Skip gulls and tip gulls . . .
that’s what my daughter calls them. But she lives in the more densely-populated industrial Midlands so it’s not surprising her gulls have adopted more modern behaviour. I live on the coast where the gulls have retained their ancestral patterns. They have, after all, the entire North Sea as their feeding grounds—not that it stops them from gathering like groups of unruly youths around the marketplace, ever the opportunist, harvesting whatever tidbits are dropped.
This morning, returning from shopping, I noticed one lad, in beige-and-white plumage, had separated out from the group. He had wandered away from the market and arrived at a busy road junction. I could see him up ahead by the pedestrian crossing, making little forays like a nervous pensioner. What was he after that the traffic kept frightening him from? Whatever it was he seemed determined to have.
I’d almost drawn level, across the road from him, when there was a break in the traffic. No vehicles visible in any direction (must be a Sunday). Now was his chance. He strutted, no looking left or right. He reached his prize. He took a peck.
I swear his behaviour became totally human. The way he pulled back his head—I half-expected him to spit it out. The twist he gave, as in total disgust. The up-jilted beak, the pulled-back shoulders, the arrogant strut back to the pavement. Whatever he’d pecked, he clearly didn’t rate it.
What was it? While there was lull in the traffic, I ventured a look.
A beefburger, in its raw state, still half-covered by its brand-flashed package. But it wasn’t a brand I recognised (though I don’t eat burgers). It looked like something I’d have bought in my student days: an unknown brand sold dirt-cheap in a cheapo shop.
Someone had dropped it. A car had caught it and ripped its package. But, despite the gull had been tempted (probably by the package), just one taste of it and it had shown its opinion. Not exactly an enticing advert, knowing that gulls aren’t so fussy as to refuse free food (after all, in the Midlands they dine off skips and tips).
And my thought as I made my way home? Someone in town had been intending to eat that. It’s enough to make you turn vegetarian.