NATURE NOTES: The great gull rescue

We were at the Long Nanny bridge near Beadnell going to check for predator prints when it happened.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 12:00 am

All the terns were in the air, behaving as if a bird was bothering them.

Could it be a peregrine, like a bullet from above? Or a kestrel, honing in on something tiny from a distance? We scanned the sky - nothing.

Then we saw something – a predator in the colony.

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At first he looked like a lesser black backed gull dragging something enormous and dark, wandering right through the colony, being divebombed by Arctic terns.

We assumed he found a juicy large food item he couldn’t leave or was tangled in something - he appeared to be keen to get out of the colony but as we approached, we realised he had a broken wing.

After much back and forth fashioning a herding device, a box and gloves, we managed to get him slowly from the burn’s edge and had to trap him under a box without thinking too much about it - he tried to fly as we got closer and we didn’t want him to move too much or prolong his fear.

We could only think something human could cause that much damage - a dog or one of the jetskis we had seen bombing around Beadnell Bay right in front of the colony.

We turned the box over and fashioned a lid, placing him gently inside. He felt heavy and very warm, and he was enormous.

He was STRONG, pushing on the lid and we could feel his beak tapping the side of the box, so we had to tie the hastily sawn lid down and put a large tub of rocks on top.

When he was calmer we kept him hydrated every hour.

We used a milk bottle found on our daily litter pick and we moved the lid back.

He was so beautiful. He had the purest white feathers and stripy tail feathers, with wings of designer slate grey.

When we poured the water in, he eagerly took sips but let us know very quickly when he was full.

His breast moved when he swallowed the water and he looked both endearing and a little mad when his head feathers were wet, the beady eye of a predator watching us warily.

Every time we closed the lid he showed his displeasure with another bout of banging around the box but it was imperative to keep him dark, calm and cool.

By the time it came to take him to the vet, we felt we had bonded with him even if he hadn’t bonded with us.

The vet said ‘he had quite a bit about him, he was alert and was pecking at the bars’ - sounded like this gull was very much himself despite his ordeal. We spend a lot of time trying to prevent predation – and gulls can be seen as relatively pesky for predating other species. It’s unthinkable, however, to leave a wild animal to suffer.

When you see wild animals close up, you see how beautifully alive they are, but also fearful, and you remember they each have their own personality.

They are far from just a bunch of feathers.

A timely reminder that every animal life is precious, and all animals deserve compassion and a place to thrive without harm.