Gulls At Play

Let's Play Fetch (or as Herring Gulls call it, 'Drop-Retrieve')

Little did I know I was going to Herring Gull playschool when I popped down to Walcott a couple of weeks ago. I was intending to watch the migration flypast , but got a little distracted by the antics of a group of this year's young Herring Gulls, and most entertaining it was too!

The bell for start of playschool seemed to be an adult with a crab who was willing to give it up to the youngsters, it was like getting your mini bottle of milk to start off the session. Once the crab had been 'seen to' a group of a dozen or so young birds decided it was time for a game of drop-retrieve. Some picked up a favourite stone, others a bunch of seaweed, then proceeded to drop it from about a metre above the water and dive in after it. There was no attempt to catch it before it hit the water, that would be drop-catch, not drop-retrieve.

A crab is a gull's mini bottle milk to start playschool.

One with seaweed one with stone.

Two with a stone, & one that has lost it's toy.
Two dropping stones, one yelling encouragement & three studying their efforts.

You know what's coming...
                                                                   ...timed it wrong & got bowled over by a wave! 

Am I too late? I've got a brilliant new toy to play with!

It all took place in the shallows and at first I thought is this training for foraging, but it really didn't reflect that, maybe if they were expert divers like gannets or terns. There is evidence that young gulls (this year's brood) do this sort of thing when the conditions are right, and luckily they were that day: light winds, bright sunshine and very little swell. The study proved that indeed these gulls were having playtime, and having seen it for myself I totally believe it. They were having fun and seemed to be positively encouraging each other, you know how they can yell. It was good to see another side to these birds that received so much unmerited bad press through the summer.

I do like gulls!

PS: The migration flypast mostly involved Brent Geese heading towards Cromer, with Gannets going the other way to Great Yarmouth, and a late pair of Sandwich Tern also going south.


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