My husband and I have a cabin on Lake Superior. We always enjoy watching the many moods of the lake and the antics of the sea birds, but the the thing we live for is our 11′ dinghy. Every weekend, weather permitting, we take the dinghy out on Superior. Last weekend was no exception. We filled a cooler (of course, nonalcoholic beverages, for all you water patrol readers…) and headed out to explore the rocky cliffs from the water. Leaving the marina the water depth plunges to 50′, but even at that depth the boulders sitting on the bottom are visible. As we neared the cliffs the tips of submerged boulders rise up out of the water like giant icebergs. Orange and sea-green lichen cover the cliff side, darkening where water bleeds from the rock.
So there we are drinks in hand (nonalcoholic) reveling in this miracle of nature, when a kayak passed by our boat. We thought nothing of it since there were many kayaks out that day, but as the kayaker paddled up the shore, sea gulls began to swoop down upon the kayak. We were curious and revved up our engine (a whopping 25 horse power) to follow the kayak. That’s when I spotted the problem. A baby sea gull was swimming out in the water, alone. The nest was 30′ up on the cliff. Its parent’s desperate calls went unheeded. Just wait until its a teenager, I thought. The tiny fuzzy grey fledgling ignoring the harried calls of its parents, continued to swim away. I set my drink (nonalcoholic) in the cooler and rolled up my sleeves. “Let’s go rescue the baby,” I said full of bravado and (nonalcoholic) drinks. The plan was to scoop up the baby and place it on the rocky outcropping at the bottom of the cliff, surely the parents could tend to it there.
We didn’t get far before the momma and papa were dive bombing us. But we were courageous, we would save the baby, what’s a little gull poop to folks inebriated with nonalcoholic drinks? Then several more gulls joined in the fun. We were pelted with poop, I flopped to the floor of the dinghy. The last thing I saw before covering my head with my jacket was a seagull, beak ready to strike, orange feet splayed. My husband, resembling a Jackson Pollack painting, batted at the gull with an oar and we quickly sped away as fast as our little engine could take us.
Once back at the cabin, I went on the internet to research sea gull behavior. As it turns out, baby sea gulls fall out of the nest (or jump) quite often. The parents watch for predators from the nest, if any bird of prey (or stupid humans) interfere with it, they will attack, and their friends will join in the pursuit. Supposedly the baby finds an area of safety and the parents will care for it there, until such time, three months or so, it can fend for itself.
I didn’t sleep well that night worrying about that little fuzzy chick, but I won’t try it again. Lesson learned by this human fledgling.