On my walk this morning I noticed a few dozen seagulls circling one of the piers near the mailboat dock, with more gulls joining every minute. They were raising an unholy racket and clearly had spotted some potential food that they might grab off the pier. It was either that, or a reenactment of a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds.
The gulls looked very picturesque, silhouetted against the sunrise, but the harsh reality is a different story. Seagulls are trash birds that will try to eat just about anything and will fly off with the disgusting items you can imagine. We know this because we’ve found items dropped by seagulls on our deck. This summer’s seagull gifts have included a large, rotting, eyeless fish head and a gross bait bag with fish guts that probably was snatched from a lobster boat.
It’s just part of the price you pay for living in a seaside community.
Seagulls are a big part of the ambiance in Stonington. When you’re down by the harbor they are always swooping around, stark white against the blue skies, and their cries provide a contrast to the deep basso thrum of the lobster boats chugging in and out. From time to time gulls will even circle around our house on Greenhead, and when you see them up close you realize they are very big birds. There’s a reason they were among the flying horrors Alfred Hitchcock featured on The Birds.
One of the things I admire about seagulls is their attitude. They act like they own the place. The seagull in the photo above reflected that ‘tude as he perched on one of the rock outcroppings in the cove near Greenhead Lobster. He casually surveyed his domain on a cool but sunny day and pronounced it good, before taking wing to dive bomb some of the boats.
Suppose, for a moment, that you are in a strange town on a business trip. Suppose that, in the eerie twilight, you are walking back to your generic motel room after having consumed a forgettable meal served by a forgettable franchise restaurant, along a busy commercial thoroughfare with telephone wires overhead. Suppose you hear an odd fluttering noise, like a random displacement of air, when suddenly you look up and see that every square inch of telephone pole and wire is covered by a roiling mass of indistinguishable black birds that don’t seem to be doing anything except creepily perching in this spot for reasons known only to their tiny, alien, nictating bird brains.
Oh, yeah — and suppose when you were a kid you stupidly watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds on late-night TV and ever since you’ve been secretly terrified by the possibility that your eyes will be pecked out by evil birds in a strange town — probably after you have to put up with tiresome lectures by some bird know-it-all woman wearing a beret.
Yes, you’ll sleep well tonight, experiencing the wonders of business travel. At least you haven’t seen anybody in a beret . . . yet.
The yellow-bellied birds of Cocobay are hungry . . . always hungry.
When people leave their tables after a meal, a scout bird quickly flits down for a look. If the plate looks promising — not a typical scenario, because the food here is excellent and clean plates are the rule — the word goes out on the bird grapevine.
Suddenly another bird appears, then another, then another. Before you know it, there’s a storm of bright yellow birds nibbling at every plate, crumb, and ice cream bowl on the abandoned table, with wings beating furiously as they fly back and forth after retrieving a scrap and scarfing it down. They eat as much as they can before a server comes over to clear the table and shoo them away.
With the sudden appearance of dozens of previously undetected birds, their rapid, decisive movements, and their creepy narrowing bird eyes as they turn their gaze at your inviting table, it’s a scene that might make someone like Alfred Hitchcock get an idea about making a movie about aggressive, flocking birds that have a newfound taste for a different kind of food item.
Now, residents wake up in the morning, look out the window, and see crows everywhere. They hear the harsh caws of crows all night long. They feel the oppressive presence of crows in the trees. They walk out to their cars and find them covered with crow droppings, and when they venture outside they have to dodge falling crow bombs. A local TV crew sent to get footage of the pests reported that the plopping of crow poop outside sounded like raindrops. Local business owners say that the crow infestation is hurting sales. No kidding! Imagine what the crow infestation has done for home sales!
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds always scared the hell out of me, because the everyday phenomenon of birds in the sky became a bizarre, horrifying menace for no apparent reason. The plague-like conditions in California, Pennsylvania sound like that. I’m not the superstitious type, but if I lived in California I’d get the heck out of there before birds started coming down the chimney or the locusts and frogs appeared.