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07/24/2010

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Alan

Forget ravens, I bet vultures don't have shit on gulls.

Finesmell

Gulls definitely out-rank others in the bully category, but there's no discounting the intelligence of the genus Corvidae (which includes ravens, crows, jays, and - I think - kingfishers): remember the old news item on the crows in Tokyo that figured out how to use crosswalks to open walnuts?

They fly over crosswalks, onto which they drop walnuts; they then alight on the curb, from which they wait for cars to drive over the walnuts. They then actually wait for the walk signal, before walking out to the car-crushed walnuts. Apparently just dropping the walnuts onto hard pavement doesn't create enough force to crack the nut shells - otherwise, they'd probably just drop the nuts onto sidewalks. These crows are also apparently really good at aiming the nuts for that part of the crosswalk over which car tires actually pass. Again, there's a certain level of ingenuity here that transcends mere instinct.

And ya gotta give those dumpster ravens credit for knowing it wasn't safe to dive on those fish discards at Princeton Harbor - they knew whose turf they were on, and they weren't busting any moves unless the coast was most definitely clear!

All this said, your points about gulls definitely served to support your point about the Caspian tern, which was poetic and succinct. An awe-inspiring species, to be sure.

Scott P

The ravens/crows near my apartment in Fremont do this too! At points the streets are littered with the remains of things dropped there by the birds. You can see the remains on the roads around harvest time in Fremont if you go look at the area around Fremont Central Park... I think I'll have to post pictures if they repeat the process this year or perhaps stake out a likely intersection and try to obtain video. Additionally, I have to agree with Finesmell that the fact that they know better than to challenge the gulls is a point in their favor regarding intelligence... Gulls are definitely both ornery and avaricious when it comes to a possible feeding.

As for the Seagulls, well, I like to think that we have an accomodation... they don't aim for me when it's time for their bathroom breaks and I'll occasionally leave tidbits for them when I'm done fishing. Believe it or not, this was at one point a big issue for me. I couldn't go anywhere near the shore (any shore) if gulls were present without a change of clothes. My family and friends would laugh at first, until they saw it happen 5 or 6 times, with the only one in the group getting hit being yours truly. I think that Sharpie (my dog) has picked up on this residual angst that I must subtly exude at a level below human perception as, without fail, the sight of a seagull never fails to send him into mad fits of barking.

Of course from the gull's reactions he may just be giving them the equivalent of an interspecies of a high-five and asking for advice on obtaining similar concessions but I doubt it.

As for my own favorite avian avatar, I have to say I've always been fond of hummingbirds despite their known lack of the slightest nautical proclivity. Perhaps there is some truth in the expression that there is no accounting for taste.

Fontenelle451

I know one birder who will travel a few hundred miles after hearing a rumor of a remote possibility to view some rara avis that is just passing through the region. I would never do that. I need targets of opportunity to pique my interest. I also need time on my hands.

My fishing buddies and I become casual birders when the fish aren't biting. We argue whether that bird of prey across the river is an osprey or an eagle. Is that a raven or a crow? See that egret?

I seldom have the patience to distinguish one species of gull from another. In spite of that, I managed to read Jonathan Livingston Seagull during the Christmas break when I was a college freshman. Oddly enough, nearly all of my contemporaries read it during that same period. We either received that best seller as a gift or knew someone who had. We pretended to like that book in order to get that second date with that cute chick in art history, astronomy, etc.

I prefer Fup, a novela by Jim Dodge (which I received for Christmas over a dozen years after reading JLS). It's a mystical northern California tale of a duck, a boar, a big guy named Tiny and his grandfather. As fowl fiction goes, that one fits the bill.

I'm thinking about rummaging through bins of used bookstores for some field guides that I can carry when I eat lunch at one of the local salt marshes. I only want to identify the birds I see at the places I frequent. Otherwise, birding becomes too obsessive for me.

Ryan

My iconic memory of the seagull was when a group of 4-5 of the brown birds of similar size were mulling what to do with an overturned crab. A couple would casually peck and get pinched, and take a step back.

In comes Mr. Gull. After announcing his presence with some loud squawks, he chases the overthinking bids away (pecking feathers out of a couple of 'em). He moves back to his crab, squawks again and starts aggressively pecking at it while the others watched. The crab was a shell in minutes.

I had called them sea rats before, but after that display I saw they commanded far more respect in the animal world than rats or the winged pigeon equivalents.

Thanks for the always-entertaining article

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