That time of year

It’s that time again when another batch of young seagulls have fledged the roof top nests and are joining the adults in their search for an easy meal.

What is really frightening are the sheer numbers. Year after year the uncontrolled breeding of the gulls has reached a stage where it’s now an airborne infestation. We have just suffered a direct hit on a washing line full of bed linen which will now have to be washed again.

This has got us riled up enough to sit down at the laptop keyboard.

As well as the accident to the bed linen, daily hosing down of our patio (and the furniture) is necessary due to the frequent carpet bombing missions by the gulls, this is not a pleasant task since there are all kinds of nasty diseases in their faeces including E coli. That would be bad enough, but on top of that we have to listen to the relentless squawking day and night. A peaceful night’s sleep is rare this time of year and leaving a window open on a warm night is just asking for trouble.

There are times when we just want to escape for the day but therein lies another frustration.

We have a resident’s reserved parking space in the Tin Ghaut car park, Church Street, where another sight and mess of seagull mayhem greets us before we can get away. Our car, when we can squeeze past the picnicking visitors to reach it has been re-decorated in the style of pebbledash, an effect rendered by the copious amount of guano deposited on all surfaces along with the detritus from previous car top meals. A quick drive through a car wash isn’t going cure this vehicle of being a mobile health hazard, great mounds of sticky guano the consistency of toffee takes a fair amount of elbow grease to shift. The guano is also corrosive and we now have areas of damaged paintwork.

What’s more, after all the effort of cleaning it only takes a few minutes for the whole cycle to begin again. Frustrating and demoralising? You bet, so it’s even more galling to hand over a cheque for £700 for the privilege of providing what is a perch for the seagulls while they wait for the next carton of scraps to be deposited on the car park ground.

The problem in Tin Ghaut car park has gone from bad to worse, mainly because the public are using it as a picnic spot for eating their fish and chips, and amusing themselves by throwing their leftovers to the gulls who now hang around the car park and view it as a feeding station. Many times we have seen gulls swoop down and take food from people’s hands and also from tables in nearby pavement cafes, right from under the noses of terrified diners. There are some miserably small signs here and there advising the public not to feed the gulls, but little notice is taken of them since they are almost invisible. Much bigger and bolder signs are desperately needed.

Fish and chip shop owners should be encourage to display notices advising the public against feeding the gulls and to dispose of their leftovers responsibly. The council should also put up new and bold signs in prominent locations. Next to pay and display meters would be a good start. Also holiday cottage owners should leave notes on their premises discouraging their guests from feeding the gulls which can seem like such fun but will only encourage the gullgfs to return to the area expecting more food and leaving their unwelcome calling cards in the process.

Another mixed menu for the gulls is often provided from the overflowing street bins, and of course, the festering domestic bins fit to burst long before the hopeless fortnightly collections arrive. The results of all this is easy to see in the amount of rotting rubbish strewn all over the yards and streets after the gulls and possibly even rats have feasted on the contents.

No doubt there will be the usual, “if you don’t like it, move” brigade, and, “they were here first” in response to this rant. Such views are often from people not affected by the problem. And it is a problem. Left unchecked the seagull population will reach epidemic proportions. They will become more aggressive in their quest for food (something that has been reported already) and it won’t be long before the problem of campylobacter or E coli rears its head.

Well, maybe the gulls were here before us, but in the 40 years Whitby has been our home we’ve never seen them in such numbers, and so aggressive.

Over the last few years we have visited many seaside towns on both sides of the Atlantic but have not seen anywhere that has such a large and uncontrolled seagull population along with the associated mess and din as we have here in Whitby. The result is a clean, pleasant and quiet environment with just the sound of the sea and maybe a distant sound of seagulls living in their natural habitat and enjoying their natural diet of seafood, without the batter and chips.

Some seagull facts: The herring gulls lifecycle can be as long as 31 years. Over a 15 year period they can replace themselves 22 times over! Just think of that. If the population now is around three thousand in 15 years time, left unchecked the population would grow to sixty six thousand. They have very few predators and as long as they have a ready food source (willingly supplied by misguided individuals who feed them) they will stay in the area they were hatched for the rest of their lives.

J Wood, Sandgate, Whitby