Thursday, 18 February 2010


I have long been acquainted with the story of Pliny, truth or legend, that the Greek playwright, Aeschylus, was killed, two and a half millennia ago, by an eagle who mistook his big bald head for the kind of rock upon which , if one happens to be such an eagle, one can drop tortoises from a great height. Lammergeiers, which look a lot like eagles, are reported to be dropping tortoises onto rocks every day of the week and thereby they smash the shells and get at the flesh.

So I was not in the least surprised a couple of years ago to see that the clever gulls at Orcombe Point had learned the same game. They were dropping mussels and other shellfish onto the road from a great height and immediately zooming down to bag the flesh. It is a sight worth seeing. Stan Davies remarked on this phenomenon in his 1987 book, Wildlife of the Exe Estuary .

There are quite a few gulls around here and they sometimes use the road and footpath to drop crabs and razor shells in order to break them open. Surprisingly, even turnstones have discovered the behaviour of the gulls and can be found on the footpath of Queen's Drive pecking morsels from the shells

I have never noticed the turnstones but the gulls are always at it. I too am beginning to bald in an interesting sort of way. When I walk that way I put on my hat.

No comments:

Post a Comment