Suspended momentarily in midair, then swooping or diving, the gulls were excited by the prospect of Bluegills for lunch. The small sunfish are caught and brought to the surface by migrating Hooded or Common Mergansers. It is a service these diving ducks have reliably performed every spring and fall as they’ve paused here to rest on their long migration. This year, however, hopes were dashed; there were few Bluegills. The pond’s stock of small fish suffered a massive die-off in March 2012, and has not yet recovered. Bird life has not been the same since.
The migrating mergansers moved on quickly, soon to be replaced by more of their kind. Overall, the migrating ducks have been disappointingly few this spring, but not unexpectedly so. The gulls have also left, presumably for better opportunities elsewhere.
I’m partial to the gulls, and I miss them. They are smart (at times, even cunning), they cooperate to round up prey, and they are uncommonly graceful in flight. To see them soar effortlessly on high thermals is to witness a harmony with nature that is denied us humans. Their trademark, plaintiff cry I regard as the most beautiful sound in the natural world.
Elsewhere, I have lamented on the gulls’ bad reputation. They are seen, if they are seen at all, as common scavengers, unworthy of our attention or praise. That is a form of political correctness, in my view, and does no justice to these lovely, resourceful birds, whose joie de vie should be an example for us all.
Note: The species I have identified from wing patterns, but it is tricky with gulls, especially from photos, and I regard the identifications here as tentative.