All gulls are omniverous and will eat the living with the dead but it is the great blackbacked who has the worst reputation for tearing apart the live young of other birds. A local name for the great blackbacked was the much more expressive “saddleback”. Here on the Estuary these murders are hidden from us and the lesser gulls do not seem at all shy of the great blackbacked who strides about among them and is so much bigger than they. All the voracity of all the gulls seems to be directed towards gobbling up the little green crabs and whatever else it is that they find in the estuarial mud.
Gulls are certainly greedy but there is something refreshingly honest about their greed. I used to much enjoy the cloud of herring gulls and black backed gulls, the lesser saddlebacks, that would follow the little trawler when we came home into the Estuary with the tide after we had been catching skate. Skate is the one fish that was filleted on board. Two crescent cuts and the bits went overboard to the savage delight of the gulls. What a brightness in the sunlight! What a diving and swooping was there! What a plunging and pouncing! What a howling and shrieking! The gulls were singing their hymn to life in the raw and one had to be a fearful hypocrite not sometimes to join in the chorus.
Tomorrow: A pretty poem entitled 'The Skate'.