Wild side with Prof Ian Rotherham

Have your say

Seagulls include some of the bird world’s great adapters. Seaside towns have always been good for gulls and how could Whitby or Scarborough be the same without the cries of gulls from among the bed-and-breakfast chimneystacks?

However, sit on the quayside waving your pasty or deep-fried cod around and it will be gone in a flash, stolen by these highwaymen of the open seas. They also descend on waste bins and bags in search of scraps.

The problem has become so bad, that in Scarborough there have been calls for on-the-spot fines for holidaymakers caught feeding the gulls. I understand this was dismissed as ‘rubbish’.

Mike Parker enquired about gulls he observed in Scarborough.

‘I had a day-trip to Scarborough yesterday and took a few photographs of gulls nesting on the ledges of prominent buildings with some of the nests having young in them.

However, I do not know what species they are.

Below the nesting sites, the guano is accumulating as, indeed, it is along pavements and in open spaces in general. Many cars can be seen driving around covered in the stuff – and a fair few pedestrians too!’

Mike continued: ‘I am assuming these birds must also be a noise nuisance given they make an almost continuous racket and hence cannot be welcome when perched on a ledge outside a window, shrieking away at all hours. But what are they?’

Well, many species of gulls can adapt to life in a seaside town, and the most obvious are generally herring gulls and lesser black-backed, both big birds.

In this case, however, the species in question is the kittiwake, an altogether more delicate little gull that nests in huge colonies on the nearby cliffs at Flamborough and Bempton.

I imagine that urban-dwelling kittiwakes are quite unusual and perhaps another ‘first’ for Yorkshire!

Noisy, yes, guano, yes, but still nice to see, although I write from the inland safety of Norton in Sheffield.

One of the great things about wildlife and nature is how species adapt to human impacts and how some, at least, can take advantage of opportunities that arise.

Finally, for this week, we have had a problem with emails, so if you sent an enquiry, sadly it only just came through! I will try to respond over the next few weeks, and please keep the messages coming in. My apologies if you have been waiting for replies that never came!

n Sightings: Moorland areas have plenty of family parties of whinchats and stonechats, often standing proudly on top of bracken fronds of gorse bushes. Meadow pipits, much less showy, dart off among heather tussocks, and wrens, often forgotten as an upland bird, are busy churring and chipping, in dense vegetation. Common buzzards are showing well, and in some woodlands such as at Longshaw, common redstarts are feeding youngsters, this cousin of the robin being one of our prettier summer visitors. Tawny owls are getting noisy with adults and well-grown youngsters in and around woods and urban parks and gardens. A friend at Holmesfield has a young cuckoo in his garden being fed by a pair of dunnocks. He also had a great spotted woodpecker taken by a sparrowhawk – nature red in tooth and claw!