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Posts Tagged ‘seagulls’

The sun may be lighting up the sky in a spectacular display of color, but there’s another reason why nobody’s sleeping in this morning.  Some mother’s child is upsetting the peace and quiet of the marsh with incessant whining.  Good grief!

Despite its camouflage plumage and the low light, it’s easy to see from where the annoying whining is originating.  I’ve caught this act before.  It’s not unusual to see immature seagulls pestering adults for food.  It’s an odd sight as some of these juveniles appear just as large as the parent.

The whiner’s mother is of course ignoring it and pretending it’s someone else’s offspring that’s waking up the entire neighborhood.

What’s a parent to do, especially with a child that should be old enough to fend for itself?

‘Feed the brat!!’ the cormorant suggests. But is that really the best solution?

Don’t give in to whining.  Giving in teaches a child that whining is the sort of behaviour and tone of voice that will generate a result.

~  Jo Frost aka Supernanny

Okay, so you don’t give in.  But surely there has to be a way to make it stop.  Late last week I came across the carcass of a juvenile gull along the trail.  Did the eagles take matters into their own hands talons that day?

Who knows?  Unfortunately, what goes on in the marsh stays in the marsh.  The cormorants certainly weren’t disclosing anything on that story.

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As much as we enjoy wildlife, it’s seldom that we have an opportunity to hold live specimens in our hands.  Most wild creatures want to put as much distance between us and them as possible, and that’s how it should be.   However, opportunities to get up close and personal with wildlife are possible along Nova Scotia’s seashore in the intertidal zone.  Marine animals such as crabs and starfish are easily caught and respond well to gentle handling.

The starfish at left was found in the salt marsh.  Its underside reveals gel-like feelers that glisten in the sunlight as they move.  Live, juicy starfish are enjoyed by seagulls who can spot them underwater clinging to rocks.

Though a bit more difficult to catch, live crabs are very animated and deeper in color than the dried ones found higher up the beach.  Up close they look like little aliens.  They too are eaten by seagulls.

To those who are willing to get really up close, offshore waters offer even more wonders.

Live sand dollars are nothing like the bone dry tests we may sometimes find on the beach.  Their five point star design is just barely discernible beneath their deep purple fur-like covering of cilia.  Beds of these can be found by scuba divers in the subtidal zone, a wonder hidden from the view of beachcombers.  Sand dollars are preyed upon by starfish, snails and skates.

After handling these delicate marine creatures, it’s best to quickly place them back where they were found as they are unable to survive out of the water for long.  Such close encounters should be kept as brief as possible, unless of course you’re a seagull looking for a meal.

I’m hungry Dolores. Should we get fast food or see what’s slow in the marsh?

Photo credits:  Julie Perry

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You’ve been standing still for far too long with your feet in one spot … turning the same possibilities over and over again in your head. The days aren’t getting any longer and you’re not getting any younger.

The time has come for you to spread your wings.  Others may not approve and may even scowl at your need to do what moves you.  

Don’t let yourself be distracted by their expectations.  Be brave enough to ask yourself what expections you hold for your own life.   Be prepared for the unexpected.  

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others.
~ Mark Twain

You may have felt the need for some time to stand on the rock and show the whole marsh world who you are.

I’m no angel, but I’ve spread my wings a bit.
~ Mae West

On the other hand, your wing-spreading may be spurred by a growing desire to explore and employ your talents.  How better than by using them could you express gratitude and praise to the One who gave them to you?

Fear not.  Don’t get rattled by the sound of the wind blowing through your feathers as you begin to spread them.  If you dare, others may even take your lead and follow with a little wing-spreading of their own. 

