Transporting Young Gulls Across Stately Lions For Immortal Porpoises

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Sorry, can’t help it, again.  The title is the punch line for the most god-awful pun joke I’ve ever had the pleasure to memorize and repeat (to the displeasure of the audience).  If it doesn’t ring a bell, consider yourself fortunate.

On the subject of Gulls, however, young or not…this is one thing that is a perpetual shock to me about this area.  In Texas we have a lot of Gulls.  They are thoroughly obnoxious, they plague the shrimping and fishing boats, and they can be a nuisance to picnickers on or near the beach.  They are, however, a Proper Size And Shape for a Gull.

They say that everything is larger in Texas, but the Gulls in Maine – all four or five different species of them – look like they’ve grown up next to the waste pipes for nuclear power plants and dine primarily on radioactive sardines.  They are huge.  No kidding.  They are so huge that last month, when we were up here with friends, we laid a table outside for a lobster bake.  This involved plates, napkins, implements of destruction, plastic cups, and a quarter-pound stick of butter for the corn.  I had been too busy grilling the corn to clean up properly after our day out, so I rushed upstairs to grab a quick shower before eating.  My shower, though quick, was interrupted by a chorus of shrieks from downstairs.

One of the local Gulls had swept out of the sky, seized the entire quarter-pound stick of butter, and carried it off.

As it turns out, this is a typical sort of incident for these gigantic feathered predators: my husband told a story of leaving unattended – for one minute – an economy-sized bag of baked tortilla chips. He turned around to find a Gull carrying the bag off.  NOT getting into the bag, eating the chips, making a mess…but going airborne with the entire thing, chips, bag, and all.

A day or so after the Case of the Stolen Butter we saw a Gull hanging out at the lobster pound.  It waited for a diner to avert his eyes from his plate while turning to face his conversational companion.  The Gull whipped right in and hoisted the lobster.  We hoped that it was just the lobster carcass, but when you’re talking about a bird that will carry off whole sticks of butter or entire sacks of chips…well, all bets must be off.

This evening it looks like it might rain, so we stuck close to home instead of promenading up and down the Point.  We packed a small High Tea of cheese, crackers, and beer, and headed for these.  If you look at this and think “Holy Cow, that looks AWESOME” you would be totally correct.

Heaven on Earth at Ocean Point

So I unpacked our little picnic, settled in, and found that a Visitor Had Come Calling. It was one of the region’s nuclear Gulls. It was, perhaps, 10 feet away, hanging out on some of the super-cool rocks that you can’t really see in this picture.

This Gull, as it turns out, shared several important characteristics with my cat, Buster.  First, they were the same color.  Buster is exactly the same creamy white and silvery grey, and more or less, grey and white in the same places.  Second, they both possess the ability to broadcast strongly on the Mind Control Channel, and they say the same thing when they do: “Look into my eyes.  Give me a treat.”

My husband routinely fails his saving throw vs. Mind Control when it comes to the cat, and as a result, we’ve gone through a whole canister of tuna-flavored Pounce in the last month, and the cat has gained half a pound.  My skills of Mental Self-Defense have been better developed, and I do not succumb.

This Gull, however, was a different story.  Perhaps it was his beady yellow and black eye. Perhaps it was his direct effrontery in advancing to within three feet of a pair of humans.  Perhaps he just developed Mind Control Super Powers from eating the radioactive sardines.  I couldn’t help it.  I knew I should not feed the Gull.  I knew that it was a bad idea for all kinds of reasons, most of them involving the possibility that the Gull would carry off a bottle of beer, my picnic backpack, the entire cheese board, or possibly my husband.  But I just. could. not. help. it.

I threw the Gull a cracker.  At that point, it was all over, and the Gull got 3 crackers, and a sizeable chunk of Irish Porter Cheddar Cheese.  It consumed all of this happily and greedily, and then took itself off for a hefty drink of water from a nearby tidal pool.  And then, because some things about Gulls appear to be universal, it crapped in the tidal pool before flying off.

From the absurd to the sublime: yesterday, we got to watch a seal fishing for dinner in the moorings off the dock.

Today, we got to watch an osprey doing the same thing.

I saw this osprey when we were up here last month.  At that time, it was clearly a baby and learning to Soar.  I knew it was a baby because no predator is going to make it to adulthood making that much noise as it flies around.  This thing was emitting a continuous series of “EEEEEeeeeeEEEEEEeeeee”s as it flew around.  And it took me a little while to realize that it was learning to Soar because it never occurred to me that it would be some kind of actual challenge to develop that skill.  This guy, however, would flap like crazy, gain a little altitude, spread his wings, and make a tiny little dive (winding up nowhere near the surface of the water or any other reasonable diving target). And he did this over and over and over again – he looked like he was riding a little roller coaster about 50 feet up in the air.  And he’d change his call, too.  It would be up! (Eee! Eee! Eee!) and down! (EEEeeeeEEEEEeeeeeeeeEEEEEE!).  His parents were in the vicinity, and would check in once in a while.  It was a good, hour-long Soaring lesson.

As an aside, that made me feel a heck of a lot better about how hard it is to keep my hands quiet when I’m posting to a trot on a horse.  I think, this should NOT be this challenging, just keep the bloody things low and don’t let the motion from my hips and thighs bounce through the rest of my body…but knowing is one thing, doing is another.  I figure, if this young osprey is having to practice soaring and diving, then why wouldn’t I have to practice posting?

Anyway, the osprey was hunting tonight, and he’s much better at soaring now…although not so good that I didn’t recognize him immediately.  He covered a lot of territory, buzzing through the moorings, inspecting the island across the way, visiting his parents in a funky spiral of air that was invisible to my eyes until all three of them got into it.  As I said before, I’m not a birder…but living here could probably ignite an interest.

Osprey

Here is the osprey on his practice flight last month.

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About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner Oldsmobile...it will take you right there.

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