Life (with gulls) is a rollercoaster

Caution: this post is a story of highs and lows. If you are of a nervous disposition, please click away now.

Regular readers will recall that Hub and I have been gull-watching over the last few months. In my last post on this topic, I was delighted to be able to report on the hatching of three chicks. Nature being what she is, however, matters did not progress very smoothly thereafter.

A few days after the chicks had emerged, we had 36 hours or so of 60-70mph winds. Not the strongest we have ever experienced, but still forceful, especially if you are a very small, days-old little bird living on an exposed chimney stack.  So we went from being able to see this…..


….. to this:


Oh no! Could it be true that none of the chicks had survived the storm? Poor them. Poor parents. The adults could be seen wheeling and calling. Were they looking for their lost offspring? We couldn’t really tell what was going on, but felt sure that the whole brood must have been lost.

After a few days, just when we assumed that all hope was lost, Hub spotted this:


Hooray!! How wonderful to see that this little button had survived. We watched it clamber up and down, back and forth across the roof, trying to bridge the edge of the flashing to get on to the flat part but it was as yet too small. Only a matter of time we thought.

And then it vanished again. For 10 days or so, we could see no sign of the chick. Again, we assumed that it must have been hunted from that very open aspect, or perhaps had fallen off the roof. But we had not reckoned on its ability to survive. Having clung on through the storm, a few roof tiles and various hunting birds were clearly not going to get the better of this little fighter.

He must have been out of sight behind the chimney breast or on another part of the roof for a while, because, just when we were starting to persuade ourselves that something had happened to it, we saw this:


Woo hoo – a happy ending to this rollercoaster saga, the tale of which could be finished off by only one thing:


Nature is Home: the joys and pleasures of birdwatching

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

A little while ago, I wrote about the return of a pair of black-backed gulls to the roof-tops opposite our apartment. Since then, we have been keeping a keen eye on proceedings and I am delighted to be able to provide an update (click on any image for a closer look).

To give some context, you can see in the photo below our vantage point across to the gulls’ nest, which has been built in front of the third chimney pot to the right of the gull in the centre of the picture:


Hub is the ‘proper’ photographer in our house and has been magnificently putting up with my nagging gentle encouragement to take some pictures of events as they have unfolded. He has produced some crackers. Here is Mum (and/or possibly Dad):


The gulls seemed to spend weeks on the nest, to the point where we were wondering if the embryos had perished. But the gulls of course knew what they were doing.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson


One sunny morning, a couple of days a go, we could see a different scene….


Aren’t they gorgeous! But wait, when we looked again…..

THREE chicks – woo hoo!!

Here’s another picture of them already starting to stretch their wings:


The two outer gulls in this next picture came to visit. ‘Our’ two gulls are in the centre. Interestingly, they were not at all bothered by the arrival of these two, whereas they have been chasing off any other gulls which have tried to come near the nest. Could these be relatives saying hello to the new additions to the family?


So that’s us glued to the binoculars now for a while – it’s such a privilege to see nature in action like this.  🙂

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
― Gary Snyder

The gulls are back….

Early April, but you wouldn’t know it from the temperatures and weather we are having here in Edinburgh. It’s more like early January on both counts.

Nature is unpredictable. She keeps us on our toes. This is our view on a sunny day:

This is how it looked this morning (it’s snowing now as I type!).


I am in no way complaining. I find these changes endlessly fascinating.

And I am also captivated by those events which remain regular and routine. Nature is the ultimate paradox – plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.

Take ‘our’ gulls, for example. Every year, these greater black-backed gulls* return to the roofs of the houses opposite us.

Our regular neighbours (with apologies for the terrible photo)


With spring comes, of course, mating. They seem to enjoy many weeks becoming reacquainted before getting on with the business of creating life. This involves spending a lot of time together on the right-hand roof, before they build a nest which, appropriately enough, nestles among the chimney pots of the roof on the left.

Right roof = courting; left roof = nesting!!

It has become such a pleasure, over the five years we have lived here, to get to know their routine. Waking up to their soft cawing and cackling as an added dimension to the dawn chorus. Watching their courtship, home-making and in due course incubating. And most excitingly of all, watching the chick-rearing. That comes later. But it will come – of that we can be certain.


*of course, we have no way of knowing whether they are the same gulls. But I like to think they are… 🙂