It’s June, and on Blackwall Reach there is a gauntlet to be run. Gulls are nesting in the corrugations of the low asbestos roof fronting the house. Over the last few weeks I’ve watched from my study window as the Lesser Black Backs make their untidy nests, canoodle and mate. There is a pair of Herring Gulls further along but so far they are happy to co-exist with their more bolshy neighbours. The parent gulls seem oblivious to the foot traffic in the street until the moment the eggs hatch and the first downy grey bundles begin stumbling about on the roof. Then things can get tricky.
It’s extraordinary quite how much guano can come out of a gull when it’s cross. The street looks as if it’s been intensively strafed. There are white scars several feet long criss-crossing the tarmac. A gull on a sortie will swoop noisily on the target, open its cloaca, and turn away while its chalky cargo complete the mission. Caught against the fence with a cup of coffee on the patio I suffered a direct hit. I had to wash my hair, my shirt and my trousers. There was still plenty left over to mark the birds approach on the flagstones.
Already the first feathers are starting to appear on the chicks. They grow larger day by day, gathering round the returning parents and pecking at their bills to encourage them to regurgitate the next meal. As the chicks become bolder and wander further across the rooftops, the parent birds become more anxious. So do the pedestrians.