Seagulls might not have the same appeal to my readers as Kookaburras and Rainbow Lorikeets (see my previous post), but for me, they remain part of my sensory memory of living in England. Back in September 2013 I did a post called Summer’s Days at Westgate-on-Sea in which I explained that. Here is the relevant extract:
“There is a sound that is synonymous with these visits. The type of sound that if you hear it on the radio or in a movie, it transports you back to that place, or that time. For me and Westgate-on-Sea, (or Birchington, or Minnis Bay), it is the call of the seagulls of this area.
Did you ever see the film “Finding Nemo?” In that film, Australian seagulls are depicted as a villainous and greedy lot, with a call that sounds like “mine, mine, mine” (you can look it up on YouTube under Finding Nemo – MINE. I am not sure if adding it as a link here would breach copyright).
Australian seagulls are a small bird, with beady eyes and a bright red beak. They are urbanised, without fear, eternal scavengers, and found in great numbers on every beach. And they do squawk and squabble over every morsel of food they can spot, just as depicted in the film by the short and sharp “mine” voice.
The seagulls of Thanet are different. They are a much larger bird for a start, and their beak is longer and a yellow colour, but it is their call that attracts my attention. I only ever hear one bird at a time. It is a repetitive work-up call, with a long, lamenting fade at the end. It is a lonely and haunting sound that reminds me of lost souls. It is as if the gull has crossed the channel calling and calling for their loved one, only to fall away disappointed at the end. It makes me think of Emily Bronte’s Catherine running along a windswept coast, calling in vain for her Heathcliff.”
Disney Films got the behaviour of our seagulls correct, but the computer animation graphic of them is closer to the European Gull of the above photo. When Michael Rayner provided me the Kookaburra photos in the previous post, he included photos of the seagulls who make great use of our ornamental pool. He tells me their correct name is Silver Gulls. In the photo below, the bird in flight is missing part of his leg. It is very common to see one-legged seagulls in this part of the world!
From my perspective, English Gulls evoke introspective and positive emotions plus a comforting sense of place. Australian seagulls certainly remind me I am “home” and on familiar ground, but as for writing inspiration, introspective thinking, and positive emotions? Meh. I can take them or leave them.
Michael’s photos are great though, and the source of inspiration for this post, so for that I am grateful to our feathery neighbours.
Footnote: I struggled with a title for this post, finally turning to George Orwell’s Animal Farm for inspiration – “Four legs good, two legs bad”, as often quoted by the sheep. Which has absolutely nothing to do with seagulls, and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t even one in the book. Which just proves inspiration can come from the most obscure, unexpected places!