Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ignored by Seagulls

In 2000, a few musician friends and I were lucky enough to fly out to McCall, Idaho to perform over the Fourth of July Weekend. Some time after we took off from Chicago, I looked out the window and saw fireworks from above. They zoomflated outward, looking much more spherical from above.

Seen from the mail plane, seagulls do the opposite around a lobster boat. They hover around the boat more or less spherically until the stern man dumps out old bait. Then they implode to one point. The baity point in the water.

Seagulls are not welcome around lobster boats. They hover, dive, harass, crap on the crew, make a racket and occasionally beat you on the head with a wing in the frenzy to get that morsel of rotten herring.

This never occurs near Sweet Pea. They sit on the rocks watching, but do not follow, do not approach the boat, screech or come after the bait I throw out. I am curious. It’s the exact same food. If anything, my boat is smaller, quieter and less threatening.

My theory is that it is conditioning, mini-evolution, newly formed instinct from 50 or so seagull generations being trained that food comes from big boats with loud engines.

I like Lisa’s theory best. She thinks the oars look like wings and frighten the seagulls away. The boat’s hull is bright white and not thoroughly un-seagull like, so maybe they think I am their Seagull God, to be revered from a distance. There’s another good supporting detail. Sam’s trick, which I learned my first year in the stern, is to wave your arms like wings. The seagulls all shrink back 50 or so feet. For a while.

Others think it’s because I don’t throw a sufficient quantity of bait out often enough. I don’t agree. Seagulls are so ferociously hungry for every bite, I think they would fight over my small bits the same way as around the 38 footers.

I probably should not ask this question because if I do start getting aggressive seagull panhandling, there will be no relief in the tiny Sweet Pea. That would be unfortunate because everything else is getting better. The number of traps in the water creeps up. The catch creeps up. I get more comfortable micronavigating in and out of the rocks, rowing and sailing. I watch weather fronts angle across the great sky. Seals visit. The wind and waves are more benign. Our patch of ocean is full of life.

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