I met some huge sea gulls recently while visiting Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay, Cal. Comparing them to the seagulls from our neck of the woods was like comparing David to Goliath. I had never seen or been so close to such large gulls.
Turns out they were not seagulls. Turns out there is no such thing as seagulls, but a vast variety of gulls. The guy who decided to dine with us was a Western gull and they have no fear of the human kind.
Western gulls are the only species of gulls that breed along Monterey Bay. They have managed to adapt very well to living in urban environments, so much so, one perched less than two feet away from me while I enjoyed my fresh fish and chips. He patiently waited for me to leave before swooping down on the table and devouring my left overs. I’m guessing he was very disappointed at the measly spoils on my plate.
My Western gull was big, bright white and beautiful. His beak was yellow and the tips of his wings gathered together at the back of his body and created a captivating polka-dot pattern. His feet were large pink-webbed surfaces attached to skinny-mini pink legs. He was so distracting, I hardly remember eating at all. I could feel his beady black eyes drilling into the back of my head as I supped, savouring the freshness of fish from the ocean bare metres away. Throughout lunch, he sat like a statue, waiting for his moment of glory.
Western gulls feed in large open ocean environments. At sea, they feed on fish and invertebrates. All their eating is done on the surface as they cannot dive. On land they consume mainly seal and sea lion carcasses and are known for feeding on human food refuse. The brave ones also take food directly from people at marinas and beaches.
I met another Western gull while enjoying a fresh seafood pasta plate on the huge wharf in Santa Cruz. This time there was a wall of glass between me and my feathered dinner companion. Once again, I was fascinated by how beautiful he was. I know my meal was delicious, but what I really wanted to do was communicate with the gull. Dr. Doolittle was onto something. This gull had me totally distracted and mesmerized by his antics. He deftly lifted one leg and it disappeared into his lower body. He then turned his head around behind him and tucked that yellow beak deep into his feathered torso. I could still see one beady eye, yet I think he was sleeping. He didn’t move for the longest time and looked quite comfortable balanced on a small wooden railing. I wanted to watch him forever and begrudgingly left when it was clear our meal was over. There was nothing to do but whisper bye to him through the glass.
I know it sounds bizarre, but those Western gulls were one of the highlights of the trip for me. Eating and enjoying bird company was so much fun. Being that close to beautiful winged creatures was marvelous. I loved it just as much as I hate those annoying gulls on our Great Lake beaches.
What’s so annoying about those birds? It’s the dumb humans who feed them. One minute you can be enjoying a lovely sit on the beach and the next be swarmed with a variety of gulls that your beachside neighbour has decided to tempt with a french fry. Once that happens, the relaxing day at the beach is over.
Ontario has some of the best places in the world to discover rare gulls with over twenty-two species recorded. While it seems like there are a myriad of them in the summer, it’s surprising to note the best months to see the most species and highest numbers are November and December. As many gulls as I have seen in Ontario, there is no comparison to the majestic Western gulls of California.
When I think of dining in the south, I think of the gulls, the views and oh ya - the food! Eating in the warm outdoors while being watched by feathered friends is one of the best ways to do some distracted dining.
Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at www.nancyrevie.com. Her column appears every other week.