For many years, I lived on the rocky northeast coast of Massachusetts, on Cape Ann, which is bounded by the Atlantic. Seagulls are everywhere, in all seasons. Of course you see them at the beach, but you also see them on trash day, swooping down to peck open and ransack the curbside bags. Nor do they miss the opportunity to scavenge hot-dog buns and ice-cream cones dropped or discarded by tourists, or to hang around docks and dumpsters. I think that many coastal dwellers view these birds with disdain and annoyance!
When my kids were small, we went to see a Pixar movie called “Finding Nemo,” which was about the adventures of a small fish—as is the case with such movies, all the critters talked, voiced by famous actors and actresses. Seagulls of course were part of this film and we were very amused to note that, unlike the rest of the cast of characters, they did not have a big or witty vocabulary. They had but one word: MINE! It came as no surprise to learn that the director was from the coastal village of Rockport. Someone who truly knows seagulls had assured that bit of the script.
Off the coast of Cape Ann, there is a small island called Thacher Island. It is home to two lighthouses, “The Twin Lights,” visible from many spots along the shore in Gloucester and Rockport. Only a seasonal lighthouse keeper lives on the island, but the Boy Scouts camp out there sometimes. And the public can get there via their own boat, kayak, or a small excursion boat provided by the Thacher Island Committee, which is how my family was able to visit. The island has trails through scrubby trees, blueberry bushes, greenbriar, and wildflowers. The main feature of Thacher Island is a large population of seagulls.
Visitors can ascend the spiral staircase of one of the lighthouses for a breathtaking panoramic view, and hike the island’s network of trails. It was on these trails that my kids and I spotted young seagulls, which are so small and fluffy and helpless, they are almost cute. We peered into the nests and cooed at the babies—until Mom appeared, aggressively dive-bombing us and screeching MINE! MINE! MINE! We hastily withdrew, of course—and we couldn’t help thinking of quite a different movie, Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Yikes!
For more seagull observations, please visit the Birds & Blooms Forum.