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another.  It is the only means.
~ Albert Einstein

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rock crab

Dismembered crab carcasses litter the trail that runs through the salt marsh.  Seagulls fly onto the trail to crack open and eat crabs found in the marsh.  Although Rock Crabs are most common, Green Crabs are also on the seagulls’ menu.   Sometimes cracked Northern Moon Snail shells can be found as well, remnants of a tasty breakfast.

green crab1

Although Rock Crabs can run sideways at great speed, and are masterful at wedging themselves between the rocks along the shore, they are still easily caught by the seagulls.  These crabs are most active at night. 

rock crab on sand

Crabs are Decapods, having five pairs of legs.  Their abdomens are small and curled under their bodies.  They share the lobsters’ marvelous ability to regenerate legs, claws, eyes or antennae.  They are predators and scavengers, eating dead creatures found on the bottom of the marsh and sea.  Common prey are starfish, sea urchins and other crabs.  Crab shells fade in the sunlight, becoming a light orange color over time.

Neither Green nor Rock Crabs are consumed by people in Nova Scotia.  Snow Crabs, more common in Cape Breton, are the type usually eaten here. 

rock crab underside

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Undaunted by the threat of rain, I thought I’d trek out to Silver Sands Beach last Friday in search of seagulls’ nests.  I had seen an enormous flock of seagulls there last year, and figured they might be nesting there as well.  Inspired by some beautiful photos of gulls’ nests taken by Anne at Nova Scotia Island Journal, I set out. 

seagull carcass

Five minutes into my trek , I stumbled across this large carcass of a seagull. I had just made a large painting of a gull’s head last month and recognized it immediately as a Herring Gull by the red markings on its mouth.   Although I love to collect feathers that I find while walking in the woods or on the beach, it somehow didn’t seem right to pick some feathers off the remains of this large, beautiful bird. So after taking a photograph, I set out again in search of the nests.

white birdSilver Sands gets its name from the sparkling sand that used to cover its beach.  This sand was taken away decades ago by trucks for use in the city.  Now all that remains are stones and short pockets of sand here and there at low tide.  There are mud flats and grasses in a marsh behind the shore.  This is where I caught sight of a very large white bird.  Its elongated neck and long legs reminded me of the many Great Blue Herons I’ve seen at Rainbow Haven Beach and along the Salt Marsh Trail.  My best guess is that it was a White Egret. It flew off as I approached,  and in its flight looked very much like the herons. 

sandpipers at silver sands

Sandpipers could be seen along the water’s edge on both the ocean side and the marsh side of the beach.  They called to one another continually, probably to let one another know of this large intruder in their midst.  This is the only place where I’ve been able to see Piping Plovers in the past.  They probably make nests here too.  I looked around the grasses but was reluctant to disturb anything or give any of these dear little birds cause for concern, so I moved on.  It wasn’t long afterwards that I was able to spot some rather unusual looking eggs …

eggs at silver sands

… probably because I had walked so far along the beach that I was almost at Hartlen’s Point where the golf course is located.  Still not having seen any nests or real eggs, I decided to head back.  Maybe I’d find them on another walk, on another day… 

Seeing the large white bird had made the long walk worthwhile.  Walking home along the beach, I could see Flandrum Hill in the distance.

silver sands beach

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seagull

Every once in awhile, seagulls will sweep in for a visit to my backyard.  Compared to the songbirds that normally hang out at my feeder, these seagulls are huge.  Wingspans are a minimum 2-3 feet across. They always look bigger up close. Their brilliant white feathers glisten in the sunshine and their light eyes are keen and alert.   Their bright yellow beaks and feet contrast sharply with everything else in the woodland environment.

Seagulls have the advantage of being able to drink both fresh and salt water. They don’t mind what’s on the menu either. However, they only show up in my yard if I throw out bread crusts that are large enough to be spotted from their flying altitude. 

Although they’re quite attractive birds up close, regular visits from them are not to be encouraged. They can be VERY aggressive to both other animals and humans. Around homes where there’s a constant availability of large crusts, they’ll gather in larger numbers and roost on a nearby roof , leaving a terrible mess.  They’re best appreciated at the seashore.

An excellent place to see large numbers of seagulls in Cow Bay is towards the end of Silver Sands beach.  Their favorite gathering spots are clearly marked on the sand and rocks. Leave your bread crumbs at home.

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