I have watched the new Herring Gulls growing up this summer in Scarborough. Starting off as ugly ducklings (gullings!) on the roofs where they hatched out, waiting for their parents to come back and feed them something tasty.
They are still begging in September, when their parents fly past, but they are learning to fend for themselves and have grown into something a lot more elegant looking. At least I think so.
In Scarborough, learning to fend for yourself means knowing how to harass tourists into giving you a chip. Or squabbling with other gulls over a discarded bag of fish and chips. There are also fishing boats with the occasional discarded fish.
The feathers on the back of Herring Gulls – the mantle and scapulars – are quite dark on the juvenile birds, but they become more barred as the bird ages. Similarly, the head becomes paler as the birds moult from August onwards.
The base of the bill, very dark in the juvenile, also becomes paler as the bird progresses through its first winter.
After four years, they become adults, looking like this. Some people refer to the adults as having an evil eye! But I think that is a bit cruel.
I am an entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.