Behold! Amongst the blanched bits of vegetation up on next door’s roof you can see that our beloved herring gulls have once again had a successful breeding season, this year producing no less than three delightful chicks. Things were definitely stacked against them this summer, as Works All Hours next door had at last found the time to stick up the bird spikes which had been gathering moss for years on the recycling bin by the garage, though the snails got the better of the cardboard box they sat in. I wrote last year about what doting parents our gulls are, spending months feeding and reassuring the youngsters long after they have fledged.
The first chick this couple introduced to us was Nigel, whose first flap into the air landed him in our back garden, which gained him a (temporary) limp. He proved so dependent on his long-suffering parents that he hung around the nest-site for months, demanding food well into the autumn and returning regularly long after that. We inferred that he must have had to re-sit the examinations our Northumbrian seagulls must pass in order to qualify for independence (titles such as Shoreline, Scavenging for Chips, Flying as Far North as Berwick, etc.) a number of times. We loved Nigel: he was Special Needs, requiring not only weeks and weeks of parental input but such interventions as having the National Trust man remove him from our garden to the flat roof beneath his parents’ nest so that Works All Hours’s kindly, animal-doting wife could feed him tinned mackerel and, we all hoped, stop him jumping into any more trouble. After Nigel, two sets of twins came along: Charlie and Lola and then last year, George and Peppa.
When the successful parents returned to the chimney to start this year’s parenting marathon they were dismayed to find their spot bristling with deterrents. We were all worried, and sad to be denied the daily fun of watching the creatures grow under their wonderful parents’ care. But we soon found one of the spikey strips jettisoned on our drive, cast down contemptuously by proud creatures determined to make the site work, no matter what. Moreover, grass soon began to grow, as if nature were colluding to make things more comfortable now it had something to latch on to. We became aware that eggs had not only been laid but hatched when the mottled chicks’ peeping chatter pierced the summer afternoon last week. That there are three little souls is so thrilling. We have never doubted that this breeding pair means business; so healthy and organised are they that an extra babe is taken in their stride. So the Dickens Dogs introduce you to Peter, Paul and Mary. I shall keep you informed of how things go up there, on the roof.