build up the courage to take flight again.

Bus as often happens they don’t, so we end up confined to the house until the chick does.

Once on the roof the chick will perform all manner of antics, such as suddenly finding that they have landing gear……

…..or better still, as a back scratcher.  If only it would reach.

By now the parents have gone to encourage the other chicks to get moving. They’ve had successful controlled crashes on their own bit of someone’s roof.

Panic! They’ve left! Time to remind them that I’m still here. The chick starts to give out a plaintive cry.

I hate the sound of it, because we are going to hear it now for weeks. No matter where we go in the town, chicks will be on rooftops, in the sand dunes, on the beach, calling, and calling, and calling. They never stop.

Our intrepid adventurer has started to sum up the courage to take flight again. But it’s an awful long way down. So maybe not just yet.

I’ll just check that again…

Finally the chick flies off the roof and we get our garden back. Until the next one decides to leave the nest and make a controlled crash…. and it sounds like it just happened. I’m sitting writing this in the study and I can hear a lot of noise from adult gulls, sounds like another one has left the nest. Yep! I was right. There’s a chick on our garage roof and on my neighbours five noisy adults. Ah! Well that puts paid to cutting the grass tonight. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.



Gull Chicks Go Walkabout

Right, let’s get the scientific part out-of-the-way now……

Gulls (often informally called seagulls) are birds in the family Laridae. They are most closely related to the terns (family Sternidae) and only distantly related to auks, skimmers, and more distantly to the waders. Until recently, most gulls were placed in the genus Larus, but this arrangement is now known to be polyphyletic, leading to the resurrection of several genera

Most gulls, particularly Larus species, are ground nesting carnivores, which will take live food or scavenge opportunistically. Live food often includes crabs and small fish. Gulls have prophylactic unhinging jaws which allow them to consume large prey. Apart from the kittiwakes, gulls are typically coastal or inland species, rarely venturing far out to sea. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. Large White-Headed Gulls are typically long-lived birds, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded for the Herring Gull.

Now I live in a coastal town, We have our fair share of gulls and many of them come inland to nest…..and where better than against the side of a chimney and sloping roof. Just round the corner from me there are three nests and I’ve been keeping an eye on them. A couple of day ago I was rewarded when the chicks were enticed out of the nest by the parents. Lucky for me right time, right place and a good big lens.

Gulls normally nest in large, densely packed noisy colonies. They lay two to three speckled eggs in nests composed of vegetation. The young are precocial, being born with dark mottled down, and mobile upon hatching. As the chicks leave the nest it gives us a chance to appreciate their colouring.

Once they set off I could see they were using both their legs and as yet unformed wings to help them climb. Gulls—the larger species in particular—are resourceful, inquisitive and intelligent birds, demonstrating complex methods of communication and a highly developed social structure. For example, many gull colonies display mobbing behaviour, attacking and harassing would-be predators and other intruders. The lady who’s house they are nesting on said she has had a nest on her roof for the last ten years and inevitably one of the chicks will fall off as they get more active. If it’s during the day they daren’t go near as the parents are very protective and will dive-bomb if you approach too close. Her son usually waits until the evening and its nearly dark before he lifts the chick back onto the roof. Providing the cats don’t get there first.

At this point one of the chicks has left the other behind. The one in front is slightly bigger and probably the stronger of the two.

The smaller one decides it’s time to have a rest as the other one heads on up to the top of the roof where one of the parents is waiting

Having had a bit of a rest the smaller one decides to head back to the nest. Immediately one of the parents flies down and starts a really noise call which makes the chick turn round and head on back up towards the top.

After the smaller one tried to turn back the chicks were more or less bullied into climbing to the top of the roof. Once they started climbing again this parent was behind them constantly calling very loudly.

Onwards and upwards although one of them looks as though it’s trying to hide from the parent who’s forcing them to go up.

Shout it from the rooftoops… kid has almost climbed to the top. On a personal note, of all the images I took today this one is my favourite. The angles, clarity and light were just right in my opinion, that’s why I put it in my gallery on MyFinePix.

After a short walk along the rooftop the chicks were allowed to head back to the nest. One parent called them down and the other followed behind. As they settled in the nest both parents joined them

Finally they settled down underneath one of the parents and disappeared from view again

All images in this sequence were taken with a Samsung GX10 SLR fitted with a Sigma 150 – 500mm lens, generally at 500mm focal length. Camera Settings were ISO 100, f8, shutter priority. Light conditions were very good, Post processing consisted of sharpening and a slight touch of NIK Color Efex Tonal Contrast to enhance the chicks downy coats.