Tony Bailie's Take on Nature: Never a gull day as fledgling drama unfolds

A herring gull fledgling who has taken up residence in The Irish News car park Picture: Mal McCann

THERE has been high drama over the past couple of weeks in The Irish News – not that there isn't always high drama; after all, it is a newspaper and that is what sells papers.

But it wasn't some political meltdown, dodgy backroom dealings or a GAA venue decision that dominated the talk in the newsroom. Indeed, this went way beyond mere news – in a breakdown of traditional cross-departmental demarcation, diverse clusters have been forming. Journalists' notebooks hung limply in their hands, as members of the accounts department paused in their number crunching, marketing staff didn't even bother to look for a promotional angle, while the advertising team stopped trying to sell, sell, sell.

All the focus was on a single issue – the fate of the herring gull fledgling that was whining pitifully under the letters editor's car.

It wasn't a particularly pretty thing, its fluffy feathers mottled and sticking up all over the place as it shuffled, head low into its body if anyone approached. But it made no effort to escape. Not that getting too close to it was a good idea, because beady-eyed and ready to swoop was its mother, perched on the guttering along the roof.

The fully formed herring gull is not much prettier than its juvenile offspring.

These sea birds have adapted to city dwelling and become scavengers and you will see them pecking their way through an abandoned bag of chips on the street, or poking at the sturdy plastic of a black bin liner to try and get at its contents.

The fledgling had probably hatched in a nest among the roofs and tried to fly before it was ready, or else its parents, impatient for it to start making its own way in the world, might have nudged it out. Whatever, the fledgling has been stranded in The Irish News car park for more than a week now. Occasionally it will stretch its wings a bit and attempt to take off but will only get to the other end of the car park and land on a paper-recycling bin.

Quite often it seemed as if it had been abandoned as it teetered between the parked cars, peeping in a self-pitying way. Some put down food for it, which although done with a good heart is not the thing to do. Its watchful mother was still on hand to land beside it and regurgitate a ball of half digested bits and pieces for her offspring to eat.

But for most of the time it seemed as if the mother was trying to hide herself from the petulant youth, and from a nearby rooftop would call to it as if saying: “Come on son/daughter, you can do it. Come on up here to Mummy and we can go off and explore the city."

Or perhaps it more like: “Shift your ass into gear, you lazy we skitter, I'm sick sore and tired of you lying in your pit all day and waiting for me to come and feed you. It's time you got off your backside and started fending for yourself.”

This was nature at work in an urban landscape and the young gull will have to fly and start finding food for itself if it is to survive. Never the less, given the high temperatures of the past fortnight, as I left work the other night, I couldn't help pouring some water into a plastic dish which one of my colleagues had left out for it.

No harm in giving a small helping hand, I thought. And nature thanked me with a good-luck signal – as I got into my car the fledgling's mother dumped a large, gooey crap on my windscreen.

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